Falcons, the World’s Fastest Animal, and a Sheikh’s Plan to Protect Them
Inside a Sheikh’s Plan to Protect the World’s Fastest Animal Raising and training falcons in captivity can help conserve these beloved symbols of the Arabian Peninsula. Read Caption A female saker falcon guards her chicks—called eyases—in their nest overlooking the Mongolian plain. Genghis Khan is said to have kept hundreds of the birds for hunting. Today sakers are considered endangered because of habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade. Raising and training falcons in captivity can help conserve these beloved symbols of the Arabian Peninsula. 15 Minute Read Photographs by Brent Stirton This story appears in the October 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.
The blue light of dawn reveals the shadowed contours of the Arabian desert as Sheikh Butti bin Maktoum bin Juma al Maktoum and his son kneel in prayer. The velvet sand is cool, and the tracks from the night wanderings of a desert fox crisscross the area. Nearby, the silhouettes of 12 small pillars mark the foot of a dune, at the top of which a man is setting up a folding table to serve tea. On the horizon it’s possible to see the shimmer of the Dubai skyline, a place transformed from a tiny backwater into a hypermodern port city by the sheikh’s uncle, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum.
There, a cascade of concerns and obligations awaits Sheikh Butti—corporate board decisions, real estate deals, royal family matters, requests for counsel from across the Middle East, Europe, and beyond. But all of that is a world away. Here in the silent landscape of his ancient Bedouin forebears, the sheikh finds peace with his falcons.
It is October, and falconers in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) are busy training their birds for hunting and the upcoming racing season. Each day Sheikh Butti (pronounced BOO-tee), his son Maktoum, and their retinue rise at four in the morning and drive more than an hour into the desert to train their birds before the scorching heat of the day.
As the sky brightens, I see that the 12 pillars are hooded falcons on perches, silently awaiting the day’s training. There are chocolate and cream peregrines, white speckled gyrfalcons, dusky brown sakers, and hybrids of different species. Together the group contains lineages that cut across Europe, Asia, and the wilds of the Arctic. They represent only a few of the hundreds of birds the sheikh owns, which arguably compose one of the most exquisite collections of falcons ever assembled. (Considering that falcons have been zealously collected throughout history by Assyrian rulers, Viking chiefs, Russian tsars, Mongol khans, and practically every English monarch from Alfred the Great to George III, this is indeed quite a claim. More about this history later.) View Images Sheikh Butti bin Maktoum bin Juma al Maktoum, a senior member of the Dubai royal family, poses with some of his favorite falcons. The sheikh has helped pioneer important changes in Middle Eastern falconry, eschewing wild birds for those he breeds himself.
Pani, one of the sheikh’s aides, hands me a cup of tea and hustles to prepare the lure for the first trainee. “Good morning, Howard,” the sheikh calls out to the lanky, bald man in glasses standing next to me. Howard Waller, 57, is his falcon breeder, friend, and confidant. The sheikh’s voice is bright and full of enthusiasm, and the two men immediately spiral into a spirited, hopscotching discussion of falcon esoterica.
They discuss the birds arrayed before them and others in the sheikh’s several aviaries. They comment on the merits of quail and pigeon diets, the proper way to build muscle mass, the nuances of diseases such as aspergillosis and bumblefoot. They note the young birds that exhibit aggressive personalities and those that seem passive. They sprinkle in bits of gossip about acquisitions by other Dubai falconers and news from falconry communities in neighboring Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain. Almost like a long-married couple, they eagerly anticipate each other’s answers and communicate using a shorthand inscrutable to nearly everyone else: “The gray whose father was the one we hunted with two years ago.” “The gyr with the broken tail feather that we fixed.”
They speak of favorite birds: Delua, White Finger, Old Bedford, and of course, the late Hasheem—dear Hasheem—and the lineages they produced, each with its own genetic bundle of surprising color schemes and personality traits. And then there is the White One. Their voices vibrate with excitement when they mention the White One, a yearling that may be the most beautiful falcon either has ever seen.
It’s been this way each morning for the nearly two weeks the sheikh has graciously allowed photographer Brent Stirton and me to observe the training sessions. Before the first rays of sun creased the horizon, the two falconers would wander off into the dark desert, just the two of them, lost in conversation.
Over the past 20 years, Sheikh Butti and Howard have helped pioneer important changes in Arab falconry. Most notably, they breed and hand raise every bird they fly—a practice that was thought impossible before captive peregrine falcons were first successfully bred in 1942 by Nazi leader Hermann Göring’s falconer, Renz Waller (no relation to Howard). It’s also a practice Howard and Sheikh Butti believe can have a major impact on falcon conservation at a time when several species are facing threats from habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade. And though the vast majority of U.A.E. falconers now fly captive-bred birds, some traditional falconers in other parts of the Middle East still prefer wild birds captured after they’ve learned to catch prey on their own. View Images The sheikh has several facilities, including outdoor aviaries where he, his sons, and his staff care for a few hundred falcons—gyrfalcons, peregrines, sakers, and other species. Each fall he chooses a dozen or so of the best to train for the hunting season.
As soon as the sun becomes a soft orange ball on the horizon, the chitchat abruptly ends and the training begins in earnest. Maktoum, 27, wearing a heavy leather glove, gently takes one of the hooded falcons, a young peregrine, from its perch, gets into a Toyota four-by-four, and drives a few hundred yards away. Sheikh Butti holds what looks like a fishing pole with a rope tied to the tip and a quail wing tied to the end of the rope. He begins waving the pole, making wide, sweeping arcs with the fluttering wing.
In the distance Maktoum slips the leather hood off the falcon’s head and releases it. The bird beats its large, powerful wings and climbs high into the crisp air, immediately spots the lure, and flies toward it, its head following the arcs of the swinging wing. Sheikh Butti calls to it: “Hah!” The falcon swiftly gains altitude, banks hard, and dives on the lure, but at the last second, the sheikh jerks the wing away. “Hah!” calls the sheikh. The falcon seesaws awkwardly as it regroups. It passes overhead, and I can hear the soft whistle of its wings paddling the air. Its eyes—eight times as sharp as a human’s—are fixed like laser sights on the lure. It gains altitude and dives. The sheikh again pulls the lure at the last second.
Finally, on the third try, Sheikh Butti allows the bird to catch the wing and take it down onto the powdery sand. Pani quickly substitutes the lure for a quail breast, and the falcon begins stripping off the fresh meat. The sheikh gives explicit instructions for exactly how much to let the bird eat. Too much and the peregrine will get fat and slow; too little and it won’t gain muscle. View Images The peregrine falcon’s ability to dive for prey at over 240 miles an hour has long captivated humans. In the 1970s falconers helped save the species from extinction. BRIDGEMAN IMAGES
“That’s a young male,” Howard says. “It’s still figuring out how to hunt. The key is to not let it get frustrated. You want to make sure you let it catch the lure before it gives up.”
The sheikh and his son put each of the falcons through its paces. The older birds make the young male look amateurish by comparison. Maktoum takes them farther into the desert, releasing some from nearly a mile away. They rise effortlessly, as if impervious to gravity. Their flight paths are much more efficient and strategic, their wings flattening, flaring, cupping the air to twist and plunge in pursuit of the spinning lure. Like fighter pilots, some approach with the rising sun at their backs, using the glare to blind the “prey.” Others fly barely off the ground, approaching from behind the parked Toyotas, using them to block the prey’s field of vision before a final flash of speed.
