Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Learn How to Ask For the Sale

Stop wondering whether you should ask for the sale or not, and you'll be glad you did.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Right from the outset, new salespeople are taught a very important lesson: Ask for the sale!

Hero Images | Getty Images

Prospects won't be that quick to part with their money or their personal information. If you don't ask for the sale, they will easily slip away.

In direct mail pieces, the way you ask for the sale is with a "call to action." Your offer is a critical part of your sales piece (along with lists and copy). The call to action comes right out of the offer, telling prospects how to take advantage of it. The whole sales piece is designed to lead readers to the point where they're eager for your product or service, and now your call to action tells them exactly what they have to do to get it. The clearer and stronger your call to action, the better your response will be.

Remember, your prospects can't read your mind, and they won't rack their brains to figure out what you're trying to tell them. Plus, you have a limited amount to time to get and keep your prospects' . If you've been fortunate enough to keep your readers interested up to the end of the piece, you need to capitalize on that by clinching the deal with a powerful, motivating call to action.

Rules for a Great Call to Action

Creating a great call to action requires following some of these basic rules:

Don't confuse readers with too many options: Keep your call to action simple and easy to follow up on. You don't want prospects to have to think too hard at this point. You want them to act. If you provide too many options, you give readers anxiety about which is the best choice. They don't want to make the wrong choice, so they may put the whole thing aside for a while. And the next thing you know, the whole piece is in the trash. Make it easy for readers to respond while the impulse is still hot.

Tell them exactly what to do: You may think it's obvious what you want readers to do, but remember, it's only obvious to you because it's YOUR offer. Try reading the piece from the perspective of an outsider and see how clear the instructions actually are. Do you want them to call? Say Call NOW! Do you want them to respond by mail? Say, Mail in the Attached Card Today! Do you want them to visit your website? Say, Go to Right Away!

Explain the benefits prospects will get for following through: "Secrets to Pain Relief in Your Free Report. Call NOW!" "Learn How to Get Financial Security. Call for More Information Today!"

Add a sense of urgency: People will usually put things off unless you put a sense of urgency into your call to action. Place a time limit on the offer: "This offer ends in . Don't miss out!" Or make it clear that supplies are limited, or there are only a limited number of seats at your free seminar. Give people a reason to respond right away.

Add incentives: Everyone likes to get a free gift, so pile on the bonuses. If people order by a certain date, not only will they get a discounted price, but they'll receive a free DVD, or an extra report, or some other valuable gift.

Place your call to action prominently: Don't bury it in the middle of a paragraph. Put it in a line by itself in bold: "Call Today!" That said, you may have several calls to action throughout the piece. Maybe include it in a paragraph earlier in the piece. Then, at the end of the piece, put a simple version in a box that the reader can't miss.

Add a guarantee to reassure readers they can't make a mistake: Readers may be hesitant to take the plunge because they fear they'll lose something. So tell them that everything is going to be all right. Use words like "Risk-free," "Money-back guarantee," and "Your information will be kept private."

Adapt your call to action to your demographics: Are most of your prospects older? They may prefer to mail in a card. Are most of your prospects young computer whizzes? They might prefer to use QR codes to order directly from their phones. Of course, you can't assume what's the best way to go. This is definitely something you need to test, which brings me to my next point . . .

Test different kinds of calls to action: You can't know in advance what will work best. Is telling people to call better than sending them to a website? How many bonuses – if any – are needed to increase response? How far out should you place your deadline for responding? Always plan to test your call to action, just as you would test any other part of your campaign.

Make it easy: Don't make readers do any work. Do you want them to call? Place your phone number prominently on every page of the sales piece, and say that operators are on duty at these specific times. Do you want them to mail in their order? Give them an order form, and if you can, give them a postage-paid order card or envelope. Do you want them to visit a website? Make the URL easy to input, and make sure the site is up and running and there are no glitches.

Different Kinds of Calls to Action

Depending on the specific call to action for your offer, your sales piece should be designed to build to that.

For example, if you just want people to request a free report, build up how great the free report is. You don't have to mention the cost of the product you'll be trying to sell them. It's the same if you just want people to call for more information. You don't have to mention the cost of the product. The phone operator will give that information. You don't want to say anything in the sales piece that will make people hesitate to call.

If your call to action is to get people to buy immediately, the whole sales piece should prepare people to respond positively to that call to action by leading up to the price and making it clear what a bargain it is.

These are all details you will decide upon and test as you develop your marketing campaigns. For now the important point is, ASK FOR THE SALE. If you don't, you won't get what you want!

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks