The Complete Guide to SMS Sales: How Text Messages Can Help B2B Sales Teams Close Deals
There are a bunch of different ways to reach your target audience…
You can call them on the phone. You can email them and/or DM them on social media. Or you can take a different route and send them a text message.
Salespeople don't use SMS marketing campaigns as often—but they probably should. As we'll see in a minute, this strategy can be very effective.
Keep reading to learn what SMS sales is, the benefits and downsides of this particular sales channel, and eight best practices you can use to close more deals with text messages. Sound good? Then let's get this show on the road!
What is SMS Sales?
SMS (AKA “short message service”) sales is the act of using text messages to connect with potential customers, nurture relationships with them, close deals, and otherwise participate in the sales process.
For example, a SaaS brand might text its SMS list, "Join us for a live webinar on 4/1 at 2 PM PST." to promote an upcoming event.
While an e-commerce company might text its subscribers something like, "We appreciate you! Here's info regarding your recent purchase…" instead of sending a traditional order confirmation email.
One of the best things about SMS sales is that it allows you to contact multiple prospects at once via mass texts. This is something you can't achieve with traditional phone calls. But there's a flipside: SMS sales requires recipients to "opt-in" to your messages.
We'll talk more about the pros and cons of SMS sales next. For now, know that text messaging is a viable sales strategy you can use to boost your small business's sales efforts.
What Are the Benefits of SMS Sales?
So, what makes SMS sales so great? A bunch of things, actually! Here are five reasons why you and your sales team should start building SMS sales campaigns as soon as possible:
High Open Rates
When's the last time you didn't open a text message on your phone? Never, right? This is one of the biggest advantages of SMS sales. Recipients will open your messages between 90 and 99 percent of the time.
Not too shabby, right?
To make sales, you have to get in touch with potential buyers. SMS messages allow you to do this more consistently than most other digital marketing channels. It doesn't matter if you want to share pricing information, follow up with cold leads, or something else. Texting rules.
Quick Response Rates
High open rates are great. Quick response rates are even better.
Why? Because a response to your SMS text indicates audience engagement. Every salesperson knows engaged prospects are much easier to close than non-engaged ones.
According to leading research firm, Gartner, SMS response rates are as high as 45 percent. To clarify, that means almost half of recipients will respond to your text messages when appropriate. Incredible!
Text messages are less formal than many other forms of communication. As such, they often feel more personal than phone calls, emails, and even standard social media posts.
Even better, your promotional SMS messages can be personalized to each recipient, which will boost customer loyalty. Just know that personalization at scale will require you to invest in a marketing automation tool. Let's talk more about that…
SMS and email marketing have a lot in common. Both require technology. Both use the written word to communicate. And both have access to amazing automation capabilities.
Did someone just sign up for your SMS list? Send them a thank you text. Did someone else make an order on your website? Text them an order confirmation. Are you launching a new product? Tell your current customers about it via text and create demand.
Once you're set up with an SMS marketing tool, you'll be able to create customizable templates and automate all of these messages to send if/when specific criteria are met. Nice!
This sounds like a bad thing, doesn't it?
You can't text anyone you want. There are two reasons for this: one, personal phone numbers are hard to come by. And two, there are laws and regulations prohibiting spam messages.
People have to "opt-in" to your messages, AKA giving you permission to text them. This requires more work on your end. But once that work is completed, you'll be able to message warm leads, rather than cold ones. This will lead to more sales in the long run.
Very Cost Effective
Last, but certainly not least, SMS sales is cheap.
Close, for example, will let you send texts for just $0.01 each. (Learn more about how Close can supercharge your SMS marketing strategy here—even if you're brand new to SMS.)
Other tools have different pricing structures, but all of them will allow you to connect with your target audience in a cost-effective way, while still driving above-average ROI.
Are There Downsides to SMS Messaging in Sales?
Before you sell the farm and invest everything into SMS sales there are a few things you should know. Let's explore the dark side of this marketing and sales strategy:
SMS sales is a new-ish strategy. And new-ish strategies always get pushback.
You may have trouble convincing your target audience to sign up for your SMS list. Some of your prospects may feel violated that you even asked them. Luckily, public perception around SMS marketing is changing. But you should still be aware of potential hostility to the strategy.
SMS sales won't allow you to wax poetic about your company, products, or current customers. You only have 160 characters to get your points across. That's not a lot of space.
If you want to build deep, personal relationships with prospects, or need to explain a complicated offering, you should consider using a different communication channel–or pair SMS messaging with other channels.
"Aha!" you say. "I'll cheat the system and add pictures to my text messages. This will help me get around the 160-character limit." I applaud your outside-the-box thinking, but no dice…
To include images, you'll need to send MMS texts, which stands for "multimedia messaging service" texts. This is definitely possible, but it will cost you more money. You'll also alienate a portion of your audience, as only smart mobile devices can receive MMS messages.
Timing is Difficult
When you send SMS messages matters. But finding the right time to text your audience is tricky, as is knowing how many messages to send within a specific time period.
