When Should You Leave a VoiceMail in Prospecting for Listings?

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Many real estate agents who are prospecting by phone for listings ask me if they should leave a message or a voicemail when the seller does not answer.  The answer depends on specifically who you are calling and when you are calling them.  And of course, the goal is a live conversation with a prospect, not a “sly-dial” voice mail that let’s you avoid the possibility of rejection.

Having said that, the answer depends, first, on who you are calling and, second, on which time you’ve called them.  The best process is different for different groups of prospects.

There are four basic groups of prospects agents typically call:

  1. Personal Circle. With people you know (past clients and sphere of influence) you typically always leave a voice mail the first time you call them.  Keep it short and sweet.
  2. Expired listings. New expired and cancelled listings are a high probability contact, so if they don’t answer the first time you call you always should live a short, simple message asking them to call you if they still want to sell. There is urgency here because of the possibility of other agents calling them.  Many people use there home phone answering machines to screen their calls.  That’s why you should leave a brief message.
  3. For Sale by Owners. FSBO’s have put their number out there. That means they want to be called, and they have most likely provided a good number where you can reach them live.  Because of that, do not leave a message the first two times you call.  It’s always better to speak to them live, so if they typically are answering their phone, I want my first contact with them to be live, not voicemail.  After 3 calls where they do not answer, leave a voicemail.
  4. Random Calling. When you are making what is typically referred to a “cold-calls” you never take the time to leave a voicemail. With calls like this the only real value of the call is to have a live conversation.  So more dials and more live conversations is the key.

For all the details of what to say and how to say it…and more detailed explanation watch the full video.


Hi, there. It’s Kevin Ward with YesMasters Real Estate Success Training helping you get more yeses and more successes in your business and in your life.

Today, I want to talk to you about a question that I get all the time in email: “should you leave a voice mail when you’re prospecting?” When you’re calling somebody and they don’t answer the phone, should you leave a voice mail?

A lot of you have been taught that you should never leave a voice mail when you’re prospecting. The only time you should ever leave a voice mail is when somebody is expecting your call. For example, if you have somebody that you’re following up with a lead and you told them I’ll call you back next week or I’ll call you back tomorrow or whatever, then you want to leave a voice mail because they’re expecting your call and you want them to know that you’re keeping your word, that you’re following through like you committed to do and that’s true so that you definitely want to do that.

However a lot of things have changed over the years in terms of how you connect with potential sellers, with prospects from the way it was back in the 1900s. A lot of you were taught and the training typically that I was taught was you never leave a voice mail for anyone because you want to talk to somebody live…and that is true. You want to talk to somebody live. That’s the ultimate goal. Leaving voice messages is not going to get you appointments. However, some things have changed.

The question is should I leave a voice mail when I’m prospecting and the first answer is it depends on who you’re calling. It depends on who you’re prospecting and who you’re talking to. The way I look at it in prospecting, there are 4 different categories of prospecting.

1. Calling your personal circle. That’s people that you already know. That’s people that you have a relationship with. This would be your past clients, what’s typically called your past clients, your sphere of influence, your mets. Some of them is called your mets.

In other words, just people that know who you are and you know who they are. Then the second category are expired listings. Whenever a listing is expired, do you leave a message with them? The third category are for sale by owners and the fourth category is what I call random calling. Traditionally, a lot of times, this is called cold calling. You’re just calling people you don’t know, it’s random. There’s not a specific reason at least from their perspective for why you would be calling them.

This would be in a lot of, if you’re doing notice of default, you’re distress sellers or probates, they would fall more of the lines of these. Here’s the angle on how you do these. First off, on personal circle, if you’re calling your personal circle, that means people that you know. When you call them and they don’t answer, yes, the answer is do you leave a message and the answer is, yes, you always leave a message. Why do you leave a message? Because I’m just connecting with them and it’s weird if this number keeps calling them especially if you’re calling from your cell phone and they know who’s calling them and you’re not leaving a message. You’re like, “Why are you calling me?”

If you’re not willing to leave a message, they go like, “Why would you not leave a message? Are you trying to scam me?” That becomes like a solicitation feel. It’s personal. When you call somebody that answered just leave a message. If it’s somebody in your personal circle that you’ve connected with and been talking to, they know why you’re calling, just leave a simple message. You say, “Hey, Bill. It’s Kevin Ward here. Just wanted to touch base and see how things are going and seen who you’ve talked to and bumped into. Just looking to buy, sell or, invest in real estate that I can help. If you have anybody or run across anybody, please let me know. If you’re looking to do anything always, give me a call, and we’ll talk soon.”

That’s pretty much a simple voice mail that you can leave. Now, if you’re talking to somebody and you’re calling them do you leave a message every single time? If I was calling somebody that my goal is I want to talk to him 4 times a year. Let’s say once every quarter. I call him the first time. They don’t answer. I leave a message. I want to call him again in about a month or less because I’m still trying to get in touch with him, I actually want to have a conversation. The first time I call him, I would probably leave a message. The second time I call, I may not.

