Don't you wish sometimes you had a magic wand? Not the Harry Potter kind but rather the one that you could wave over your sales territory and the prospects that reside in it and have many, if not all of them, in a trance that would get them to take your call, grant you that first in-person appointment and yes, make them really want to buy from you? This may be just a dream for some, but not for the entrepreneurs who take the contents of this article to heart and put it to use. In the text that follows, I'll show you how to create a special kind of correspondence that will get your prospects in the buying mood before you pick up the phone and call them.

What Your Sales Correspondence Has to Do

At a bare minimum, your correspondence must accomplish two simple objectives:

  • Introduce your ideas in a way that's compels the reader to take your call
  • Establish your presence as an authority figure

To accomplish these objectives, you must be willing to ask yourself a question that sounds simple, but really isn't: What do your prospects want to read? I've asked that question to more than 500 top decision-makers from various industries big and small, and here's what I found out:

1. Choose your words carefully. Don't lose sight of your audience! Make sure you use words and or phrases that will pique the interest of the recipients of your correspondence. If you miss the mark on this score, you'll unintentionally challenge your prospect's ego, power, control and authority. Ouch!

Completely avoid any techno-babble, industry jargon and cute little acronyms that may be common with your peers but tend to mystify your prospects. Do this exercise: Take your local business paper or monthly business magazine--like this month's issue of Entrepreneur--and show it to any one of your customers who's in the same industry and who has the same title of whomever you're wanting to send your correspondence to. Ask them to circle all the words and phrases that catch their attention. Then make sure you use those words in you correspondence.

2. Always use a headline. Just like a newspaper or magazine article, each piece of correspondence you create must have an attention-getting headline. On average, your prospects will decide within about eight seconds whether or not to continue reading just about anything you put in front of them--including your correspondence. Therefore, your headline should blast the horn for and about actual events and/or results, not hypothetical situations.

Let's say, for example, you're selling laptop computers to salespeople who need to communicate back to their office while they're on the road. Here are a few examples of headlines that should work with them:

"Work faster, not harder, with a keyboard and display that's easy for you to see and read in direct sunlight while our satellite link keeps you connected to your home office."

Or:

"Salespeople can increase the time they spend in front of their prospects and customers by as much as 50%--within two months of using our solutions."

3. Make the first sentence of each paragraph count. What you write--or don't write--in the first sentence of a paragraph will greatly impact your prospect's desire to read the second sentence. Therefore the goal of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence!

Just how can you do this? Keep that first sentence short! Here, again, think about the articles you read in a magazine or newspaper. The first sentence in a paragraph is usually the shortest one. It plants the seed and gets the reader to want to read more. Here are a few examples of good, crisp opening sentences for a paragraph:

  • Make your job easier and more fun.
  • Compliance will keep the feds off your back.
  • Surpass required specifications.
  • Shorten time to revenue.

As for the second sentence, let me ask you this: What do you think the job of the second sentence is? That's exactly right! To get the reader to dive headfirst into the third sentence. If you're asking when does this stop, the answer is, not until you're sure you've got the reader hooked!

4. Spell it out in your first paragraph. No surprises here. The job of your first paragraph is to carry the entire theme of your headline into the body of the letter and keep the reader's interest. In the first paragraph, it's best to make the following points:

  • Establish your credibility by posing a profound relevant question.
  • Make a relevant statement from a credible source.
  • Be sure you address the concerns of your reader...and nobody else.
  • Segue into the next element of your correspondence.

Here are two examples:

"During the past seven years, we've worked with 80 organizations in the manufacturing industry including ABC, XYZ and BBB. Collectively, we've been able to increase revenues and efficiencies while, at the same time, provide annuities that continue to increase shareholder value every month."

And...

"The above results are common for our business partners to achieve. Team member resources previously unintentionally wasted on inefficiencies are now channeled to generate on-time and under-budget results."

5. Don't forget the silver bullet. In order to create the best selling environment within the contents of your letter, I strongly suggest you use brief statements of your ability articulated in the form of bullets. Here are some examples:

  • "In the words of [John Brown], President of [ABC], he experienced 'an overwhelming increase in the efficiency and positive attitude of our support staff.'"
  • "Obtain greater market share by creating more new business with prospects--in some cases, our customers have enjoyed 70% more!"
  • "Increase customer retention and eliminate erosion of hard-earned market share.
  • "Our customers see, on average, a 13% increase in quarterly revenues."

6. Don't neglect your closing sentences. The main purpose and point in closing your correspondence is to introduce an element of uncertainty and doubt about whether or not you could reproduce your success with this prospect.

For example, what if you said "Could your company realize the similar or even greater substantial benefits? Frankly, at this point it's too early to tell. But I'd welcome the opportunity to learn more about your unique business needs and take the first steps to find out." Or what about this: "Whether your company can achieve these types of results is difficult to tell. But one thing is certain: You're the one person who can take the action necessary to help us quickly determine what the possibilities are."

You want the reader of your masterpiece to say out loud, "Why not? Why couldn't we do something similar or even better?" But don't worry. This approach won't create doubt in your prospect's mind about your ability or your product, service or solution. It will add a dose of reality to all the prior claims in your correspondence and that wins you points in the credibility department.

7. Never forget a call to action. You must always give the reader a choice of different ways that you or they can take action at or near the end of the correspondence. There are two different ways to do this:

  • You state a day, date and time you're going to call them.
  • You give them two choices of days, dates and times that they can call you.

8. Finally, craft a clever closing salutation. Not too long ago, I received a letter from a high-net-worth financial planner. The letter was printed on high-quality paper, and it addressed several of my areas of interest. It also stated that this firm paid close attention to all the many critical details that a professional financial planner takes pride in doing for their select clientele. It was all very impressive. I was shocked, however, to see that the sender had neglected to sign the letter!

Your signature, and the salutation that precedes it, is more or less your personal brand. It leaves a lasting impression on your prospects--and so does the absent-mindedness evident in botching it. Therefore, you must be sure that it's the best it can possibly be. Here are a few suggestions:

Don't:

  • Close your correspondence with "Sincerely" or anything close to it.
  • Use any nicknames. For example, Clarence "Butch" Dumstuff
  • Put your closing salutation on the left-hand margin.
  • Forget to sign your name!

Do:

  • Sign your entire name.
  • Put your title under your name.
  • Put your company name under your title if it's nowhere else in your correspondence.
  • List your telephone number under your title, and don't use your cell-phone number.

The actual words of your closing salutation should be as original and unique as your handshake. Here are some examples of my closing salutations. I offer these only as suggestions, of course--you'll have to do some creative soul-searching to develop your own:

  • To your continued success!
  • Make today a masterpiece!
  • Looking forward to being part of your team!
  • To a more predictable future!
  • Have a productive day!

I know that's a lot of stuff to pay attention to, but the fact is, if you want your correspondence to cast a spell on your prospects, you'll have to put some time and effort into it.

I know that's a lot of stuff to pay attention to, but the fact is, if you want your correspondence to cast a spell on your prospects, you'll have to put some time and effort into it.


Tony Parinello is the "Executive Sales" coach at Entrepreneur.com and has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program, Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office.He is also host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.