Texting manners evolve, just like telephone and email manners. They evolve a bit more slowly in business than in personal communication.
Texting has some advantages
- One can text without sharing their end of the conversation with everyone else in the room.
- One can text while pretending to pay attention in a meeting.
- Texts are great for giving information about something that is happening soon. Example: parking directions at a meeting place for that evening. With short lag-time, texted directions are easy to find. Right! Sally put the garage code in her last text.
- Texts are great for alerting someone of sudden changes. We said we’d meet at Panera. It’s closed. We’re in the bookstore.
Texting is also faster than trading voicemails. It works effectively for simple conversations:
#1: Meet me at Revival Café at 10 AM
#2: Which one? Alewife or Davis Sq
#2: OK, all set
Texting conversations break down when there is more than one topic.
- Do not change the subject until the first thread is completed
- If you are going to speak to the person soon, don’t change the subject at all
#1: Meet me at Revival Café at 10 AM. I want to talk to you about N’s divorce.
#2: Which one? Alewife or Davis Sq. Can we eat outside?
#1: Z is being a jerk. I have to get this off my chest!
#2: I was exposed to someone who was exposed. I really want to eat outside.
#1: Who were you exposed to? Is it someone I know?
#2: You don’t know them.
#1: OK, outside at Davis
#2: We can’t talk about N’s divorce, I am dating Zs attorney.
#1: What! Do tell
#2: See you at 10
Texts for business need to start like business conversations.
Business texts work well for people who are already doing business together. Use them to share information. They are especially good for:
- Confirming appointments
- Listing items needed for the meeting
- Confirming that certain work has been completed
- Giving directions to a meeting
- Asking if the other is free for a phone call
Texting someone you do not know, in a business context, requires more context.
- Introduce yourself
- Introduce your company
- State your business, what is the purpose of the text
- Do not send a long, scripted sales pitches
Here’s a positive example, from my day job. Many real estate agents use text to set up their showing appointments. If I am texting an agent who doesn’t know me, I need to start with who I am.
This is Rona Fischman, from 4 Buyers Real Estate. I request an appointment to show 77 Main St, Cambridge at 4 PM on Wednesday. Does that work for you and your sellers? Thank you.
On the flip side: this week, I got a business text that not only is ineffective, it caused me a millisecond of alarm.
He: Hi Rona. Are you available?
Me: who are you?
He: Hi Rona, It’s me John. How are you doing today?
Me: Thinks: Stalker or a bot. Certainly not a legitimate business representative.
He kept texting. I remained remote. I asked his company name; he did not immediately answer. First he wrote that he contacted me last October and “…we had a great conversation about your business and you liked the platform….”
I translate this as “I didn’t hang up on him. I told him that his product didn’t serve my model. I told him that I did not have time to discuss it further”. Then again, he might have made up that conversation.
Then, he told me his company name. Surprise! His company sells a service I never ever ever want. There is no way I ever said I liked his platform. It took three more texts before he went away.
Texting does not have a search function. Nor does phoning. If you want to document a conversation, email is the way.
Remember John from above? He claims to have spoken to me. I have no records of that. I do not have his number in my phone log (I looked). So, either he never spoke to me or he has multiple phone numbers at the telemarketing company he works for.
I don’t have previous texts from him, at least from that number. They would have shown up in the thread for that phone number.
Had he emailed me, I might still have it. If he emailed me, I’d have a full name and company name. As it is, I have a phone number and “John” no-last-name.
Text does not have easy export or save capacity.
John sent me a proposal by text. It was a paragraph of script about how great they are at what they do – which is the service I just texted that I don’t need or want — and how much it will cost me per month.
If I was interested in doing business with him, I don’t have that information in a way I can easily file it. I could copy each text box and paste it into a Word file, then save it as “John’s proposal” then hope a real contract would come by email.
Texting interrupts whatever is going on. The expectation is that texts will be answered immediately.
I read texts as soon as they come in. If I am away from my phone, driving, or busy, I feel behind the eight ball if I see a text that is more than an hour old. When I answer a text from someone I know an hour after it came in, I feel a need to apologize. “I didn’t see this until now”, or “I was in a meeting, sorry for the delay.”
When text is used for non-urgent communication (like John’s sales pitch), it gets my immediate attention. Therefore, I am already irritated when a non-urgent sales text comes in, pretending to be urgent. This is not the way to start a business relationship. Texting, to me, is like a pager going off or someone banging on the front door.
Sales calls interrupt, too. Yes. However, these calls are less effective because they are easier to avoid. Caller ID catches some of these. There are so many junk calls that many people choose to not pick up a stranger’s call. That’s why sales texts are increasing in number. I hate it.
If you want to sales text me, please go away.