Here’s a fun game to play at your next gathering of friends and family. Ask them how they feel about salespeople using text messages for prospecting. Then, sit back and watch the fireworks. You’ll likely start a heated argument.
My bet is that you’ll get a wide variation of opinions – many of which are expletives. My wife, for example, upon learning that I was writing an article on text message prospecting, said (in a holier-than-thou tone), “I can’t believe you are teaching salespeople to do that, you are pure evil.”
That sentiment correlates to the reception I get when opening up discussions on texting as a prospecting tool. It’s the 3rd rail of sales prospecting, and a concept that I approach lightly. The mere mention of text as a prospecting tool causes negative reactions from “I don’t think that will work for prospect base” to pure revulsion.
These reactions stem from a weird irony of text messaging: Text messaging as a communication channel is impersonal because it lacks the emotional connectivity of face-to-face and verbal communication, yet it feels extremely personal. Text has become the go-to medium for communication with family, friends, and co-workers and a haven on our phones that is typically not touched by spam or outside influence. The people we text with are most often people we know – even when it is business.
The fact that texting is personal is what makes it an extremely powerful channel for getting the attention of prospects. Because it is so personal, timing and technique become more important than any with other prospecting channel.
This is one of the key reasons that a study commissioned by Leads360 concluded that “for the same reasons that text messages can be a more effective way to communicate with sales prospects, they also have the potential to be interpreted as intrusive or in violation of one’s personal domain when used for business purposes.”
There are two trends that make text messaging an increasingly valuable prospecting channel:
- The inevitable and total integration of mobile phones as the primary communication device in our lives.
- Most people feel compelled to read and/or respond to them immediately.
The Familiarity Factor is Everything With Text
We talk to strangers on the phone, email strangers, and meet strangers in person, but rarely text strangers. This is why more than any other prospecting channel, familiarity is critical for prospecting via text. The probability of your text message converting – compelling your prospect to take action – increases exponentially if your text comes after prior contact through another channel.
Text messaging works best as an integrated part of a larger prospecting system and strategy rather than a stand-alone channel. According to the Lead360 study, that covered 3.5 million lead records from more than 400 companies, a text message sent alone converts at 4.8%. That same message, sent after a phone contact increases conversion by 112.6%. Why? Because, once you cross what Sean Burke from KiteDesk calls the Familiarity Threshold, your response rate increases exponentially.
You can amplify that impact even further when your text message follows an email contact or social media interaction. You gain even more traction when you text following a positive in-person networking interaction. The better the prospect knows you, the more effective your prospecting text message will be. The less they know you, the more likely you will cause offence. People are averse to getting random text messages from people they don’t know – especially salespeople.
7 Keys to Structuring Effective Text Prospecting Messages
It is difficult to make an impact in 250 characters or less. For your text message to be effective, you’ve got to engage your prospect and get them to take action in a blink of an eye. Packing your message into a small space requires you to be thoughtful, creative, and focused. There are several keys to structuring effective text messages:
- Identify Yourself: Never take for granted that your prospect has your information saved on their phone. In most cases they don’t, and when you send a text message they won’t know who you are. As a best practices, include your name and company at the top of the message.
- Message Matters: What you say and how you say it carries impact. Be very careful that your tone is not misinterpreted in a negative way. Use complete sentences to avoid sounding abrupt, harsh, sarcastic, or flippant.
- Be Direct – Be Brief: Say exactly what you mean in clear, precise, well-written sentences using good grammar and spelling. Remember that this is a professional message. Keep the message to 1-4 short sentences or less than 250 characters when possible. Avoid rambling, run-on sentences. Do not use emoticons – little smiley faces – be professional.
- Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling Count: You are sending a professional text message. Your grammar, punctuation, and spelling are a direct reflection of you. One of my tricks is to write it out somewhere else before typing into my text tool. Be very careful with voice-to-text apps on smart phones – sometimes they don’t capture your meaning in the way you want. You also want to watch the auto-correct feature on your phone. More than one person has sent an embarrassing message when the meaning was rewritten and transformed by auto-correct.
- Avoid Abbreviations: Avoid using abbreviations on text messages to prospects. Abbreviations like LOL, OMG, WTF and others don’t come off as professional, and the person on the other end might not understand what you mean. Likewise, you should avoid acronyms and slang.
- Transparent Links: People are extremely suspicious of shortened hyper-links. Just like with email, when you send URLs to prospects that link to articles or other resources, send the entire URL so they know where they are clicking.
- Before Clicking Send – Read It Again: Make this your rule when it comes to text messages (and, frankly, all written communication).
Finally, as with all prospecting channels, know your numbers. Track the number of texts you send each day, response rates, and conversions into appointments and, ultimately, sales.