Writing Powerful Sales Letters

Sales & promotion

Writing Powerful Sales Letters

By Gail Peura

The purpose of any business is to sell its product or service. Without sales, no business can exist for long. And all sales begin with some form of advertising.

A sales letter, whether as a follow-up piece in response to an ad or as part of a direct mail campaign, must not only be seen but read by potential buyers and cause them to react. The copywriter wants the prospect to immediately order the merchandise or service or to contact the company for more information – and to do it NOW. Anything less than this, and the sales letter is a waste of time and money.

Unfortunately, most of the sales letters today – especially what comes from direct mail – is junk. That’s why it’s gotten the name of “junk mail.” The reason is that copy writers have forgotten the purpose of advertising: to make people buy the product or service.

If there’s a sales letter included at all (and one-fifth of the time there isn’t) it mentions the sale almost as an afterthought. Usually there are flyers enclosed, but even these don’t ask for the sale. They just assume that a prospect knows what he’s supposed to do with that piece of mail. And he does – he throws it in the trash.

Advertising should be more than that. Urging the customer to take action is what makes advertising earn its keep. Your main purpose in creating sales letters is to get the reader’s attention, sustain that attention, and urge him to buy. The longer you can hold their interest, the greater number of people will respond. Never forget: if it does not grab the reader’s attention, it will be a failure.

One of the attention-grabbers used by modern copy writers is to use short paragraphs, usually one or two sentences. The first sentence asks a question, and the next goes on to answer it, like this:

Would you like to make money for watching TV?
Who wouldn’t?
Let me tell you how…

The first sentence, a question, acts as the headline and serves as the attention-grabber. This makes the copy easy to read and is an open invitation to read more.

One of the rules is to use short, simple words. Most of us were taught to write like adults and use big words. But the up-and-coming generations weren’t. Some have trouble reading; some are borderline illiterate. Wordy sales letters are too much trouble to read through. So remember to keep words short, sentences short, and write only four or five sentences to a paragraph. Because if it’s hard to read, they won’t read it.

Keep your writing concise and to the point. Rambling will make the reader lose interest quickly. The idea is to confine one thought to one sentence. If it’s easy to read and understand, they’ll read more of it – and that betters your chance of persuading them to buy your product.

Another rule is to use the word “you” as often as possible. After all, it should be directed to the one person reading your ad, who wants to feel like you’re talking to him personally. The first “you” should be in your headline, the very first sentence of your sales letter, or even on your envelope.

YOU is who you’re writing to. YOU is who is reading it. And YOU is the person who will buy your product. “You” is a word that can never be overused.

Would YOU like to make money?
Let me show YOU how you can…!

Be specific, because the more specific you are, the more your reader will understand your message. Don’t generalize. For instance, instead of saying, “You can make more money,” say “You can make up to $250.00 a week in your spare time!”

Subheads, at this point, will help cut copy into small, digestible pieces. Using italics, capital letters, bold face and oversized print can also help grab their attention. Once you have his attention, the only way to keep it is by telling him what your product will do for him. Your potential buyer doesn’t care about you or your company – he wants to know how HE will benefit from purchasing your product. He wants better health, more comfort, money, leisure time, popularity, success or security. Even though you have his attention, you must follow through with a list of the benefits he can gain. You must repeat the advantages that you implied in your headline.

You’ll need to think about the features you want to describe and the best ways to show them, know who your buyers are, recognize what they want, and then tell them how your product’s features will fulfill those wants.

Use definitive words – nouns, names and pronouns. When you write copy, you should picture yourself in a “just the two of us” situation and talk to your reader. Say what you mean. Picture your prospect, put yourself in his shoes and ask yourself, “If I were reading this, what things would appeal to me?” Write accordingly.

The more facts you can present, the more credible your offer will be and the more product you’ll sell. People want facts as reasons for buying, to justify to themselves that they haven’t been “taken” by a con artist. Here is where you use results of tests, growing sales figures and user testimonials. It’s also important to present these facts from a fellow consumer’s point of view – “just between us guys” – and not from that of a company.

Before you get into your demand for action, summarize everything you’ve presented. Induce him to imagine the benefits you’ve promised. Make him see himself richer, enjoying luxury, having time to do what he’d like, with all his dreams fulfilled. This can be handled in a couple of sentences or more, but it’s an essential ingredient you must include before closing a sale.

You’ve convinced the reader that he wants the product. Now you must convince him to buy it.

A guarantee is useful in pressing for action. If you’re willing to back the claims you made with a full refund, you can get a hook into the borderline buyers. Any guarantee you offer always helps produce action from a prospect, and the more liberal the guarantee, the more orders you’ll receive.

If you give a time limit that the product will be offered, put a definite date on it. Don’t tell him that he has thirty days to order; tell him that he only has until September 30th. The same goes for a limited-time-only bonus. You’ll increase his impulse to act – and that’s what you’re after.

Now, ask for the order. Don’t beat around the bush. This is the time to be blunt, and this is where many sales letters fail – in demanding action from the reader. If you really want him to have your product, then you have to spell it out for him in terms he understands. Demand that he take action now – by calling an 800 number and ordering, by sending his credit card number, or by writing his check and mailing it. Probably one of the most common methods of moving the reader to act is in some form of the following:

– All of this can be yours! You can start enjoying this XXXX immediately, simply by sending a check for $xx!
– Don’t put it off – make out that check now! Act now, and as an early-bird buyer, we’ll include a bonus – absolutely free! After September 30th, we won’t include the bonus as part of this offer, so act now!

Be sure you state it simply. The action you want your prospect to take should be easy, clearly stated, and with no complicated steps or directions for him to follow. By studying good sales letters and practicing on some of your own, you should be able to quickly develop your own copy writing abilities. On-the-job training and practice is what it takes. Remember, the fate of a business is in your hands.

(c) 1995 by Gail Peura. All rights reserved. This article may be redistributed electronically provided that the article, this notice and the bio at the end remain intact. This article may not be sold or distributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from Gail Peura Enterprises, nor reprinted in any manner or publication without payment to Gail Peura.

For over 12 years, I’ve specialized in writing as an editor, freelance writer, copy writer and ghost writer; done proofreading, editing and rewrites for non-business and business people alike to whom good writing matters – but who can’t do it themselves. If this describes you, write or e-mail for information. As the author of a wide variety of articles spanning such diverse subjects as advertising, marketing, psychology, women in the army, rural life, crafts, cooking and more, I can help you with whatever writing task is plaguing you. Contact me today.

Gail Peura
Expressive Writing Engineer
327 Bell Avenue
Marine City, MI 48039-1715
E-mail: 102347.654@compuserve.com