Delua, a gray gyr (pronounced jer), even uses Brent as cover. Hunched on his knees in the sand, Brent is photographing Sheikh Butti when the falcon whips over his shoulder, a wing tip grazing his hair as she strikes the lure.
Sheikh Butti laughs. “They will knock you down,” he says. “It’s happened to me several times.”
It’s a visceral example of why falcons are such deadly hunters. In the wild, the gyr can surpass 60 miles an hour flying straight ahead. A diving peregrine can exceed 240 miles an hour, making it the fastest creature on the planet. At such velocities, even a bird weighing only a few pounds can deliver a violent blow.
“Like a lightning bolt with feathers,” Howard says.
Historians aren’t sure when humans first began capturing and training birds of prey to hunt animals they couldn’t kill with arrows or catch with snares. References in the ancient poem The Epic of Gilgamesh suggest that falconry existed in what is now Iraq as early as 4,000 years ago. Over centuries, the practice of catching and training falcons proliferated in cultures throughout the known world. King Tut was buried wearing a falcon pendant. The Greeks struck coins depicting Zeus with a falcon. One of the earliest Japanese falconers, a woman, wrote a treatise on the subject. Norse merchants traded gyrfalcons from Iceland throughout Europe, and the economy of the Dutch city Valkenswaard depended almost exclusively on the trade of falcons. View Images Howard Waller wears a breeding hat and mimics a female gyrfalcon’s chirping to coax sperm from a male gyr. Waller raised the falcon from a chick, a process called imprinting. “First it sees me as its parent,” he says. “And once it’s mature, it regards me as its mate.” Later he’ll use a syringe to put the semen into a female imprint. View Images Falcon breeder Howard Waller puts young birds into a hacking box located in a remote spot on his property in northern Scotland. Over the next five weeks the young birds will learn to fly, identify prey, and become accustomed to living in the wild by themselves.
By the time Marco Polo encountered Kublai Khan in the 13th century, the Mongol ruler employed 60 managers to oversee 10,000 falconers. Meanwhile, in Europe, the Holy Roman Emperor, King Frederick II, spent 30 years personally compiling an exhaustive scientific study of falconry that even now is regarded among the most authoritative tomes on the history and techniques of the sport.
But no region has a stronger claim to the practice than Arabia, where today more than half the world’s falconers reside. While falconry (which also includes hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey) was largely the sport of kings in Europe, it was a critical tool for survival in the Arabian Desert. View Images Howard Waller holds a newborn gyr-peregrine hybrid falcon chick he’s just helped hatch from its shell.
Bedouins would catch migrating falcons and train them to hunt game, such as houbara bustards and desert hares. Before the arrival of guns, the birds greatly increased the Bedouins’ ability to provide food for their families, and in the harsh desert environment, every ounce of protein was crucial. Falconry was so important to Arab culture by the advent of Islam that the Prophet Muhammad specifically mentions it in the Quran, declaring food caught by falcons to be clean for Muslims to eat.
But in the 20th century the rapid development of Dubai and the other emirates almost wiped out the practice in the U.A.E. The houbara declined precipitously as humans encroached on its habitat, and hunting the large bird eventually was banned. Only the wealthy could afford to keep falcons and travel abroad to hunt houbara in Central Asia and North Africa.
Then in the early 2000s, Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum introduced falcon racing as a way to make falconry accessible to the average Emirati. The birds are timed as they chase a lure over a specified distance. The season, which lasts from December through January, is highlighted by the President’s Cup, a competition in which more than 2,000 falcons compete for nearly seven million dollars in prize money.
The impact of racing is evident all over Dubai, where falcon ownership has skyrocketed. Perches can be found in hotel lobbies and office buildings throughout the city. Falconers bring ailing birds to a falcon hospital and shop for their needs at a mall dedicated to the sport.
One afternoon, Howard and I visit the falcon mall. Swarms of customers, many carrying hooded birds on their gloved fists, peruse the offerings of vendors selling everything from falcon food (frozen pigeons and quail) and falcon vitamins to tiny transmitters for tracking lost birds and hand-dyed leather hoods from Spain and Morocco. There is even a store specializing in radio-controlled model airplanes painted to look like houbaras for young falcons to learn to chase. View Images Officials in Mongolia collected carcasses of sakers killed on uninsulated power lines. Some 4,000 raptors are electrocuted there each year. The United Arab Emirates has pledged $20 million for raptor conservation, including retrofitting power lines. View Images Batbayar Bold, a biologist with the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia, examines a saker falcon chick in an artificial nest for falcons in central Mongolia. Mongolians have created more than 5,000 artificial nest sites to increase saker breeding populations.
The mall also has its own falcon clinic, where I meet a young man in a traditional long white dishdasha with a peregrine on his arm, his two young sons trailing behind him. “Is the falcon sick?” I ask. “No, he is getting a checkup,” the man says. “He is going to race!” one of the boys says. “He is going to win!” says his brother. The man beams proudly.
Howard and I walk over to a section of the mall where dealers sell live falcons, and Howard moves slowly among the perches, inspecting the hooded birds. There are peregrines and sakers, the traditional favorites of Saudi falconers, and a few tiny striped kestrels: starter birds. He asks the proprietors where the birds come from, and each vendor points to papers bearing official stamps showing the bird’s country of origin.
Howard nods in approval. “It’s a lot better now,” he says. He strokes the falcons’ breast feathers and inspects their feet. “These birds seem pretty healthy, not too stressed. I used to see a lot of birds in bad shape that had been smuggled in from Pakistan or from Russia, through Syria,” he says. “But the government has cracked down on that. Now each bird that comes in or out of the U.A.E. must have its own passport.”
The U.A.E.’s efforts notwithstanding, falcon smuggling remains a concern in many parts of the world. Conservationists report that saker and peregrine falcons are trapped during their migrations through Pakistan and smuggled to wealthy buyers in the Middle East. Gyrs from the Arctic regions of Russia are also poached. Of those species only the saker is currently listed as threatened or endangered, though there are reports that some populations of gyrs appear to be decreasing in parts of the wild. Conservationists are worried that the illegal trade, combined with shrinking falcon habitat—especially in the Arctic because of climate change—could imperil the birds’ long-term survival. View Images Veterinarians and assistants at Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital treat some 11,000 birds a year, making it the world’s largest avian hospital. Falconers bring in birds for everything from checkups to broken wings. View Images Veterinarians insert an endoscope into a falcon’s mouth to inspect its insides as part of a regular checkup at Dubai Falcon Hospital, a private facility that treats birds belonging to members of the royal family.
These concerns, Howard says, are a major reason Sheikh Butti is so committed to breeding falcons, an operation he recently expanded in Scotland. “You should come visit,” Howard says.
Howard is in a hurry because it’s feeding time and he’s got some 200 hungry falcons waiting for him. It’s late May, nearing the end of the breeding season, and we’re driving to Sheikh Butti’s falcon farm, situated among the verdant hills and rugged moors of coastal Scotland. As he navigates the narrow roads, Howard describes how as a boy in Rhodesia, he’d devoured every book about birds that he could get his hands on, and later after immigrating to South Africa, he had begun taking in raptors that had been injured or orphaned—peregrines, lanners, black eagles, African merlins, tiny little sparrow hawks (“fierce little songbird hunters”), even an owl (“the dumbest bird I ever worked with”). Over time he became a dedicated falconer.
