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Business Tips: Writing sales letters that sell

Check out our business letters course.

by , MBA

The sales letter. Sometimes, the sales letter seems like shooting into the dark. But it needn't be. Crafting an effective sales letter is possible if you go about it the right way. Regardless of what you're trying to sell, you can sell more if you talk with your prospective buyer. In attempting to sell anything by mail, the sales letter you send out is when and how you talk to your prospect.

All winning sales letters talk to the prospect by creating an image in the mind of the reader. They set the scene by appealing to a desire or need; and then they flow smoothly into the "visionary" part of the sales pitch by describing in detail how wonderful life will be and how good the prospect is going to feel after he's purchased your product. This is the body (or guts) of a sales letter.

Overall, a winning sales letter follows a time-tested and proven formula:

  1. Get his/her attention
  2. Get him interested in what you can do for him
  3. Make him desire the benefits of your product so badly his mouth begins to water
  4. Demand action from him: tell him to send for whatever it is you're selling without delay. Any procrastination on his part might cause him to lose out. This is called the "AIDA" formula and it works. (note: the masculine pronouns used here apply to women or men)

Sales letters that pull in the most sales are almost always two pages with 1 1/2 spaces between lines. For really big ticket items, they'll run at least four pages (on an 11 x 17 inch sheet of paper folded in half). If your sales letter is only two pages in length, there's nothing wrong with running it on the front and back of one sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 paper. However, your sales letter should always be on letterhead paper (your letterhead printed), with your logo and business motto if you have one.

Regardless of the length of your sales letter, it should do one thing, and that's sell. And sell hard! If you intend to close the sale, you've got to do it with your sales letter. You should never be "wishy-washy" with your sales letter and expect to close the sale with a color brochure or circular. You do the actual selling and the closing of that sale with your sales letter - any brochure or circular you send along with it will just reinforce what you say in the sales letter.

There's been a great deal of discussion in the past few ears regarding just how long a sales letter should be. A lot of people are asking if people will really take the time to read a long sales letter. The answer is a simple and time-tested: "Yes indeed!" Surveys and tests over the years emphatically prove that longer sales letters pull even better than the shorter ones, so don't worry about the length of your sales letter. Just make sure it sells your product for you!

The "inside secret" is to make your sales letter so interesting and "visionary" with the benefits you're offering to the reader, that she/he can't resist reading it all the way through.

You break up the "work" of reading by using short, punchy sentences, and underlining or italicizing important points you're trying to make. Using subheadlines, indentations, bolding or a second color will also help. But, don't overdo it.

If the materials you're enclosing with your sales letter are of the best quality, they will generally reinforce the sale for you. But if they are of poor quality, look cheap and don't complement your sales letter, then you shouldn't be using them.

It will definitely classify you as an independent home-worker if you hand-stamp your name/address on these brochures or advertising circulars. Whenever possible, and so long as you have really good brochures to send out, have your printer run them through her/his press and print your name/address (and even your telephone number and company logo) on them before you send them out. You want your prospect to think of you as her/his supplier (the company) and not as just another mail order operator. Sure, you can get by with less expense but you'll end up with fewer orders and, in the end, lower profits.

Another thing that's been bandied about and discussed from every direction for years is whether to use a post office box number or your street address. Generally, it's best to include both your post office box number and your street address on your sales letter. This kind of open display of your honesty will give you credibility and dispel the thought of you being just another "fly-by-night" mail order company in the mind of your prospect.

Above all else, you've got to include some sort of ordering coupon. This coupon has to be as simple and as easy for the prospect to fill out and return to you as you can possibly make it. A great many sales are lost because this order coupon is just too complicated for the would-be buyer to follow. Don't get fancy! Keep it simple, and you'll find your prospects responding with glee.

Should you or shouldn't you include a self-addressed reply envelope? There are a lot of variables as well as pros and cons to this question, but usually a return reply envelope will increase your response tremendously.

Check out our business letters course.


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