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4 Reasons Your Sales Phone Calls Go Straight to Voicemail

by Kevin Bartley

More sales phones calls are going to voicemail than ever before. Here are 4 reasons why—and how to counter them with other tactics.

Nowadays, it takes a while for a salesperson to get a prospect on the phone. According to Velocify, 93% of converted leads are contacted on the sixth call attempt or later. As a salesperson, you're probably used to dealing with missed calls, unread messages, and full voicemail inboxes.

While this may seem like bad news, don't be discouraged. Due to technological, generational, and social considerations, more calls are going straight to voicemail than ever before. To deal with these changes, you can complement your phone skills with other engagement tactics to reach more prospects.

Here are four common reasons why your phone calls are going to voicemail.

1. Age Gap

Contact centers need to start approaching millennials on the the platforms they use. As Chris O'Brien of Aspect points out:

So here’s the critical question for businesses as the millennials’ purchasing power rises: Is your company’s contact center sophisticated enough to sufficiently cater to this generation? For example, does it boast omni-channel service—SMS, email, live chat—that provides millennials with anytime, anywhere access to information or social media software to enable social customer care that creates real value?

Rather than respond to cold calls, many millennials like to do their own research and then reach out on their own terms.

For salespeople, this means doing your research and deciding whether email or even social media is better for the first touch point instead of a phone call. Try to find out what platform your prospect feels the most comfortable communicating on, and then reach out that way. You can always turn a chat conversation to a phone call later.

2. Context/Location

People often miss phone calls because they're away from their desk. This happens for all sorts of reasons - meetings, lunch, doctor's appointments. Bad timing is a common problem for many salespeople.

A recent infographic on Hubspot listed various strategies for calling over the phone. According to the infographic, the best day to make a sales call is Thursday, and the best times to call are 8 - 10 AM and 4 - 5 PM. On the flip side, the worst day to call is Tuesday, and the worst times to call are 11 AM and 2 PM.

If you don't catch your prospect at a good time, be sure to leave a clear and concise voicemail message telling them who you are, why you're calling, and a contact credential. If they're interested in talking to you, they will have all the information they need to reach out.

3. Email, SMS, and Social Media


The supremacy of the phone call has lessened in recent years. According to the mobile research agency RealityMine, phone calls are now used less than both text messaging and email in adults aged 18 - 64. Phone calls used to be the sole way to communicate across large distances in an instant. Now people can text, IM, post, or email businesses. You should be prepared to have a conversation with customers on any of these platforms.

If you leave a voicemail message, always follow up with an email. A prospect is much more likely to check her email inbox before her voicemail inbox. People who are intimidated by a phone call may also be more likely to respond to an email. Once you've started a conversation, you can try scheduling a phone call to learn more about their needs.

4. Aversion to Unknown Callers

Salespeople have earnest intentions, and yet seeing an unknown number conveys the possibility of an unpaid doctor's bill or some other annoyance to the recipient's eye. In this case, it's no wonder that leads don't pick up the phone. Your prospects are busy people, and they're risking a time sink by answering your call.

It's tricky to overcome this barrier. After all, the process of building trust begins with the salesperson's pitch. Make sure you're calling from a work phone that will clearly display your company's name on the caller ID. At the very least, this keeps the prospect from thinking that you're a completely unknown entity.

Smarter Outreach

No salesperson wants to leave a prospect with just a voicemail. It's a quick way to turn a hot lead to turn a cold one. New technologies, generational preferences, and logistical considerations all shape the way a prospect can be contacted. But these shifting preferences can be an advantage rather than an obstacle.

In addition to leaving informative voicemails, follow up with an email or message on social media. Comment on a LinkedIn post, or respond to a question posted on a public forum. These activities can all lead to a phone call, and a phone call can lead to a deal. There's no reason to compartmentalize these varying communications platforms. All of them are at your disposal, and the savvy salesperson will know how to use each to his or her advantage.

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