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Use the "12-Step Foolproof Sales Letter Template" For Effective Sales Copy

Todd Huotari - Sunday, July 27, 2014

Would you agree that selling is important? Of course you would. Sales is arguably the most important part of your business. That said, how much time do you spend actually working on your sales? Not enough, if you're like me. For any number of reasons, it is something that can be hard to focus on. 

One of the reasons, I think, is that some of us feel like we are not "good at sales," or we have some negative connotations towards it. Slick, used car salesman, etc. A perspective that has helped me is to think about sales not as selling but as communicating. You have a solution to a problem, and you need to clearly communicate your solution to those who have the problem.

Where do you begin? Try writing a sales letter. The process of writing the letter forces you to think about your business from the customer's perspective. The beautiful thing is, once you have done the work, the messaging behind the letter -- such as understanding the problem and your unique solution -- can be the foundation for all your marketing. In addition to direct mail letters, you can use variations of it in your brochures, business cards, emails, and pages on your website.


The Value of Crafting a Sales Letter

Sales letters, or sales copy, can be immensely valuable to your business. Take, for example, The Wall Street Journal's famous sales letter (see images at the top of this post and full text at the bottom). According to Ken McCarthy, this one direct mail sales letter "ran continuously with minor changes for thirty-one years from 1975 to 2003. Just two pages long, it was the workhorse circulation builder for the Wall Street Journal." How much was it worth? $2 billion, says Brian Clark of Copyblogger (see comments in the linked article). Yes, two BILLION. One letter. 31 years. $2,000,000,000.

This letter was so valuable because it was spot-on with its audience. They nailed "the #1 secret to writing great copy," which is,  per Brian Clark, "using words that work with the people you’re trying to persuade." 

Figuring out what those words are takes some work. However, since you are the expert on your business, all we need to do is pull it out of you (with some input from others, such as your prospects and customers). And since people have been selling since the first exchange of goods took place, you can take advantage of time-tested processes to simplify the development of your message. Simply adopt and adapt one of these frameworks for your business.


Resources for Developing Your Sales Message

Dan Kennedy's book called The Ultimate Sales Letter provides a step-by-step process for developing a sales letter (or sales copy). Copyblogger, ConversionXL, and KISSmetrics are just a few sites that have excellent articles targeted at online copy. Of course, you can also hire an outside professional to develop or review your letter. 

There are common themes among all of them. For instance, you need to:

  • understand your customer,
  • identify the problem, 
  • present a solution and the benefits of your offer, 
  • provide some credibility and proof, and 
  • give a call-to-action. 

The 12-Step Foolproof Sales Letter Template by David Frey is another excellent resource that clearly spells out a process. As you are reading through it, you might even think, "This feels familiar. I think I have been sold through this before." Let's take a brief look at the twelve steps.

The "12-Step Foolproof Sales Letter Template"

David Frey says, "You don't have to be an award-winning copywriter to create effective sales letters." The key word is effective. You don't have to be the world's best to be effective. Using a guide such as 12-Step Foolproof Sales Letter Template allows you to cover some or all of the typical psychological hurdles your prospects might have -- such as "I don't need it right now" or "What happens if I don't like it?" -- that slow down their purchasing decision. It also helps you structure your message around the concept (fact?) that people purchase on emotion, motivated by "the promise of gain or the fear of loss," and justify it with logic.

