SMS sales: How B2B sellers can close more deals with text messages

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Contributor, Sell to Win

Cold calling is great—if your prospects actually pick up the phone.

Many buyers are more comfortable with texting than phone calls, which means you have to get comfortable with it too. Learn to leverage this underrated communication channel, and SMS sales just might become the secret weapon in your selling arsenal.

Here are a few quick facts to prove it to you:

  • The average American checks their phone 96 times a day.
  • SMS open rates are as high as 98%.
  • Texts have a 209% better response rate than email, Facebook, and voice messages.
  • SMS delivers a click-through rate of 19% on average, roughly 15% higher than email.

What do these stats tell us? That the best way to reach potential customers is via the supercomputer they carry around in their pockets. Keep reading to learn more about what SMS sales is, the benefits and disadvantages of this selling strategy, and seven SMS best practices you can use to sell more products or services via text.

What Is SMS Sales?

SMS sales, which is short for short message service sales, is an increasingly popular sales tactic that enables businesses to contact and sell to prospects and customers via text.

Have you ever received a text from a salesperson you hardly knew? Maybe you were out car shopping on a Saturday afternoon. Then, first thing Monday morning, you receive a text message from the sales rep asking if you wanted to take another test drive.

Or maybe you get texts on a regular basis from your favorite local restaurant, telling you what the special of the day is or offering you the chance to download a free drinks coupon.

Both of these scenarios are examples of SMS sales, and it can easily be used in a B2B context as well 

What Are the Benefits of Selling Via Text?

Why should you text your prospects and customers? Isn’t it better to just call or email them? What’s better depends on the demographics and preferences of your buyers. (We know that millennials generally hate talking on the phone, for example.) But SMS sales definitely has a few distinct advantages, such as:

1. Speed of Deliverability

When you send a text to your prospects and customers, it gets delivered immediately. This fact makes it possible to send perfectly timed messages about flash sales, event related promotions, and other time-sensitive circumstances.

Since 81% of Americans own a smartphone and 90% of SMS messages are read within three minutes, texting is a viable way to reach an audience in a hurry. And unlike emails, texts don’t run the risk of getting caught in a spam filter.

2. A More Personal Approach to Selling

SMS messaging is less formal, and therefore more personal, than many other forms of communication. Think about the way you text with your friends. You probably use a wide range of abbreviations and emojis, right? Because of this, texting is viewed differently than other text-based communication channels like email.

You can use this to your advantage and build trust with your prospects via conversational SMS messages. Then you can continue to use the strategy to boost customer loyalty once a prospect becomes a buyer.

To be clear, we aren’t suggesting that you quit calling your prospects or give up on email marketing. Both of these sales channels still have their place! But it’s clear that SMS messaging, when used correctly, can be a viable sales channel for most organizations.

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Are There Any Disadvantages of SMS Selling?

Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to SMS sales. There are a few drawbacks to using this selling strategy that you should be aware of:

1. Potential Negative Reactions

Because SMS messaging is a more intimate form of communication, some people feel violated when they’re contacted by a corporation via text. That’s why it’s SO important to get permission to text your leads before actually sending them messages!

We’ll talk more about this in the next section. But for now, know that while acceptance of SMS sales strategies is growing, there are still folks who are vehemently opposed to the practice.

2. Content Limitations

You don’t have a lot of time to wax poetic about your products and/or services when you contact your audience via text message. You need to state your business in 160 characters or less, which isn’t always easy to do. Also, you can’t always use rich media like you might in an email, making the words you send doubly important.

The texting format forces you to get to the point, so it helps to be a skilled copywriter to begin with. If you can’t craft quick, compelling messages to send to your audience, you might be better off using a different strategy than SMS sales.

7 SMS Sales Best Practices

If you’ve decided that text messaging is a viable strategy for your business, you’ll want to know how to do it properly. The following seven SMS sales best practices will help you get started on the right foot. Let’s dive in…

1. Always Get Permission

It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: You need to get permission from your audience before you start texting them. If you don’t, you’ll be breaking the law. Plus, you’ll make many of your prospects and customers angry, which is never good for business.

Fortunately, getting permission isn’t too difficult:

  • Create an SMS campaign: An SMS campaign is any marketing initiative that encourages people to text a specific code or keyword to a business in order to receive a reward or benefit of some kind in return. 
  • Provide an opt-in box: When a customer makes a purchase on your website, give them the chance to opt-in to text messages from your company. Just be transparent about the kind of things you’ll text them about once they join your list.

Both of these strategies will work and allow you to begin texting your audience legally, without putting a strain on the relationship you’ve built.

2. Use an SMS Sales Tool

Just like with email marketing, there are software tools available to make your SMS sales efforts more effective and efficient. Can you imagine using your personal cell phone to text each of your customers one by one with offers? Terrible idea!

Instead, use a tool that will batch your communications, automate them to a sending schedule of your own choosing, and ensure total privacy (for you and your audience) is upheld.

