Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series. Read Part 1.

Your telephone is probably the most important tool in your real estate toolbox. Are you maximizing the results from your phone or are you engaging in lame practices that annoy your clients and other agents as well?

Have you ever given much thought to how you use your phone? More importantly, have you considered how your voice mail messages can either help or hinder your real estate business? Here are several of the pet peeves that really bug other agents as well as best practices that you can use to upgrade your business.

1. Was your callback number stated clearly in the message you left?
Realtor Marilyn Katz points out a common practice that not only wastes time but annoys the recipient. Not only do agents fail to identify themselves clearly, they often leave "voice mail messages with return phone numbers left at the speed of light. If you want me to return your call, state your phone number clearly, slowly, and repeat it twice!"

No matter what type of phone you use, it’s smart to leave your number twice because the recipient’s phone may break up leaving your phone number indecipherable. Also, when you leave a message, be sure to state your name at the beginning and at the end of the call as well as the name of your company. This way if the call breaks up, the recipient can still reach you by trying your main office number.

2. Short, sweet and to the point
Let’s face it. Virtually everyone is busy and pressed for time. As a result, long voice mail messages are not only ineffective, but they can be quite maddening.

For example, agent Ann Weaver notes a behavior that is way too common among agents: Please don’t leave a "two-minute greeting about how important your call is to you and then never return the call."

Broker Matt Wilkins pointed out a similar issue: I called an agent where at the end of a three-minute greeting the last sentence said, "Please do not leave any messages at this number, as they will not be retrieved."

When you set up the greeting on your phone, identify yourself, and your company, and remind the person to leave his or her name and phone number twice. You can also save yourself a lot of aggravation if you let callers know the status of your listings as well as when they can expect a call back from you.

Here’s an example:

"Good morning! This is Sally Agent of ABC Real estate. Please leave your name, number and a short message. Be sure to repeat your name and number twice. I will be returning calls today between 11 a.m. and noon and between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. My listings at 123 Oak St., 2222 Main Ave., and 367 Elm are under contract. My other listings are all still available. Thanks for calling."

This message takes about 20 seconds to deliver and serves the dual purpose of letting people know when they can expect to hear back from you as well as letting other agents know which of your listings are still available.

3. Explain the purpose of your call
When you leave a message for someone, take this advice from Realtor Billy Wemlinger who has an issue with "any voice mail that simple says, ‘It’s ___. Please call me back.’" Wemlinger suggests, "Give me a little context so I can be prepared."

Let the person know the purpose of your call, so that if the person doesn’t reach you personally, he or she can respond to your request.

4. You don’t have to be available 24-7
Do you sleep with your cell phone next to your bed? If so, put it on "airplane mode" so you don’t get incoming calls while you are sleeping.

As broker Cindy Jones remarked about people who say that they are available 24-7 to meet all your real estate needs:

"Really? Why do you need to answer your phone at 3 a.m. other than a family emergency? If your website is working then someone can be cruising for information and send you an email that you can respond to during reasonable business hours. If you want to be seen as a professional, you need to present yourself as one."

5. Clear out your mailbox
Wilkins points out another annoying issue that happens way too often: "Full and/or uninitiated voice mail boxes." Get in the habit of checking your mailbox often and never let it get too full to receive messages. If you do, you could be missing important leads for your business — and that’s not only a time-waster, it’s a money-waster as well.

6. Consider the person receiving your call
A ringing phone is almost always an interruption. Always ask if this is a good time for the other person to talk. If not, set a specific time to call the person back.

These simple tips not only will help you raise the bar in your real estate business, but they can help you make more money as well.

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