How to Get Your Phone Calls Returned: 26 Voicemail Tips for Sales

Written by John F. Carroll on . Posted in Customer Service, Sales

getting-calls-returned-tips“No one returns my calls anymore.”

Sound familiar?

An agent explained to me to me last week:

“These people are so rude! I leave message after message and no one ever calls me back!”

“They asked for the darn quote and now they won’t call me back! Can’t they tell how hard I’m trying to reach them?”

No… And they don’t care either.

You see, this agent doesn’t understand two things:

  1. You are not “owed” anything in sales.
  2. It’s her job to earn a call back.

And when I say it’s “her job” I mean it very literally.

  • If you’re a doctor your job is to heal people.
  • If you’re a fireman your job is to put out fires.
  • If you’re an insurance salesperson your job is to convince people to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise… like return your voicemails.

After explaining this to the agent (in a nicer way) she asked the obvious question:

“Well, Mr. Smartypants, how do I get more people to return my calls?”

I didn’t have a rock-solid answer or resource at the time, but I do now.

Here’s 26 ideas for getting your phone calls, voicemails, and messages returned:

AUTHOR’S DISCLAIMER: Thanks to some conscientious agents, it has come to my attention that some of the ideas presented here are considered unethical and I agree.

Please accept this resource for what it is: a list of MANY ideas to choose from and inspire you to reconsider your current communication practices. 

The responsibility is yours to decide which, if any, of the ideas presented below you are comfortable using yourself.


1) People Must WANT to Call Back

wanting-a-sales-callThis is the fundamental premise that everything else falls under.

If you don’t accept this concept, stop reading because you’re not going to get anything out of it. People need to WANT to call you back and if they don’t:

  • It’s not because they’re rude,
  • It’s not because your rates suck.
  • It’s not because they don’t care about insurance.

It’s because you failed to do your job, which is to make them WANT to call you.

2) Just Sell The Callback

Insurance sales is a long process and your job throughout that process is not to close the deal.

Your job is to move the prospect closer to closing the deal.

When you’re leaving a message don’t sell the price, the options, or the service; sell the person exclusively on why it’s worth their time and energy to return your call.

3) Restate Your Referral

If this particular person was referred to you by someone else, mention that person’s name early in the message and frequently. This does a few things:

  • It reminds the person that you should be trusted and respected.
  • It catches their attention just to hear a name they recognize.
  • It provides social proof since their friend is also a client.
  • It reinforces any concerns that treating you poorly will reflect badly on them.

4) State Your Callback Number Twice

How annoying is it when someone leaves a message for you and you need to replay the message just to take down the number?

The only thing worse is when people assume you already know it…

Man that drives me bananas!

State your phone number clearly two times at the end of your message. Ideally you should put a little something between the two times to break them up.

Example: “Give me a call at 555-5555. Once again, you can reach me at the office phone line which is… 555-5555″

5) Speak Like a Journalist

In the newspaper world of deadlines and limited page space, journalists are taught to organize their stories with the most important information first and less relevant details further down the page.

The premise for the journalist is that you never know where the editor is going to cut off your story so you want to make sure the major points are relayed as quickly as possible.

Your prospects are the editors of their own voicemail, so make sure you get to the point ASAP.

6) Block Their Caller ID

blocking-caller-idOne of the biggest reasons you’re leaving voicemails to begin with is because people know its you (and they don’t want to talk about insurance).

I don’t really advocate blocking your outbound calls all the time, but if you think it’s the reason a call isn’t getting picked up there are ways to work around this.

You can use a method like this to block the caller ID, or call from your personal cell phone.

I even know some agents who have manipulated their phone lines so that one outbound line shows up in caller ID as an innocuous local number.

7) Use The Persons Name First

I feel like I’m always saying this, but people LOVE to hear the sound of their own name.

Every situation is a bit different, but generally using just the first name gives a more “I’m your friend, call me back” vibe than using first and last.

And if you have some musical talent, say their name this way. (just joking)

8) Disregard My Former Message

This one was given to me by Mathew Kroezen, a very clever Liberty Mutual agent in Nashville:

Sometimes I leave a message saying
“please disregard that last message”
Without actually leaving a prior message
People respond pretty quick asking about that last message.

Thanks Mathew!

9) Use Information Gap Theory

information-gapInformation Gap Theory was first introduced by George Loewenstein and basically describes the “itch of curiosity” we feel when there’s a gap between what we know and what we want to know.

I guess its just a fancy way of encouraging you to say something that will arouse your prospects’ curiosity so much they’ll HAVE to call you.

“Mr. Jones, I was reviewing your insurance history and I was a bit surprised at what I saw… I’ll explain when you call me back.”

