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If voicemail is dead, how should smart agents follow up?

Real Estate Technology with realtor.com®

Spam callers are ubiquitous and we’ve all had the unfortunate experience of answering a call we wished we’d have ignored. So, can you blame your leads for screening your calls before they’ve gotten to know you?

If you’re struggling to make contact after you receive an inbound lead with a phone number, consider the below tactics to help you break through the screening process.

Tactic #1: The double and triple dial

Having a hard time getting a call back when you leave a voicemail for a new lead?  Your lead may listen to the voicemail and not be in the right mood to call back. Worst of all, they may flag your number and choose to ignore your calls in the future (even though they’d converted online and given permission for you to contact them).

Try the double dial — that’s a tactic where you call once, don’t leave a voicemail, then call back right away. When an unknown number calls twice in a row, your contact may perceive that it’s important and be more likely to answer your call.

You can also try the triple dial. In this approach, you’ll call three times throughout the course of the day, without ever leaving a message. Leave at least an hour between each call attempt. Again, the theory here is that people may be more likely to return three mystery calls than one explicit voicemail. Remember, curiosity is your friend!

Tactic #2: Follow a smarter voicemail script

If you do leave a voicemail, be sure to be clear, succinct and memorable in some way. This Salesforce blog recommends that you:

1. Change up the script! Start with the reason for your call, not your name. By keeping your contact guessing about who you are and why you’re calling, they’ll be more likely to listen to the whole message and call you back.

2. Keep it under 30 seconds. The longer you talk for, the less engaging you’ll be. Don’t start selling over voicemail; keep it short and sweet.

3. Don’t sell! No one’s ever been hired from a great voicemail, and that shouldn’t be your goal. Instead, focus on making a connection and avoiding an overly aggressive tone that could turn off buyers and sellers at the start of their journey.

4. Don’t talk about how many times you’ve called. Even if you’ve left 7 voicemails, don’t admit your past failure to connect. Stay positive and fresh with each contact, so you don’t become “John the real estate agent, calling for the 9th time this week.” And remember, 44% of salespeople give up after just one follow-up, so by staying persistent you’re much more likely to make contact and win the deal! (Scripted)

5. Stand out. Whether you open with a joke or close with a strong call to action, be sure that you sound different than other agents who may be clogging up their voicemail box. When you’re hard to forget, you’re harder to delete or ignore.

Tactic #3: Send a text instead

At some point, if your lead isn’t answering, you may just wish they’d tell you to bug off. One way to get a response once and for all is to send a text message rather than leaving another voicemail.

Text messages have a 90% read rate (Mobile Squared) and while people can easily say they “forgot” to read an email or listen to a voicemail, most recipients of a text message will feel compelled to reply in some way.

Below is a series of three texts to send to leads who aren’t returning your calls. Note that Rick Realtor gives his lead an easy opt out in the third message. At some point, it’s okay to call it… and it’s better to cross someone off your list definitively than to spend time on them just because you haven’t heard back and consider them a “live lead.”


“Hi Sara, this is Rick Realtor. I’m returning your message from realtor.com, where you were looking at 149 Elmwood Lane. That’s a gorgeous property and I’d love to help you set up a showing in the next few days. Are you still interested in seeing the home?”


“Hi Sara, Rick Realtor again. Just checking in about 149 Elmwood Lane. I have a few more appointment openings this week if you still want to see it.”


“Hi Sara, Rick Realtor here. Let me know if there’s any way I can help you check out 149 Elmwood Lane or other houses in the Eagle Creek area. If you’re not interested in buying anymore, or you found a different agent, just let me know.”

Remember, less is more — especially within a text message.

Tactic #4: Send an audio file

Everything old is new again. So perhaps you aren’t having luck with voicemail or simple text. Try sending an “audio file” via your phone’s messaging function. It’s a like a good, ol’ fashioned voicemail, but it’s a recording in a text message. You might be surprised how an audio file via text delights your recipient. Go figure, right?

Learn how to send an audio file via:

Do you leave a voicemail after the first call?

How do you start a dialogue that matters? Tell us what you say, why, and how it resonates with your new leads. 

Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate Services

This might be among the many reasons our industry has such a lowly reputation.  Double and Triple dial?  Are you kidding me? Just annoy the holy crap out of someone? No thank you.

Jul 14, 2017 10:04 AM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

Hi Kathleen,

Thanks for your input! We try to provide a variety of tactics because we believe that every agent is different and has a different approach. We're really glad that you've found an follow-up strategy that fits you and works to engage potentia clients. 

Jul 21, 2017 12:12 PM
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

While I understand a need to find a way to connect with leads ... I don't play games.  Typically my leads are firsthand .. I have a name to refer to in any message left as to the source and need for my call.  I'll try a second call .. and a third ...  by that time more out of respect for the referral source than the lead I'm calling.  If they don't respond after that ... I let my referral source know and move on accordingly ...


