Most people who still use the traditional cold calling mindset look at voicemail as a dead end. They say to themselves, “Oh well, I may as well leave a message and hope he calls me back.”

This almost never happens, and we know it. But we’re often so relieved not to have to talk with someone, that we leave a message anyway. We avoid dealing with another person’s potential negative response to us and we avoid being challenged by the receptionist as well.

By the time the day is over, we might feel good because we’ve played the “numbers game” and made a lot of calls. But our productivity has been minimal. And over time that can make us feel frustrated by our experiences in cold calling.

With the new approach to cold calling, voicemail is an opportunity for discovery. It leads us beyond voicemail. Voice mail becomes a starting point for you to begin the process of locating the person you’re trying to contact.

Our objective is not to pursue people to make a sale in this new way of cold calling. It is to uncover the truth of their situation and to be okay with the outcome, whether it’s a “yes” or a “no.”

So we can begin to feel more comfortable hitting “0” when we get someone’s voicemail. Because we then have an opportunity to go back to the receptionist and begin a dialogue based on asking for help.

Here’s how the dialogue might go:

“Hi, maybe you can help me out for a second? I’m trying to get hold of Mike and I got his voicemail. Would you happen to know if he’s at lunch, or on vacation, or in a meeting by any chance?”

Here, you aren’t just asking to find Mike. And you’re also providing possible solutions to finding Mike. This helps the receptionist feel as if he or she is part of the problem-solving process.

The receptionist is likely to offer one of two responses. The first is, “Yes, he’s in a meeting (or at lunch or on vacation) and I’m not sure when he’ll be back at his desk.”

This answer has just given you a lot more information than you would have if you had just left a voicemail. Now you know your contact’s whereabouts in real-time and you can call back at a more appropriate time.

The second response is, “No, I don’t know where he is.” In this case, you would reply, “That’s not a problem…” This low-key statement diffuses any possible pressure that the receptionist might be feeling about not being able to answer your question.

You can then continue with, “Would you happen to know anyone whose desk or office is near him or who works in his area who might know where he is?” Again, you’re offering another option for solving the problem. In many cases, the receptionist will then transfer you to a colleague of your contact who can help you determine his or her whereabouts.

The receptionist may also reply, “No, I don’t know anyone in his area.” You then say, “That’s not a problem…” and offer, “Would you happen to have a paging system or his cell phone number by any chance?”

If the receptionist replies, “Sorry, we don’t have those,” then at that point you can say, “Thank you very much. I really appreciate your help. And then hang up, and call back another time.

Does the idea of paging potential clients or calling them on their cell phone make your stomach clench up? Are you thinking that you can’t cold call people that way because they might reject you?

That fear is only to be expected if your agenda is to sell something to the person. In other words, if you’re still using the traditional sales mindset. But once you master the new cold calling perspective, you’ll feel comfortable calling anyone, any time, using any mode.

As long as you’re 100 percent focused on your potential client’s world, you’ll find that people will be receptive to you. You can easily navigate throughout an organization with the type of dialogue described above because you’re asking for help in a relaxed manner and you never put anyone on the spot.

Suppose that your efforts to locate your contact in this way fail. At that point, you can leave a voicemail, but it should always be your very last option. Here’s an example of an appropriate cold calling voicemail:

“Hi John, maybe you can help me out for a second? I’m not sure if you’re the right person or not, but I’m trying to reach the person responsible for reporting problems about unpaid invoices. My name is John Edwards, my number is…”

Try this way of approaching the situation of voice mails, and you’ll be surprised and pleased at how often it becomes a highway instead of a dead end.