Selling Strategies: Leaving The Perfect Voice Mail Message


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When I want to get a publisher to take on one of my new titles, I don’t try to catch their attention by sending a formal query, or by trying to get them on the phone.

I leave a killer voice mail message.

If I have crafted a winning book proposal, I’ll know it based on the number of big-time editors that call me back.

If the concept sucks, I’ll know that, too.

My problem is that I’m too strong on the phone when I get editors on the line, in the flesh. This sounds arrogant, but I don’t mean it that way.

By strong, I mean it’s easy to get them to say, “Sure, send me a proposal on that, ” even when their interest is marginal, or worse, when they’re just trying to sound kind or to get me off the line. Then, I'm committed to endlessly following up with them, chasing phantoms who have no genuine interest.

When I leave a voice mail, they can repeat it, chew on it, and consider it on its merits. And only if they have interest will they ask to see the proposal.

So, in actuality their voice mail is helping me to screen them!

Editors are very, very busy people, and talking to them on the phone as an initial gambit is a waste of their time. They’re readers, not talkers.

I’ll script the message, so it sounds as crisp as good writing. But of course, by delivering it verbally, I lend drama to it, breathing life into it.

My most successful messages follow this format, which is really like a mini-sales talk:

(1) I tell them who I am;

(2) I tell them I’d like them to consider a new title;

(3) I give them two-to-four quick bullet points about it;

(4) I ask them to call me back, leaving my “800” number; and my email; and

(5) I end with a friendly, “I hope this is something that will be a good fit for your list. ”

This, as you may know, emulates the AIDA format in selling: Attention, Interest, Decision, and Action. I didn’t plan it that way—it just seems to work well if I use this design.

In later articles, I’ll share even more strategies for leaving the perfect voice mail message.

Dr. Gary S. Goodman ©2006

Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of, is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone® and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide. A Ph. D. from USC's Annenberg School, Gary offers programs through UCLA Extension and numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. He is headquartered in Glendale, California, and he can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at: .


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