Jul 14, 2017 10:47 AM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

Hi Gene,

Thanks for reading and telling us what you think! There's a lot of conversation about how to follow up with web leads, which can vary in quality and are certainly less likely to respond than a referral or firsthand lead. It's fantastic that you have so many close leads and an approach that works for you!

Jul 21, 2017 12:13 PM
Sybil Campbell
Fernandina Beach, FL
Referral Agent Amelia Island Florida

Congrats on the featured post. I would leave my name but if I get no response I don't continue to call, I would rather not annoy people.  I would text and then if there is no response, I move on to the next person.  I can't stand a hard sale pitch and refuse to do it to others.

Jul 14, 2017 10:49 AM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

As with anything in sales, your personality will (or should) drive how you engage a lead. We totally understand that the tactics in this post aren't for everyone... but agree that texting is a great way to break through if someone is screening a call and seems unlikely to answer or call back. Thanks for weighing in, Sybil!

Jul 21, 2017 12:15 PM
Alan May
Jameson Sotheby's International Realty - Evanston, IL
Cicadas are coming! Cicadas are coming!

I really don't love these tele-marketer-style tactics.

If I'm calling someone who doesn't want to talk with me... I won't chase them.  I'll leave a voicemail, or perhaps a text.  If it's someone I really 'need' to talk to (not a sales-target), I'll call again sometime later... leave a new message.

If they don't call me back... I will not resort to double- and triple-calling to trick them into answering.

As a consumer, I hate that and will never do business with someone who treats me that way... and I wouldn't subject anyone I'm trying to do business with to the same tactics.

Jul 14, 2017 11:26 AM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

Thanks,  Alan. We were responding to many, many agents we meet on the Results Series road show events series who have a hard time getting their web leads to respond. The tactics in this post are one way to handle these cold web leads, but they are certainly not for everyone. We're glad you have found a way to engage customers that matches your style and helps you win business! Have a great weekend.

Jul 21, 2017 12:16 PM
Matthew O'Hare
Osterville, MA

Any way that works!

Jul 14, 2017 11:54 AM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

That was the thinking, yes. :) It seems these tactics aren't popular with most Active Rain agents, but we're happy that you found something to take away. 

Jul 21, 2017 12:17 PM
Paul dion

I read this post with "are you kidding me" if you did this to me and I knew your name I would make sure I NEVER use you now or in the future.
Even if I was interested in a property I would seek out anyone but you.
If some unknown number calls me and there is no voicemail to follow up I permanently block that number.

Jul 14, 2017 06:37 PM
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co Notary Services retired RE Broker

Gee... I didn't know VM was dead. It still works fine in North Dakota.

Jul 14, 2017 07:37 PM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

Awesome! Best case scenario is a lead or prospect who responds right away. :)

Jul 21, 2017 12:18 PM
Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate
Kelly Right Real Estate - Hood River, OR
Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs

As a consumer, the double and triple calls are annoying.  Was this written by someone in Realtor.com's telemarketing department?  Are these the tactics they use?  

Jul 14, 2017 08:24 PM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

Hi Mel,

These tips we shared were given to us by several top lead conversion experts we have spoken with this year. We know they're not for everyone, and we're sorry that you didn't get anything out of this post. Next time, we hope to offer you advice that you find helpful! Take care. :)

Jul 21, 2017 12:19 PM
Stavrula "Sam" Crafa, RNC,GRI, CDPE, PSA
Future Home Realty - Seminole, FL
Providing the integrity and service you deserve.

Good post over all with some good suggestions that i may try. But I would never call someone 7,8 or 9 times. I'll try 3 maybe 4 tops. But if they don't want to return my call after that, then I move on. 

Jul 14, 2017 08:30 PM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

It's important to have a hard limit! We agree that not everyone is going to have the stamina to go for 7 calls -- so we are glad you've found the right number that works for you! Thanks for sharing, Sam.

Jul 21, 2017 12:20 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I don't think my voicemail is totally Dead it just yet. And I did use a D. there. Interesting regardless

Jul 14, 2017 09:50 PM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

We're glad that you are able to break through via voicemail! If it's not broke, then there's no use in fixing it :) Thanks, Laura!

Jul 21, 2017 12:21 PM
Chris Lima
Turtle Reef Realty - Port St Lucie, FL
Local or Global-Allow me to open doors for you.

 CONGRATS on the feature. While I appreciate the tips in this post,  this girl will not be double or triple calling anyone.  I like the idea of texting as a follow up.

Jul 15, 2017 04:48 AM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

Thanks, Chris. We know the tactics here aren't for the faint of heart -- but we're happy to hear that you'll be using the texting tactic. Let us know if it works! :)

Jul 21, 2017 12:21 PM
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

I believe it is necessary to reply to a lead as soon as possible.

However, if the lead is not serious enough to respond to a voice mail and/or text, I don't see me going into multiple calls.