It was on a trip to Dubai in 1998 when a friend introduced him to Sheikh Butti, who was intrigued that Howard thought he could breed and train falcons in the U.A.E. “All the veterinarians I talked to said it was impossible to breed falcons in the desert, let alone teach [captive-bred birds] to hunt there,” Howard says. A few other falconers in the U.A.E. were also attempting to breed but with limited success, and the sheikh and Howard set out to prove the experts wrong. During their first breeding season, they hatched more than 20 saker eggs and raised 15 to maturity. The next year they doubled the number. View Images After training in the desert, falcons are tied to perches for the drive back to Dubai. The birds’ vision is so acute that subtle movements or changes in light can startle them. Hooding, a technique developed by ancient Arabs, keeps them calm.
As word of their success spread, local falconers began sending them cast-off birds—falcons deemed untrainable or those with diseases such as severe bumblefoot (a potentially fatal infection in the feet) or hopelessly mangled flight feathers. Howard refused to give up on any bird. He figured out their individual personalities one by one, carefully superglued broken wing feathers, and patiently treated the bumblefoot. (“Most falconers don’t understand it’s really about stress,” he says.) Several of the donated falcons became skilled hunters and joined the sheikh’s breeding population.
A few years ago, the sheikh and Howard decided to expand their operation with a second facility in Scotland, closer to the native climates of peregrines and gyrs, and near other high-quality falcon breeders with whom they could exchange genetic lines. The sheikh keeps several of the new birds each year to train for hunting and others to breed, gives some to family and friends, and sells the rest to other falconers.
We reach Howard’s house, which sits on a rise with a view of the North Sea on the far horizon. The hungry falcons are waiting, and the air echoes with their piercing screeches. We head to a small complex of buildings behind the house and enter one that holds a walk-in freezer filled with locally sourced quail and pigeon. Howard gathers a generous bucketful of breasts, and we visit dozens of rooms containing breeding pairs of peregrines and gyrs, each with a clutch of two or three nestlings. Howard puts the meat on a small shelf, and we watch the males fly over, pick up the meat, and take it to the females. The pair then take turns feeding the squawking nestlings. View Images Rashid bin Maktoum bin Butti al Maktoum, Sheikh Butti’s son, ties a falcon to a perch at a camp near Abu Dhabi. For centuries Arab falconers have hunted houbara, a large and delicious game bird. Falconers may pursue only captive-bred houbaras in the U.A.E. or hunt them in the wild in places such as Uzbekistan and Morocco. The U.A.E. funds a large-scale breeding program to repopulate the species. View Images A falcon takes down a duck during a training session in the desert outside Dubai. Some Middle Eastern falconers use live prey, including ducks, to accustom their birds to killing. View Images Sheikh Butti bin Maktoum bin Juma al Maktoum trains his falcons in the desert outside Dubai. The sheikh begins the training before dawn during the season, using different types of lures to teach the birds to stalk and dive on prey.
Howard also breeds hybrids—part peregrine, part gyr—created by collecting sperm from the males and artificially inseminating females. “Gyrs are highly intelligent birds, much smarter than peregrines,” Howard says. “They can have diva personalities, but when you combine them with peregrines, you get a large, strong hunting bird that is easier to handle and more resistant to disease.”
In one of the rooms I spot a gyr the color of pure snow, without a speckle of brown or gray. It is the precious White One. For millennia, historians have expounded on the obsession with pure white gyrs. Ransoms for kidnapped nobles, overtures of international diplomacy, dowries for royal marriages have hinged on the special birds. During the Crusades, Sultan Saladin of Egypt and Syria refused the enormous sum of a thousand gold ducats from King Philip of France to return his pure white gyr, which had flown across the battle lines. View Images
Birds of the Photo Ark, with photos by Joel Sartore and text by Noah Strycker, is available at shopng.com/books . National Geographic
It’s not just the bird’s beauty that excites Howard and Sheikh Butti. The White One is proving to be a fearless, aggressive hunter. “She’s not just a show falcon,” Howard says. “It’s everything you dream about in a bird.”
I’ve seen news reports of wealthy sheikhs buying super falcons such as this for as much as $250,000, and I ask Howard how much the White One could sell for. “The media reports crazy prices,” he says, but few are accurate. “Those stories help fuel the black market,” he adds, incentivizing people to trap wild falcons. You might find a wealthy Middle Eastern falconer willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the White One, he allows, but Sheikh Butti would never sell her. To him and to Howard, the White One represents much more than just a trophy. She was born from the line of gyrs that stretches back to one of the lost-cause, problem falcons Howard was given in the late 1990s. She offers living proof that wild falcons aren’t better than those bred in captivity. The sheikh’s consistent success over the years hunting with his captive-bred falcons has prompted other royal falconers to seek out captive-bred birds. Some have invested in their own breeding programs. This marks an important trend, reasons Howard, one that has helped dampen the market for smuggled wild falcons.
Ultimately, Howard and the sheikh hope to release captive-bred gyrs into the wild to bolster their numbers in some parts of the Arctic that have seen a decline. It’s a practice that actually saved peregrines. By 1970, because of the widespread use of the pesticide DDT, the peregrine falcon had all but disappeared in the United States. Tom Cade, an ornithologist and falconer, founded the Peregrine Fund and recruited falconers from across North America to help save the species. Their efforts included releasing 6,000 captive-bred falcons. Today the peregrine population is considered robust. “Eventually, we’d like to release into the wild most of the birds we breed,” Howard says.
After the feeding, Howard takes me to a building that holds imprints, or falcons he’s hatched from artificially inseminated eggs and is raising by hand. Over time, an imprint will recognize the person who feeds it as its parent. The room is filled with dozens of plastic crates holding imprints, some only days old, their pink flesh covered with wisps of down. Others are fat little fuzz balls insistently chirping at him to feed them. He takes a bowl of freshly ground pigeon and quail meat, hands me long steel tweezers, and shows me how to gently fill their gullets with the meat.
Once all the mouths are fed, we move to the incubator room. The walls are lined with elaborate charts tracking in punctilious detail the genetic lines and development of every falcon bred this season. Nearby, the season’s last dozen brown speckled gyr eggs sit under the warmth of infrared heat bulbs. Every day Howard and his wife, Victoria, use a special light to illuminate each egg and measure the chick’s development inside—a sort of falcon sonogram.
He picks up one egg that seems ready to hatch. There is a minuscule nick in the shell where the chick has tried to break through. “Sometimes they’re too weak. Breaking the shell is part of nature’s test for weeding out the weak ones,” Howard says. View Images Falconer John Prucich positions raptors on a model for a photo shoot near Seattle. Falcons can be fussy, he says. “But when you connect with them and see nature in full splendor, it’s perfection.”
He lightly taps the egg and holds it to my ear. Faintly, I hear “Cheep, cheep.” It is soft but unmistakable, like a feeble radio signal from another world. Howard, always a champion for the weak ones, gently begins peeling open the shell, and in seconds he’s holding a baby falcon. He dabs away the sticky yolk. The bird is mostly wet pink flesh and matted silver down. It struggles to lift its head, which seems far too big for its tiny body. It’s nearly impossible to imagine this helpless creature one day gliding across the sky like an overlord. Finally, the chick manages to open one globelike eye, and the newest gyrfalcon on the planet looks up at Howard Waller, its new father.
