While the idea of getting a text from a sales professional may seem a little unorthodox, the rise of remote and hybrid work in recent years has forced sales reps to get more creative with their outreach tactics.
And while texting shouldn’t be the central pillar of your prospecting efforts, there are some very real benefits to using text messages as part of your broader strategy.
Before deciding whether SMS outreach could fit into your prospecting workflow, it’s important to think strategically about how and when text messaging might be most effective.
Texts can be a great way to advance a conversation, confirm a meeting, or follow up with additional information, but there are some important legal ramifications and matters of etiquette to consider.
The key is knowing when to use texting — and when to avoid it. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind, situations where we’ve seen success, and templates to give your sales outreach over text a fighting chance.
Is Cold Texting Effective in Sales?
In an ideal world, you’d only connect with prospects who were aware of your solution and primed to learn more. But cold outreach is a fact of life for sales professionals — and doing it well is a significant advantage for go-to-market teams.
Naturally, sales pros want to know whether cold texting is ever appropriate or effective. And the answer can be pretty divisive.
In a recent ZoomInfo poll on LinkedIn, for example, one-third of respondents felt cold texting was an effective technique. But twice as many said no — the immediacy and relative intimacy of showing up on a prospect’s mobile phone has too many downsides.
The good news: while cold texting is often too broad to be worthwhile, SMS outreach can still have a place in today’s sales environment.
How Not to Text Your Sales Prospects
Texting certainly allows you to be more casual with your outreach, but you need to thread the needle of approachable but professional. Be personable, up-front, and respect your prospect’s time.
It should go without saying, but any business conducting text outreach also needs to comply with appropriate regulations. In this article, for example, we’ll discuss best practices and link to guidance that is specific to U.S. rules — companies operating in the European Union, U.K., and other locations have separate legal and regulatory considerations.
With all that in mind, here are some things to avoid when using text messages for sales outreach:
- Don’t write a novel: Keep messages short and to the point.
- No shorthand, emojis, GIFs: This isn’t the group chat with your college friends.
- Beware auto-dialers: The use of “automated telephone dialing systems” to send text messages for advertising or telemarketing can violate U.S. regulations, unless the business has the prior express written consent of the recipient. There are specific definitions of what constitutes an ATDS, which are worth learning and monitoring.
- “Do not call” lists: Businesses in the U.S. need to comply with the regulations around numbers on various “do not call” lists, including at the national and state levels. Companies also need to maintain internal DNC lists.
The Right Way to Text Sales Prospects
What are the right ways to use text messaging for sales prospecting? At ZoomInfo, we’ve found it’s best to pick your spots and follow some pretty straightforward guidelines:
- Ask for permission: If this is your first time texting, introduce yourself and give them a way out. From both a legal and professional perspective, texting should always be opt-in.
- Keep it simple and concise: Messages should use easily understood language, include clear next steps for the recipient, and be as short as possible.
- Be mindful of area codes and time zones: Just like with phone calls, make sure you aren’t sending messages outside of business hours.
- Put yourself in their shoes: How would you react to a text from a salesperson? Think of the kinds of messages you’d be more likely to respond to rather than the ones you would immediately ignore.
- Text as a follow-up: Texting is stronger after already connecting over the phone. Using texts as a reminder for a demo, or other softer touches, is a positive experience.
B2B Sales Outreach Text Examples
Now that we’ve established some guidelines for sales outreach texting, how should you structure your actual messages?
Most people live on their smartphones, so to get a response from a prospect, we need to understand what they see — it’s probably a one-line preview on the lock screen. Make the first sentence count, every time. And get to the point as quickly, but politely, as possible.
Locking down meetings
“Hi [Name], this is [Sender] from [XYZ Company]. We spoke last week about your interest in our services. Just reaching out to confirm your availability for a follow-up call tomorrow at 2 PM ET.”
This text gets to the point quickly, reiterates the existing relationship, and clearly establishes the point and next steps — namely, confirming a follow-up call for the next day. Even if the recipient is in the same time zone as you, it’s still worth clarifying.
Checking back with a prospect to see if you can provide more information is a potentially good use of texting.
Depending on the recipient, their industry, and the nature of the relationship, it also may be necessary to adopt a slightly more formal and direct tone, particularly with the salutation.
“Hi” may not be professionally appropriate for some recipients, but more formal greetings take more space — so pay attention to your character counts and get to the point:
“[Name], [Sender] from [Company]. We discussed locking a next meeting for Thursday. Can you do 2 PM, or does another time work?“
Another important factor to consider is the language of your ask. Try not to dilute your message with words like “just” or “only,” and focus on the value your company can offer when reaching out to prospects.
Specific asks for next steps
It’s also important to avoid inadvertently shifting the responsibility for next steps onto the recipient.
It may feel appropriate to ask a prospect for their general availability as a polite gesture, but doing so makes the recipient responsible for — and therefore, in control of — advancing the conversation.
Be polite, but retain control of the interaction and present prospects with firm options to choose from whenever possible:
“Hi [Name], [Sender] at [Company]. I sent you the details we discussed. Things look really well aligned to me. Can we talk tomorrow at 2? Let me know when you’re free and I’ll send the invite. Thanks.”
The trade show coffee invite
If you’re attending a trade show and know a key account will be there, text the key contact. People have time to kill, but often won’t schedule time to chat before arriving.
“Hey [Name], [Sender] from [Company]. I think you might be at Dreamforce. I’m here too, and having spoken to your org in the past, I think we can do some really powerful things for you all. Can you carve out 5 minutes to meet for coffee?”
This example hints at the potential benefits of an impromptu meeting, and presents a low-risk, low-commitment ask.
Leadership intervention to move a deal
When a rep feels good about a deal or a next step, but needs something to happen and isn’t getting a response, a text from the rep’s leadership team to the key person at the prospect account can be a great way to restart stalled conversations:
“[Name], [Exec Title] at [Company]. [Rep] on my team tells me we are nearly aligned to support you. Are you good to sign the agreement, or have any questions I can help with?”
You can adjust this message template depending on how close your team is to closing a deal or the nature of potential objections holding things up:
“[Name], [Sender], [Exec Title] at [Company]. [Rep] on my team tells me we are nearly aligned to support you. Seems like there are still a few items you are considering but she hasn’t gotten a next call set. Can I help? What works for a call to go over your next evaluation steps?”
So, Should You Text Sales Prospects?
Pre-COVID, texting sales prospects may have been something of a professional faux pas in some quarters. But used in the right contexts, it can be part of a well-crafted sales flow.
So the next time you need to send a reminder to a prospect about an upcoming demo meeting, do your homework — and maybe send them a text.
General Legal Disclaimer: The above is provided for informational purposes only. ZoomInfo is not qualified to provide legal advice of any kind and is not an authority on the interpretation of U.S. or international laws, rules, or regulations. To understand how specific laws may impact you or your business, you should seek independent advice of qualified legal counsel.