My Marketing Thing

The new rule to writing sales letters

Sales letter catoon

The reality is this: no one likes receiving sales letters.

The sales hustle ‘out there’ is now bigger than Ben-Hur and everyone smells a snake oil salesman…or snake oil saleswoman (or snake oil sales-teenager who knows a lot about technology and has a holiday house in Barbados and a bank account in Switzerland).

So you have to be genuine

Even though sales letters sent in the post aren’t spam, they can sure feel like it. Our challenge is to by-pass this assumption and make the reader feel like this letter is worthwhile – that it’s enjoyable to read while also solving their problems.

Note: Sending your sales letter to existing clients/subscribers by snail mail, rather than email, is worth considering – purely for the element of surprise. Environmentally conscious? Consider using recycled paper and plant some extra trees.

To come across as genuine your words need to sound human.This means embracing, to a point, a conversational tone and talking from their perspective. But what should you say?

The two big questions:

Like with any promotional material, your sales letter will need to answer these two pivotal questions (asked from the reader’s point of view):

1.    How can you solve my problem?
2.    Why should I choose you? 
(i.e. what makes you different to the next guy?)


Your letter needs to do answer the questions above quickly – people are busy, so get to the point (without losing that human touch). The letter should be limited to one page. Which is fine. Don’t give everything away here. There just needs to be enough information to inspire the reader to call you – or at least visit your website (if you have one) for more information.
Make it personal

Consider personalising the mail-out – i.e Dear (insert first name)’, so the letter appears less ‘unsolicited’.  ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ can immediately turn the reader off. They feel anonymous. Professional printers are increasingly set up for the personalisation process if you are considering a bulk mail-out.

Time-limited special offers & competitions

Sounds tacky, but – my oh my – they sure work. Consider a discount on services or a free product. These are preferable to free movie tickets or a discount on weekend accommodation somewhere. Why? Because a discount on services or a free product involves the client more actively in what YOU offer. Not what someone else offers.

The great alternative is launching a competition. The prize? Something big and fabulous. If your competition has a question where the answer is hidden in the sales letter, then you are more likely to inspire your client/potential client to actually read the letter and absorb its message.


What do they see first?

This is something that many forget to tend to. The envelope the sales letter is sent in. it’s your red carpet to the letter itself. Is the envelope interesting enough for me to want to open it? What colour is the envelope? Is there a message on the envelope that would make me want to open it?

Three examples:


1. The ‘We’re moving, come with us’ letter

Scenario: You are moving premises. A letter is needed to persuade current clients to move over from one location to another in order to continue doing business with you.

Think about who is reading this letter. Yes, it is an existing client, but who is the decision-maker? What are they like? Key questions to consider from the reader’s perspective:

  • What’s important to me? What problem of mine do you solve?
  • How far are you now from the previous location?
  • Is the new location offering more products/services?
  • Are you giving me a special offer to lure me over there to try it out?
  • How do your competitors irritate/disappoint me?
  • Why shouldn’t I shift my patronage to others that are closer to your old location?
  • Any recent testimonials from clients who have made the shift and appreciate it?
  • Do you have a map to show exactly where you were and where you are now?
  • Who’s signing the letter? Will I see them when I come to visit?


2. The ‘Please keep using us’ letter

This letter to written to re-connect with existing clients.

Again, think about who is reading this letter. What words will resonate with the decision-maker? Key questions to consider from the reader’s perspective:

  • What’s important to me? What problem of mine do you solve?
  • Is this letter included with an invoice/statement, or on it’s own?
  • What’s new with you that will affect/interest me? (in my busy life)
  • How do your competitors irritate/disappoint me?
  • What deal are you offering for me to spend more money with you? 
(or at least to stay with you)
  • Are you offering me a loyalty reward?
  • Any recent testimonials from other clients to boost my enthusiasm about you?
  • Who’s signing the letter? Will I see them when I come to visit?


3.    The ‘Please let us help you’ letter

Scenario: This letter is written to prospective clients introducing your products/services. It’s the cold call letter…brrrr….

The reader may never have heard of you. They certainly haven’t used your services. And chances are, the reader is busy so, basically, you have to be like their fairy godmother – appearing out of nowhere to make life a whole lot easier. Here are some key questions to consider:

  • What’s important to me? What problem of mine do you solve?
  • Is this letter included with a brochure or on it’s own?
  • What’s new with what you offer that will affect/interest me (in my busy life)
  • What are your competitors failing dismally at that you don’t?
  • What special deal are you offering to get me on board?
  • Any recent testimonials from big gun clients to boost trust in you?
  • What if I want to take advantage of your products/services? What’s the process?
  • Who’s signing the letter? Will I see them when I come to visit?

Last thoughts…

If you have visuals (e.g. map,  photo of the sender) and incentives (e.g. special offer, competition) consider placing them on the right hand side of the page. Like on websites, the right hand side is the ‘power area’ for interaction.

End your letter with a call to action – e.g. ‘Call us for a free, no obligation quote’ followed by the phone number in bold or red or something obvious.


This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer, cartoonist and marketing consultant who would rather call sales letters ‘letters of affection’. Find out more about Megan.

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One Comment

  1. Patricia

    The '2 Big Questions' to ask oneself, apply to so much – they have just helped me to write a cover letter for both a project proposal and a job application.

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