How To... Get Called Back!

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless Customer Loyalty is Priceless, The Little Red Book of Selling, The Little Red Book of Sales Answers, The Little Black Book of Connections, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way, The Little Platinum Book of Cha-Ching, The Little Teal Book of Trust, The Little Book of Leadership, and Social BOOM! His website,, will lead you to more information about training and seminars, or email him personally at

The guy wouldn’t call me back. Waaaaa.

I wonder why? Maybe its voice mail. You call somebody on the phone and you get their voice mail. You’re thinking to yourself, should I leave a message or not? Have you ever had that thought? Should I leave a message or should I not leave a message? Big question, isn’t it?  Because sometimes you leave a message (and I know this is a surprise) and they don’t call you back, they won’t call you back. Rats.

Your customer’s concerns

That defeat tends to make you not want to leave a message more often than not. Isn’t that true? Why is that true is a better question. Answer: Whatever you do or whatever you want is not very important to whoever you are calling. Let me repeat that: Whatever you do or want is not very important to the person that you are calling.

What do you think keeps your customers up at night? What do you think is the biggest thing on their mind? What makes them lose sleep? Making money versus losing it? That might be one—profit. What’s another one? Keeping customers loyal? Sure! Do you think sometimes their family might keep them up at night? What about running their business? If they are in business for themselves, do you think they are concerned about making more sales of their stuff? Competition? Ouch. How about productivity? Do you think that that may be a concern? Keeping good people? Rising costs to operate? Income tax?

I mean, is anybody here not concerned or angry about having to file their tax returns? Actually, I look at income taxes as rent to live in America. Makes it a lot more palatable.

Understand this: The things that keep your customers up at night have little or nothing to do with you. Your job is to try to figure out some answers to what keeps your customers up at night, to have ideas about what keeps your customers up at night. Your job is to be an expert at what keeps your customer up at night.

Your customers and prospects want to sell their stuff. They want to make a profit. They want to keep their customers and employees loyal, and they want to have no problems. If you are not an expert at those things, you’re in trouble. And usually those things have nothing to do with what you are selling at the moment.

Here’s the point

What concerns your customers and prospects is also the key to leaving a voice mail message, and getting your call returned. A-ha!

See, if you leave a bunch of puke about who you are and what you do, they don’t care, and won’t return your call. And there are five other guys that called them up about financial services or advertising or accounting services or copiers or cell phones or T-shirts (or whatever it is you sell) in the past week. And you’re nothing more than number-six. Isn’t that true?

Now, I don’t want to define what you sell as puke. But, Bubba, they’ve heard it before. Let’s just put it like this: Not only have they heard it before, prospects are doing other important things with their day and they don’t want to hear it again.

So, if you are going to leave message, you have to be able to give enough value or reason to get your call returned. That is the whole key to response success. Are you good enough to get a call returned? Depends on how much you know (or study) about how to solve or help with what concerns them. Leave a message about that.

A message about profit, loyalty, productivity, sales, morale, family, kids, something in terms of the prospect. A tip, an idea, something that says “I have earned a return call.” Something that separates you from the other five messages about the same thing you sell.

Suppose you called and left a sales lead as your message. Would they call you back if you said: “Hello, John, this is Jeffrey Gitomer. I was talking to someone yesterday about your services. The guy’s name is Harvey Zilch and he sounded pretty interested. Call me at (704) 333-1112 and I’ll give you his number and a few details.”

One hundred percent returned calls.

Note well: This requires work on the part of the salesperson, and it’s work that separates the great ones from the mediocre ones. Which are you? If you spent the same amount of time preparing for your sales calls as you do whining that someone didn’t return one, you’d be the number one salesperson on your team. Maybe the company. Maybe the world.

Have you ever used any kind of fun thing to get a response to your voice-mail messages? The object of the game is to get your phone call returned. One of the first fun sales things I learned was to leave half a message and pretend you got cut off. “Hi, this is Jeffrey, 333-1112, I’m calling about the money you left at. . . .” And then hang up the phone.

