How many unread emails versus texts do you have right now?

If you’re like most people, the first number is far bigger than the second. According to Mobile Marketing Watch, 98% of all text messages are opened compared to 22% of emails.

A separate study found nine in 10 texts are read within three minutes of delivery.

Salespeople should take note of these statistics. It’s difficult to get on buyers’ radars in the first place, let alone stay there. Text and live chat can be fantastic mediums for staying top-of-mind for your prospects, which is leading to the evolution of business conversations.

The following guidelines will help you reap the benefits of text while staying professional.

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How to Text Sales Prospects

Time Your Texts Right

Suppose Sarah, an enterprise salesperson, receives a notification a new prospect just downloaded an ebook. She sends a text to the cell phone number he provided:

“Hey Jimmy! Let me know if I can answer any questions about the latest agronomic trends. -- Sarah, Sigment account executive”

If you feel this approach is too forward, you’re not alone. Research from Velocify shows sending text messages to a prospect before connecting with them on the phone decreases the likelihood you’ll ever connect by almost 40%.

Even if you successfully contact your prospect via text, they’re 4.9% less likely to eventually buy compared to prospects you didn’t text before calling.

But what if you call and then text? The Velocify study found prospects who were sent text messages only after initial contact had been made converted at more than twice the rate of the average contacted lead.

With that in mind, don’t text buyers until you’ve talked to them on the phone.

Ask for Permission

If you’re worried your prospect will react negatively to an unexpected message, ask for permission to text them.

At the end of Sarah’s first call with Jimmy, for example, she might say, “Would it be okay if I texted you? My customers tell me it’s faster and more convenient to confirm our meetings or get information over text than email.”

This request will probably be successful for two reasons. First, Sarah establishes this is a normal practice -- she commonly texts other customers. Second, she indicates why texting is in Jimmy’s benefit. He’ll immediately picture how much easier it’ll be to open a text than yet another email.

You should also factor in your prospect’s industry, buyer persona, and individual personality. Maybe Jimmy works in an extremely conservative, highly regulated industry. His organization probably does everything by the book, which suggests he’d prefer to communicate over email.

On the other hand, if Jimmy is in an emerging space or belongs to an experimental company, he’ll likely be far more enthusiastic about the idea of texting or chatting.

The Right (and Wrong) Reasons to Text Buyers

Spam is spam, whether it’s sent via email, LinkedIn message, or text. Be cautious about how often you text your prospects and what you say -- if you abuse your texting privileges, they’ll quickly stop trusting you and may even ask you to leave them alone.

Every text message should have a clear purpose. Acceptable ones include:

  • Checking your prospect's availability for a call or meeting
  • Confirming a call or meeting
  • Sending a helpful resource
  • Briefly answering a question they’d asked earlier

Unacceptable reasons include:

  • Just “checking in”
  • Asking why they didn’t answer your email
  • Reiterating your product’s features or benefits without adding value

How to Avoid Sending Annoying Texts

Brevity is always important when communicating with prospects, but it’s especially crucial when you’re texting. Long texts will fill up the buyer’s entire screen and can easily look overwhelming.

Try to write as little as possible. If your message is more than 300 characters -- and you can’t delete anything -- consider sending an email instead.

Maintaining professionalism is also key. Even though you’re texting, emojis, acronyms, and sloppy punctuation and capitalization are still inappropriate. Don’t make your prospect feel like they’re back in middle school.

That being said, you can still add some personality. Friendliness goes a long way in humanizing you and the interaction.

To illustrate the right balance of personality and professionalism, here are three examples:

Too casual: “ayo, Jimmy! thanks for getting on that call today. i have the answer to ur question about monthly volume. its probably something we should cover on the phone. :P Are u free tomorrow at 1 p.m.?”

Too stiff: “Hello, Jimmy. Thank you for speaking with me today. I have the information you requested regarding monthly volume. The complexity necessitates a phone call. Are you available tomorrow at 1 p.m.?”

Just right: “Hi, Jimmy. I did some digging and found the answer to your question about monthly volume. It’s not straightforward, so we should cover it on another call. Are you free tomorrow at 1 p.m.?”

Lastly, don’t send texts outside of business hours. Because texting is such an intimate medium, it can feel invasive to receive a professional message at, say, 9 p.m. And don’t forget your prospect’s time zone -- if they’re several hours ahead or behind you, you might unintentionally message them when they’re trying to sleep. Few people appreciate getting texts in the night.

With the right strategy, texting can help you close. Follow these guidelines to ensure your texts are professional, helpful, and relevant.

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Originally published Jan 20, 2017 7:30:00 AM, updated June 10 2021


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