Cold Voicemails Work … Just Not How You Expected

How many emails hit your inbox every day? A lot, right?

I’m the type of person who likes to keep a fairly clean inbox, but I still find that it can quickly become cluttered, and inevitably something falls through the cracks.

But how many emails do you get that are paired up with a voicemail?

Probably very few.

According to a study conducted by TOPO, a research and advisory firm that identifies patterns that drive revenue growth, a typical organization receives callbacks on exactly 0% of cold voicemails.

When I first came across that finding, I laughed and thought, Yeah, that sounds about right.

I can scarcely remember the last time I received a callback after leaving a voicemail, and I am fairly confident that most other SDR’s in my industry would say something similar.
You are probably wondering if this is truly typical within most organizations – and if so, why are we talking about leaving cold voicemails?

Does cold calling and cold voicemail work?

The short answer? Yes.

When used correctly, voicemails are one of the quickest ways for a team to increase response rates and get the attention of their prospects.

While voicemail alone does not yield callbacks, it has the ability to increase response rates by over 11% when paired properly with targeted emails, according to TOPO’s Sales Best Practices: Voicemail Builder report.

For something that takes less than 30 seconds, it seems like a no brainer, right?

Watch now: On-demand webinar – Purposeful Voicemails

Cold-call voicemail script templates

Here are some key points I keep in mind when leaving a voicemail:

  • Voicemail should last no more than 23 seconds
  • The voicemail should not contain a pitch
  • The voicemail call to action should refer to the email
  • Voicemail raises email response rates by 11+% when combined

Keep these tips in mind if you are struggling to get your demo numbers up, or if you are simply having a difficult time getting a foot in the door with a prospect.

Here are some actual cold voicemails I’ve left – and why they have worked well for me.

Example 1: Use known company details

“Hey Jeff, this is Dave, with DiscoverOrg. I saw that you manage the team that hunts down ERP projects on the East Coast. I came across a company right in your backyard who is looking to migrate their ERP system – and it looks like a home run for what you guys are doing there. Grace Taylor is their VP of Network Infrastructure and the person you should be talking to.

I’m shooting you over an email right now with some of the details. Feel free to reply there if it hits the mark. Thanks, Jeff.”

Your voicemail should point towards an email that you will send to the prospect immediately following your call.

The best way to get the prospect to open your email, and, ultimately, to engage with you, is to give them a reason to look for your email in the first place.

This doesn’t happen by pitching them in a voicemail. Instead, do a bit of research on the prospect and send them something that will resonate with them specifically.

In this instance, a quick glance at the LinkedIn profile of my prospect of Jeff revealed his territory and job description – which was all I needed to know in order to leave a targeted voicemail.

I kept it short – TOPO recommends no longer than 23 seconds – and spoke about a real, specific project that could result in a valuable opportunity for Jeff.

This voicemail helped me land a meeting with a hard-to-reach sales leader who had been ignoring my emails prior to this message.

Jeff responded:

“Wow, do you have more similar projects? Also, do you have the ability to see what software the companies are running? Dave, I’m out of office until later next week. Let’s connect and setup a meeting.”

I leave these kinds of messages multiple times a day, and I see a good response rate when paired with a targeted email.

When you take the time to understand the prospect’s individual responsibilities and job functions, your message is a lot less likely to fall on deaf ears.

From our SDR with a 60% response rate: How to Heat up Cold Email with Personalization

Example 2: Company details unknown

If you are unable to uncover something specific about the prospect to use in your voicemail (and you’re feeling brave), you can still rely on the specifics you can find on the prospect’s competitors.

This one does the trick for companies in heavily competitive markets or who compete heavily against another organization.

Hey Brad – this is Dave with DiscoverOrg. Hey, I was on the website for {major competitor} and it looks they have T-Mobile as a customer, and I imagine that you guys play in the same space. In case you want to take a shot at T-Mobile as well, I’m going to drop you an email with part of an org chart where I can literally show you who’s in charge of big data over there, complete with a direct-dial phone number, an email address, and the other technologies they’re utilizing.

I’ll use the subject line “T-Mobile Org Chart.” Feel free to respond there and I can shed some more light.

Again, Dave with DiscoverOrg, looking forward to your reply.

This voicemail certainly hit the mark, because Brad gave me a call back an hour later, asking to connect for a walkthrough.

Example 3: When company details are unknown

Here’s another example, based on the same TOPO research, from our Director of Sales Development Jake Shaffren:

Hey Gabe – this is Jake with DiscoverOrg. We’ve been working with companies like {Competitor 1} and {Competitor 2} to drive pipeline growth and help make sure the team is in front of decision makers.