Jul 15, 2017 06:51 AM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

It's awesome that you're so committed to a quick follow-up; we imagine that your fast dialing fingers make it hard for a lead to ignore you (or want to). Thanks for weighing in on what works for you! 

Jul 21, 2017 12:22 PM
Lottie Kendall
Compass - San Francisco, CA
Helping make your real estate dreams a reality

I like some of your tips about leaving a smarter email--keeping it short is smart, and I might try opening with the reason for my call followed by my name & phone number. Texting is good, too.

Jul 15, 2017 07:22 AM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

It's definitely made us rethink our emails even in the realtor.com marketing department! Sometimes, less is more... and if you give them just enough to consider via email, you'll have plenty to talk about when they DO call you back! Thanks for weighing in, Lottie.

Jul 21, 2017 12:23 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

I think there are some good suggestions here, but the double and triple dial seems rude and no better than all the annoying robo and telemarketer calls we get daily. I think it may be more likely to be a turnoff, but perhaps I'm wrong. Texting is a good idea with many these days.


Jul 15, 2017 07:43 AM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

Thanks, Jeff. We agree that texting seems to be a great (and relatively new) way to break through the noise. And if it's written casually, it will feel a lot more like a friend checking in than a pesky salesperson trying to get you on the phone. We hope it works for you!

Jul 21, 2017 12:24 PM
Rose Mary Justice
Synergy Realty Pros - Dandridge, TN
Synergy Realty Pros

Valuable tips on how to reach out to your leads.  I will have to put into practice these ideas.

Jul 15, 2017 08:49 AM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

Great, we are happy to hear that you found some takeaways to employ in your everyday business life!

Jul 21, 2017 12:24 PM
Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Chasing leads are a waste of time and energy especially with permission to call. Leads have three opportunities to take action, one after the first call, two after the second and three, after the third and last call. 

Why would you want to trick or coerce anyone to do business with you? If you truly believe you're the best at what you do, your opportunity will simply be taken by someone who takes action. There are many spectators looking at opportunities, so are we seeking them or players who are taking action?

Jul 15, 2017 06:58 PM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

We certainly don't believe in tricking people, either. We've heard from many agents that people tend to ignore voicemails, so we consulted some top lead conversion experst to offer some new tips on how to get around that issue. We're sorry if the post came off as trickery or coercion.

However, we agree that being the best agent you can be means doing what feels best to YOU! So, we're thrilled that you have a philosophy about when to quit with leads who aren't responding. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kimo.

Jul 21, 2017 12:27 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Looks like you poked a hornet's nest!

If I call someone and they don't call back, I assume they don't want to speak to me. End of story. It's not like a letter in the mail or an email that they might not have opened. If they have voice mail, they listen to it.

Unless they're my son. He doesn't listen, he just sees who called and returns the call - or not, if it's someone he doesn't want to speak with.

Double and triple would annoy me - if I noticed it. What annoys me more are the people who won't take no for an answer. I can hang up on them, yell at them, say no politely - and they STILL call back.

Jul 16, 2017 12:59 PM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

Thanks for weighing in, Marte. We're glad that your contacts tend to listen to voicemail, but we've seen a lot of agents mention that their leads and contacts seem to ignore voicemail -- so we were hoping to offer workarounds.

The intention was to give a few options, and it seems like the general consensus is that short emails and texts are a great way to break through the "noise" of lead follow-up. As for the triple dial, it's not for everyone -- and as with any script, we hope that agents follow one that feels natural to them.

Jul 21, 2017 12:30 PM
Mike McCann Nebraska Land Broker
Mike McCann - Broker, Mach1 Realty Farm & Commercial Land Broker-Auctioneer Serving Nebraska - Kearney, NE
Farm & Commercial Property For Sale 308-627-3700

# 9.... If you have to continuously call someone and be rude to all others and don't care that they hang up on you...you are part of the problem. And you are doing it wrong. Every "No" does not get you closer to a yes...it is just a no from someone who is annoyed that you wasted their time. Your tactics hurt our industry. Most of the tactics mentioned in the blog hurt our industries reputation. 

Jul 16, 2017 06:10 PM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

We're sorry to have written a post that you disagree with so strongly, Mike. While we agree that the double and triple dial are aggressive, we're not sure that sending videos, texts or short emails are damaging to the industry. They were meant to be workarounds to what seems to be a prevalent issue for most agents -- the lack of response from a lead who they are hoping to get in contact with.

Thanks for letting us know how you feel about this post; we'll certainly keep your opinion in mind as we write future content that involves lead conversion tactics.

Jul 21, 2017 12:30 PM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Great idea to send video recordings.  I like that one!

Jul 17, 2017 02:42 PM
Realtor.com® - A division of Move, Inc.

Thanks, Jan! We hope it works for you. Sometimes it's nice to just try something different. :)

Jul 21, 2017 12:33 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

As I was saying to someone else, I don't know if voicemails are Dead but text is very much more of a thing that used to be rare

Aug 07, 2017 11:32 PM