How to Write Sales Letters
- You have calculated the current profit margins for your product or service
- You have chosen a strategy to implement for an immediate margin boost
- You have identified opportunities for immediate cost savings
A sales letter is a highly personal way to reach your target audience, and communicate your message.
Sales letters are powerful lead generation and customer relations tools. Unlike other, broader forms of lead generation – like advertising or direct mail – sales letters can be highly personalized to a broad range of target audiences. As you’ve learned in earlier E-Classes, the success of all communication lies in how well you tailor your message to the people you are trying to reach.
Using sales letters for lead generation can also be highly cost effective. Once you have invested in high quality letterhead and postage, the remaining expenses are simply your time and the ink in your printer.
Writing sales letters can be a daunting task, but you don’t have to be a copywriting wizard to craft a letter that delivers responses. I’ll show you an easy formula for composing effective letters for all sorts of audiences – from existing, past and potential customers, to other businesses and professional associates.
In this E-Class we will cover:
- Sales letters as lead generation tools
- How to write a sales letter that generates responses
- Customer engagement strategies
- Types of sales letters
Sales letters are powerful lead generation tools because they motivate the reader to act in all kinds of circumstances.
A sales letter is a strong tool for communication with all potential, existing, and past customers, as well as with colleagues and other business associates. They have the power to build you business not only through customer relationships, but through other businesses in referral networks.
- A potential client or lead generation letter introduces your business, and works hard to engage the reader in what you have to tell or offer them. This form of sales letter is highly focused on the reader’s needs and issues, and sparse on product or service details.
- A marketing message or USP letter is also a lead generator, and puts a heavy emphasis on the benefits of your product or service and its superiority over the competition. This type of letter is more aggressive, with a strong incentive for action, and works well with an audience that you have an existing relationship with.
- A referral letter is used to introduce your business or offering to a potential client that another business or associate has referred to you. The relationship between your business and the referring business and the reason for the referral – why your business was presumed to be of use to the reader – is made clear in the first paragraph.
- A relationship-building letter communicates new information to existing and past customers, or potential customers who are already engaged in the sales process. This particular form of sales letter is typically used to remind the reader of your business, and does not include aggressive sales copy or a strong call to action.
- A meeting request letter works well with a reader that is inundated with phone calls, or when a formal request would have a stronger impact. These letters are typically short and to the point, with a brief summary or reminder of your product benefits or unique offer.
- A closing letter is written to close a sale or deal that has been in negotiation, and encourage the reader to agree or commit. This form of sales letter is typically used to follow up a meeting or sales presentation, either describes final terms or requests a meeting to finalize terms.
Here’s an easy, step-by-step guide to writing sales letters that get responses.
- Identify your target market, the recipient of the letter.
Whether you’re sending a letter to a database of 500 people, or crafting a single letter for your dream customer, you need to start with a clear understanding of the person or people who will be reading it.
Are you targeting for do-it-yourself fathers aged 35 to 55, or the owner of the local hardware store that you’ve known for years? Are you sending the letter to existing customers, past customers or potential customers? Sales letters tend to have a broader scope of potential recipients than other lead generation strategies, so spend some time really narrowing in on who you’re trying to reach.
If you’re targeting a large list of potential clients, use the basic target market framework you have established in earlier E-Classes and cater to that audience’s needs, problems and emotional motivators.
However, if you’re going after your existing client base, you’ll need to slightly alter the way you compose your letter, taking into account their recent purchase behavior or relationship with your business. For example, has it been a while since they purchased from you? Are you writing to reward their recent large purchase with a new offer?
You may wish to craft a different sales letter for each of the groups or segments within your target audience to reach diversified needs or purchase motivators. Get as detailed as you can when identifying your target audience, or groups or audiences.
- Determine what your message or offer is, and decide what you want your reader to do.
Based on the audience you have identified, be clear about what message or offer you want to communicate to them, and what action you would like your reader to take.
Remember that your message should be focused on serving the customers’ need or problem, and it should answer the question ‘what’s in it for me?’ You message could include:
- A new offer
- A new product or service
- A company introduction
- A product or service that will provide benefits and fulfill needs
- A solution to a common or frustrating problem
- A guarantee
- Free information
At this point, you will also need to be clear about what action you want your reader to take, or what action they should expect from you. If you want them to contact you, tell them how, and by what date. If you are going to follow up with them, also say how and by what date.
- Draft your letter using this basic format.
This is a basic structure for writing any form of sales letter. Draft your letter with your message or offer using this format, and then follow the tips and hints in step four to improve and strengthen your writing.
Headlines are a powerful tool to use in a sales letter to grab the reader’s attention, and communicate your message. This is especially effective if your headline speaks directly to the reader’s frustrations or concerns, or promises to deliver something of interest or value to the reader.
Boldface and center your headline above the greeting line, and don’t be afraid to create a headline that is more than a single line in length.
