Top 5 tips for a great sales letter Print

A couple of years ago, I wrote a B2B sales letter for a 'Big 6' energy company. It wasn't a big or clever proposition, just a simple letter selling their basic business energy package. According to the agency I was working with, the client at the energy company said it was 'the best B2B sales letter they'd ever seen'.

Not surprisingly, I was dead chuffed :) Especially as the letter brought in lots of new business for the client and I got more work from the agency.

And guess what? It's not really all that hard to write a cracking sales letter that gets results. Here are a few of my top tips to get you started.

1. Know your audience

A successful sales letter is all in the planning. Don't even think about writing the letter until you have a firm grip on who you're talking to, how you can help them and what's in it for them. Put yourself in their shoes. Coming back to the energy letter, the target audience here was SME businesses. Imagine you're a small business owner, snowed under with all kinds of different tasks. You don't have much time to think about energy costs, but you'd like to save money if you can. The sales letter needs to address these needs by showing the business owner how the energy company can save them time and hassle as well as money. You should consider your tone of voice at this stage, too. Should be it chatty and friendly or a little more corporate? You need to strike the right tone to successfully engage your reader.

2. Plan and prioritise your content

Make a list of all the points you need to cover in the letter - product features, special offers, legal information and so on. Then put your points in priority order by asking yourself: 'What does my customer really want to know?' Your most important point should appear in the letter's main headline, then in more detail in the first paragraph. Less important points should follow in subsequent paragraphs, giving your letter its structrure. Try to group related points together and signpost them with relevant sub-headings. For example, if you're offering an energy plan that saves customers money in five different ways, list all five ways in a single paragraph (perhaps using bullet points). The paragraph's sub-heading could read: 'Here's how we could cut your energy costs'.

3. Think benefits, not features

Now you have your list of points, it's time to fine-tune your content. Look at the points you're making in the letter. Do some of them simply describe product features without conveying a benefit? For example, 'Our energy plan includes free energy efficiency tips' or 'We'll send you a free energy monitor.' If so, they need re-wording or expanding so each point answers this question from the reader's viewpoint: 'What's in it for me?' So the above examples might read: 'Our energy plan includes free energy efficiency tips  - lots of easy ways to help you use less energy and control your costs'. And 'We'll send you a free energy monitor so you can clearly see how much you're spending on energy, helping you budget for your bills and manage cash flow more effectively.' Tangible benefits like these - easy ways to save money and predict future spending - are music to the ears of most SME business owners.

4. Use your heading and sub-headings to tell a story

I use this device in several different types of writing, but it works especially well with sales letters (particularly when the audience is pushed for time - like most SME business owners!) When you've decided on a structure for your letter, look at how you've grouped the information. Can you create headings that tell the reader what the letter's about at a glance, without them having to delve into the body copy? This example shows how it's done:

  • Main heading - Our new energy plan makes life easier for your business
  • Sub-heading 1 - We could cut your energy costs...
  • Sub-heading 2 - ...And save you time and hassle, too
  • Sub-heading 3 - It's simple to switch, so sign up today

5. Always include a call to action

It sounds obvious, but don't forget to tell the reader how to contact you if they're interested. Give an email address as well as a phone number if possible, and/or a website where they can find more information or apply online. Unless your product or service is genuinely time-limited, beware of using cliches in your call to action, such as 'Don't miss out - call today!' or 'Sign up now to avoid disappointment'. If your letter's strong enough, you won't need them. Just a simple request to contact you is enough. However, it's OK to give reassurance that you'll make the sales/ordering process easy for them - as in the 'It's simple to switch...' sub-heading above.

Not sure about writing your own sales letters?

No worries - that's why I'm here :) And there's good news as my sales letters are currently on Special Offer at just £72 per side of A4 - that's 20% off my standard rate. Contact me today to discuss your project.

Added: September 2012 by Faye Stenson