Monday, March 2, 2009

A simple approach to a sales letter

Part of the Learn to Write Proposals online proposal guide.

Treat a sales letter just like any other business proposal, a persuasive piece of writing.

Here is my recommended structure for a letter business proposal:

1. Project objectives (Why do they need your services?)
2. Solution and benefits (What benefits can you offer them?)
3. Scope of services (What will you do for them?)
4. Your responsibilities (What will they do for you? e.g give you office space and a computer...)
5. Duration of engagements (How long is the contract for? Hours/week)
6. Fees and charges (What is you hourly/daily/weekly/monthly rate.)
7. Why Us? (this is some your credentials - past projects. Also highlight your knowledge with the company and the way it works)
8. Terms and conditions (What does it include and what doesn't it
include - e.g. expenses, benefits, employer contributions etc.)
9. Next steps (what do you need them to do and when - a call to action).

Feel free to leave any of these bits out if you don't feel they are appropriate, but as in any business development always try and show that you offer value and make it persuasive. Unless you know that the opportunity is a  100% formality always put some work into your proposal, just in case they ask anyone else to tender (some organisations have to legally, so ask them). It's always worth having a good persuasive sales letter either way.

Don't start your letter proposal with a question. Most clients want to know immediately that you understand their business, not be asked about it...starting with a question to grab attention in sales is used when the salesman doesn't know anything about the client, like when you get called with "would you like to reduce your phone bill..." I bet you don't go much further, right?

When writing a business sales letter instead try and start with the clients name - do your research and make sure you get it right. It show's that you are thinking about them, not just what you have to offer. Then move into what their problem or requirement is followed by how you can solve that problem.

Go on further in your letter to expand on the need/solution and back up with evidence that you can do what you say - evidence of past projects or client testimonials is a great way of doing this. Include any unique selling points that you may have.

Then if you can demonstrate the monetary value that you offer.

Finish up with a call to action and as a last tip add a P.S. - there's statistical evidence that shows that sales letters with a P.S. get better responses.

So, an outline of a sales letter (very short version!) may be something along the lines of:

Dear Dr. Taylor,

The rising cost of publishing and printing yearbooks are causing schools and students to reconsider the most cost-effective way of collecting one of the most important memento's of school life. A Yearbooks R Us, we can provide you with the highest-quality yearbooks with a price guarantee for three years.

[some more about the schools need for yearbooks and your service here - not saying these are the appropriate sales buttons to push, but you get the idea]

We can offer a choice of yearbook styles and will include the cost of design work in with the total order. There are no hidden charges, the price we charge is per book with a minimum order of 50. Additionally, we will provide a 10% discount per book on orders over 100 books.

At Obama High you only want the finest for your students and we can provide that, as we have been doing for over 15 other schools in your area. I have inlcuded a letter from the Principal of Liberty High who has been delighted with our yearbook quality and price for the last five years.

The cost of our books is: [give some clear information on prices here - what are your unique selling points - discounts for volume? holding prices if given a multi year contract? including the design work for free?]

We have a variety of styles and design types of yearbook available and I'm sure you would like to see them. I will call your office on Monday next week in order to arrange a meeting where I can leave you some samples.

Kind regards,

Jane Doe
Yearbooks R Us

P.S. If your place an order before 31st January, then we'll give you an additional 5 books free for your school library.