As an example, I found a recent real-time trigger: Looks like Arconic is doing some work around Cyber Security and Threat Detection. Shannon Smith is the manager of Global security, and she’s the person to talk to.

Sending you an email too. feel free to reply there if you want Shannon’s contact info. Again, Jake with DiscoverOrg, look forward to your reply.

Read: Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts For Selling to CIOs

Example 4: Unknown company, unknown competitors

If there are no standout competitors, you can easily modify this approach by swapping out a few words and phrases:

“Hey Sara – this is Dave with DiscoverOrg. Hey, I was on your {Company} website and saw that you guys are working with AWS and RackSpace.

Coincidentally, they are both clients of ours and we help them connect with decision makers at their target accounts by providing them with direct contact information. I am going to shoot you over an email with some data on CIO’s right in your backyard there in Houston – so keep an eye out for my email titled “CIO’s in Houston” and get back to me there if it hits the mark.

Again, Dave with DiscoverOrg – looking forward to hearing back from you.”

Sara was a territory sales rep who did not have the authority to make a decision on our product. But after seeing the sort of intelligence we offer, she forwarded the email to her boss, who called me to learn more.

Example 5: Unknown company, unknown competitors

Here’s another example, in which an SDR identifies a customer from the target company website and name-drops a similar company:

Hey John, this is Jake with DiscoverOrg. Hey, I was on the website for Hortonworks and it looks they have T-Mobile listed as a customer. I would think MapR plays in the same space.

In case you’d want to take a crack at T-Mobile too – I’ll drop you an email with part of an org chart where I can literally show you who’s in charge of Big Data over there – with a direct-dial phone number, an email address, and what other technologies they have installed.

I’ll use the subject line ‘T-Mobile Org Chart.’

Feel free to respond to my email and I can shed some more light, or get some other company profiles in your hands, too.

Again, Jake with DiscoverOrg. I look forward to your reply.

It’s OK to leave a callback number in your message if you think it best; however, your call to action should always point the prospect towards your email (which should contain your phone number anyway).

Leaving a good voicemail is not hard. It takes one or two minutes of research prior to the call, and in some cases, a 20-second glance at the prospect’s LinkedIn or company website to arm yourself with some specifics.

Keep it short, provide value – and show them you know what you are talking about!

Go Beyond Cold Call Mistakes & Get the Ultimate Guide for Turning Cold Calls Into Warm Leads.Get the eBook Now!
Dave Harris

As an Outbound Sales Development Representative, David Harris focuses on developing relationships with prospective more

  • Jessica

    I found along time ago that leaving a voicemail and then writing the email with the “per my voicemail” as the subject in the email had the highest return rate of not only emails but when they called me back they referenced the email and not the voicemail. I feel like 100% of people screen calls and yes maybe they are wondering “who just called me, I don’t know that number”. but then bam they get the email and the clarity hits!

    • Dave Harris

      Thanks for the response Jessica! Ya absolutely, it is pretty rare that I receive a call in tandem with an email and when I do it definitely stands out.

  • Fr Mon

    Hi Dave. Great article and so true. Recently was working on an email campaign where I was pairing it with voicemail and the subject line was also “per my voicemail”. I had a system down and was on a roll, but then I got sidetracked and realized I had sent 5 or 6 emails but hadn’t sent the VM. 3 of those 6 responded with “sorry I missed your call” and we scheduled a call.

    By the way, I love your product. At a former company I was at, the sales leadership had decided to go with the other guys :-).. we did a 7 week trial with our team. I was able to convince them to also do a trial with and you guys won.

    • Dave Harris

      Thank you!

      That is funny, it just goes to show that when the prospect thinks that you are hitting them up through a variety of channels they are more likely to engage with you.

      I’m glad you like the product, after having worked at DiscoverOrg I can hardly imagine doing sales without it!

  • Melissa Warner

    The best cold calls I receive are the “what is doing about . We are working with a competitor of yours and they are using . I’ll send you a follow up email with more information.” It gets my attention, or I forget about the call contents but then get email which keeps my hooked, and I inevitably respond to the email. In just the past 3 months I’ve had vendors use this approach in in both cases we because customers – even replacing an existing solution. Great article.

    • Dave Harris

      Both became customers? Wow they must have been doing their job well, that is awesome. Thanks for taking a look Melissa.

