Do you have text game?
What you need to know before texting your sales prospects
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
If you're looking for proof of how technology has changed our lives, look no further than your pocket. Just over 10 years ago the smartphone barely existed; today, more than 80 percent of Americans would be hard-pressed to live without one.
U.S. smartphone users are also sending and receiving five times as many texts compared with the number of phone calls they make each day, according to the International Smartphone Mobility Report. And it's not just friends and family that smartphone users are open to conversing with via text message -- its companies too.
While text messaging can be extremely effective in sales, it can be harmful to a brand when it's done in the wrong way. It is a lot easier to opt out via text than any other channel. What follows are four things you need to know before texting your sales prospects:
Be Thoughtful About When to Use Text
Texting can be very powerful, but not if you text all of your prospects indiscriminately. There are norms that feel natural in texting that salespeople should conform too.
With good judgement, however, many of our clients at Velocify are finding success with SMS. The key is to carefully consider the scenario and what channel of communication makes the most sense. For instance, it might make more sense to send an email when following up with your prospect after a meeting. An email can include links, attachments, and other follow-up items that the prospect can review and easily forward to someone on their team. A text might make sense to remind a prospect of an upcoming appointment.
In addition, don't treat text like email. It's a less formal channel of communication, so consider the length (keep it to 160 characters / including the unsubscribe instructions), and the tone of your message (keep it casual, like you are talking to a friend).
For example, one scenario that works well for many of our clients is the after hour's text. If a prospective customer is researching online after hours and fills out a form on your website for more information, it might not be appropriate to call, but a text message can be a welcome acknowledgement of the request. Something like:
John - Saw your inquiry come in about a home loan. You've reached us after hours. Do you want to talk 1st thing Mon? I can also talk over the weekend.
Some of our customers are also leveraging a text message after making a few unanswered calls. In this situation you've already established that they are interested via a web form, don't waste valuable characters reaffirming their interest. Instead, use an open-ended question with some value in it for them to engage. A quick message like this can be effective:
Hi John - Just tried to reach you about your home loan needs. Are you talking to anyone else? Can I earn your business with a better rate?
Let me know when you're free to connect.
Make sure to use text etiquette
Just as when you text a friend or family member, there are certain etiquette rules that apply when using text messaging in sales.
For example, once a prospect has indicated their preference for text communication, leverage text messaging throughout the sales process. If they send you a question or message via text, don't leave the text message unanswered. And as the sales process progresses - send useful links, status updates, and reminders. They'll appreciate it.
Don't make the mistake of thinking just because a prospect responds to your text they are available or want to talk on the phone. It's a bit like when you respond to a text sent by your mom and she calls you back a few seconds later. Just because your prospect has the ability to text you back, doesn't mean they are available to take your call.
Be responsive. If your prospect wants you to call them at 2 p.m. the next day, make sure to send them a calendar invite and call them back at the requested time. If someone asks to opt out, honor the request.
Orchestrate your communication strategy
There is no one size fits all approach. What works with one prospect, might not work for another. Make sure you're experimenting with different strategies, incorporating SMS at different points in the sales cycle to get a feel for what works with your target customer base.
The ultimate goal is to get all your channels - phone, email, SMS, voicemail - coordinated to deliver the right message, via the right channel, at the right time.
Only Text Prospects who want to be Texted
People are protective of their private virtual space, which includes text messaging. As a result, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has laid down some rules regarding business-to-consumer communication to mobile devices. Basically, businesses need to get express written consent, and they need to give you the option to opt out at any time.
Getting permission isn't as difficult as it might seem. Many consumers are willing to give consent if you offer the option. Incentives like free offers and discounts can help too.
If you've got text messaging game, you have the opportunity to tap into the most underutilized sales tool around. When I talk to our customers that are using SMS effectively, it's almost like they've found a secret recipe, that's how effective and under the radar this sales tool is.
If you are an individual rep, experiment with texting in sales, but use good judgment, putting yourself in your prospects shoes. And for sales leaders reading this post, think about how you can mine best practices from your reps and coach and train all reps to have text game.