What is Sales Letter? A Sales Letter is the one that is written to sell goods, services or ideas. Every year billions of rupees worth of goods and services are offered for sale by sellers, suppliers, and manufacturers to prospective buyers and consumers. The more persuasive, convincing and effective sales messages are, the better results they give. In view of the importance of sales letters, they are written by specialized and highly skilled professionals. This implies that special care must be taken in writing sales messages. One must remember that a sales message is the paper-representative Bf the organization on whose behalf it is written. A carelessly written sales message not only fails in its impact but also brings a bad name to the organization it represents.
KINDS OF SALES LETTER
There are two kinds of Sales Letter:
l. Solicited Sales Letters
2. Unsolicited Sales Letters
SOLICITED SALES LETTER
Solicited Sales Letters are the ones that are written in response to inquiries related to sales. Prospective buyers, before placing the orders, want to have such information as can help them in finalizing their orders: The information may pertain to questions about catalogues, prices, terms and conditions of trade, etc. Replies to many of these letters are actually sales letters since they are written with the view to attract the inquirers to the products offered by them.
PLAN FOR WRITING SOLICITED SALES LETTER
These letters are important since they initiate sales and lay foundations for future business transactions. The inquirers are usually the old customers or some potential buyers who may very easily be converted into regular customers by adopting a positive attitude towards their queries. Once the business house to whom the inquiry is addressed, has taken its decision to send a favorable reply, the writer should aim at not merely giving the information but also at winning the confidence of the customer. For this purpose, he should choose the Good-News Plan. The Plan has the following three parts:
- Positive Opening
- Helpful Explanation
- Effective Action-Getting Ending
Positive Opening: Opening of the solicited sales message must be positive enough to attract the inquirer’s attention. The writer of the message should begin it preferably by referring to the favorable action taken on the inquirer’s request. For instance, he can tell the reader that he is sending him information or the required material, or, he may begin the message by referring to the main ideas contained in the inquirer’s letter m such a way as can win his approval and sanction.
Helpful Explanation: In the part of the message, the writer should try to give a helpful explanation to the reader by answering all the questions asked by him in his query. He should arrange his answers properly and logically so that the reader takes a favorable view of them. It is like acting as a good sales-person who knows what to say and how to say.
Effective Action-Getting Ending: Ending of the solicited sales messages is important in the sense that it aims at stimulating the reader to the desired action. In order to get the desired action, the writer should make the action clear and easy, and beneficial to the reader when possible. If needed, they should number the steps he wants the reader to take, to make the things easier for him.
UNSOLICITED SALES LETTER
Unsolicited Sales Letters are the real sales messages. These letters are not written in reply to inquiries. They are original messages which are initiated by sellers to make or to promote sales of their goods or services. These letters are also known as ‘Prospecting’ and ‘Cold Turkey Letters.’ These days we notice sales representatives of various companies, visiting door to door, to sell products. Commercial and industrial exhibitions are also held to attract buyers. Yet, the importance of written sales messages remains as ever. It is in our general experience that thousands of goods are sold by mail. There are many firms which sell exclusively by mail. A direct mail successfully urges people to buy products from catalogued items to real estate.
PLANNING SUCCESSFUL SALES LETTER
The success of sales letter depends on certain factors which are taken as the Pre-writing Planning Steps. Most important of them are the following:
- Gathering Facts about the Product
- Considering the Reader and the Mailing List
- Deciding on Purpose Choosing Ideas
- Choosing the Format and Approach
Gathering Facts about the Product: Before undertaking the task of writing a sales message, the writer should analyze thoroughly the product ” tangible or intangible” he wants to sell by mail. He should gather necessary information about the product through reading, observing, testing, using, comparing, questioning and researching. He must know:
What are its physical characteristics, viz. size, colour, shape, etc.?
— What is it made OP
— How does it operate?
What is its performance record?
How is it superior to other similar products? What are its weaknesses and strengths?
— What human purpose does it serve?
Why and how is it useful for the buyer?
Considering the Reader and the Mailing List: No successful sales message can be written without taking into consideration its readers. It is of vital importance that the writer knows who his buyers are going to be. He should have a pre-hand knowledge of the class, status, habits, and needs of his prospective buyers. In addition to, he should also do the sifting work to have a selective, up-to-date, accurate mailing list. This is very important because even the best product in the world will not sell if the message goes to the wrong readers.
