Successful Sales Letters

A strong sales letter can help you get your foot in the door. Here's how to craft one that will make the right impression.

While the telephone is still the primary tool for reaching yourprospective customers, there are many times when you will have towrite a sales letter. A strong sales letter can reinforce yoursales message, significantly enhance the image of your company inthe mind of your prospect, and get your foot in the door. Anineffective letter will cause your prospect to lose interest inyour product or service, and can easily cost you an account.

Sales letters tend to fall into one of three categories --letters of introduction; follow-up letters; and cover letters forpresentation packages. As the name suggests, letters ofintroduction are used to introduce yourself to a prospect and letthem know you are going to call them on a specific day and time.Follow-up letters serve to reinforce a point made during previouscontact; it could be a phone conversation or a face-to-facemeeting. Cover letters are sent as part of a larger package, andalert the reader about what to look for in that package.

Talk about your customer, not yourself
The most off-putting word in a sales letter is "I" andthe most effective word is "you". Never begin a letterwith "I" because chances are the reader won't get tothe second word. It all comes down to selling benefits -- yourprospects are not interested in the features of your productsservices, but in what how your products or services can benefitthem. Change "I can train your service reps in the latestsatisfaction techniques" to "Your customer complaintratio will drop by training your reps in the latest customersatisfaction techniques".

Acquaint or reacquaint the reader with who you are
In many cases, it is necessary to begin your letter with a briefintroduction to who you are and what you do. This is basic for aletter of introduction, but if you've already spoken with thisperson, saying who you are will re-establish a sense of contact.For example: "It was great speaking with you last Thursday.Acme Partners is an advertising agency that can help you boost yourWeb site traffic with a focused banner ad campaign".

Use bullets
The body of your letter should contain three or so key points, setapart by bullets. Readers like bullets because it makes the lettereasy to read. As the writer/seller, you benefit by immediatelypointing your reader in the direction of the important points youwant to make.

End with an action
What result do you want from your letter? Are you looking to get aface-to-face appointment? Are you answering questions raised at aprevious meeting? Do you want to make your prospect betterinformed? Do you need to get a signed contract? You need to closeyour letter by requesting a specific, quantifiable action. Forexample: "I will call you on Tuesday, November 18 at 10 a.m.to schedule meeting" or "Please return the enclosedcontract Friday, December 12, or call me if you have any otherquestions".

Keep your letter brief
It's rare that someone is going to read anything past the firstpage, so keep your letter to one page. Many readers lookimmediately to the bottom of the page to see if the signature isthere, so they know who the letter has come from. Staying at onepage will also force you to be succinct, since a rambling letter isan ineffective letter.

Show that you "get" their company
You will immediately gain their confidence if you show that youunderstand what your customer's company is all about. This isespecially important when you're trying to reach a largecorporate customer. Briefly talk about their brand, their image,and their needs. For example: "Acme has a reputation forproviding superior service and keeping its customer's needsfirst" or "There is enormous cachet to owning an AjaxWidget".

Use statistics
Back up your claims with statistics. This shows that you understandthe issues of their business, while demonstrating that your productor service can solve a problem. It also gives your prospect areason to support your product or service within the company. Forexample, a software training company pitching a corporate clientmight cite: "According to Acme Research Associates, theaverage computer user wastes over 100 hours a year trying to figureout how certain tasks are done".

Give away ideas
Your sales letter is, in essence, a very brief sales proposal, soyou need to show that you are thinking about your prospect'sneeds. You might be hesitant to put your best ideas in your letter,fearing that your prospect will use them but not hire your company.That's a mistake. By putting your ideas in your letter, youwill make your prospects feel like they're getting somethingalready, and that they'll benefit from your products orservices. More importantly, you'll be demonstrating thatyou're creative, on the ball, and have your client's bestinterests in mind.

Have someone read it over
Get another pair of eyes to look at any letter before you send itout. This will help you determine if your letter is clear and ifyou're getting your point across. Also, ask the person to lookit over for typos; you don't want to lose out on an account dueto a misspelled word or other careless mistake.

The viewsand opinions contained herein are not necessarily those of AmericanExpress and are intended as a reference and for informationalpurposes only. Please contact your attorney, accountant or otherbusiness professional for advice specific to yourbusiness.

Copyright © 2002 American Express Company. All RightsReserved

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