Here are a few SMS sales tools to check out:

  • TextMagic: TextMagic has been in the bulk SMS service game since 2001, making them an experienced partner for all your SMS sales needs. The tool features email to SMS capabilities, two-way SMS chat so that you can speak directly with customers, an advanced analytics dashboard, and the option to send texts with up to 918 characters. (Nutshell users will also appreciate the seamless integration possibilities with your CRM.)
  • Podium Webchat: Capture and convert leads while they’re on your website with an easy-to-use button that connects you to your leads through text. Podium Webchat is just one of several messaging tools from Podium’s Interaction Management Platform, which helps businesses acquire leads, reviews, payments, and more, all through text.
  • EZTexting: EZTexting is a leader in the SMS marketing and sales industry. Its platform is easy to use and allows its customers to quickly engage their audiences via text message. That’s why more than 160,000 businesses have used the tool to send well over 5.5 billion messages. Some of EZTexting’s top features include keywords, drip campaigns, and picture messages.
  • Tatango: Tatango is used by major corporations like TBS, Ace Hardware, and Sony Music because of its top-notch features. Use the platform to create powerful messaging workflows that get clicked, segment subscribers based on specific criteria, view detailed analytics, and much more. Totango also integrates with MailChimp, Constant Contact, and ActiveCampaign for your convenience.
  • SimpleTexting: SimpleTexting is exactly what you’d expect—an SMS marketing and sales platform that’s incredibly easy to use. If you choose this tool, you’ll enjoy features like two-way messaging, text scheduling, autoresponders, data collection, and more. Join big-name brands like Starbucks, Samsung, and Marriott Hotels and use SimpleTexting to better reach and engage your audience.

Keep in mind that some email marketing software includes SMS capabilities as well. If you’re an ActiveCampaign or SendInBlue user, for example, you might not need to invest in a secondary app to send texts to your audience.

3. Offer Something Valuable

Gintaras Steponkus, a Sales & Marketing Manager at Solidguides, reminds us, “Make sure that every text message you send has some value.”

Your audience didn’t sign up to receive text messages from you for no reason. They expect value in exchange for giving you their phone numbers. It’s your job to give it to them. Value can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the easiest way to offer it is in the form of discounts.

Just remember, always have a specific reason for sending SMS messages to your prospects and customers. Sending texts “just because” is a great way to annoy your target market and get your company blocked—definitely not what you want!

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4. Include a Clear Call-To-Action

You need to do more than just offer something valuable to your audience in your text messages. You also need to give them a clear and compelling way to get it. In other words, you need a great call-to-action (CTA).

According to Jill Gibbons, a Digital Marketer at ClickSend, the best CTAs are interactive. She says, “Via SMS, encourage consumers to participate by voting, answering surveys, completing questionnaires, and replying with a keyword.”

Another tactic is to include a simple, straightforward CTA such as:

  • Sign up now for free!
  • Use this code and get 15% off at checkout!
  • Complete this 2 minute survey and win!

The key to this kind of call-to-action is clarity and brevity. Explain to your audience what they need to know as quickly as possible. Then sign off.

5. Keep It Brief

As mentioned earlier, SMS sales strategies don’t give you a lot of space to get your points across. You have to be brief when texting your audience. The question is, how? Here are a few tips to help you write short, enticing messages that get opened, read, and clicked:

  • Begin with an enticing phrase: If you start your SMS message with a phrase like “FREE OFFER” you’ll quickly grab attention without wasting characters.
  • Focus on the benefit: Why should people click through and see/accept your offer? Keep the focus of your texts on benefits, not a list of features.
  • Experiment with MMS: MMS stands for multimedia message service and will allow you to send images with your texts. You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. To get your points across quicker, use visuals.

While it can be difficult to write an enticing message in 160 characters or less, it’s definitely possible—especially if you follow the above tips.

6. Get Your Timing Right

When you send your texts is almost as important as what you say in them. For example, if you text a customer at 2am, you’ll probably look creepy and your text won’t be effective. Instead, aim for one of these recognized times to send your messages:

  • Between 10:31am and 11:29am
  • Between 2:34pm and 3:27pm

While these general time frames should work in most cases, keep your personal goals in mind. You wouldn’t, for instance, want to send a lunch time offer for your restaurant at 3:05pm—even though it falls within the window of effective sending times.

We should also mention that the number of texts you send to your audience matters a lot. Christopher Prassad, the Marketing Manager at JookSMS, an SMS marketing company says, “The last thing you want to do is spam consumers, so it is important to be considerate in your approach, and know the best time to contact people through this medium.”

7. Experiment, Analyze, Optimize

Like any other marketing and sales strategy, you have to experiment, analyze, and optimize your approach to SMS sales in order to find success. Take a look at the data. What can you do to entice more customers to sign up for text messages? Can your engagement metrics be improved? If so, how? 

By asking yourself these and similar questions, you’ll put yourself on track to improve your SMS strategy. All that’s left to do is try a few different ideas to see what sticks. 

Meet Your Audience Where They Are: Sell Via Text

Text messages are a viable way to reach your target audience—if you follow the law and engage with your prospects and customers in a respectful way. To do so, just remember to follow the seven best practices we listed above:

  1. Always Get Permission
  2. Use an SMS Sales Tool
  3. Offer Something Valuable
  4. Include a Clear Call-To-Action
  5. Keep It Brief
  6. Get Your Timing Right
  7. Experiment, Analyze, Optimize

If you keep these seven best practices in mind, you’ll market and sell with speed, add a more personal approach to your selling efforts, and achieve better sales metrics. Good luck!

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