To make a case for why you should text sales leads, we look at changing channel preferences, SMS deliverability, and response rates.
Picture this scene. You are on a bench in the sunshine, your lunch in front of you, on a much needed break from work. You hear the familiar sound of your cellphone receiving a text and look down to see a message from a number you don’t recognize.
Upon closer inspection, you realize it is from your local car dealership. You think, “Wow, that’s quick, I just inquired before I left the office about the test drive offer.” The text asks when suits to come in. You respond Saturday morning. You receive a response almost immediately that asks if 10:30 am works. You reply yes, take a bite of your sandwich, and try not to consider whether your kids will fit in the back of a two door convertible.
Are you annoyed you received a text message, instead of a call or email? Of course not. You are impressed at how quickly the dealership responded and one step closer to a decision on what car to buy.
This scenario nicely summarizes the argument for texting your leads. Still, we understand if we haven’t won you over with our little anecdote. Let’s expand upon it.
More Leads Mean More Follow-Ups
These days, thanks in large part to the growth of inbound marketing practices, companies do a much better job of attracting sales leads. There is just one small catch, the short shelf-life of these leads.
The Harvard Business Review (HBR) did what they do best and, all the way back in 2011, illuminated just how quickly sales leads go cold (and how dismal companies are at following-up). Among other things, they found that the average response time to new sales leads was 42 hours.
If you respond to leads before 42 hours, you might think you can stop reading now. Unfortunately, you aren’t off the hook yet. The HBR didn’t stop there and, in further research, found that if companies didn’t respond to leads in five minutes or less, they risked losing them forever.
Despite the HBR stats coming from 2011, studies show that while companies are spending more to generate leads, they lose focus on the follow-up. It sounds simple, just respond faster, but there is more to it than meets the eye.
The Need for Speed
LiveCall pledges to call you back in 25 seconds.
By any standard, that response time is good going. It’s also a compelling call-to-action, buyers might request a call-back simply because they are curious to see if they do receive one within the given timeframe.
The focus on speed is clever for other reasons. If you follow-up with a lead within 5 minutes, you increase your chances of converting that lead 9 times. Plus, 78% of customers buy from the “first responder.”
To understand why speed matters so much, it’s useful to consider broader trends in the economy. On-demand businesses like Uber and Postmates and DoorDash spoil consumers rotten. As soon as people want something, they expect it.
Gone are the days where merely having a product or service was enough. Shoppers want the same kind of on-demand experience, whether they order sushi or buy home insurance.
Companies need to keep this massive shift in expectations top-of-mind. While 25 seconds is probably overly ambitious to aim for, responding to leads promptly is as vital as generating them in the first place.
Texting can help get your response times down. With a business texting software, one person can easily send out 20 texts in 20 minutes, but it’s hard for that same person to make the same volume of calls.
One way that you can make it even easier for customers to get in touch—and for you to respond—is by placing a Click-to-Text Button on your website. When potential customers click on the button, it opens their native messaging app with your contact details prefilled and the message prewritten. You can respond through text or call them depending on your call-to-action and what you are selling.
The best part is that we built a free tool that allows you to create one and place it on your site, all in a matter of minutes.
It’s All in the Follow-Up: The Case for Texting Leads
Beyond responding to leads quickly, it’s worthwhile to spend some time considering the best channel to reach them on after the first touchpoint. To make a case for SMS, let’s look at three critical criteria: How the lead wants you to contact them, message deliverability, and the likelihood of receiving a response.
1. Changing Channel Preferences
One thing that the average buyer loves more than an on-demand buying experience is their cellphone. In 2018, US adults spent an average of 3 hours, 35 minutes per day on mobile devices. It’s no surprise then that 62% of marketers plan to use text messaging in the next 12 months.
Investing in SMS makes even more sense when you compare it to the two channels it competes most with, email and phone. This chart from RingCentral depicts the extent to which consumer preferences are shifting away from voice and email to messaging.
People, and especially younger millennials, don’t like answering phone calls. (Think about the portion of people who are still using a landline phone in 2018.) Since millennials are the largest demographic in the US, it’s worth taking their channel preferences into consideration.
After speed-of-response and preference, it’s necessary to consider deliverability when following up with leads. If you respond to leads quickly, and they don’t see your messages, then all your good work will be for naught.
Text messages have a 98% open rate, and 78% of US consumers say receiving a text message is the fastest way to reach them for service updates and purchases. In comparison, emails have a 20% open rate.
As we already mentioned, people are not picking up their phones anymore. This is mostly due to a whole new array of communication options. We’d also hazard a guess that the crazy-high number of robocalls has a role to play. This chart from YouMail’s Robocall Index gives you a sense of how bad the problem is.
With phone operating systems like iOS now silencing unknown callers, the “deliverability” of phone calls will likely continue to decline.
3. Response Rates
One of the most compelling reasons to use SMS messaging for following up with leads is to get faster responses. One report found that SMS has eight times the response rate of email.
Since text messages are short and sweet, they’re a great medium to send quick questions that you need your lead to answer, such as availability or product preference. With most texts read within minutes, if you keep your text message concise, you’ll also have an answer in a matter of minutes.
Context is Everything
Chances are if you work in sales, you’ve heard the adage, “people buy from people, not companies.” Texts are a great way to be considerate of your prospects’ time while continuing to move a sale forward.
If you’ve built up a level of rapport with a lead, then feel free to be slightly less formal and more conversational in your texts. If you haven’t reached that stage, we recommend being professional and to the point.
Beyond that, SMS is not the channel for everyone. Some people will respond well. Others may not. If someone doesn’t respond to a message, it’s probably best to stop texting them. Be sure to take the hint or risk a lost deal and damage to your brand’s reputation.
The key with SMS, like any sales channel, is to make sure that you do it in a way that makes sense for your sales cycle, industry, and product or service.
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