“Cheep,” it says. Senior Editor Peter Gwin wrote about the Central African Republic for the May 2017 issue. Photographer Brent Stirton was named 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his photos depicting the rhino poaching crisis , published in the October 2016 issue of National Geographic. Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly described Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum as Sheikh Butti’s grandfather. He is actually Sheikh Butti’s uncle. Continue Reading
These Ancient Italian Towns Have All the Tuscan Beauty and None of the Crowds Leisure
These Ancient Italian Towns Have All the Tuscan Beauty and None of the Crowds These Ancient Italian Towns Have All the Tuscan Beauty and None of the Crowds Francesco Martinelli/Getty Images Gina DeCaprio Vercesi Updated April 05, 2019
“Every day I walk the vines,” says Gabriele da Prato, gesturing to the lush foliage surrounding us. “All of my senses are involved. I’m looking, smelling, touching, listening, tasting. I’m having a conversation with nature. I’m in harmony with the earth.”
Walking the vines isn’t the only way the esoteric winemaker harmonizes with the earth. From time to time he serenades them with a few bars from his jazz trombone, too.
We’re standing on a hillside at Podere Còncori, a small, biodynamic vineyard nestled into a corner of Tuscany not much known for its wine. In fact, the area is hardly known at all. But producers like Gabriele may change that, attracting travelers looking to escape Chianti’s crowds and forge a fresh path into the popular region .
Deep in Tuscany ’s northwestern reaches lies a hidden valley that remains one of Italy’s most untapped locales. Absent are the classic, calendar page vistas — no vast sunflower fields or undulating rows of grape in sight. Instead, steeply forested ridges and verdant countryside framed on one side by the Apuan Alps — whose marble Michalangelo honed into masterpieces — and the Apennines on the other defines the wild Serchio Valley.
Throughout the region known as the Garfagnana, pocket-sized medieval villages tucked into rugged hillsides await exploration. Weekly markets spill with porcini mushrooms, acacia honey, cured biroldo salami, and pasta made with flour milled from the region’s plump chestnuts. Biodynamic winemakers like Gabriele tend their vines in conjunction with the phases of the moon. Gina DeCaprio Vercesi
The taxi winds up a long driveway lined with olive trees and lush lavender hedges and delivers me to the Renaissance Tuscany Resort and Spa. Perched on a hill within the historic Il Ciocco Estate, the hotel’s sweeping terrace and bright, salmon-pink walls dripping with heady wisteria clusters makes it feel like an elegant Italian villa.
From my balcony I can see the ancient town of Barga, its Tuscan-hued buildings — cream, ochre, rust — glowing in the afternoon sunlight, mountains in the background cloaked in cloud cover. I’d been traveling for close to 17 hours but the tiny town’s terracotta rooftops and cobbled alleyways beckon, a call I can’t refuse.
Which is how I find myself hitching a ride with Georges Midleje, gregarious manager of the Renaissance, who zips me down from Il Ciocco in his daughter’s Mini Cooper and deposits me beside the entrance to Barga’s medieval hub with a wave of his cigar and a promise to return after he runs a few errands.
Georges may just be the region’s biggest fan. In an era when the word ‘authentic’ has become cliché, the description still holds true in the Serchio Valley. “This is the real Tuscany,” Georges tells me, slinging the little car around blind curves while simultaneously gesturing at the scenery and beeping the horn in warning to oncoming drivers. “These mountains, the flavors, the ancient borghi villages . It’s a rare, authentic corner. The Garfagnana people live the old way.”
The sky opens moments after I pass through Porta Reale, one of two remaining gates leading through the town’s ancient fortifications. I dart along Via Mezzo to a small piazza and wait out the cloudburst beneath a stone and wood-beamed arcade at Caffé Capretz, sipping Campari and soda while the rain pours down inches from my table and an Italian flag flaps in the breeze. Across the way at Da Aristo, a small group sings along to a guitar strumming an American classic rock tune. I have no map and no plan — neither is required to wander Barga’s medieval warren of alleyways.
The dampness left behind by the rain intensifies the chalky scent of the medieval cobblestones and I breath deeply of the centuries as I follow deserted viccoli ever upward to the Duomo San Cristoforo, Barga’s Romanesque cathedral. Standing beside the castle-like church, with its lush lawn and piazza overlooking the Apennines’ verdant ridges, feels more like being in the Scottish Highlands than the Tuscan hills. A fact that is perhaps apropos given that Barga, with more than half of its residents claiming familial ties to Scotland, is considered the most Scottish town in Italy.
Though the town springs to life a couple of times each year when it hosts its summer jazz and opera festivals, today I have Barga — its streets, its cathedral, its views — all to myself, a degree of solitude visitors to Tuscany’s more trodden hilltowns rarely, if ever, experience.
On our way back to Il Ciocco, I mention to Georges that I forgot to buy Parmesan cheese. Seconds later, he swings the car to the curb and cuts the ignition, calling “this is where you get the best parmigiana in all of Italy!” as he disappears into a shop across the street. I enter on his heels and find him already in animated conversation with the two smiling, gray-haired men behind the counter.
For over 100 years, Alimentari Caproni has been provisioning Barga family kitchens and today, brothers Agostino and Rico preside over the quintessential Italian market. While Georges sings their praises, the brothers busy themselves with the parmigiana . Rico saws two wedges from a dense Tuscan loaf and drapes each with paper thin slices of rosy prosciutto — a snack for Georges and I to enjoy while I browse the wares. I select a large sack of the territory’s prized farro , an ancient grain considered the main staple of the Roman diet, and Agostino fiddles with the vacuum sealer to preserve my kilo of cheese for its trip back to New York. Gina DeCaprio Vercesi
Early the next morning I set out to explore the Garfagnana’s rugged side. In recent years the region has made a name for itself within Italy’s adventure travel market, offering everything from white-water rafting on the Serchio and Lima rivers to trekking vertiginous via ferrata — iron way — through the Apuan Alps. I opt to take a gentler path into the region’s wilderness, hiking the Cinque Borghi, a 10-kilometer jaunt that links five ancient hamlets amidst deep chestnut forest and verdant alpine meadows.
I meet Alice Bonini, my guide for the morning, at Agriturismo Pian di Fiume, a family-run farm stay that marks the first of the five villages. We follow the Sentieri della Controneria — a twisting loop of mountain pathways once blazed by Garfagnina goats and the farmers who tended them — trekking beside streams and up a rocky trail. Emerging from the forest, we enter Guzzano, the second medieval enclave, whose origins date back to 777. I fill my water bottle at a stone fountain tucked into a wall on Guzzano’s single street and we adopt a canine companion named Jack who trots beside us for the remainder of our woodland walk.
Aside from the dog we encounter very few others, although each tiny hamlet bears signs of life. Bright red geraniums and sunny calendula spill from terracotta pots lining stairways, doors leading into stone houses wear shiny coats of paint, moss covered cobbled streets appear freshly swept. In Gombereto, I step inside to peek at the town’s little church, spotless as a grandmother’s house, wooden benches and potted plants adorning the adjacent piazza.
Off the trail en route to San Gemignano, not to be confused with the famed Tuscan town of towers, San Gimignano, I spot a stone structure nestled in the forest. “It’s a metato ,” Alice tells me when I ask. “A chestnut drying hut. There used to be many around here. A fire is lit inside and must burn at the same temperature for 40 days to prepare the chestnuts for to be ground into flour.” Just past Pieve di Controni, the largest and last of the five borghi , a collection of beehives sits among acacia trees and wildflowers, evidence of another of the region’s gastronomical staples. Gina DeCaprio Vercesi
Appetite piqued by a morning of exercise and mountain air, I head back toward Barga for lunch with Gabriele at Podere Còncori. Smiling and tanned, he offers a warm greeting and introduces Matteo, who leads a handful of visitors into the rows of vines to share the principles behind the farm’s biodynamic winemaking practices.
