SMS for Sales: The Complete Guide
In the right hands, SMS for sales is a powerful revenue-generating tool, driving outreach and engagement, and helping to close more deals, faster. With 90% of leads preferring to connect via SMS rather than over the phone, scaling your sales with SMS can be done both ethically and effectively, with the combination of simple planning and implementation. Read on to learn more about how, why and when to add SMS for sales to your toolbox!
What this post covers:
- Why use SMS for sales?
- How to get started with SMS for sales
- Gaining opt-in approval for SMS sales messages
- What are the benefits of texting a customer?
- How to prevent your sales texts from being considered spam
- Scaling SMS for sales
- How to convert leads with SMS
- Post-sale use cases for SMS
Why Use SMS for Sales?
Look, we get it: there are any number of people out there who are resistant to the idea of using SMS to drive sales conversations. We’ve heard it from both sides. Some people hate getting unsolicited messages from companies, while others feel awkward about the idea of texting a customer. “There’s just something different about showing up in someone’s SMS inbox rather than their email, you know?”
Yes, we do know. But what if we told you that those objections are exactly the reason you should give SMS for sales a try?
Take the potential customer’s objection first. Yes: there are people who don’t like being bothered by unsolicited messaging, on any channel. But we’re not suggesting that you immediately start blasting random numbers with your messages. That’s not sales outreach, it’s desperation–and we wouldn’t recommend that approach for any channel, whether it’s SMS, email, or cold-calling.
Here’s the truth about why you should consider using SMS for Sales: because it works. As we wrote in a recent post on speeding up your sales cycle:
“people like texting […]:
- 68% of people say checking, sending, and answering text messages is the activity that they’re most engaged with on their phones throughout the day.
- 60% of people respond to texts within the first five minutes of receiving them.
- 74% of customers prefer to interact with a human via text rather than a chatbot.
- 45% of potential customers would choose a product or brand after receiving an SMS.”
So people like texting, and they prefer dealing with humans instead of bots. Remind me again what the objection to reaching out to them directly via SMS is?
The truth about sales outreach is that no single channel will please a potential customer all of the time. Consider the following examples:
- According to a 2020 Pew research poll, 81% percent of U.S. adults won’t answer a phone call from an unknown number, with 14% refusing to even check voicemail.
- Global estimates suggest that around 45% of email traffic is spam.
Neither of those stats are a reason to stop emailing or calling potential customers. Nor do they make calling or emailing wrong. As disheartening as it can be to meet a dead end through one sales channel, you’re also gaining a valuable insight. By not responding, consumers are providing clues about how they prefer to be contacted, and the type of content they respond best to.
Viewed in that light, SMS for sales outreach shouldn’t be any scarier than any other platform. You’re simply doing your best to reach your audience on the platform where they’re most likely to engage. And that can only be good for your results.
How to Get Started With SMS for Sales
If you’re thinking of trying SMS for sales, here are a few steps we recommend to ensure it will drive value for you:
1. Figure out your SMS use case
Let’s be completely clear: SMS is not always the best solution for improving your sales performance. If you’re looking to blanket the marketplace with generic messaging in the hope that someone will bite, you’re probably going to be better off using a different channel. Not least because phone carriers are pretty strict about filtering SMS spam–with the chances of that happening rising every time a user reports unwanted texts.
However, if you’re invested in knowing your customer, willing to take the time to respond to them, and looking to reach out with personalized messaging at scale, SMS is a channel you should definitely consider using.
With that in mind, here are a few potential SMS use cases for sales, organized from least personalized to most targeted:
- Automated outreach on a form submission or other lead capture that includes a cell number.
- Automated re-engagement campaigns.
- Long sales cycles.
- Meeting reminders.
- Follow up from a meeting or sales call.
2. Sort out your tech stack in advance
When it comes to setting up an SMS campaign, the most important component is being able to track your outreach. Support your messaging across other channels by choosing a system that integrates with your existing CRM.