Deciding on Purpose: The writer of an unsolicited sales letter must have a clear idea about the purpose of his message. The purpose may be:
- To make direct sales
- To serve as a stimulus for future sales
- To win back lost customers
Deciding on the purpose will determine the approach, tone and the form of sales message, thus, making it easy for the writer to address the reader in an act, appropriate and effective manner.
Choosing Ideas: After determining the purpose, the writer should work on the ideas to be included in the sales message. The ideas must be directly related to the central selling point i.e. the product, its distinguishing features and the user’s benefit. It is always preferable that instead of clustering the letter with unnecessary details, the writer sticks to the main task of making his message to-the-point and effective.
Choosing the Format and Approach: Once the writer knows what he needs to say and whom he wants to say it, he should decide how he is going to say it. This involves the organizational plan and presentation of the message. The writer should consider if he should send a single letter or he should include brochures, response cards, and the like. He should also consider the length, appearance, and timing of the message. Consideration of all these aspects will help him in drafting and dispatch an action-oriented message.
FUNCTIONS / AIDA ORGANIZATIONAL PLAN OF SALES LETTER
After the writer has completed the pre-writing steps, he is ready to develop the letter, Before he gives it a final shape, he may think and rethink to make it attractive and convincing for the reader. He may even discuss all its relevant aspects with other executives or a consultant.
The best guide for the writer of an unsolicited sales letter is the AIDA Organizational Plan. The AIDA Plan Attention, Interest, Desire, Action — takes into account the following four functions of a sales letter:
1. Attracting the Reader’s Attention
2. Arousing the Reader’s Interest
3. Creating Desire and Convincing the Reader
4. Stimulating Action
Attracting the Reader’s Attention: The first objective of a sales letter is to attract its reader’s attention. Readers usually develop some sort of resistance against routine sales messages. It is, therefore, very vital for the writer that he begins the message choosing a suitable attention-getter that encourages the reader to read more.
The best way to catch the attention of a reader is to mention, before naming the product, what benefit the reader will gain from it. Similarly, the writer may begin the message by asking a surprising question or by making a challenging statement. The important thing is, the opening should be appropriate, fresh, honest, interesting, specific and relevant to the central selling point. Tricky, exaggerated and long openings should be avoided. Instead, the writer should keep the first paragraph short, preferably two to five lines, sometimes even one.
Arousing the Reader’s Interest; The second function of an effective sales message is to arouse the render’s interest, Unless the writer succeeds in doing this, the reader may not feel encouraged to proceed further. To achieve this end of a sales letter, the writer should try to evoke a picture of the product that he wants to sell, in the mind of the reader. he may do by describing the product in a pictorial manner, The other thing which the writer should do to around the reader’s interest is to tell him what benefit he will get if he buys the product.
Creating Desire and Convincing the Reader: After getting his reader interested in the product, the writer needs to create in him a desire to own the product and to convince him to buy it. Depending upon the nature of products, the writer may use either or both of the following appeals:
Appeal to Emotions e Appeal to Reason
Appeal to emotions is particularly very effective in selling products that are meant for personal use. The writer may tell the reader what joy, comfort or satisfaction he will get by using the product. Similarly, he may refer to the compatible qualities of the product to create in the reader, a desire for it. To cover up the convincing aspect of the message, the may make desirable statements about the price of the product, or he may adopt a rational and logical way to convince the reader of the benefits of having the product. If desired, the writer may refer to the opinion and judgment of the persons who have already used the product, to convince the reader.
Stimulating Action: Main objective of the sales letter is not achieved unless the reader buys the product. All things are done, it is now needed to stimulate the reader to place a high order for the product. For this purpose, the writer should try to persuade him to take action right away. To get the action performed, the writer may:
- Offer a special discount for orders placed by a certain date
- Offer a gift or prize scheme for the first buyers
- Offer a free trial or an unconditional guarantee to the first buyers
- Offer facility of credit
- Devise special order-coupons to be filled in readily Ask the buyer to place his order just by making a telephone call, etc.