Based on the ideology of Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner, biodynamic agriculture seeks to function in harmony with the earth. Steiner’s ideas emerged in the early 1900s, as industrialized farming began gaining popularity. Twenty years ago, in response to the environmental damage he was seeing and as an alternative to the mass production of wines throughout Tuscany, Gabriele decided it was time to bring winemaking in the Serchio Valley back to its roots. He took a swath of family land once used to grow vegetables for an erstwhile osteria and transformed it, planting vines and restoring its vitality following years of environmental strain.
These days, Podere Còncori produces several varieties, including their crisp Bianco, a sumptuous pino nero, and two ruby red syrahs, each hailing from a unique microclimate among the vines. In the end, the vineyard’s terroir, and the farmer who tends it, infuses every bottle.
Inside the tasting room, several small tables are laid simply and elegantly for lunch, sparkling wine glasses at each place, pots of fresh herbs in their centers. Michela, Gabriele’s wife, tall and slender with a shock of bright red hair and a spunk to match, has prepared a delicious lunch — pasta with fresh tomato sauce followed by cured meats and a selection of cheeses from nearby Caseficio Marovelli. Third generation cheesemaker Romina Marovelli tells us about each one while Gabriele circles the tables offering generous pours of Podere Còncori’s award-winning Melograno. Massimo Scarselletta/Getty Images
I wake early on my last morning in the Garfagnana thinking about the ways this place I hadn’t known existed until a few months ago bursts with life, past and present, animating its ancient towns, its rugged mountains, its flowing rivers. The people of the Serchio Valley were committed to carrying their rich culture into the future, ensuring that the traditions of this unspoiled Tuscan corner would continue to flourish. I look outside and see a thick blanket of fog draped over the valley, shrouding Barga in a specter of mist, hidden once again. Gina DeCaprio Vercesi Where to Stay
The best part about the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort and Spa may just be its deep connection to the surrounding territory and local producers. Guests are encouraged to explore the Serchio Valley’s ancient towns, sampling regional specialties and delving into the Garfagnana’s abundant natural beauty. The menu at La Veranda, the resort’s restaurant, features several dishes typical to the region as well as ingredients and products made nearby. Those products come to life during a cooking class with chef Andrea Manfredini, which begins with a stroll through Barga to shop for ingredients and ends with a delicious Tuscan meal you’ve prepared yourself. Where to Eat and Drink
Down a narrow street in Barga, a small face peeks out from a niche in the wall. Called a scacciaguai and translated as “throw away troubles,” the primitive talisman is said to bring luck to those who tuck their fingers into its eyes and mouth. Beside it, the traditional Garfagnana fare served at the trattoria bearing its name will also help you abandon your troubles.
Romina Marovelli’s grandfather started making cheese for sustenance during World War II. Along with her mother and her aunt, Romina follows in his footsteps, producing a variety of fresh and seasoned cheeses in the family’s factory in San Romana di Vibbiana. Visit the factory for a fascinating tour of their cheesmaking operations — nestled on a hilltop with sweeping mountain views, the Caseficio feels like being in a scene from the Sound of Music.
On Friday evenings at the Renaissance Tuscancy, guests can rendezvous in the Nour Lounge with winemaker Gabriele da Prato for tastings of Podere Còncori’s varietals. For a deeper dive into the philosophies behind biodynamic winemaking, arrange to walk the vines followed by lunch and wine tasting at the nearby vineyard, which will likely be a highlight of a trip to the Garfagnana.
Osteria Il Vecchio Molino
Visitors to chef Andrea Bertucci’s cozy wine bar-meets-market-meets-restaurant in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana never see a menu, but also never leave hungry. Credited with founding the Slow Food movement in the Garfagnan, which works to preserve and promote traditional foodways, Bertucci delivers diners a unique culinary experience showcasing local flavors in his rustic Tuscan osteria. Things to Do
The Serchio Valley is working to become known as the adventure hub of Tuscany. Outdoor enthusiasts can find everything from climbing in the Apuan Alps to whitewater rafting, ziplining, and mountain biking. E20 Avventures leads visitors into the region’s ancient history on stroll through five medieval hamlets on the hike of the Cinque Borghi. You May Like Sign Up for our Newsletter Receive exclusive travel deals, insider tips, inspiration, breaking news updates, and more.
18 Customers Who You Should Be Glad You Didn’t Have To Deal With
*HEAVY sighs* Recently, Twitter user WelshDalaiLama asked the internet to give them a time when the customer was totally wrong. Honestly, you’ll feel bad for the employees who had to deal with these people. Dai Lama @WelshDalaiLama They say “the customer is always right”. Tell me a story of a customer you’ve encountered that proves this motto spectacularly wrong.
07:52 AM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 1. This quick learner: Mei @MeirionRoberts2 @WelshDalaiLama I was a butcher and someome rang asking me to break down a whole pig for her. I said ‘Yeah, sure its £30″ then she asked if she could film me doing it on her phone so she wouldnt have to pay in the future. Phone went down pretty quickly
12:43 PM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 2. This kebab kerfuffle: BillyBudd23 @billybudd23 @WelshDalaiLama A customer complained that when they opened their bbq, the food wasn’t there. When I said the picture was just an indication of what you can cook on it she said she’d 4 more at home in the freezer.
12:43 PM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 3. These early birds: Rhiannon Sandy @RhiannonSandy @WelshDalaiLama Worked in a hotel for a while. Couple tried to check in, I couldn’t find a record of their booking. Bafflement ensued, and obviously it’s my fault we’ve lost the booking. Then they realised they’d turned up a day early.
09:25 AM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 4. This angry overdrafter: LiNCOLN PARK @linc0lnpark @WelshDalaiLama I once worked as a banker. A customer railed at me because their debit card wasn’t working. I investigated, then said, “Sir, your account is in overdraft.” He said, “I DIDNT ASK YOU FOR MY ACCOUNT BALANCE, MORON! I WANT TO KNOW WHY MY DAMNED DEBIT CARD WONT WORK!”
07:11 PM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 5. This scone-wrecker: Sianiellen @sianiellen @WelshDalaiLama I used to work in a tearoom type cafe. A customer sent a scone back to the kitchen, claiming there was too much cream on the scone. The jam and cream was served seperate. He had put it on himself. 🤦
08:17 AM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 6. This noise complaint: Zachary Loeser @ZacharyLoeser @WelshDalaiLama Working at Borders there’s a kid going nuts on the bargain books which had noisemakers. After 30 min a woman complains to me about how adults weren’t disciplining their kids correctly. 15 noisy minutes later she decides to confront the kid – which she realized in shock was HERS.
06:51 PM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 7. This apologizer: Vicky Griffiths @vic_griffiths @WelshDalaiLama Briefly worked in Co-op on till. Customer argued she’d paid with £20, I’d given her change of £10. Next day she came in and apologised – she’d gone home ranting to her husband and he told her he’d swapped the twenty in her purse for a tenner! Really nice of her, she was mortified
07:58 PM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 8. This insulation-ruiner: J 2the A 2the M,E,S @crispy_squirrel @CardiffSports @WelshDalaiLama Very angry customer returned a hot water cylinder because he had struggled to get the packaging off, and had pierced the side with the chisel he’d used to do so. Great delight taken in telling him it was foam insulation and was supposed to be on it.