“Hi, this is Jeffrey, 333-1112, I met a couple of your competitors yesterday and they were talking about you and they said. . . .” Hang up the phone. You are the first guy they will call back. It’s fun, and it works.

In seminars that I give, many people tell me this is “unprofessional.” But is it?

Case in fact: I was doing business with an audiotape and CD manufacturing company. I sent our sales rep my book, he read it. He called me on the phone and said, “That method of leaving half a message is unprofessional.” “Why don’t you try it?” I said. He sent me an email the next day. He said he got seven out of eight phone calls returned. No one was mad or called him unprofessional. First time he ever got seven out of eight phone calls returned.

Are you getting called back? It just might help to lighten up! Have a good time!

With humor you do have to pick your shots. The challenge of voice mail is that you do what is comfortable. I’m going to throw a couple of concepts at you, just a few ideas, and you play with what you think is most comfortable for you. Fair enough?

I’m giving you permission to have more fun at what you do. You are taking it way too seriously. You wake up in the morning and you’re under all this pressure all day long, but I want you to have a good time.

I wake up in the morning and I have the best time in the whole wide world, and then I go to bed and try to get up the next day and repeat the process. I take almost nothing seriously. Literally, I’m having a good time. I find that when I have a good time, it is attractive to someone else because they want to have a good time.

You can’t just wait for Friday so you can go home and have a good time. That’s pretty silly. Why don’t you just have a good time all the time? Why are you waiting for Friday? If you do, then you come in on Monday and you say, “Man, did I have a great time this weekend!” what is your point? Why don’t you just have a great time all the time then you won’t care what day it is.

If you’re all angry because you get people’s voice mail, you’re either going to hang up, or leave a puke message about wanting to meet with them at their convenience, blah, blah, blah, that won’t get returned. And—let me share the bad news—in today’s business world, you’re going to get voice mail more and more and more.

Look at where voice mail is right now and look at where voice mail was five years ago. You could get almost anyone on the phone five years ago. Now you always get their voice mail. In fact, sometimes you even get their administrative assistant’s voice mail. Receptionists won’t even put you through to the person you want. They put you through to the administrative assistant. You’re not good enough. “Like, you know, I asked for Bill and you gave me somebody else.” “Well, Bill has is calls screened because he thinks he is hot bologna.” “I don’t want bologna, I want Bill.” 

But when you get Bill’s voice mail, why not try, “Hi, this is Jeffrey. I’m calling with the weather today. It’s a little cloudy and gloomy over here, but it could get real sunny if you would just call me back.”

I did a seminar for a company that sells radio ads for the ten-second traffic reports. They sold the commercial time for the helicopter. I recommended everybody change their voice mail to a traffic report around their desk, and people loved it.  It’s totally up to you. I just want you to give yourself permission to have a good time at leaving a message. Most people in sales are not having a good enough time.

A little bit of funny

A reader wrote: I’ve read your books and have employed your voice mail ideas with an account that I thought would be way too big for me. I almost didn’t do it. But I did. I started leaving voice mails. Fortunately, it was a situation where the prospect changed his voice-mail greeting often because he was in and out of town. He wouldn’t return my calls, so I just started having funny conversations with his voice mail. He finally calls me back one day and says, “I deleted and deleted. Then I started listening and laughing, and I laughed so hard I had to call you back. I had to talk to you.” I got the account.

I guarantee that humor will get your call returned faster than anything. Just a little bit of funny. It’s up to you. But beware that humor is always a risk, because sometimes you get people on the other end of the line who have no sense of humor. I’ll tell you what to do with these people in another lesson. But confidentially, Doc, give them to the competition.

There is an old rule of sales that says, “If you can make them laugh, you can make them buy.”  I say, for this voice mail thing, if you can make them laugh, you can make them return your call.

Press “one” if you want more sales.

Free GitBit: Wanna know a few more ways to inject humor into your business life and real life? All you have to do is go to—register if you’re a first-time user—and enter the word HUMOR in the GitBit box.

Another free GitBit: Wanna test your phone skills and savvy? Wanna rate your phone-ability? All you have to do is go to—register if you’re a first-time user—and enter the words PHONE TEST in the GitBit box.