1. Get attention
Assuming the reader has opened your envelope, the next step is to get their attention. The opening headline is the first thing that your reader will look at. If it doesn't catch their attention you can kiss your letter goodbye. People have a very short attention span and usually sort their mail over the wastebasket. If the headline doesn't call out to them and pique their interest, they will just stop and throw your letter away.
2. Identify the problem
Now that you have your reader's attention you need to gain their interest by spelling out their problem and how it feels to have that problem. The reader should say to himself, "Yeah, that's exactly how I feel" when they read your copy. In fact, you shouldn't stop there. Pretend that it's an open wound that you're rubbing salt into.
3. Provide the solution
Now that you've built your readers interest by making them feel the pain it's time to provide the solution. This is the part of the sales letter where you boldly stake your claim that you can solve the reader's problem.
4. Present your credentials
In most cases, after you have introduced yourself and your product or service your reader is thinking, "Yeah, sure he can fix my problem. That's what they all say." So now it's important to hit them right away with the reason why you can be trusted.
5. Show the benefits
Now it's time to tell the reader how they will personally benefit from your product or service. Don't make the common mistake of telling all about the features of your product without talking about the benefits. As I already stated, people are interested, not so much in you, or even your product or service, but what it will do for them.
6. Give social proof
After you've presented all your benefits the reader will again begin to doubt you, even though they secretly want all your claimed benefits to be true. To build your credibility and believability present your reader with testimonials from satisfied customers.
7. Make your offer
Your offer is the most important part of your sales letter. A great offer can overcome mediocre copy but great copy cannot overcome a mediocre offer. Your offer should be irresistible. You want your reader to say to themselves, "I'd be stupid not to take advantage of this deal."
8. Give a guarantee
To make your offer even more irresistible you need to take all the risk out of the purchase. Remember, that people have a built-in fear that they are going to get ripped off. How many times have you purchased a product and got stuck with it because the merchant wouldn't give your money back?
9. Inject scarcity
Most people take their time responding to offers, even when they are irresistible. There are many reasons why people procrastinate on investing in a solution. To motivate people to take action they usually need an extra incentive. Remember when I said that people are more motivated to act by the fear of loss rather than gain? That's exactly what you are doing when you inject scarcity into your letter.
10. Call to action
Do not assume that your reader knows what to do to receive the benefits from your offer. You must spell out how to make the order in a very clear and concise language. Whether it's picking up the phone and making the call, filling out an order form, faxing the order form to your office etc…. you must tell them exactly how to order from you.
11. Give a warning
A good sales letter will continue to build emotion, right up to the very end. In fact, your letter should continue to build emotion even after your call to action. Using the "risk of loss" strategy, tell the reader what would happen if they didn't take advantage of your offer. 
12. Close with a reminder
Always include a postscript (P.S.). Believe it or not, your P.S. is the third most read element of your sales letter. I've seen good copywriters use not just one postscript, but many (P.P.S). In your postscript you want to remind them of your irresistible offer. If you've used scarcity in your sales letter, include your call to action, then remind them of the limited time (or quantity) offer. It sounds like a simple step, but postscripts get noticed.

That's it. 12 steps to a new you. 

Here is the full text of the Wall Street Journal sales letter referenced above. Can you identify elements of the 12-Step process?

The Wall Street Journal
The Daily Diary of the American Dream
22 Cortlandt Street/New York, New York 10007

Dear Reader:

On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men.

Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both -– as young college graduates are -- were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.

Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion.

They were still very much alike.

Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company after graduation, and were still there.

But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.

What Made The Difference

Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference in people’s lives? It isn’t always a native intelligence or talent or dedication. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.

The difference lies in what each person knows and how he or she makes use of that knowledge.

And that is why I am writing to you and to people like you about The Wall Street Journal. For that is the whole purpose of The Journal: To give its readers knowledge – knowledge that they can use in business.

A Publication Unlike Any Other

You see, The Wall Street Journal is a unique publication. It’s the country’s only national business daily. Each business day, it is put together by the world’s largest staff for business-news experts.

Each business day, The Journal’s pages include a broad range of information of interest and significance to business-minded people, no matter where it comes from. Not just stocks and finance, but anything and everything in the whole, fast-moving world of business ... The Wall Street Journal gives you all the business news you need — when you need it.

Knowledge Is Power

Right now, I am reading page one of The Journal. It combines all the important news of the day with in-depth feature reporting. Every phase of business news is covered, from articles on inflation, wholesale prices, car prices, tax incentives for industries to major developments in Washington, and elsewhere.

And there is page after page inside The Journal filled with fascinating and significant information that’s useful to you. A daily column on personal money management helps you become a smarter saver, better investor, wiser spender. There are weekly columns on small business, marketing, real estate, technology, regional developments. If you have never read The Wall Street Journal, you cannot imagine how useful it can be to you.

Much of the information that appears in The Journal appears nowhere else. The Journal is printed in numerous plants across the United States, so that you get it early each business day.

A $28 Subscription

Put our statements to the proof by subscribing for the next 13 weeks for just $28. This is the shortest subscription term we offer – and a perfect way to get acquainted with The Journal.

Or you may prefer to take advantage of a longer-term subscription for greater savings: an annual subscription at $107 saves you $20 off The Journal’s cover price. Our best buy -— two years for $185 - saves you a full $69!

Simply fill out the endorsed order card and mail it in the postage-paid envelope provided. And here’s The Journal guarantee: Should The Journal not measure up to your expectations, you may cancel this trial arrangement at any point and receive a refund for the undelivered portion of your subscription.

If you feel as we do that this is a fair and reasonable proposition, then you will want to find out without delay if The Wall Street Journal can do for you what it is doing for millions of readers. So please mail the enclosed order card now, and we will start serving you immediately.

About those two college classmates, I mention at the beginning of this letter. They graduated from college together and together got started in the business world. So what made their lives in business different?

Knowledge. Useful knowledge. And its application.

An Investment In Success

I cannot promise you that success will be instantly yours if you start reading The Wall Street Journal. But I can guarantee that you will find The Journal always interesting, always reliable, and always useful.

Sincerely Yours,

Peter R. Kann
Executive Vice President/
Associate Publisher


P.S. It’s important to note that The Journal’s subscription price may be tax-deductible.

- Courtesy
What do you do with your sales message once you have it? Promote it. Check out the Internet Marketing Diagram to learn how.

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