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Leaving Messages

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Voicemail has become a standard part of every business class telephone system. Not only will knowing how to leave a professional voicemail phone message reflect positively on your company, but it's also important to your professional image as well.

These tips can help new or inexperienced employees leave the kinds of professional, courteous phone messages that will get returned.

Think First

Before you pick up the phone, pause for a second and do a mini rehearsal of the call in your head. Narrow down its purpose to one or two sentences. More than 50 percent of calls go to voicemail, so be prepared for what you'll say if the person you're calling doesn't pick up. Leave a concise voicemail message that states your purpose and doesn't waste anyone's time.

Introduce Yourself

Begin every voicemail message by introducing yourself, so the recipient knows who is calling right away. It should include your full name and company name: "Suzy Jones, this is Jane Doe calling from Company X about your account."

Make sure you know how to pronounce the name of the person you're calling. You don't want to insult unintentionally before you've even established contact.

Talk Slowly

Speak slowly and carefully enough so that the recipient can hear and comprehend every word. Listening to messages in which the speaker is talking too quickly to be understood is very frustrating. Make sure, if you're leaving a call-back number, to repeat it twice so that the person can jot it down and check it.

Speak Clearly

Talk directly into the mouthpiece of your telephone in a clear and adequately modulated tone of voice. Don't hold the phone between your cheek and shoulder so that the mouthpiece is positioned by your neck; that's fine while you're dialling or while the phone is ringing on the other end, but not once you're connected, as it muffles the sound.

Keep It Short

You don't have to leave every detail on your voicemail message. Most business phone systems have a one- to two-minute time limit for messages before they cut them off. Leave a short summary of the reason for your call and close with a request for a call back.

End Professionally

Just like a professional business letter, end with your contact information. If the person is unfamiliar with you or might have trouble placing you, repeat your name and company along with the best way to reach you. If you already have a relationship, you may skip repeating your name, but still be sure to give a best number to call you back and what times you'll be available.

Try Again

Instead of hanging up after you finish, hit the hashtag sign (the # key); in many systems, this gives you several options, including replaying the message. Try doing so, and if you don't like what you hear, re-record it.

If you believe your voicemail message was dropped by the system before you were finished, call again. Lead off by telling the person that you believe your previous message may have been dropped or cut off, then quickly recap. Keep it brief; you don't want to come across as a pest.

Practice and Test Yourself

If you are unsure or feel nervous about leaving business messages, practice with a friend or colleague. Leave her a sample voicemail message and ask for a critique: Are you speaking too quickly? Is your voice too low? Are you difficult to understand in any way? It might even be worth leaving yourself a voicemail to hear first-hand how you sound.