Boost your productivity with voicemail

April 1, 2000
Paul LeBon

Pharmaceutical Representative

Simple messages can be tremendous tools fo success.

Every salesperson I've ever met in a training class will argue incessantly that their job/industry/customer base is unique. The truth is, most sales careers and customer bases are homogenous, but the pharmaceutical industry is one of the exceptions. I say this not because of government regulation but because of the unique quality of the customer-base: the healthcare industry, which is a 24x365 industry.

There is never a shutdown or holiday, and the individuals that pharmaceutical reps have to deal with staff medical facilities at all hours, on all days of the week. The ability to interact with these people in a professional manner – even without having face-to-face or ear-to-ear contact with them – is extremely critical.

Voicemail can be the tool that gives you the ability to communicate important facts, conduct follow-up and information gathering, and collect or disseminate data with healthcare personnel as well as your headquarters staff. While many of us loathe voicemail, the reality is that it is a powerful tool which, when used properly, can move business dialogues forward without ear-to-ear contact.

The various field constituencies you deal with – physicians, pharmacists, P&T committees, laboratory staff, nurses, administration and others need to know they are dealing with professional individuals. If they frequently don't get to see you in person, they will judge you on how well you communicate offline.

Begin with your voicemail greeting. Does it contain the typical "I'm either on the phone or away from my office, but your call is important to me"? Who cares? A long-winded introduction of you, your title, and company? Forget it; if they are calling you specifically, they know who you are!

Your greeting says a great deal about you, and it should be professional and contain merely an acknowledgement that you've missed the call, along with a "call-for-action." "Hello, this is Chris Moore; I'm sorry to miss your call, but please leave me a detailed message so that I can respond with the information you require." A greeting like this will not only elicit good messages, but compliments on your organizational skills as well.

Around the clock

Keep in mind that voicemail gives you access to individuals 24 hours per day. It is not always necessary to track someone down in person – especially if they work the 11:00 p.m. shift. What is important is that you follow up with information, answers, clinical data, etc. in a timely manner. Always ensure that people know they can leave messages for you anytime if your voicemail is available, 24 hours a day. This way, they can call you immediately with a question, not defer it to "business-hours" and run the risk of forgetting to make the call.

The 24-hour access also allows you to make support and follow-up calls – after hours – to doctors, lab personnel, and others who work traditional hours. You will make a tremendous impression on someone by leaving a follow-up call or message of reinforcement for them at 9:00 p.m. It will be the first message they hear the next day, and you will have their undivided attention.

Be specific

Many of us plan and organize our telephone conversations, but when the other party does not answer and our call rolls over to their voicemail, our organized thoughts fall apart, causing us to leave disjointed, rambling messages that frustrate the receiver. Plan in advance of calling, and anticipate leaving a voicemail message. Jot down bullet points you wish to make before you call, so that you can leave a clear, organized message.

Vague messages that lead to "telephone tag" are equally frustrating. You would never write a letter that merely states, "Please write back to me," yet many people do the telephonic equivalent by leaving messages that simply give a name and callback number. This generally causes the receiving party to speculate as to the reason for the call, and results in no callback.

Always open and close each message with your name and telephone number, and avoid the pitfall of rattling your telephone number so fast that the receiver has to rewind the message several times to understand it. In this age of 10-digit dialing, always be certain to state your area code clearly. Remember that area codes and telephone prefixes are similar from city to city, so be articulate.

Internal calls and callbacks consume a great deal of precious selling time. Defer those calls to off-hours as well, unless they are time-sensitive. Salespeople get inundated with requests for information from staff people, but it is not always imperative to respond within the hour. Use your selling time to build relationships with doctors and staff; use your downtime or evenings and weekends to handle administrative calls that don't require live conversation. If you are conducting an in-service during an overnight shift, this is a good time to leave messages for corporate staff between rounds.

While many of us have grown to dislike voicemail through the years, when it's used properly it can be a tremendous tool to help boost our productivity, manage our time more effectively, and move business dialogues forward when we can't contact the other party live. PR

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