At Salesmsg, for example, our tools integrate with a number of leading CRM providers, including HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, Marketo, Keap/FusionSoft and others. These integrations allow our users to import contacts directly into Salesmsg without doing a manual transfer. More importantly, they allow our users to track SMS-based outreach alongside their other sales and marketing efforts, and to build out campaigns that leverage SMS directly from their CRM.
To learn more about how to integrate your existing tools with Salesmsg, check out the following pages:
- Integrating Salesmsg with ActiveCampaign
- Integrating Salesmsg with Aircall
- Integrating Salesmsg with HubSpot
- Integrating Salesmsg with Keap/Infusionsoft
- Integrating Salesmsg with Marketo
- Integrating Salesmsg with Ontraport
- Integrating Salesmsg with Pipedrive
- Integrating Salesmsg with Zapier
3. Start small, adapt and scale
As with any new outreach program, it’s best to start small when adopting SMS for the first time. Even if you have a large number of contacts who might be a perfect fit for your messaging, we recommend starting with a smaller segment. This provides the opportunity to gather valuable feedback and data, and to work out any glitches in your setup.
Over time, you will become more familiar with the platform and the integrations, and learn from your campaigns. This will enable to scale your sales SMS channel effectively, for maximum impact. Tools such as pre-written scripts and automated sequencing will enable individual salespeople to comfortably communicate with dozens, if not hundreds of individuals simultaneously.
Gaining Opt-in Approval for Sales SMS Messages
As the previous section should have made clear, there’s little benefit to using SMS to send unsolicited messages to people. With this in mind, gaining opt-in approval from contacts is essential for SMS for sales. This isn’t just a best practice thing: it’s a legal requirement. However, there are a couple of best practice recommendations for gaining opt-in approval:
- Add a check-box to forms on your site. The key is to explicitly identify SMS as a method of contact when a lead signs up. Provided they check the box and submit the form, you have approval.
- Use your first message to confirm opt in: Known as double opt-in, we whole-heartedly recommend this process. While opt-in from other sources, such as forms, is good, direct confirmation from the target number is better. As such, this message should clearly identify the sender, and ask the user to confirm that they want to receive messages. Additionally, either this message or a follow up to a confirmation should provide simple opt-out instructions. These steps are likely to comply with evolving legal standards, and help to build a sense of trust with the consumer.
Bottom line: it takes trust for someone to divulge their contact information. And it takes a single mistimed or inappropriate message to lose it, and your relationship with the prospect altogether.
Gaining opt-in from cold mailing
Let’s put this as simply and clearly as we can: there is no such thing as cold outreach with SMS. The reason: it’s illegal to text someone who hasn’t explicitly opted in to receive SMS messages from you. And, no: opt-in for email or general “marketing communications” does not constitute permission to send SMS messages. If you want to text a lead or customer, you need specific permission to do so.
There are perfectly compliant ways to gain permission to use SMS for sales. For example: if a contact responds to a cold email, you can ask for a phone number to follow up via SMS. You can also ask for a number on forms or widgets on your website, provided you’re clear that you plan to text the contact.
Of course, everyone has stories about receiving unsolicited SMS outreach from marketers. You may even have received some while reading this post. But our advice is to never buy and text a list of mobile numbers and always get permission. In addition to reputational damage, people who flaunt those rules face a very real risk of legal repercussions.
What are the Benefits of Texting a Customer?
Another way to ask this question is “How will SMS help me to close more deals?” Because if an addition to your sales stack doesn’t help your close rates, it shouldn’t be in your stack.
The answer can be broken into the following categories: response rates, timeliness, and personalization.
SMS has better response rates
As we covered above, people like text. Especially compared to phone calls, which essentially no-one answers. And, when compared to most people’s default outreach (email), SMS is a clear winner for grabbing attention.
Whether you choose to believe HubSpot, Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, or another leading source of insight into email metrics, you’re likely to come up with an average open rate of somewhere between 15% and 25%, and a click-through rate in the 2% to 3.5% range. And the upper end of both those numbers are the good emails. You know: the ones with killer subject lines, perfect timing, and an offer and CTA that just can’t be ignored.
