How to Write a Great Sales Letter

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Despite predictions of its demise in our increasingly digital age, direct mail can still be an effective sales technique. And a well-written sales letter can be an excellent way to make prospects aware of and interested in your product.

An Attention-Grabbing Headline 

Let's start with the headline. This is the most critical part of your letter because it's the first thing most prospects will read. And if it doesn't grab their attention, it will be the only thing they'll read.

Put your most robust idea or product/service benefit in the headline. Don't try to cram every possible advantage in. Pick the best one and craft a headline around it.

If you're not sure how to start, take a trip to your local grocery store and scan the magazine covers in the checkout aisles. The cover "callouts" are designed to grab your attention because they are often the only means the editors have to sell to you. Use them as your inspiration for your own sales headline.

A Great Body With a Story

Once your headline is done, you can move on to the body. Storytelling is an effective strategy; people tend to be interested in stories about people just like them. We think of stories as entertainment, so we're more likely to read them than straight sales copy. Storytelling is also a great way to involve the prospect's emotions. And if you don't do that, you're not likely to have a good response rate.

There are two basic emotional selling strategies: playing on hopes and playing on fears. If you choose to play on your prospect's hopes, you'll paint a picture of how great the person's life will be when they buy your product or service. The clearer and more detailed the image, the better. If you choose to play on their fears, describe something hideous that can happen to the prospect and then explain how your product or service can prevent it.

Keep the paragraphs short, so they're easier to read. Use plenty of benefit words—such as convenient, saves money, secure—and write in the active voice with action verbs. For example, if you're selling flood insurance and using a fear-based approach, you should say "Flooding destroyed more than 6,000 homes in the Tri-State Area last year." instead of "More than 6,000 homes in the Tri-State Area were destroyed by flooding last year."

Your Contact Info and Call to Action

Give a few different response options (phone, email, website, fax, salesroom visit). You don't have to include every single response option but try to have at least three. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for your prospects to get in touch with you.

Always include a call to action. If you don't tell your prospects what they should do next, even the most exquisitely written sales letter will fail to deliver.

It helps if you can make a "limited-time offer" for a certain amount of money off the regular price, or something similar, to motivate prospects to act quickly. The longer people take to respond after reading your letter, the less likely they are to follow through. Including a line like "Call 1-888-XXX-XXXX now before this limited-time offer expires!" brings about the necessary sense of urgency.

Review

After you're done writing, read the letter out loud. It's a great way to spot places where your copy falters. The goal is a letter that flows smoothly and is clear and interesting throughout.

You should also try to put yourself in the place of someone getting this letter in the mail rather than reading it like the salesperson you are. Would the appeal you've written work on you? Does it seem compelling to the Average Joe or Jane?

Finally, you should review the letter carefully for grammar and spelling errors. Ask someone else to look over the letter if that's not a forte of yours.