It just depends on how you feel about that relationship. The third time or the fourth time I call again then I would probably leave another message and say, “I just want to touch base see what’s up and see if I can do anything to help you.” Make it real simple, real short, real brief, leave a message and move on. The value is in a live conversation.

However, this just lets you know when you call if they don’t answer who it is if they don’t know and if they do know who it is, then it doesn’t seem weird because why are you calling me all the time and never telling me why you’re calling, because people don’t like to call you back when they don’t know why you called them. That’s your personal circle. Yes, leave a message. Now, I’m going to put it this way. You always leave a message the first time you call and maybe after 2, 3 and let’s say you’re third or you’re fourth, you leave a message as well. I wouldn’t leave a message every single time I called.

If you called them once, left a message, call again. A couple weeks later, a month later, you may not leave a message. The next time, you may not. The fourth time, you may leave a message or whatever. If I call somebody for a year or 6 months and they never answered, ever respond, I’m not going to call them as often. I’m going to push them down a little bit. What I teach my coaching members with personal circle, you have an A team, B team and a C team. A lot of times, a lot of that has to do with how frequently do you actually call them.

2. Expired listings. Do you leave a voice mail when your prospect expireds? The answer is always yes on the first call. Every single time you want to leave a voice mail on the first call. There’s several reasons for this. I was taught not to do this, and back in the 1900s it made total sense. But things have changed since the 1900s.

Number one, people answer their phone less often than they used to. Caller ID is what it is but a lot of people don’t have caller ID on landlines even if they have landlines. They have answering machines and they use their answering machines to screen calls. If they are screening their calls, they’re sitting, their phone rings, they’re not going to answer it. They let it go to voice mail and they’re wanting to see who’s calling me. If you leave no voice mail, you have no shot of getting shot in touch with them at all.

You leave a very simple voice mail that simply identifies who you are and why you’re calling. The voice mail goes like this. “Hi. This is Kevin Ward. I’m a local real estate agent. I noticed your house came up on the MLS, on our computer system that it’s off the market. If you’re still interested in selling it, would you please give me a call? Again, my name is Kevin Ward, here’s my phone number. That’s the voice mail. Simple, takes 15 seconds. You leave the voice mail and if they’re there and they’re listening a lot of times they will pick up.

Now, you say, what if they don’t want to talk to me? They’re not going to pick up. If they don’t want to call you back, they’re not going to call you back. You leave a voice mail on the first call then I’m going to make a second call and then I’m going to make a third call. I’m not going to leave a voice mail on subsequent calls to probably the fourth call. Then I’m not going to probably leave another voice mail.

Now, here’s how you do this. First day, this is day 1. If I’m calling for expireds, I’m going to call new expireds. I’m going to call them day 1. I’m going to call them again day 2. I’m going to call them again day 3. After that I will probably call them on day 4. If I’m getting a phone that’s ringing and it’s going to an answering machine that tells me there’s somebody on the other end.

Now, if you’re getting cell phones which is great and a lot of times you’re getting those then same strategy applies. First time, maybe after the third day, if I’m not going to call, if I’m going to move them after calling them 3 or 4 days with no answer in a row, I move them into what I call my old expired folder and that means now I’m not going to call them every day, I’m going to probably call them a couple weeks from now, again or maybe a week from now and then I will put them where if I’m doing a weekend prospecting session where I’m calling on a Saturday or I’m doing an evening prospecting session once a week or whatever, then I may call them during that time.

Again, if I’ve called them. I’ve left a message recently, I’m not going to leave another message but every third or fourth call, I’m going to leave a message. All right so that’s your expireds.

3. For-Sale-by-Owners. Do you leave a message? The answer is no. Not on the first call. The reason is for sale by owners to have given a number in their marketing if you’re finding them wherever you’re finding them. If you’re using a lead service or if you’re finding them on Craigslist or online, on one of the by owner websites, they’ve given a phone number where they want to be contacted. You know it’s a good number.

However, I want to talk to the for sale by owner live, just like with all these others but they’re not screening their calls as likely, number 1. Number 2, because you know it’s a number they’ve given that they want you to call them at so it’s probably a cell phone number. You can’t screen a call on a cell phone number. You can just take it. It goes to voice mail. You leave a message. They listen to it and they decide if they want to call you back or not.

I really want to talk to them so the first 2 times I call, I’m not going to leave a voice mail. Then on the third time, I am going to leave a voice mail on call number 3, then I’m going to leave a voice mail. I’ve tried to call them twice. They’ve not answered so maybe the voice mail approach will work. Leave it, very simple. Again, it’s a very simple script, “Hey. This is Kevin Ward. I’m a local real estate agent. I noticed your house for sale by owner. I was wanting to find out if it’s still available and see if I can do anything to help. Here’s my number. Kevin Ward. Call me.” Straightforward conversation.

