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November 06, 2008

RIP, Maxima! And, today's "vocal" request

November 6. Day 129.

Great news! My car has died. It didn't start two times in a row, I called a bunch of mechanics who said it will probably be expensive to fix, so I'm planning my exit strategy. I could fix part of the problems and sell as is, or trade it in... we'll see.

Why is that great? Because now I finally have the carrot I need to finish this chapter! I won't buy a car, or even research buying a car, until I'm done with this step. Sad that I need to abuse myself like this -- but, whatever it takes to get this chapter finished!

And that brings me to my first big ticket negotiation. A used car!! I'm very curious to see how much I can bring the price down. Maybe I'll try different approaches with different sellers. It will be kind of a game, actually. If anyone has any strategies at all, or anecdotes, I'd love to hear them.

As for asking, I'll be out and about today, so stay tuned!

UPDATE: I hope today's request will not fall on deaf ears.

I listened all to my accumulated phone messages yesterday, which included: one person calling twice to say exactly the same thing, someone whose voice kept cutting in and out for quite a while, someone who accidentally called and left the phone going for a few minutes, a few phone calls on behalf of other people so we could all coordinate something (so much faster on email, no?), and a handful of remarks ("It's me! catch you later!") that are shorter than the time it takes to access them and would convey the same thing as a "missed call" on my cell phone (minus the voice, the human touch, but I'm not that sentimental. Not with deadlines looming.)

Of course, there were many voices I was happy to hear -- from friends, family, business associates -- so I'm not against the system. Just, inefficient use thereof.

I'm also prone to leaving rambling messages, especially to my long distance friends. I guess I really do see those as vocal mails -- small dispatches with an interesting update, a question about we can plan to see each other, a wish for a nice weekend, a concern about the dissertation, an idea for a fun trip together, topped off by an apology for rambling for so long.

But maybe they're checking that message in traffic. In line at the bank. When they're stressed. Maybe they need to wait for me to finish before they can advance to the next message, the important one they were waiting for.

This approach, from The Art of Manliness, is about the worst I can imagine. The write-up itself mimics the anti-ideal voicemail: a few relevant nuggets buried between miles of chatter, and far too many steps to be worth the listener's while. Sounds like a recipe for turdukken, not a business call!

State your name first. You would think this would be so basic that it shouldn’t even be mentioned. However, I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten voicemails where people go on and on and I don’t even know who’s talking to me until the very end. Pretty annoying.

State your number right after your name. Many people wait until the very end of the message to state their number. This will irritate the receiver of your message because if he doesn’t get it down, he then has to sit through the whole damn message again to hear it repeated.

Repeat your phone number twice. People seem to forget that the receiver of their message has to write the number as you say it. Don’t rush through it. Even when you say it slowly, it’s hard to get down the first time. So repeat it again, so they can check to be sure they got it down right.

State the purpose of your call. In as few words as possible, state why you’re calling. Is it in regards to an interview appointment? Are you following up on a previous meeting?

Find some common ground. If you’re cold calling someone, your voicemail is your 30 second chance to make a connection and leave a good impression. One of the best ways to make a connection in that short amount of time is mentioning a mutual acquaintance. You could also mention a shared affiliation with an organization.

Be brief. Don’t make your listener resent you for leaving a 5 minute long message. People are busy. Listening to 5 minute phone messages is not on the top of their priorities and wastes their time. Many callers seem to think they are the only person in the world leaving a voicemail for a particular person. Yet a dozen other people feel the same way and a man ends up holding the phone to his ear for an hour.

Leave a specific request. What do you want your listener to do? Sure, you want them to call you back, but why? To answer a question? To set up an appointment? People will appreciate it if you give them specific actions for their call back. That way they’ll know they won’t be wasting a lot of time on the call back trying to figure out what you want.

Consider leaving your e-mail in addition to your phone number. People like choices. Some people like to have conversations on the phone, while others prefer communicating through e-mail. You don’t know what kind of person your listener will be, so leave the option on the table. For many, e-mail correspondence is less threatening and might actually encourage them to reach out to you.

Be Brief. Did I mention be brief? Yeah? Make sure to do it.

I love this approach, courtesy of iMarc:

When a caller talks for 5 minutes then does a John Moschitta [link fixed] impersonation while leaving their callback number it's maddening. If you miss the phone number, you're forced to playback the entire message and try again.

Next time you leave a voicemail, do this:

  1. State your name
  2. Leave your phone number, talking slower than normal.
  3. In one sentence, tell the person why you called.
  4. Repeat your name and number.
  5. Hang up
So, I'm making a friendly entreaty to my callers.

Old message: "Hi, you've reached La Roxy. Please leave a message and I'll return your call as soon as I can. Thank you."

New message: "Hi! Please leave your brief, efficient, terse, condensed, concise, succinct, diminutive, pithy, breviloquent, lightening quick, necessary and/or relevant message after the beep."

I promise to do the same!

Gained: Time.
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