To VM or not to VM, That is the Question

Whether or not you should leave a voicemail as an SDR

An SDRev Round-Up

In sales development, a lot of best practices are widely agreed upon. 

Voicemail is not one of them. 

Trey Harnden brought this up in a recent LinkedIn post, where he posited the idea that leaving voicemails is counterproductive because he only ever receives callbacks when he doesn’t leave a message.

And his logic is sound. As he points out, “No one *wants* to hear what your company does, even if you have the most tailored and personalized message.” He’s right. A large part of outbound prospecting is attempting to get the prospect to want to learn more about your product or service. An outbound prospect doesn’t have an inherent desire to learn about what you have to offer. If they did, they would be an inbound lead. 

But, as Alex Ellison countered, the goal of a voicemail isn’t solely to get called back. It’s part of an entire cadence of emails, calls, social touches, etc. “To me the goal of a voicemail should be to provide additional context around the other outreach I leave.” Video prospecting aside, voicemails are the only way an SDR can inflect the desired tone and voice to the message they want to leave. If a prospect hears your voice and then receives your email, they’re more likely to open the email and read it with the right inflection because they have a baseline understanding of what the SDR sounds like.

The conversation continued into the SDRev Slack community where the reasoning behind the voicemail became the topic of debate. A handful of members pointed out that their goal for leaving a voicemail was to raise awareness of other emails. AJ Alonzo included a template he would use:

“Hey [NAME]. Just letting you know that I’m sending you some information about [COMPANY] via email. Be on the lookout! If you want to chat, give me a callback. This is [SDR], by the way. Thanks.”

And Tatiana Tabares responded by emphasizing that the voicemail itself is less important than how you follow up after. This aligns with the idea that the voicemail is one part of an entire cadence, not just a quick attempt to get a callback.

But others contested that voicemails – and phone calls in general – should be primarily focused on getting a live prospect on the other end, whether through initial outreach or a callback. Austin Fuller points to the Sandler philosophy of “using a ‘cut-off’ voicemail where you cut the voicemail mid-sentence to garner a call back. The message before the cut is to pique curiosity/confuse enough for them to call. Then you’ve got them.” He’s also quick to point out he doesn’t like this approach in a vacuum, but when put into context with the rest of the Sandler methods it makes a lot of sense. It once again comes back to what you believe the goal of a voicemail/phone call should be. If your goal is to garner a callback with a voicemail, this will undoubtedly work some of the time.

Austin also makes a good point about the fact that any voicemail left on a modern cell phone is going to be transcribed and could then more or less be treated like an email, and an “email” that cuts off halfway through doesn’t have the same effect.

The overall trend in the conversation was to aim at balancing voicemails and NCs (no contacts). Emanuel Carpenter believes that you shouldn’t need more than 3 voicemails in an outreach cadence. Importantly, he gives each voicemail a reason and theme: “One generic one. One with a value prop and ask. One final voicemail.” If you do choose to leave a voicemail, make sure it has a purpose. Don’t leave one ‘just to check in’. Don’t pick up the phone without a plan for what to do if the prospect doesn’t answer. 

One other important thing Emanuel touched on was how to save time while still leaving voicemails. Think about it, if the phone rings for, let’s say, 30 seconds before going to voicemail, and you spend another 30 seconds leaving a voicemail, that’s 30 seconds you could have spent calling another prospect. Using VMs will always take longer, and that doesn’t include any additional pre-call planning you do to leave a personalized voicemail. Emanuel’s solution is to use the pre-recording features that tools like Salesloft and Outreach offer, but being very diligent about it. 

“…you can make it sound personalized by mentioning the last or next step in your sequence.  (I’m following up on the email I sent you yesterday with the subject line: 2X your sales meetings…)  OR (I’m about to send you an email with the subject line: 2X your sales meetings…)”

If you feel like your voicemails are taking up too much time out of your day but you still see their value as part of the cadence these tools are an excellent way to save time while also having the quality you desire. You just have to make sure you’re using them the right way.


So what’s the verdict? Should you be leaving voicemails? And if so, what kind? 

As with most things, there’s no single right answer. Your philosophy and strategy should dictate both whether or not you leave voicemails, and how you go about doing so. As for the majority of people involved in the conversation, it’s likely going to be a mix. Not every unanswered phone call needs a voicemail to accompany it, but not leaving any voicemails, or only leaving generic messages, can also send the wrong message. Ultimately, the goal is to get the prospect interested in having a conversation about your product and their situation. As long as you believe your voicemails are getting you closer to that goal, continue to leave your message after the tone.

Want to join in on the conversation? Use this link to join our Slack community, or go find Alex, AJ, or Greyson on LinkedIn to learn more!