09:38 AM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 9. This barista’s nightmare: Lisa Taylor @lisa_anne9999 @WelshDalaiLama Customer: I’d like a cappuccino – no chocolate on top, no foam and no milk. Me: … so you’d like a black coffee? Customer: No, I only like cappuccino. I WANT a cappuccino! Me: *makes a black coffee* Customer: Perfect! I don’t understand why you had to be so difficult about it 🙈
08:46 AM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 10. This turned-around beauty shopper: Jessica Grey @JGrey622 @WelshDalaiLama Client comes in asking for a specific product. I apologize and let her know we don’t carry that brand. Client flips out, all but calls me stupid. Tells me that she knows EVERY #Ulta carries this product. We were at #Sephora
03:06 AM – 06 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 11. This coleslaw lover: F00D @T00muchF00D @WelshDalaiLama Customer: I want the coleslaw Me: we don’t serve coleslaw Customer: I’ve been coming here for 11 years and you guys always had coleslaw Me: weve only been open for 9
10:15 PM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 12. This “odorless killer” sniffer: Huw Barrett @Huwbut @WelshDalaiLama Got called out because the owner said he could smell carbon monoxide coming from his boiler. Tried to explain. He’s was having none of it.
10:07 AM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 13. This pizza perfectionist: Anthony C. Beale @Bealeionaire @WelshDalaiLama Too many to recall but probably my favourite is when I brought someone a calzone and when I put it down in front of them seeing their shocked face at the folded dough in front of them as they said “what’s this I ordered a calzone pizza”
11:00 AM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 14. This mixed-up order: The Prenna @The_Prenna @WelshDalaiLama Worked in Pizza Hut call centre dealing with complaints. Had a customer scream at me for ten minutes that her local Pizza Hut store didn’t have her order which she placed by phone. The order which, it turns out, she placed with Dominos.
08:44 AM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 15. This over-the-phone complainer: 🏉Rugby Nick🍺🕵️♂️🔍🔫🗡 @oldrugbygrump62 @WelshDalaiLama Once working at a call centre bloke on the phone told me to “read my lips”
01:32 PM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 16. This chamber of commerce wizard: Rhydd Pugh @Rhyddian @WelshDalaiLama Had a customer ask if we sell DVDs because she wanted a copy of “Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Commerce”. Another asked for “The Hounds of Hell” by Kate Bush. One asked, “Is this record any good?” I replied, “That’s a T shirt sir.” Pretty much every day in a record shop.
10:05 AM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 17. This time teller: No. @leonsabraso @WelshDalaiLama Won’t disclose where I worked but basically a customer asked me how long she had left on her promotion & I said, “28 months so that’s a little over 2 years.” HER: “No, that’s a little more than ONE year.” ME: “…there are 12 months in a year.” HER: “No there aren’t.” 🙃🙂🙃
10:32 PM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite 18. And finally, these blue microwave bothers: Olivera @OhOlivera @WelshDalaiLama SO MANY but once a couple returned a brand new microwave they just got & started being pissy cuz it was “blue” & they didn’t order a blue microwave. Proceeded to open it in front of them, peel off the plastic cover protecting the whole thing & slid back their silver microwave 🙃
06:56 PM – 05 Apr 2019 Reply Retweet Favorite Top trending videos Facebook Share Twitter Tweet Copy Copy link Watch more BuzzFeed Video Caret right
19 Tips to Leave the Perfect Voicemail
There’s no doubt about it — leaving a good sales voicemail is hard. And even if you do record a well-crafted message, do prospects actually listen to them, or take the time to call you back? Not usually.
So what’s the point? Should salespeople even bother with voicemails? Absolutely, and here’s why.
Although a seller might get a higher response rate from an email or another type of message, responses to voicemails are generally richer and demonstrate a greater level of interest. So what a salesperson loses in quantity, they gain in quality.
Of course, you won’t get any responses at all — high quality or otherwise — if you don’t leave a carefully planned and thoughtful voicemail . Here are the nine elements of a perfect sales voicemail.
How to Leave a Voicemail Leave a voicemail by using your normal tone of voice and keeping your message short, between 20-30 seconds. Start the voicemail with information that’s relevant to the contact and ask questions that are tailored to them.
1. Keep the length between 20-30 seconds. A perfect sales voicemail should be in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 seconds — not much longer, and not much shorter. I realize this is a very specific window of time, so let me explain the reasoning.
Obviously, prospects aren’t going to listen to an overly long voicemail from a caller whose number they don’t recognize, so pushing past 30 seconds ensures the message will get deleted almost immediately. On the other hand, buyers are also unlikely to listen to an overly short message.
Most cell phones show the number and voicemail duration when a call is missed. So if the recipient sees the message is from an unknown number and only a few seconds long, they’ll assume it’s not important and hit delete. Since the message doesn’t appear to be substantive, they’re not prompted to listen.
20-30 seconds is the sweet spot. A voicemail in this timeframe sparks curiosity without demanding too much time.
2. Lead with information relevant to the prospect. Sales reps tend to be very declarative in their messaging. Their starting phrase in both voicemails and emails usually sounds something like, “My name is John Doe, and I work for Gadgets Inc.”
It might be a straightforward approach, but it’s not effective in the slightest. As soon as the prospect realizes this voicemail is a sales pitch from a salesperson, it’s getting deleted. And if you lead with your name and company, the prospect’s finger hits the delete key almost immediately.
This is why it’s important to lead with something relevant to the prospect, such as a thought-provoking question.
3. Ask a question you wouldn’t pose in an email. If your voicemails and emails are exactly the same, you lessen your chances of getting a response to either. So make them different by reserving certain questions for voicemail instead of email.
While both types of messages should be customized to a given buyer, voicemails should be ultra-specific. In an email, I might ask for a referral, an appointment, or feedback on a content asset they downloaded. These sorts of classic questions — while still tailored to the buyer — can be customized for reuse with another prospect, or another 100 prospects.
But the questions you ask in a voicemail should be so specific that they could never be intended for another listener. For example, if I was selling financial management technology, I might ask the voicemail recipient which financial software they use today, or if all of the company’s financial analysts work out of the central office.
The more personal and specific the question, the more likely it’ll get a response. Think about it this way. If you start to have chest pains on a busy city street, and you cry out, “Somebody call 911!” you might get help … but you might not. However, if you were to point at one specific person and shout, “Would you please call 911 for me?” it’s almost a certainty that the stranger you selected would grab their phone and dial.
Why the difference in response? When you made the request specific to one person in the second circumstance, you placed a burden of responsibility on that person. So it is with sales voicemails: The more specific the question, the more responsibility the person feels to answer you.
4. Don’t use a traditional close. Here I’m referring to lines such as “Please call me back” or “I’ll check in again on X date.” Because they’re generic, these asks don’t increase the buyer’s feeling of responsibility. Instead, I suggest posing your specific question and ending the call there.
5. Don’t hang up without leaving a voicemail. If you’re going to call a prospect, you have to leave a message. Regardless of whether the prospect was actively screening calls or simply away from their desk when the phone rang, your number will pop up as a missed call. And if there’s no accompanying voicemail? Well, it must not have been terribly important.
If you do this two or three times in a row, you further degrade your chances of ever connecting with this prospect. Since they’ve now seen your number come up multiple times without once receiving a voicemail, they’re aware this call is definitely not one they need to take. You can bet the next time you call, they’re not picking up.