10) Ask questions

Asking questions in a voicemail can make the person on the receiving end more likely to call back to close the loop.

When someone asks you a question, don’t you feel a bit inclined to answer them?

Well… DON’T YOU?

Maybe using this article is a bad way to prove my point…

11) Create a Sense of Urgency 

A lot of your messages aren’t getting returned because the person receiving them plans to do it later and forgets.

Use time queues in your message to make them feel there’s a pressing need to call back ASAP.

You can make them up, just don’t say anything that might get you caught in a lie later on.

12) Imply That You Have a Mutual Friend

If you say something in your message implying that your prospect and you might have a mutual friend, they’re more likely to call you back because:

  • They want to know who the mutual friend is.
  • They won’t want you to tell their friend they’re an unresponsive jerk.

I know it’s a bit unethical but it’s up to you to decide whether or not to follow-through.

13) Remind Them You’re Local

local-voicemailIn some insurance sales situations, you might be the only local salesperson for a prospect and you don’t want them to treat you like some call center dude five states away.

Make sure they know that being rude to you could come back to haunt them.

Aren’t you a bit nicer to salespeople that call you from a local number?

14) State Value in First 4 Seconds

There’s really only one thing anybody cares about.

What’s in it for them?

Don’t make your prospects listen to 20 seconds of small-talk to find out you can save them $1,000!

Think to yourself, “why should this guy want to call me back instantly?” and answer your own question as soon as you hear that BEEP.

15) Quote an Insanely Cheap Price

I’m writing about how to get your calls returned, not necessarily how to be ethical about it.

If you want a callback, leave a price on their voicemail that is half what it should be.

Sure you’ll have your work cut out for you when that call comes, but at least it came.

16) Offer a Prize

I know it sounds silly, but it could work.

“Call me back and I’ll give you a prize that could be worth $5,000…”

And give them a scratch-off when they come in to sign the paperwork.

17) Be Ambiguous

You can go too far with this one so be careful.

For example, there’s a lot of salespeople that think a voicemail with just their name and number will get a call back.

It won’t.

A lot of people don’t even answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize, let alone returning a message when they don’t know who they are or why they called.

With that being said, if the recipient of your voicemail knows who you are and you leave a bit of mystery about why you’re calling, you just might get that returned call.

It works especially good for those customers who won’t call you back about some paperwork they couldn’t care less about.

18) Leave Half a Message

I learned this one from the great Jeffrey Gitomer.

Call your prospect, start to say something very interesting and then CLICK…

“I was talking to my wife about you and…CLICK”

19) Call At The Right Time

call-timingThere are certain times of the day and week when you’re not just more likely to catch someone, you’re also more likely to get a callback if you leave a message.

In general, really early in the morning is good because people can return your message before they get busy with everything else.

Right before lunchtime isn’t bad in some situations because people can return your call during their lunch break.

Towards the end of the day can work because people are winding down from their work day and may even be looking for a distraction.

It all depends on the individual situation but be smart.

For example, if your prospect drives a bus for a living call at a time you know they won’t be out on the road.

20) Set Callback Timing Expectations

One of the reasons people don’t want to call you back is they’re afraid of getting into a long call.

If the reason for your call only requires a quick conversation make sure you mention that.

Avoid using round numbers, a five minute call never really is, but a four minute call probably will be.

21) State The Consequences

Of course this one depends on the situation, but you can always put the fear of god into people.

This works better for service than sales but if there is a potentially bad result of the person not calling back make sure it is known.

“If I don’t hear back from you today I’ll just swing by your house this evening at 6pm…”

That’ll get a call back!

22) Humor

Everybody likes to laugh, and every time they laugh at your jokes it opens the door a bit more for a sale.

You could even setup the joke and tell the prospect they need to call you back for the punchline.

I don’t really have any good jokes to share here but pretending like you’re confused about the beep could be funny.

“Wait… Was that the beep?… Am I recording?… Oh shoot… Oh man, it’s too late to hang up now… This is John from…”

23) Multi-Pronged Attack

Some people just don’t like returning voicemails.

That includes me.

If you can hit those people with an email, a letter, a fax, a text, and a tweet all at the same time you’ll be sure to get their attention.

And if you can find some way to make all those things happen simultaneously please let me know because that would be awesome.

24) Don’t Forget the Benefits

There’s a reason salespeople have been talking about using benefits over features since the beginning of time.

It works.

Instead of leaving a message like this:

“Call me so I can explain the coverages on that quote I emailed.”

Say this:

“Call me to find out how much cash I’m putting back in your bank account every month!

25) Give Your After Hours Cell Number

There’s plenty of folks out there who would LOVE to call you back if only they could do it at 7pm when they’re free.

If you’re serious about selling insurance, you’re going to need to talk to clients when it’s convenient for them.