Compare that to the stats for SMS: Campaign Monitor (yup, the same source—an email marketing tool—we just referenced for email stats) famously found that SMS open rates can be as high as 98%, with the average response coming in just 90 seconds, compared to 90 minutes for an email.
In boxing terms, that’s a TKO. But this isn’t a fight between email and SMS. Far from it, because another benefit of texting your customers is that…
…people respond better to multi-channel marketing
That should be obvious, right? The more ways you have to reach out to your customers, or potential customers, the better. But just in case “obvious” doesn’t cut it, here are the stats to back this up:
- According to a report by Optimove, “multi-channel campaigns are 37% more effective” than single-channel, with the former getting a response rate of 14% compared to just 10.2% for the latter.
- The same report also found a 15% response rate for campaigns that combine email and SMS, compared to just 8% for a campaign that used either of those channels alone.
The bottom line: email and SMS (and phonecalls, and direct mail, and so on) aren’t enemies. They’re complementary tools you should use whenever they’re appropriate for the situation.
Timing and personalization
Whether you’re looking to alert contacts to a flash sale or check in during a storm or sporting event, timing is an important factor when defining use cases for SMS.
Equally vital is understanding that not every message has to contain sales messaging. As in the examples above, a key benefit of two-way, one-to-many SMS is the ability to humanize your outreach at scale.
Something as simple as checking in on a customer during a potential emergency or sending a message that gets their favorite basketball team right provides a memorable, personalized experience. And the contact never needs to know that the details (their name, location, or team) were stored in a CRM, and not your brain!
By establishing that kind of rapport, you’re also raising your chances of a positive response on your next sales-specific outreach.
How to Prevent Your Sales Texts Being Considered Spam
Sadly, there is no shortage of scammers and unscrupulous marketers and salespeople using text. The consequences of these bad actors are real, both for consumers and legitimate businesses.
In 2021 alone, Americans are projected to receive some 86 billion spam texts. This is projected to lead to some $101 million in financial losses as a result.
Fortunately, this is a problem with a solution on the horizon. It’s called A2P 10DLC, and it’s something that we have embraced whole-heartedly.
Under A2P 10DLC, businesses must identify themselves to carrier networks, and register the types of messages they will send. This helps carriers to identify bad actors, and reduce the amount of spam their users receive. That’s great news for carriers, their customers, and companies seeking to deliver legitimate messaging to consumers who have opted in to receive it.
The opt-in is particularly important. As of late 2020, almost 49 million consumers had opted in to receive marketing communications from brands. That’s not an accident: consumers are comfortable with SMS, and value the convenience of communicating with brands of their choosing. With A2P 10DLC, the chances of spoof or spam messages getting through to consumers is greatly reduced. With a registered number, your SMS deliverability will increase with time—along with the reputability of SMS marketing.
Unless you’re a spammer or scammer, that sounds like a prescription for success to us.
How Do You Scale SMS for Sales?
The key to scaling SMS for sales is to automate as much as possible while remaining alert to responses from leads who seem ready to convert. Here are a few ways to save time by automating your sales outreach with a tool like Salesmsg:
- Follow-up texts: automating thank you notes for orders, or initial outreach after a customer submits information on your website.
- Scheduling and reminders: the majority of customers prefer setting appointments and scheduling by text, as well as receiving appointment reminders. Whether you’re setting up an in-person meeting, a Zoom call or a webinar invite, SMS can help to streamline your processes and reduce no-show rates.
- New contact assignment: shared inboxes can get messy, especially at scale. By automatically setting the first responder as a new contact’s owner, you can avoid duplicate outreach and improve time-to-response.
- Out of office follow-ups: one drawback of SMS is that customers can treat it as an always-on communication channel, and expect an instant response—a problem that only grows if your team operates across multiple time zones. Setting up SMS auto-responses for out-of-office hours, vacation and holidays helps to temper these expectations and is one of the keys to scaling your sales outreach and production without having to significantly grow headcount in the process.
Check out more ideas on automating SMS across your business.
How to Convert Leads With SMS
SMS offers a variety of lead engagement opportunities that simply don’t exist across other channels. Chief among these: time-sensitive offers, and channel-specific perks and benefits.
