Letters that Work Like a Charm

to Sell Your Idea, Service, or Product

Contributed by Deane Gradous, Twin Cities consultant

Four approaches to the sales letter

1. Intrigue or entertain. Grab the reader's attention and ensure that your reader gets the points about your idea, service, or product while having a good time reading your letter. The theory is that fun, surprise, or drama will open the reader's mind to what you have to say.

2. Support or assure. Assure the reader that you are always here. When the reader has a need that relates to what you have to offer, you want the reader to associate the need with you, a dependable person who can satisfy it. Regular mailings will add to your image of dependability.

3. Propose or deal. Make a strong offer the reader. Soften a hard-sell image by including a gift or offering a free trial or coupon. Your goal is to get the reader to act now. The motivational sequence is as follows:

· Get the reader's attention

· Demonstrate a need or a problem

· Visualize the future with the need satisfied or the program solved.

· Offer the means to satisfy the need or solve the problem.

· Ask the reader to act.

4. Touch or pat. Tell the reader in a friendly and personal way that you are thinking of him or her. Your letter is part of a continuing conversation. Your goal is not so much to make an immediate sale but to remind the reader of the importance of your continuing relationship. Send "keep in touch" letters often, especially when you can link your communication to an occasion or an event of special significance.

Always address a single reader

Whether you are selling an idea, a service, or a product always write to one reader; never a crowd. Use the second person singular--"you"--to converse one-to-one with a single, unique person. Not "Hey all you people out there with computer problems." Sometimes, use the reader's name in direct address--"Mark, take a look at this ..."

Thinking of your reader in the singular helps you gauge how much to emphasize your points without appearing pushy. Addressing a crowd calls for raising your voice to a shout. Compare the tone of the following two sentences: 1. "If any of you are still having problems following these simple instructions, please feel free to call me and I'll explain them" and 2. "Please let me know if you find any of these instructions confusing."

Addressing a single reader also helps you avoid taking a defensive tone. Compare the following two sentences: 1. "Some of you are not giving me your full cooperation" and 2. "I need your support."

Tips for writing sales letters

Be conversational. Write in a personal, friendly tone.

Emphasize the reader's needs. Take the time to analyze your reader's interests, needs, and biases.

Keep it simple. Limit your appeal to a few important points.

Be credible. Demonstrate your experience, knowledge, and expertise

Be specific. In concrete terms, describe the details of your idea, service, or product. The reader has to be able to "see" himself or yourself engaged with your idea, service, or product. If price is a concern, state the price and emphasize the value received.

Be concise. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short and sharply focused.

Ask for action. Be clear and explicit about what you want your reader to do.

Be accessible. Make it easy for your reader to respond to your idea, ask for your service, or purchase your product.

Close. Tone is important to achieving a cordial close. Compare the following two closing sentences: 1. "Should you have any questions concerning this matter, please feel free to call me" and 2. "If you have any questions, please call me." The first grants permission. The second extends an invitation.

Be correct. Let the writing rest a while before you review it through the reader's eyes. Edit and proofread it carefully. Protect and maintain your professional image by being absolutely certain your letter contains no errors in grammar, punctuation, or spelling.

Do a test run. Pilot test the letter. Ask someone to stand in for a reader, or ask a small sample of the population of prospective buyers to read your letter, and give you feedback.

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