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Common mistakes in sales letters

An effective sales letter must first be read, then be found credible and finally cause the reader to take action.  For these things to happen, your sales letter must attract your reader’s interest, demonstrate knowledge of their specific needs, illustrate how your product or service is best at meeting those needs and then encourage them to respond to your call to action.

There are several common mistakes to be aware of when writing sales letters, and by avoiding these mistakes you can expect to increase your chances of success significantly.  Below we have explained five mistakes which can diminish the effectiveness of your sales letters.

  1. Writing your letter for too general an audience

Your sales letter needs to make a genuine connection with your reader.  Failing to address your letter to a specific contact or someone for whom your offer is relevant will also reduce your chances of them taking ownership of the letter.  If you fail to demonstrate a reasonable investment of effort by not researching your prospect or their specific needs, they are less likely to invest their time and effort to read your letter.

The sales letter is one of the most direct and personal forms of sales correspondence and it should be written to demonstrate your familiarity with your reader and their specific interests and needs.

  1. Thinking that a prospect won’t read a long letter

What exactly makes a letter long?  Any letter which fails to be relevant or interesting to the reader is too long a letter.  Even a single page sales letter can be too long if it is poorly written, is of no interest to the reader and fails to suggest any credible benefits from using the service or product.  Prospects are also more unlikely to read uninspiring and self-serving sales letters.

A sales letter which communicates an intimate knowledge of the reader’s needs and illustrates the measurable benefits to be had by responding to its offer will often produce a better result, regardless of its length.  However, a letter which fails to be concise and takes too long to present its case can be disregarded by those with no time or patience - you must strike a reasonable balance.

  1. Adopting too formal an approach

Ideally, your sales letter should have an easily-read conversational tone, with a good balance between professional and casual language.  You might bend or break some formal grammatical rules to accomplish an easy style, but you should be conscious of not wanting your letter to appear as though you have been careless or lack attention to detail.  Spelling and punctuation mistakes are unacceptable in any case.

Your objective is to improve your ability to communicate effectively and easily, making every attempt to make your letter more reader friendly.  If your style can adopt a tone that is more conversational or casual it may help you to develop a more genuine and sincere voice for your offer.

  1. Creating the ‘so what?’ response

The most likely response of a prospect to any sales letter is often indifference, if not outright scepticism or disbelief.  Be mindful of this ‘so what?’ reaction from most prospects to generic sales letters and take steps to make sure your sales letters are relevant and convincing.

If your letter is not relevant to the reader’s specific needs, if it fails to develop a credible case for your service or product or is unable to differentiate itself from your competition, you will most likely be met with the ‘so what?’ response.

  1. Not offering enough supporting evidence

To overcome the scepticism of most prospects it is necessary to offer credible and genuine supporting evidence for your sales offer.  Rather than expecting your prospects will rely on your own biased assessment to invest in your service or product, you will likely be more successful converting sales with credible evidence of the benefits they can expect to receive in return.

Supporting evidence serves to validate your claims and minimize the effects of your prospect’s scepticism or hesitance.  More importantly, it will help to establish your sales letter as a more credible and believable source of information about your services and products.

  • Testimonials

A testimonial offers an independent and genuine account of other people’s experiences of using your services and products.  The more specific the testimonial and the more closely it relates to your prospect’s business needs, the more influential that testimonial will likely prove to be.  Also, make sure you include the details of the individual or company which has submitted the testimonial - it will appear far more trustworthy than an anonymous testimonial.

  • Case Studies

Case studies provide details of how the service or product was used and often show measurable results achieved through its use.  A case study is less likely to be fabricated and the qualitative and measurable evidence provided will be more reassuring than your own unsubstantiated claims.  Case studies are far more ‘results’ oriented and this will likely be very effective when trying to influence a sales prospect. 

By addressing these more common mistakes and remembering how your prospects will likely view your sales letter, you can anticipate their need for credible evidence and effectively influence them to overcome their scepticism or reluctance to buy.