Producing Excellent Sales Letters
Lately,I have receivedseveral e-mailsthat roughly said, "Troy, please, could you give us more information on sales letters and written communications?" Because I'm happy to take requests, thisarticle will go into greater detail on good written sales communications. First, however, I want to make one very important point: The very best sales letter, brochure, or marketing piece is no substitute for even an adequate face to face sales call. Written sales communications should be designed to facilitate the sales process, not replace it.
With that in mind, let's think about our objective for a sales letter (for brevity's sake, I'll refer to all written sales communications as letters). The purpose of a sales letter (or for that matter, any form of sales communication) is to advance the relationship between seller and customer. Period. The litmus test for anything you're about to send out, therefore, should be: Does this advance the relationship in any way? If it does, you've got a good start. (This is true for letters to prospects, as well - if the letter makes it more likely that a prospect will see you, it has advance the relationship.) Following are some ways a good sales letter can advance customer relationships:
Educate the customer. This is perhaps the all-time best way of advancing a customer relationship. If you can impart some piece of knowledge that helps your customer do a better job of running their own business, you win. If you're selling to end users, think about ways to teach your customers how to better use your products and services; more successful implementations reflect on your knowledge and expertise. If you're selling wholesale, consider teaching your customers better ways to sell, market, and price your products. If you sell to a vertical market, consider regular communications that help your customers identify industry trends quickly. You get the idea. If you hadn't already figured it out, "Educating the Customer" is the primary purpose of the HotSheet.
Tell them about new stuff. Most companies add products and services from time to time, yet many of those same companies forget to tell their customer base about the new products and services. If you've ever had a customer say, "Hey, I didn't know you did that, too," you're probably one of those companies. Remember - our objective with each customer is to sell them as much of our stuff as possible. A letter announcing new products helps advance the relationship by letting them know everything you could be doing for them. Make sure you remember to talk about the BENEFITS of the new products, as well.
"By the way, we also sell:" This is a close relative of the "new stuff" letter. If you sell multiple product categories or lines, your first sale usually will not cover the entire length and breadth of your product line. You still want your customer to know what you do, so after thanking them for their first purchase, send out a letter saying, "You might not be aware, but we can also serve your needs in these ways," etc.
Personnel change notifications. Although it's not pleasant, turnover in sales and service can't be helped. If your outgoing salesperson has a large customer base, it's probably going to be difficult to call them all (either by phone or face to face) before one calls in asking for Joe, who no longer works for you. Be proactive and let your customers know who will be taking care of them after the current person's departure. Personnel changes tend to induce fear in customers (that their needs won't be taken care of), so the more proactive and reassuring you can be, the better the relationship.
Of course, the types of written communications you might want to do encompasses much more than I have space for here, but if you give each letter the litmus test discussed above (does it advance the relationship?), you will be far ahead of those companies that send out communications that do nothing for either the sender or receiver.