Imagine it’s Super Bowl Sunday, and you really want to hit your best prospects with an offer, during the game. Perhaps it’s food delivery, updated wager information, or even merchandise for the champions.
Option 1: pay millions for a 30-second TV slot your desired audience might not be watching.
Option 2: send a targeted email that might get a 20% open rate, assuming people are checking email during the game.
Option 3: send a highly targeted SMS message with a link you know your audience will check within 90 seconds.
That’s not even a real choice, right? The ad is branding (and out of most brands’ price ranges). The email is cheap but time-insensitive. But SMS? That’s a tool you’re leveraging to make sales in real-time, with ROI you can actually measure.
Exclusive offers and perks
Be honest: how often do you give your real phone number to a brand? We’ve all had the experience of getting bombarded with messages and calls after filling out a form online, and it’s made all of us wary of giving out our numbers in future.
That’s why, for a brand, customers who do provide those hard-earned details should be treated as VIPs. For these contacts, exclusive incentives and perks play an important role in your SMS sales strategy. Regular offers and promotions give customers a reason to continue receiving your texts. And, paired with a strong, easy-to-find CTA, they can boost sales to loyal customers like no other channel.
Abandoned cart followups
One of the most powerful sales-related uses for SMS comes with the ability to redirect shoppers back to their carts. Which is great news, given that somewhere between 55% and 85% of online shoppers abandon their carts at checkout. Due to the time-sensitive nature of cart abandonment, SMS is the ideal solution for following up—especially if you can pair the reminder with an additional time-sensitive discount, promo offer or free shipping.
Post-sale Use Cases for SMS
We all know that the cost of acquiring a customer is significantly higher than the cost of retaining an existing one—up to 5x higher, in fact. From an SMS outreach perspective, customer should be the easiest group to provide outreach to. Those who trust your brand enough to make a purchase are the most likely to be willing to receive texts from you. As such, asking for a phone number during the sales or checkout process provides a great opportunity to check in with, retain and even upsell your customer via text.
A simple “thank you for your business” is perhaps the most obvious use case for sales-related SMS. Unfortunately, despite being easy to automate, this step is all too often overlooked. Having taken the time to build trust with a contact, there’s no reason not to follow up after the sale. Even better: a note encouraging them to get in touch with any questions or issues is a major trust-builder, especially for complex and/or high-value products.
Rating and review requests
In the algorithm economy, product reviews are an all-important ranking signal for SERPs, ecommerce platforms and potential buyers. A simple two-step SMS process can help to boost your rankings. First, send an automated text asking customers to rate their recent purchase. Then, depending on their rating, follow up with an offer to resolve issues, or an automated request to leave a review.
Automated renewal messages
A key pain point for many subscription-based businesses is that renewals can take customers by surprise. Often that’s due to the renewal messaging getting lost in a customer’s email inbox. This creates a significant obstacle to actually getting that customer to re-up for another month or year. Here are just a couple of potential pitfalls to this model:
- The customer hasn’t saved a payment method on file. This prevents you from automatically processing the renewal payment without the customer getting in touch.
- The customer does have a payment method on file, but didn’t realize the payment was due. This can lead to them being taken by surprise, increasing their likelihood of canceling.
SMS messaging can help with both of these issues with a simple automated workflow that looks something like the following:
Automated repurchase messages
For commonly-purchased items, retailers have the opportunity to issue just-in-time reminders–and even discounts–to customers when it’s time to re-order. Once again, SMS is an ideal tool for many of these reminders. Customers are more likely to open these messages than any other channel. And, provided the message is helpful, they are also more likely to respond via SMS than any other channel.
Whether you’re looking to improve sales outreach to new prospects, wake up contacts who have gone cold, or ensure friction-free renewals, there’s a use case for texting as part of your sales toolkit. SMS’s key benefits, from high open and response rates to the ability to reach potential customers in a timely manner, are perfect for sales professionals who want to personalize their outreach and build better relationships with prospects and customers. If you’re thinking about adding SMS to your sales stack, check out our free demo video. If you’re ready to give Salesmsg a try, sign up for a free 14-day no risk trial.