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How to Write Sales Letters

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Direct mail isn't dead as a sales technique, although some experts think it's headed that way. For the time being, a sales letter can be an excellent way to make prospects aware of and interested in your product.

Let's start with the headline. This is the MOST critical part of your letter. Why? Because it's the first thing most prospects will read. If the headline doesn't grab them, your letter will go directly into the circular file... unread.

Put your strongest idea or product benefit in the headline. Don't try to cram every possible benefit in, just pick the best one and craft a headline around it. Short headlines are best because they're easier to read. If you're not sure where to start, take a trip to your local grocery store and scan the magazine covers in the check-out aisles. The cover "callouts" are designed to grab your attention - because they are often the only means magazine editors have to sell to you.

Once your headline is done, you can move on to the body. Storytelling is an effective strategy – people tend to be interested in stories about people just like them. We think of stories as entertainment, so we're more likely to read them than straight sales copy. Storytelling is also a great way to involve the prospect's emotions. And if you don't do that, you're not likely to have a good response rate.

There are two basic emotional selling strategies: playing on hopes and playing on fears. If you choose to play on your prospect's hopes, you'll paint a picture of how great the person's life will be when they buy your product. The more clear and detailed the image, the better. If you play on their fears, describe a few of the hideous things that can happen to the prospect... and then explain how your product can prevent them.

Keep the paragraphs short so they're easier to read, don't neglect your benefit words - convenient, saves money, secure, etc. - and always include a call to action. If you don't tell your prospects what they should do next, even the most exquisitely written sales letter will fail to deliver.

Give your prospect several different response options (phone, email, website, fax, postcard, etc.). You don't have to include every single response option but try to have at least three. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for your prospects to get in touch with you.

Finished? Try reading the letter out loud. It's a great way to spot places where your copy falters. The goal is a letter that flows smoothly, is clearly written and interesting throughout.

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