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How to Write a Sales Letter

Writing a sales letter requires you to consider many things if it is to be effective in winning you business.

  • You need to have a good idea of whom you are writing to so that you can create the content and style to be appropriate.

  • Be clear what is your objective is: do you want the recipient to place an order without further contact with you? Do you want them to phone or email you to request further details? Are you simply creating awareness of your product or service in order to facilitate orders in stores or when your sales representative calls?

  • Understand the the client's perspective is likely to be different from yours. You probably have a good understanding what you are offering, in both the technical details and the applications. It may be that some or most potential customers do not have this familiarity. Not only that, the importance that you place on particular aspects of your product may not match the way that the customer sees things.

The basics of sales letter writing

No sales letter will achieve what the writer wants if it is not opened. Since we are all bombarded with sales messages these days, it is essential that you find a device that maximises the chances that the letter will be read. If you don't the time, effort, printing and stamp that you have invested will be entirely wasted.


Don't make your letter look obviously like a sales letter

Don't put an advertising message on the outside, or use bright colours for the envelope in an effort to stand out. Nor is it necessary to use fancy paper or printing, or arty cut-outs or pop-ups. The best approach is to create a letter which looks and reads like a helpful note from a knowledgeable friend.


I was given a lesson in this point by a man I met once in North Vancouver. He had a simple business but which made sufficient profit that he needed to work only through the Spring and Summer months, the rest of the year he took off and enjoyed a relaxed life on a tropical island. 'Mike' had seen the flyer that I had distributed for my business, but when I got to meet him he told me that I would probably do better with a different style to what I had used. My piece was written and printed  conventionally; Mike showed me the way he promoted his activities. It was quite different; his sales letter was a photocopied sheet containing a handwritten description of the service he was offering.


You may think that to be 'unprofessional', I did. But the point that Mike made is that what counts for more than 'professional' appearance is believability.

The simple style that he had chosen, suggested that he was genuine, experienced in his work, and most probably, not too expensive.


I don't always use this approach, but when I have the results have been good. In particular I ran a campaign for a long time where I faxed hand-written sales messages to prospects asking that they take a look at my website. This worked very well - and I would still be doing it if faxing was still a popular method of communication. Unfortunately it has been supplanted by email and since I don't like to send unsolicited messages, other strategies have replaced it.


The AIDA formula

  • A - Attention. Your piece needs to be seen and for at least the moment become the focus of your target's attention. Many gimmicks are used attempting to achieve this, a lot of them are, in my opinion, tacky and ineffective. One which fails to make me respond positively is including a pen in the envelope as an incentive to make me open and read the letter. Since from experience I know that the pens used are poor quality, the impression this creates in me is not a positive one. An enclosure that I did have success with was a nicely presented small package of Scottish shortbread. My sales message read,' Take a break, have a coffee and enjoy this piece of shortbread (a type of cookie) while you read how my company can help yours'. I received lots of business and some letters of thanks for this offering. Maybe this will spark an idea for you.

  • I - Interest. Getting attention is necessary, but it's not enough on it's own. You have to quickly communicate to the reader why it is worth his/her while to continue to look through your piece. This is where 'benefits' come in. Simply put, you must tell the prospect that you can supply or do something that he would very much like. There is a hierarchy of benefits; the most potent is to offer to solve a nasty problem. Everyone has problems of some sort and we are delighted if someone offers to make them go away. Unlike all the 'nice' things we would like to have and do, but procrastinate on, we take action if an easy way of resolving a problem is offered.

Another way to be 'interesting' is to tell the prospect about something which is relevant to his activity and new. It's been established over decades that 'New and improved' beats 'Same old' every time J.

  • D - Desire. Achieving interest is good, but invoking 'desire' is better. It's simply a further stage along the road to taking action, which in most cases will be the intended objective of your sales letter. Use positive language in your writing but take care to avoid clichéd hyperbole. That is to say words like 'Sky rocket your ...(something or other).. with our new WizzoMaster'. Cite, credible and well-known examples of your item doing a very good job. If a good photo is available to illustrate the point, use it. This next point is going to sound 'sexist', but if the picture you use features an attractive women with a nice smile, you enhance the effectiveness of your message. Make sure the photograph is of technically good quality; well lit, sharp, appropriate colours. I've seen some awful examples put out by sales people who really should know better.

  • A - Action. Tell the reader what to do next. 'Call me today on 012 345 6789', for example. Or 'Go to' to book. It is necessary to spell out what you would like the prospect to do, because what might appear obvious from your perspective may not seem clear to the prospect. Give a reason to do it now, procrastination is the death of good intentions. Sometime = never, so provide an incentive. 'Buy today and I'll throw in an xPodBox'.

There is much more I would like to tell you about sales letter writing - I have personally written more than 3000 of them - but there's not the space for that here. However, if your product is scientific or technical you'll find a wealth of on-target help in How to Create Powerful Technical Sales Literature.

The  How to Create Powerful Technical Literature  manual


About the How to Create Technical Sales Literature Manual


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