Writing Sales Letters Customers Want to Read
By Cynthia Perun
The telephone is a great tool for communicating. Since it's
used so often, it's easy to be more comfortable speaking on the
phone than writing a letter. On the other hand, the written word
can be a very powerful medium if used correctly. More
specifically, self-storage operators should consider the merits
of sales letters, which, if written with flair, are a wonderful
way to follow up on sales leads, generate new leads, and keep in
touch with current customers.
Following are seven tips to write sales letters more
effectively for better results.
- Be the customer as you write.
This is the most important aspect of a good sales letter,
but it is often overlooked. It's not hard to accomplish.
Simply imagine yourself as the reader of your letter.
Write what the customer wants to read--not what you want
Keep in mind that you have a page to attract a customer.
The opportunity will be lost if the only emphasis is on
the greatness of your storage facility. Telling a
customer that your service is wonderful and you've been
in business for 20 years will not get them rushing to
your door. A customer's main concern is with their
belongings and how safe they will be at your storage
In your letter, don't just state, "We've been in
business for 20 years." Tell readers that you've
gone the extra mile in securing your site. For example,
if you've just installed a new gate-access system or
closed-circuit TV to help protect their valuables, say it
point blank. That way, although you're not promising that
they'll never have a problem (which could lead to
liability entanglements), you are addressing their need
for extra security.
Remember when you were in high-school English class and
your teacher explained that term papers needed a
beginning, a body and then an ending? The same holds true
for a sales letter.
The beginning is the introduction. This tells the reader
why you're sending the letter. The body is your
"sales pitch." This gives the reader the
reasons why your offer is irresistible. The ending is a
wrap-up stage, where you briefly bring your points
together and ask them to take advantage of the offer.
- Write so it is easily read.
Sales letters are thrown away without one word being read
simply because they looked too wordy. Today, more than
ever, people are very busy. If a letter looks like it
will take too long to read, it will be disregarded or set
aside, which only means it will be thrown away later.
The first way to make it easy to read is to write in
simple language or in a conversational tone. It's not
necessary to write in formal language. Don't write,
"We will proceed with the contract as previously
specified in our meeting last week." Simply say,
"We'll go ahead with the contract we talked
about." This is much easier and quicker to read.
Second, use short sentences. Once you start writing less
formally, you'll also notice your sentences becoming
shorter. Continue to shorten sentences by deleting
unnecessary words. Try to get your point across with the
least amount of words as possible.
Third, write short paragraphs. Long paragraphs are
boring. People like to have breaks in their reading. If
someone picks up a letter and it has one long paragraph,
they probably will not read it. Also, some people only
read the beginning of paragraphs. If it's not
interesting, they go to the next. Your whole sales pitch
could be skipped over because of this.
Fourth, read the letter aloud. If it doesn't flow
smoothly and sound natural, rewrite it. Follow your
instincts; they're usually correct.
- Capture the reader's attention.
You only have a few seconds to catch the attention of the
reader. If you don't succeed, your letter will be
"carefully" placed in the circular file.
Telling the reader something he wants to know usually
For example, you are going to offer a promotion for a
free-month rental with a year agreement. You could start
your letter by stating, "We value you as a customer,
and that's why we would like to offer you a special
promotion. All you need to do is to rent a storage unit
for 11 months and we'll give you the 12th month
free!" That doesn't capture my attention and make me
want to read further.
People want immediate gratification and do not want to
wait 11 months for something. A better way to begin your
letter might be: "Would you like an additional $100?
Of course you would. That's why we're offering this
special promotion!" This second example definitely
gets the readers' attention. They'll want to read the
rest of the letter to find out how to receive the $100.
- Get the reader interested.
This often begins with the opening sentences. We did it
with the previous example of offering $100. This
statement got the attention of the reader, and it also
made the reader interested in how he could receive $100
from a self-storage facility.
Think about the last book you read or movie you saw that
you really enjoyed. Chances are you thought it was good
because it caught your attention in the beginning and
held your interest until the end. This is the same for
your sales letter. Build on your sentences and paragraphs
so it urges the reader to continue with the letter.
- Have the reader desire your
This is best done when you tell the reader what he wants
to hear. And that is, "What's in it for me?"
People are bombarded daily with ads, billboards,
commercials, direct mail and telemarketers all trying to
sell them something. Your sales letter can stand out by
not trying to sell them something, but by offering a
benefit to them. People do not buy products or services;
they buy the benefits they derive from them.
You are not selling a 10-by-10 storage unit. You are
selling a safe haven for valuables. Express that in your
letter by saying something such as, "Basements can
be flooded, garages can receive unexpected visitors, and
items can be misplaced at friends' homes. Why trust your
precious belongings to any place other than ABC
Self-Storage? We can offer you a dry, pest-free, secure
location to store even your most prized
Follow this statement by listing your selling points,
such as cost and location. List them in order of
importance and then briefly describe the benefits that
the reader will receive. This will tell the reader what
you will do for him and how accommodating your service
will be to his needs.
- Ask your readers to take action.
When you write a sales letter, you're not expecting
someone to send a check with a note saying, "Sign me
up!" Your sales letter is designed for a specific
purpose--to get solid leads.
These leads will not know what you want unless you tell
them. If you want them to call you, say that in your
letter. Be sure to put your telephone number in large,
bold print. If you want them to visit your facility,
invite them to stop by. Don't forget to give directions
and office hours.
It's also important to prompt your readers to take action
right away. The longer it takes them to respond, the less
likely they will respond at all. If you're running a
promotion, offer the special for a limited time. If you
only have five units available, state quantities are
limited. This will generate an urgency to follow up on
Cynthia Perun is president of Creative Communications, a
copywriting and marketing firm specializing in
business-to-consumer and direct-response advertising. She writes
letters, ads, brochures, direct-mail packages and other
promotional material for clients nationwide.
Ms Perun may be reached at P.O. Box 32, Algonac, MI 48001;