The internet is full of advice: text potential customers on Tuesdays at 3 PM EST. But not on Saturdays at 11 AM CST—what are you, insane!?
At the end of the day, you'll need to experiment to figure out the best time to text your SMS list and how many texts they want to receive from your brand.
SMS marketing is 100 percent legal. But this isn't the wild west. There are rules and regulations you must follow—rules and regulations that carry hefty fines if they aren't adhered to.
- TCPA: The "Telephone Consumer Protection Act", better known as the TCPA, states that all marketers must receive written consent before they send promotional messages to prospects and/or customers. Said marketers must be transparent with recipients, too. Trying to hide who they are or sharing dishonest information is prohibited. Finally, recipients must be able to opt-out of messages at any time.
- CAN-SPAM: The "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing" Act, better known as the CAN-SPAM act, forbids businesses from sending unsolicited messages to prospects and customers. It also requires salespeople to allow recipients to unsubscribe from their SMS lists anytime.
Here's the bottom line: SMS can be an effective tool for sales purposes. But your business needs to be careful. If you use this channel irresponsibly, spamming potential customers and annoying them to no end, you won't succeed. Always consider the limitations and potential drawbacks of SMS marketing when developing marketing workflows for your brand.
Close More Deals With These 8 SMS Sales Best Practices
Want to use SMS to connect with your ideal customers? Then make sure you keep these eight best practices in mind. Trust me, they'll help you find success with this strategy.
1. Ask for Permission to Send Texts
We've already talked about it, but it bears repeating: Always ask your target audience for permission before you text them. It's the law. It's also common sense…
If your SMS list doesn't want to hear from you, your messages won't get opened. And if your messages aren't opened, your links won't get clicked. If that doesn't happen, what's the point? All your SMS sales efforts will do is annoy prospects and keep them from buying.
Here's the good news: getting permission is actually pretty simple.
You can ask your email list, social media followers, e-commerce customers, in-person foot traffic (if you manage a physical location.), etc., to text a specific code to your business. Once they do, you can give them a reward of some kind for subscribing.
I also suggest adding sign-up forms and opt-in boxes to various company assets. Said assets include (but aren't limited to) your website, app, social media pages, and checkout kiosks.
It takes a bit of work to secure SMS subscribers. But it will be worth it—guaranteed.
2. Keep it Short and Sweet
As mentioned earlier, SMS messages can't exceed 160 characters. That means your texts have to be short and sweet. Here are a few tips to make sure they are:
- Know Your Audience: If you know who you're texting, you'll be able to speak more concisely because you'll know exactly how to grab attention (and hold it!) without wasting characters. Take time to learn about your company's unique audience.
- Focus on the Benefits: Why should your recipients open your texts and click on your links? Because they'll get something valuable in return. Make sure your messages focus on the benefits you offer. Cut everything else to save characters.
- Use a Link Shortener: Lastly, shorten lengthy links with a link shortener tool. Some of the more popular ones include Bitly, Rebrandly, and TinyURL.
3. Time Your Messages Effectively
Guess how many people will respond to your text messages at 1 AM local time? Probably less than the number of people who opt out because you texted them at one in the friggin morning!
You have to learn when to text your audience. Conventional wisdom says that sometime between 9 AM and 12 PM on weekdays works best. You need to experiment to know for sure.
On a related note, what you text your audience is as important as when you text them.
You should always have a specific reason for texting. Time-sensitive material related to flash sales and other special offers qualifies, as do abandoned cart and upcoming appointment reminders. Ready to release a new product? That kind of information fits the bill, too.
The point is, your texts should always offer value to recipients. Valuable messages, sent to prospects and customers at ideal times, will ensure your success with SMS sales.
4. Use SMS Short Codes
Every SMS sales strategy should include SMS short codes.
Not familiar with the term? Let me explain: SMS short codes are five or six-digit phone numbers companies use to send and receive SMS and MMS messages. Here's an example of what they look like from Slicktext:
To be clear, your business doesn't need a short code. You can text your SMS list from a standard 10-digit number. That said, short codes are preferred for SMS sales and marketing purposes.
This is because 10-digit numbers, known as long codes, are often marked as spam if they're used to send more than a few hundred messages a day. If your SMS list is over the 100 number mark, and you plan to message them on a regular basis, a short code will benefit you.
Just know, short codes are expensive. It will cost your company $500 a month to lease a non-vanity short code and $1,000 a month to lease a vanity short code. So I only recommend them to organizations that are fully invested in SMS sales. If that's you, go for it.
5. Invest in an SMS Automation Tool
You can't implement a legitimate SMS sales strategy without an automation tool of some kind. Fortunately, there are plenty on the market. You just have to choose one to get started.
Each of these tools allow you to send bulk SMS messages, engage in two-way conversations, and build automated drip campaigns. These features give these solutions a range of use cases, such as connecting with prospects and fielding customer complaints.