Leaving your after-hours cell number is one great way to do it.

26) Use a Sexy Voice

im-too-sexy-voiceYou probably already knew that “sex sells”.

But did  you know it can also get phone calls returned?

Now I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but if you’re calling a member of the opposite sex and you make your voice a little deeper nobody’s going to get hurt.

It worked for Elaine, right?

Next time  you’re about to make a phone call, channel your inner Barry White or Madonna and let’s see if it doesn’t get you a callback.

Here’s What to Do Next:

1) Make a list of all the techniques here you’re comfortable trying and set a goal to use each as much as possible for one week.

2) Share the love by sending a link to this article to the last agent who complained to you about getting calls returned.

3) And click the “Like” button if you’ve found at least one new idea that you’re willing to try this week.

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John F. Carroll

John F. Carroll is the founder and CEO of InsuranceSplash. For years, John has consulted insurance agencies with internet marketing and sales strategy and he is dedicated to making insurance marketing easy and effective for all insurance agents. If you're an agent, connect with John on LinkedIn, he wants to connect with you!

Comments (10)

  • Alex


    Wow John! U did it again!
    Blew my mind with another amazing set of ideas I can put into action today.
    Seriously, how do you do this every week?


    • John F. Carroll


      Wow Alex! Thanks for the positive feedback! I don’t know what to say… it takes a lot of time but I figure it’s worth it if agents like you can take my ideas and put them in action. Thank you! -John


  • Laura


    I can tell that you put a lot of time and effort into this article, but I think that being dishonest and/or manipulative is extremely disrespectful to clients. I always leave the number twice; that’s just courteous. I can’t imagine creating false expectations or many of these other yucky tricks. This kind of thing is one reason I think insurance agents have a bad reputation. It sounds skeevy.


    • John F. Carroll


      Great feedback Laura! You make some powerful points that are worthy of serious consideration for any agent reading this. You’re right that some of the ideas I’ve presented are yucky tricks.

      In fact, your comment has made me regret writing some of these. I guess sometimes I figure it’s helpful to give agents every idea that pours out of my head but it’s not always appropriate to do so.

      With that being said, I still think it’s a bit unfair to imply that ALL BUT #4 are dishonest and/or manipulative. There’s 26 ideas here and I think many of them fall under the category of good sales practices.

      I’m going to leave it as originally published because I trust my readers to apply their own discretion even though I agree that some of these probably should have been left out. Thanks for the feedback!



      • Brooke Adams


        I think that these suggestions are smart, creative, witty, charming, etc… I can keep going. This is a sales job and we need to have fun at it! I don’t know about you Laura, but I have some very important information to share with people and if I need to be creative to get them to call back then I don’t see the harm.


    • Heather Ellsworth


      Ahhhhhh, Lighten up … a lot, the vast majority of these ideas, are marketable as they get the attention of the consumer. Of course agents are not going to implement every single one…but they jolt us into thinking outside the box, which is a much more refreshing place to be! These ideas are playful. There is no trick to having a sexy voice and no deception to it. I use mine automaticly all the time and with it exude: peace, confidence and the vitality of good health. Some ideas have more political correctness than others. They are ideas and we can look at them from other angles that work even better for us as we use them. Thank you, John. They are extremely helpful! H. Ellsworth


      • John F. Carroll


        Thanks Ms. Ellsworth! About halfway through reading it your voice in my head changed to sound like Marilyn Monroe. ;)


  • Adrian Crymble


    There are some serious compliance issues here.

    Misleading info “I’m surprised by what I saw”.
    Untrue statements “Disregard my last (made up) call”
    Unethical practices “Imply a shared contact” “Quote a ridiculous price”
    Unprofessional approach “Click”! “Sexy voice”

    I’m not sure what the regulations are like Stateside, but here in the UK, FCA/FSA/Ofcom would probably have you closed down pretty quick and your licence removed.

    I appreciate your honesty in reviewing your comments retrospectively, I’ll stick to my compliant approach to getting clients to return my calls!


  • Yen


    John you did great in this articles and I am happy to share your article with my agents through my website info blog.
    Hopefully this will help and also i am happy to venture with you in this event to promote your experience in Malaysia.
    Thanks again John.


  • Ava



    These are ideas not laws.. if you are in sales you have to find a way to be creative, engaging and have the customers call you back.. to imply that these are wrong or malicious is a little bit of a far stretch– just like thinking that the customer is ALWAYS right. Take a look in your mailbox today.. you will notice a lot of the same techniques- it’s just we have one person giving us a step by step guide in how to do it.. if you don’t like one change it up, make it yours.. but I say BRAVO in the ideas on how to get my call flow.. if we didn’t need them no one would have read his article.


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