Don’t do any BS crap like I may have a buyer for your property when you don’t. That’s totally BS. All you’re doing when you give them … And this is for another training video if you’ve watched any of my other training videos where I talked about a lot of the BS scripts that real estate agents have been taught or that they use is whenever you act like you have a buyer for a sale by owner. All you’re doing is training them that they’re hallucination is correct. Their hallucination is I don’t need to hire an agent, you’ll bring me a buyer if you have one.

When I pretend I have a buyer then all I’m doing is training them not to want to list with me because they’re like, “Why would I list with you? You go find a buyer. When you find one, you’re going to bring them. You already told me that. Why would I ever think about listing with you?” They don’t understand how the system, works so don’t buy in to or don’t feed their hallucination by acting like you’re calling because you have a buyer. Does that make sense?

On the third call, I’m going to leave a voice mail. Fourth and fifth call, probably not and then on about number call, let’s say number 6, 6 or 7, then I may leave another voice mail and these calls are probably the first 2 or 3 days I’ll call every day. After that, I’ll go to calling maybe once a week for a while and I’ll do that for another 3 or 4 weeks. If you’re also sending them emails or if you’re sending them in the mail, that’s awesome because you’re giving them the 1-2 punch.

The conversations are the best. Everything is better when you’re talking to people at the door. This is strictly about phone calling right now.

4. Random Calling. (Often called “Cold-Calling”). Now, the fourth category is what I call random calling. I just don’t like cold because cold is an expectation of pain. Cold just doesn’t feel comfortable. I’m not going to be cold when I call. I don’t expect them to be cold when they answer. So for me…It’s not cold calling.

Everything I do, if I’m talking to people, I don’t do cold, it’s all warm. It’s all warm calling but this is a special kind of warm calling. This is just random. They don’t see any reason why I’m calling. I’m calling with a hot market script just to give them an update on what’s happening in the market. I am calling them to maybe invite them to an open house or whatever. I don’t really love this whole approach of random calling. I think it’s the lowest return on investment and the most painful type of calling.

However, if you’re going to do it, this is the way to do it. Do you leave a voice mail and the answer is no. You never, ever, ever leave a voice mail, VM. You never leave a voice mail when you’re calling somebody randomly because the chances of it being somebody who has an interest in talking to you are so low that leaving a voice mail is just a big waste of time. It just takes a lot of time to sit there, wait for the phone to ring, wait for their greeting to get through and then you leave a voice mail.

That period of time, I’m going to let it ring 3 or 4 times. As soon as the fourth ring starts, hang up, dial the next one. One exception to that if you are using a dialer like MOJO or a Vulcan 7 or one of the programs that’s actually an automated dialing 2 or 3 or 4 numbers at a time. It just grinding through numbers. A lot of those have program, a dialer has a program voice mail that if they don’t answer, it automatically goes into the voice mail and the computer, the dialer itself goes ahead.

It’s continuing to dial more numbers and it’s not spending any of your time. It’s leaving a prerecorded voice mail that you made that it just automatically leaves any phone number that you call that gets voice mail. If you’re doing that, it doesn’t take any of your time and it’s just a matter of … You’re just shoveling a lot of numbers out there shoving a lot of junk voice mails into people’s voice mails systems. Their return on investment, in terms of that how many call backs you’re going to get is going to be very, very low but if it doesn’t take, it costs you no time, it costs you no money then if you want to leave those voice mails it certainly doesn’t harm anything.

If you’re doing it automatically, works out perfect but you got to understand there’s not a 1-shop and a 1-stop answer for every single situation. Every person has a different for each one. Let me show you this last thing on the expireds. The reason you leave a call on the first time is because there’s also with expireds you have an urgency that you don’t have with anyone else. These people are probably not planning to list today on an average day.

These people are most likely for sale banner is not going to list on the first day with the first agent that calls. Random calling, they’re probably not going to list with you on the first day when you call. It just doesn’t work that way but expireds are different. Expireds have had their house in the market and there is a very high probability that they will set a listing appointment today and you can get that listing today.

You don’t want to wait around to try a few times before you leave a voice mail. I want to try everything I can to get in touch with them, to talk to them day one because the urgency is very high because this is the high quality prospect and I want to do everything I can to get in front of them on day one.

Now everything is supplemented especially with these two right here and, you’re going to be way better off when you’re actually knocking on the doors getting in front of them, having that face-to-face conversation. You get way further than when you’re just talking in the phone. When you’re talking on the phone, know when is the right time to use a voice mail and when is the right time to hang up and go on.

Please post your questions and comments below, and share it with other agents you know it will help.

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