- Sub Headline / Lead Paragraph
Your sub headline and lead paragraph should support the headline in convincing your reader to care enough to continue reading. The sub headline can elaborate on your headline’s message, or further describe the reader’s problem. Sub headlines can also preface or summarize important paragraphs in the body of the letter.
Your lead paragraph should begin to answer questions, showcase benefits, or elaborate on the story you have begun to tell. This is where you can begin writing about your company and your offer in further detail.
Illustration / Proof
Use the body paragraphs of your letter to build your case and back up your bold statements. Make sure for every claim, guarantee, offer or statistic, you illustrate of how it works or why it’s true. This is your opportunity to build your own credibility and the credibility of your business.
Use testimonials to support statements about your customer service or superiority over the competition. Describe customer experiences in an anecdotal way, and follow up the story with their words (the actual testimonial) in italics.
Benefits / Solution
The rest of your copy should focus on the benefits your product or service will offer the reader – the points that answer the ‘what’s in it for me’ question. Always include a summary of benefits or a detailed description of the solution you are offering in a bulleted or numbered list, and boldface key phrases to provide easy scan reading.
This sends a clear message to the reader – that you’re thinking about them, and their needs. As in all your copywriting, use the words “you” and “your” often, and stay away from too much description of product or service features.
Close / Call to Action
In your closing paragraphs, summarize your message and key points, but be brief and focus on motivating them to take action. Be clear about what you want your reader to do, and give them a good reason to do it immediately. Do you want them to pick up the phone? Fill out the order form? Put the stamped envelope in the mail? Remember that urgency and scarcity are powerful motivators.
Also be clear about how you are going to follow up with them so they know what to expect. If you’re going to call them in two days, or send them more information, let them know.
- Once you have the bones of your letter drafted, use some of these proven tips to strengthen your copy and improve response rates.
Present your letter professionally.
- Use only your business letterhead and envelopes
- Avoid using metered postage as it will make the letter look like junk mail
Format for skim reading.
- Use headlines, sub headlines, bullets and bold text
- Give important paragraphs a sub headline
- Vary paragraph length
- Use bold text or underline to highlight important points
Make it as easy as possible to respond.
- Enclose prepaid envelopes or easy-fill out forms
- Use toll free numbers
- Give one or two contact options so the recipient can choose which is most convenient
Use a casual, conversational tone.
- People remember and respond to conversation more than a formal tone
- Write to the reader as though they’re a family member or friend
- This technique builds trust and rapport
Use storytelling to engage the reader.
- Tell your reader a short story they can relate to
- Begin with a compelling customer testimonial
- Always relate the story back to your offer
Tell them a secret, or make an exclusive announcement.
- Engage your reader with exclusive information
- Tell them a ‘secret’ or make an exclusive announcement
- This will include or relate to your offer, like research statistics, a new development or invention, or a celebrity testimonial
Tell them what their problem is, and offer the solution.
- Show that you understand what their problem or need is
- Use your headline or sub headline to do this up front
- Describe how your offer provides the solution or serves the need
Build instant trust by establishing credibility.
- Do this as soon as possible in the letter
- Tell your reader who your company is, and why you’re worth their time
- Use testimonials, awards and other accolades to back up your claims, but make sure to do it sparingly and keep the letter customer-focused
Give them a reason to keep it.
- Provide something of use, and your recipient may hang on to your letter
- Include small gifts, like a fridge magnet with your contact information
- Include free information, tips or hints listed on the back of the letter
Make use of the Post Script.
- Restate your offer or strong guarantee
- Remind your reader of the most important benefit
- Restate the urgency or scarcity of the offer
- Offer a bonus if they act now
Enclose a brochure or factsheet.
- Add graphic appeal to your letter with a brochure or single information sheet
- Use a brochure or factsheet to backup claims in your letter
- Include product or service images, graphs, charts, and testimonials
- Test and measure the response rate of your sales letters.
Don’t be afraid to try new techniques and persuasion strategies to see what works for your business and your target market. Split or segment your database into two or three groups, and send each group a slightly different letter. Then measure and evaluate the response.
Keep a spreadsheet of who you sent which letter to, and when. Then, keep track of who responds, how long it takes them to respond, and how they chose to respond – email, phone, or in-store.
Even when you’ve discovered the strategy that works best for your business, continue to track and measure your results to identify opportunities to further improve your response rate.
The easiest way to write sales letters that get response is to use our proven templates, and personalize them for your business.
There are templates of all shapes and sizes in the member’s only section of my website, so make sure you take advantage of these done-for-you resources.
Just like any other marketing piece, sales letters need to be engaging enough to grab and hold your reader’s attention and convince them to take action. Remember, you’ll get the best results if you customize each letter to the needs and emotional motivators of the recipient, and use the persuasion techniques you learned in the copywriting E-Class.
Next time, I’ll walk you through how to spike the response rate on your direct mail pieces – and, if you don’t use direct mail, I’ll show you how you can.
Good luck writing your letters!