Salespeople who call and hang up screen themselves out of the process. No matter if you’re prepared to leave the perfect voicemail or not, you need to leave one every time. However, if you do record a few messages with the same ultra-specific question, the prospect feels a twinge of guilt each time you call back because they feel they owe you an answer.
6. Use your normal tone of voice. Salespeople are often coached to sound enthusiastic and excited on the phone, thus raising their natural voice pitch to a high, unnatural tone. In my opinion, this tone of voice makes it clear to the listener that not only is this an uncomfortable call, but a generic one.
It’s easy to imagine the caller hanging up, dialing another prospect, and leaving an identical voicemail using the exact same high pitch, and then another … and another. If it sounds like a salesperson is just doing their 50 prospecting calls for the day, it absolves the listener of any responsibility to respond.
I recommend salespeople start voicemails at their normal tone of voice and then go gradually lower. This implies that you’re at ease making the call, and also that the call is unusual.
Without the fake tone of excitement in your voice, the listener understands that the specific question you’re posing is just as meaningful to you as it is to them. And the more the listener feels the message is meant for them and only them, the more likely it is they’ll respond.
7. Leave voicemails at the end of the day. Voicemail connect rates usually go up as the day advances, so you should schedule your phone activity toward the end of the day.
Wondering why this is? We can thank the serial position effect. This psychological phenomenon says when you show people a list, they’ll remember the first and last items the best. That means when you’re trying to grab a prospect’s attention, you want to be one of the first or last things they hear.
But imagine if you received a sales voicemail at 9 a.m. It might be the most compelling, well-delivered voicemail you’ve ever heard, but you’re probably dealing with several other tasks. You decide to respond to the rep when you have more time. By the time the end of the day rolls around, you’ve completely forgotten about her.
If you listened to the voicemail at 4:30 p.m., on the other hand, your day is likely wrapping up. You might email the salesperson that night or return their call first thing the next day.
8. Split up your voicemails. You can also try leaving two voicemails. In other words, rather than leaving one 30-second message, record a 20-second voicemail — then immediately call back and leave a 10-second one.
Your second voicemail should include information that was missing from your first. For instance, a rep using this technique might leave the following two messages:
Voicemail #1: “Hi Jerry, I recently attended one of TrustPilot’s webinars. I didn’t receive any follow-up emails, which made me wonder if you have a marketing strategy in place for nurturing webinar leads. Folks who attend a live event are 30% more likely to convert, according to my team’s research. What strategy, if any, do you have in place today?”
Voicemail #2: “Jerry, I forgot to leave my name and number. This is Sarah Griffin from Acme Corp. You can reach me at 884-867-5309. Thanks.”
Splitting your message into two parts has a couple of benefits. First, it makes you more memorable. Second, you seem less rehearsed. If you’re reciting from a script, you’re probably not going to forget a key component. Prospects will automatically trust you more.
9. Slow down as you speak. Start your voicemail with a regular cadence, but get slower and slower the longer you speak. By the time you get to your phone number, you should practically be crawling. It sounds counterintuitive — but this tactic actually makes prospects likelier to finish listening.
Not only do you sound more articulate and confident when you’re not rushing to the finish line, but you also sound more authentic. Speaking in a rush suggests you’ve been dialing all day and need to be as efficient as possible. Yet if you’re making three calls rather than 30, you’re probably going to sound far more deliberate. A slow finish tells the buyer they’re not just another name on a list.
How to End a Voicemail Make the last thing you say be your phone number. This ensures it’s clearly visible on voicemail dictation, and makes it easy for prospects to call back. Avoid phrases like ” Call me back when you get this ,” which can sound pushy. And, finally, tell them you’ll follow up with an email. This gives the prospect two ways to return your call, which certainly can’t hurt.
10. End with your phone number Your phone number is the last thing you should say on a voicemail. Say it once, slowly, and make sure to repeat it again. This has two benefits: First, it makes your phone number the last thing they hear, which encourages an immediate call back. And, second, in the age of voicemail dictation, it ensures your phone number appears clearly at the end of the message text. It will be hyperlinked and easy to push for a quick reply from your prospect.
11. Don’t sound desperate Phrases like, ” Please call me back when you get this ,” ” I’m really looking forward to hearing from you ,” and ” Call me at your earliest convenience ,” are pushy, aggressive, and borderline desperate.
Avoid telling your prospect what to do. You’ll make returning your call seem like a chore or, worse, a demand. This should feel like a mutually beneficial relationship — one in which each party wants to call the other back — unprompted.
So, leave ” Call me back when you get this ,” at the door, and try, ” Talk to you soon ,” ” Thanks for your time ,” or a good old-fashioned, ” Have a great day .”
12. Say you’ll follow up with an email Keep the conversation going, and give prospects an easy way to return your call by shooting them a quick email once you hang up the phone. Salespeople are used to being on the phone all day — but not all prospects are.
Hedge your bets by giving them two ways to respond. A simple, ” I’ll also follow up with an email ,” before you hang up, is short, concise, and shows thoroughness on your part.
If you’re in need of some more tips, here are some additional soundbites you can use when ending a voicemail.
13. ” Next time we talk, you’ll have to tell me more about X. ” End your voicemail by asking your prospect to tell you more, whether about their recent vacation to Thailand or their unique business pain points. It’s a simple request — and easier than, say, ” Give me a call back, I’d love to find out when we can write up our contract. “
Generally, voicemail is not the medium to discuss deal logistics. Keep messages short and to the point, and steer clear of deal specifics. Ask relevant questions and you’re likelier to get a response.
14. ” Next time we talk, I’d love to tell you more about X. ” This scenario piques your prospect’s interest by teasing information. But it’s only effective when your prospect actually cares about the info. If you say, ” Next time we talk, I’d love to tell you more about our latest award for customer satisfaction ,” they probably (read: definitely) won’t care.
First, they’re not a client yet, so they won’t find your ambiguous award that interesting. Second, news like this takes the focus off the prospect and onto you — not where you want it to be.
Instead, lead with, ” Next time we talk, I want to share two goals on our new product roadmap that speak directly to several pain points you’ve raised. I’ll tell you more in our next meeting. How about next Tuesday? “
You prove you’ve been paying attention by referring to pain points they’ve previously mentioned and kept the conversation centered around benefiting the prospect. You’ve also slipped in a specific timeline for when you’d like to connect.
15. ” What should we cover in our next conversation? ” You probably touched on this at the end of your last conversation, but if you haven’t heard from your prospect in a while, this can be a useful strategy for getting back on their radar.
Say, ” I know we identified implementation, onboarding, and QA as topics to cover in our next call, but I wondered if there were any other areas we missed — specifically whether you could use Feature A, which was an area of concern for you. “
Again, you’ve referred to a previous pain point, and reminded them of what you both agreed to discuss in your next meeting — and you’ve done it all without the dreaded, ” I haven’t heard from you in a while, I really want to schedule this meeting we talked about. “
16. ” I know we ran out of time, but I’d love to continue this conversation [insert date]. ” This is another helpful outreach strategy for prospects you haven’t heard from in a while.
Remind them of your last conversation and give them a timeline for when you’d like to talk again, saying, ” I know we ran out of time in our last meeting, but I’d love to continue our conversation about why other suppliers have disappointed you in the past. Do you have time to chat more on Thursday or Friday? “
This is a direct and persuasive way of asking for a follow-up meeting. Your prospect is more likely to agree to discuss their pain points further than if you were to say, ” I’d love to talk more about how I can help. Let me know when we can get a call scheduled. ” The latter is vague and feels like more of a burden than the first request.
