Working Magic With Your Sales Correspondence

Find out how to make every note and letter you send to prospects bring you the results you desire.

By Tony Parinello • Mar 14, 2005

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

What Your Sales Correspondence Has toDo

At a bare minimum, your correspondence must accomplish twosimple objectives:

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

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

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

Completely avoid any techno-babble, industry jargon and cutelittle acronyms that may be common with your peers but tend tomystify your prospects. Do this exercise: Take your local businesspaper or monthly business magazine--like this month's issue ofEntrepreneur--and show it to any one of your customerswho's in the same industry and who has the same title ofwhomever you're wanting to send your correspondence to. Askthem to circle all the words and phrases that catch theirattention. Then make sure you use those words in youcorrespondence.

2. Always use a headline. Just like a newspaper ormagazine article, each piece of correspondence you create must havean attention-getting headline. On average, your prospects willdecide within about eight seconds whether or not to continuereading just about anything you put in front of them--includingyour correspondence. Therefore, your headline should blast the hornfor and about actual events and/or results, not hypotheticalsituations.

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

"Work faster, not harder, with a keyboard and displaythat's easy for you to see and read in direct sunlight whileour satellite link keeps you connected to your homeoffice."

Or:

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

3. Make the first sentence of each paragraph count. Whatyou write--or don't write--in the first sentence of a paragraphwill greatly impact your prospect's desire to read the secondsentence. Therefore the goal of the first sentence is to get thereader 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 ornewspaper. The first sentence in a paragraph is usually theshortest one. It plants the seed and gets the reader to want toread more. Here are a few examples of good, crisp opening sentencesfor 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 youthink the job of the second sentence is? That's exactly right!To get the reader to dive headfirst into the third sentence. Ifyou're asking when does this stop, the answer is, not untilyou're sure you've got the reader hooked!

4. Spell it out in your first paragraph. No surpriseshere. The job of your first paragraph is to carry the entire themeof your headline into the body of the letter and keep thereader's interest. In the first paragraph, it's best tomake the following points:

  • Establish your credibility by posing a profound relevantquestion.
  • Make a relevant statement from a credible source.
  • Be sure you address the concerns of your reader...and nobodyelse.
  • Segue into the next element of your correspondence.

Here are two examples:

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

And...

"The above results are common for our business partners toachieve. Team member resources previously unintentionally wasted oninefficiencies are now channeled to generate on-time andunder-budget results."

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

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

6. Don't neglect your closing sentences. The mainpurpose and point in closing your correspondence is to introduce anelement of uncertainty and doubt about whether or not you couldreproduce your success with this prospect.

For example, what if you said "Could your company realizethe similar or even greater substantial benefits? Frankly, at thispoint it's too early to tell. But I'd welcome theopportunity to learn more about your unique business needs and takethe first steps to find out." Or what about this:"Whether your company can achieve these types of results isdifficult to tell. But one thing is certain: You're the oneperson who can take the action necessary to help us quicklydetermine 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 evenbetter?" But don't worry. This approach won't createdoubt in your prospect's mind about your ability or yourproduct, service or solution. It will add a dose of realityto all the prior claims in your correspondence and that wins youpoints in the credibility department.

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

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

8. Finally, craft a clever closing salutation. Not toolong ago, I received a letter from a high-net-worth financialplanner. The letter was printed on high-quality paper, and itaddressed several of my areas of interest. It also stated that thisfirm paid close attention to all the many critical details that aprofessional financial planner takes pride in doing for theirselect clientele. It was all very impressive. I was shocked,however, to see that the sender had neglected to sign theletter!

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

Don't:

  • Close your correspondence with "Sincerely" oranything 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 elsein your correspondence.
  • List your telephone number under your title, and don't useyour cell-phone number.

The actual words of your closing salutation should be asoriginal and unique as your handshake. Here are some examples of myclosing salutations. I offer these only as suggestions, ofcourse--you'll have to do some creative soul-searching todevelop 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 thefact is, if you want your correspondence to cast a spell on yourprospects, you'll have to put some time and effort into it.

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


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

Tony Parinello

Tony Parinello 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,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.

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