Hardly a week goes by without someone asking me to help them compose a winning sales letter to market their professional services. “What is the magic formula,” they ask, “for writing a letter that results in clients?” Unfortunately, there isn’t one. And a whole lot of folks are wasting precious marketing time trying to create the perfect letter to jumpstart their marketing.
Now, an effective sales letter has its uses for a professional. Writing compelling copy about your services and sending it to prospects in the form of a letter or email can open the door to sales conversations, and start the process of making a prospect’s acquaintance.
But… you can accomplish the same goal through networking, building referrals, becoming known as an expert through writing and speaking, and many other avenues. Activities like these build your credibility at the same time as making you more visible and establishing connections. Sales letters don’t do this.
Sure, you can include client success stories and testimonial quotes in your letter. Evidence like this will increase your letter’s effectiveness. But your letter is still just a note from a stranger who is singing his or her own praises. No matter how good it is, it’s not going to bridge the gap from contact to prospect to client all on its own.
So, what does bridge this gap? What can convert a prospect from someone who might need your services to someone who is ready and willing to buy them? Here are the four contributing factors most likely to make this happen:
1. Your relationship with the prospect. When prospects know, like, and trust you, they are more likely to buy from you, even when their need is not as strong or someone else appears more qualified. A relationship can sometimes start with a letter, but what makes it grow is positive, personal, repeated contact over time.
2. A recommendation from someone the prospect trusts. Referrals can short cut the entire sales process, converting a prospect to a client in just one phone call. Cultivating relationships with people who can refer you to your target audience is a much more productive use of your time than approaching prospects cold with letters and phone calls.
3. Your own ability to be credible and convincing. Once you’re in conversation with a prospect, your concern for their needs, confidence in your own abilities, and ability to present compelling evidence of your value can go a long way toward closing the sale. But this can only happen in a live, two-way exchange.
4. Offering the lowest price or best bargain. Yes, it’s true. Sometimes people do buy professional services because they can get a good deal. But are these the clients you really want? Prospects who are choosing you not because they value what you offer, but because they can get it cheaply? Clients who will have no loyalty to you, but will jump ship as soon as a better offer comes along?
If all this is true, and you’ll probably have to admit it is, why do so many professionals persist in searching for the “silver bullet” sales letter? Because it seems like the easy way out. Let’s face it: networking, referral-building, public speaking… these things are challenging. They can take you out of your comfort zone and expose you to rejection.
In comparison, sending out sales letters seems a whole lot easier. Especially since, despite intentions to the contrary, many folks never get around to placing a follow-up phone call after sending a letter.
But here’s the bottom line. If searching for the perfect sales letter — and holding back on marketing until you find it — is preventing you from getting clients, how “easy” is that? If you are putting all your effort into cold approaches that rarely pay off, how does that make marketing easier? Setting yourself up for an endless struggle to land new clients sounds pretty hard to me.
So give up the quest and get off the dime. Pick up the phone, go to a mixer, schedule a lunch, or connect with some colleagues online. If you’d like to have a good sales letter as one item in your marketing toolkit, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just don’t make it the linchpin.