  • Jake Senechal

    My Goal is to keep to short and sweet, why I am calling and what value I am offering. No longer than 30 seconds.

    • Dave Harris

      That’ll do it!

  • Kristen

    What great insights here. I immediately passed along to my SDR team, which is so new in our organization that we’re always looking to test new cadences and tactics to win more business. I think we do some of this – leaving voicemails and then immediately emailing – but I don’t think we’ve done it consistently enough to see good results. Thanks for the reminder. Great article, Dave!

    • Dave Harris

      Thanks Kristen! I hope some of these tips help you and your SDR team out!

  • Cyrus Moody

    It is very powerful to combine the use of both voicemails and emails. I tend to send an email right before or right after calling, reference the email in the voicemail, and provide value in the email for them to engage with when they hear the voicemail peak their interest.

  • Kiel Werner

    I spent 11 years in staffing, I always mentioned an email follow up. I actually had prospects email me because I had not sent the follow up email soon enough ( candidate side). Customer side it helps as well if the VM hook is good then they look foward to the email

  • andy

    Pairing email with vm and social touches should always increase results. Not rocket science. The more intentional and the more channels involved, the better responses will be!

  • Lindsay Lewis

    I usually send a follow-up email, so changing the order to email first and voicemail after is intriguing. I think it piques the interest of a customer enough that it’s worthwhile to look for that email. These days, not everyone leaves voicemails – especially spammers, so the percentage increase of response isn’t too surprising. I love these conditional templates, though!
    -Lindsay Lewis

  • Cynthia Randolph

    When I am reaching out vial email, I always put “meeting next week” in the subject line. THis makes the prospect/customer think that there is already a meeting scheduled for next week and they are more apt to open the email out of curiosity, if nothing else. Then they will read your email and if you can capture them in the first line or two, then you are in and they will reply!!

  • Cynthia Randolph

    When I send email I enter “Meeting next week” in the subject line. THis makes the prospect/customer think there is already a meeting scheduled for the next week so they are more apt to open the email out of curiosity and if you can hook them on the first 2 lines then you are in and may get your meeting actually scheduled.

    • Dave Harris

      For sure Cynthia! You can usually tell if an email is scripted simply by reading the first two lines. If you don’t catch their attention there your likely to not receive a response.

      • Cynthia Randolph

        Completely true. I have always been taught in Marketing and Sales that you have to “Hook” them in the first 2 lines or in the first 2 minutes so this is extremely important to do in an email.

  • Leslie Paige

    I agree that is important and more impactful to use both voicemail and email together. We are looking to make some updates to our SDR team’s cadence and I think this article will be really helpful while working through that.

  • Traci Emerson

    I’m going to share this with my team as well. Always a good reminder to see what is working for other SDRs.

  • Charlie Lovette

    Sending emails along with a call / voicemail is a great way to stand out from the rest, definitely a technique our IST / OST team uses regularly.

  • Alicia Busse

    I like to leave in my email followups a specific day and time that I am scheduling a meeting with them even though I haven’t talked to them, like “How does Wednesday at 2:00 pm sound?” This gets them to respond with a time that actually works best for them more often than if I don’t do it!

  • Alicia Busse

    In my followup emails I always write a specific day and time that I would like to meet. Like “How does Monday at 1:00 pm work for you?” It’s amazing the response rate I get just responding to that than the rest of the content in the email.

  • Brooke Browne

    Being on the other end of this quite often (marketing, not sales), I know the ones that work, and I get about 5-10 of these vm/email combos a week. The best ones to me are the ones that email first and give me some time to digest what they have to offer. I may pick up the phone – otherwise I keep it on DnD! Also, making sure the caller ID shows as much info as possible and doesn’t look like a sketchy company helps.

  • Jennifer Galvez

    When I leave a voicemail with a prospect. I also follow up with an email while putting “RE:” which makes them open up the email to review the conversation. My first two sentences have to be perfect in order for them to respond.

  • Adam Metz

    Okay, this post is a really good one. I knew that anecdotally, the “combo” approach works, but I didn’t know the formula in terms of length (under 23 secs) and expect information to reference. I’ll be bookmarking this post for training entry level reps in the future. If you assume a connect rate of 7.6% that could mean a AE/SDR leaving 92 voicemails per day. Good stuff.

  • Rob Oram

    Great points – it doesn’t take any extra effort to leave the voicemail (i mean some extra effort but not much) and i think it goes along way in an overall touch point cadence

  • Rob Oram

    I typically leave a quick VM not expecting it to be returned but to get my prospect to look at the email i sent or am sending