17. ” You said something earlier that I’d love to ask you a question about. ” If you wrapped up a meeting earlier in the day but weren’t able to schedule a follow-up appointment, leave this voicemail a few hours later.
Refer to your previous conversation to jog their memory, saying, ” In our meeting earlier, you said something about your shipping needs that really stuck out to me. I’d love to ask you a question about that. “
In addition to showing active listening, you’ve also awoken their curiosity about what question you want to ask. Once they’re back on the phone, you can confirm a date and time for your next meeting.
18. ” I just sent you an article and I’d love to hear what you think about it. ” Only leave this voicemail for interested prospects. If you’re talking with someone who isn’t really invested in fixing a problem or implementing your product/service, they probably won’t want to read an article you sent on the subject either.
If you’re working with an actively engaged prospect, however, this voicemail can be perfect for building rapport. Say, ” I just sent you an article about the new trends in AI we were discussing on our last call. I can’t wait to hear what you think. “
If you already have a call scheduled, it will serve as an incentive show up. If you don’t have a call on the books, use their response to this voicemail to ask for a follow-up meeting.
19. ” My phone number is … ” I always end voicemails with my phone number . The reasoning? First, it’s his cue to wrap up. It keeps him from rambling and gives the prospect a clear call to action: Call him back.
It also ensures that, in the age of voicemail transcripts, your number stands out at the end of your message. And because most phones link to numbers automatically, all your prospect has to do is press the number provided at the end of the transcript to easily call you back.
Voicemails don’t have to be a last resort or a dead end. Use these tips for messages that actually move the conversation forward. You’ll enjoy richer prospect relationships and fewer opportunities gone cold.
How to Leave a Voicemail Without Calling Services like slydial allow you to bypass the dial and go straight to voicemail. Simply download the app for iPhone or Android, choose from a basic (free) or premium subscription, and start dialing. Your address book will populate automatically in the app. All you have to do is click on a contact to reach their voicemail.
This is something that can be done, yes. But I can’t think of a time when a salesperson would want to do it. Best-case scenario, the timestamp will alert the prospect you left a voicemail at a late hour or on the weekend, and they’ll wonder why. Worst-case scenario, they’ll just think your desperate.
If you find yourself wishing for your prospect not to pick up — you might need to consider a new profession.
A great follow-up voicemail is a thing of beauty. Incorporate a few of these tips into your daily phone calls, and see the benefits as your phone starts to ring back a little more often.
Grab Your Journal: It’s Time To Deal with Limiting Beliefs
Fitness + Well Being , Food + Nutrition , Lifestyle + Beauty Mind Body + Inspiration
Limiting beliefs are internalized ideas developed over time that may unconsciously be holding us back from growth — whether that’s overcoming issues with body image, advancing in your career or simply feeling more at home in your own head.
Nutrition writer and self-proclaimed ‘ex-diet junkie’, Caroline Dooner’s new book, The F*ck It Diet , identifies limiting beliefs as a major reason that so many people struggle to overcome emotional blocks. The excerpt below is about uncovering and addressing limiting beliefs — whether they’re inherited or self-imposed — related to food anxiety and weight management, but the lesson can be applied across the board. Use this reflective exercise to unpack the emotional baggage that might be keeping you from your best self…
Unprocessed emotions and energy will get stuck in the body. When you use the breathe-and-feel tool to get into your body and feel sensations and emotions, you may notice that images, memories and realizations come to mind. That’s because certain beliefs are tied to different emotions and stuck energy. Which means you can also access this emotion by starting with the limiting belief and using it as a way to access and process the emotion and energy tied up in that stressful belief.
For instance, a very common belief is I should be ashamed when I gain weight . That belief will be attached to a well of energy, emotions, pain, memory and shame that we do not want to have to feel. That energy and emotion has been walled off, so to speak, and not dealt with. We’ve created energy walls within our body so we don’t have to feel or deal with the feelings the belief brings up. Anything can trigger and bump up against those walls, but our habit is to feel that initial discomfort and then try and wall it off even more, which causes more stagnation.
What Are Limiting Beliefs?
These are some big limiting beliefs that often accompany a disordered relationship to food and are worth addressing as you take yourself through The F*ck It Diet:
I am a food addict. Being full is unhealthy. I just need more willpower. It’s all my fault. I don’t deserve to relax. I need to be responsible. It is not safe to feel. If I start to feel, the pain will never end. If I am not thin, I am failing. If I am not thin/beautiful, I will . I don’t deserve to take care of myself if I’m fat. I cannot accept my current weight. Being fat is ugly. I need people to approve of me. Gaining weight is unhealthy. Losing weight could be easy if I had willpower. Losing weight is responsible. Nobody will take me seriously if I gain weight. Most food is bad for me. Gaining weight is a sign of failure. My weight is my fault. I can’t trust my body. I should limit carbs. I can’t eat a lot. Being skinny will make me happy. How Do I Release Limiting Beliefs?
This tool is kind of like a brain dump to breathe and feel. You will be using a stressful belief as a prompt to help you activate and access the energy associated with it in your body. You’re going to lean into the energy by writing about it, and while you do that, you’re going to feel what is coming up by breathing into it. The goal, as always now, is to feel what you usually run away from feeling, using the breath to activate it more.
Choose a limiting belief to work with. It can be one you found from your writing, or one that is listed anywhere in this book. Find a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted and get a notebook (or pages you plan on burning or shredding or recycling) or whatever your little dramatic heart desires.
Start Writing. Write at the top of the page: I am releasing the belief. Start writing anything that comes to mind about this belief. Memories. Emotions. Side thoughts. Where the belief came from. Why it feels hard or scary or impossible to let this belief go.
Breathe Through The Feels. As you write, notice where you feel stress or discomfort rising up in your body: legs, low abdomen, mid-abdomen, heart, throat, anywhere you feel stress or sensation. Breathe and feel into it. That’s really all we are going to do: Continue to activate stuck stress, and breathe and feel to process it. You may feel a lot, or you may feel just a little. It may be clear emotions, or it may be more like tension and sensation. It doesn’t matter what it is — give yourself permission to sit with that feeling. Feel what you usually run away from.
Reflect On The Roots. If you run out of things to write about, but still feel like there is more to feel, focus on writing about where the belief came from , and why it’s hard to let go of, and keep breathing into what it brings up in the body.
Be Gentle With Yourself. You get to decide when you’ve had enough. Even a minute or two is time well spent. You could also wait until you feel any sort of shift, and the stress doesn’t feel as easy to access anymore, because that means you probably did a lot of good work. But small, bite-sized chunks work very well and are a good way to start. This isn’t about what you write. This is about what the writing allows you to feel. Sure, you may come up with major breakthroughs and memories you had previously forgotten about, but the way to release them is the feeling part. Your only task is to breathe and feel what is there. (Have I said that enough yet?)
Review + Process. What you write or remember does not have to feel epic in order to be profound. You can write mundane things the whole time, breathe and feel, and still release lots of stuff that’s been getting in your way. And remember: Be kind to yourself. Processing energy can be taxing. Rest, eat, try an Epsom salts foot soak or do anything else that feels grounding or replenishing as you work through these feelings and beliefs. From the book THE F*CK IT DIET. Copyright © 2019 by Caroline Dooner. Published on March 26, 2019 by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission. Share the post “Grab Your Journal: It’s Time To Deal with Limiting Beliefs”