The above tools aren't the only SMS marketing services out there, though. In fact, since you're in sales, they probably aren't the best options available to you. You'd probably be better off using a CRM platform that includes SMS capabilities so you can organize your leads, manage your pipelines, and text prospects from a single location.
Sounds pretty great, right? Let me tell you about Close…
Close is a powerful CRM for sales teams. With this tool, salespeople can supercharge their calling workflows, automate their email workflows, and create top-level SMS campaigns.
Close allows users to incorporate SMS messaging into their workflows for efficient lead engagement. To do this, users need to create SMS templates in the Settings section, ensuring that these templates are shared across the organization. Once at least one SMS template is available, it can be integrated into an existing workflow or used to create a new one via the Workflows tab.
When enrolling contacts in SMS-enabled workflows, users must select a phone number from which to send the SMS steps, with the option to choose personal or group SMS-enabled numbers. If the selected number is removed, Close will attempt to send from another personal number assigned under Settings >> Phone & Voicemail. Contacts without phone numbers will skip SMS steps but still receive email steps if applicable.
Phone numbers that lack SMS capabilities will be greyed out in the phone number dropdown menu, and the contact's primary number will be enrolled in the workflow. It's not possible to send the SMS step to all phone numbers for a contact unless the phone numbers are reordered.
In cases where SMS cannot be sent due to country mismatches, Close will use a personal number matching the contact's country if available. SMS steps will be indicated by a Sequence icon on the Lead page.
Close does not support sending photos or attachments (MMS) in SMS steps, although users can manually send these via the Lead page. SMS sent as part of a workflow incurs telephony usage costs similar to standalone SMS messages sent through Close.
You should also know that Close allows you to create text message templates, which can be personalized to each recipient. This will drastically reduce the time you spend sending texts.
If one of your recipients responds to your text, their message will automatically appear on the lead's profile inside your Close account, and in your inbox, where you can easily respond.
To experience Close's SMS capabilities for yourself, sign up for a free 14-day trial right now.
You can also dive into our article on B2B CRMs to uncover the strategies and benefits of integrating CRM technology into your sales funnel.
6. Include a Clear Call-to-Action
What do you want your SMS list to do after they open and read your texts?
Without a proper call-to-action (CTA), your audience won't be able to act on the information you've just shared with them. If they can't act, SMS sales won't benefit your company.
For this reason, every text you send should include a CTA—even if your text messages aren't transactional. There's always something you can ask your subscribers to do.
E-commerce brands, for example, don't have to pitch products in every SMS text. They can ask their list to join them on social media. Or review a specific product. The same applies to SaaS companies, service businesses, and enterprise-level organizations.
The question is, how do you craft a call-to-action that boosts your click-through rate? Simple: make sure your CTAs are clear and succinct. Tell your audience exactly what you want them to do and why they should do it in as few characters as possible. Here are three examples:
- Use this code for 20% off a future order
- Complete this survey and win a free prize
- Buy before midnight to receive free shipping
These CTAs are enticing because they're easy to understand and offer something valuable to the target audience. All of them use 45 characters or less, too.
7. Make it Easy to Opt-Out
An effective text message sales strategy is a two-way communication channel.
That doesn't mean your recipients will always text you back. Or that you need to hire a full-time employee to respond to the barrage of text messages you'll inevitably receive.
More often than not, your SMS list will read your texts, decide if they're interested in your offer, and then either click your link or delete your message. They probably won't even think about responding unless you explicitly ask them to. Even then, many won't.
That said, your list should always have a say in your conversations. You can give them this say by making it easy for them to opt out, i.e. unsubscribe, whenever they want to.
Unsubscribes seem like a bad thing. After all, you won't be able to contact these people anymore, which means you probably won't be able to sell to them either.
In reality, unsubscribes are necessary. They help clean your list and ensure all SMS subscribers are quality leads who actually want to hear from your brand. These are the kinds of people who are most likely to purchase from you–plus, its a legal requirement.
8. Track Your Results Over Time
If you implement the best practices above, you should find success with SMS sales. But you won't know for sure until you track your results over a period of time.
I suggest monitoring important metrics like your open rate, response rate, and click-through rate. These KPIs will help you determine how engaged your SMS list is.
Once you have a decent amount of data to work with, use it to improve your approach. Maybe you need to write more effective messages. Or send them at better times. Or redesign your CTAs to make them more enticing to your target audience.
Don't be afraid to experiment with new ideas to help improve your SMS marketing results.
Win With SMS Sales
A well-designed SMS sales strategy should benefit your company.
You have to invest in SMS marketing software, write must-read messages, send them to your audience at the right times, track engagement rates and other metrics, and experiment with the other tips I shared in this article. If you do that, you'll succeed.
And don't forget about Close! Our CRM platform will help you elevate every aspect of your sales workflow, from managing pipeline stages in real time to building SMS workflows.
Start your free 14-day trial of Close today to see if it's the right SMS tool for your sales team.