“Any business can be changed by a great sales letter.”
~ Gary Halbert
At the heart of every successful business is the ability to attract new customers and turn them into loyal fans who tell people about what you offer and who come back to you whenever they need what you sell. Even in today’s world of diminishing loyalty, it’s more economical to keep existing customers than to have to constantly attract new ones.
Referrals are fantastic ways of attracting new clients, powerful sales letters (in the broadest sense of the word) are even better because they explain everything in the most powerful possible way and can reach a very broad audience.
In this article, I want to look at some of the psychology that operates behind the scenes of writing the most powerful and profitable sales letters so that you can apply it to your business. These principles apply equally to written sales letters, video sales letters, sales meetings (face-to-face or via video conferencing) and any other form of pitch. For the purposes of easy reading, I’ve simply used ‘sales letter’ as a shorthand for all forms of sales communication.
#1 Dig Deeper than Accepted Opinion
The words that you finally put on the page are important, but not nearly as important as the foundational work that precedes your writing. I don’t know who said it first, but the following is an accurate reflection of the situation in most markets: “There are two reasons a person buys anything: the real reason and the reason he tells his wife.” You can switch the personas around to fit your situation, but there is always a deeper emotional reason than the logical factual basis for the decision.
As a copywriter, it’s your job to dig below the surface and find (sometimes embarrassing) truth that undergirds the decision and bring that to light. It’s interesting to note that some of the most renown copywriters had/have very few filters and often embarrassed their friends and family by the comments they would make socially. When you look at their most powerful sales letters, I suspect that their lack of filtering enabled them to see and use arguments and elements that other writers politely ignored.
You may choose to remain silent about what you see, but it’s important to dig below the generally accepted tenets of your product, service, or industry.
#2 Keep Your Prospect at the Forefront
It’s not about what you like and how you feel. It’s about your audience’s attitudes, beliefs, and desires. This affects the words and arguments you choose, the media and format you use, and the design elements.
A powerful sales letter is based on understanding the driving emotions and arguments of your audience at a very deep level. This is why it is so important to look at your list of prospects and learn as much as possible about about them. The more you know about your favourite clients, the easier it is to attract more like them. We used this knowledge recently to double the size of one of my client’s mailing list and set them on a path of exponential growth and it also lies behind my own list-building strategy.
#3 Always Respect Your Prospects
There’s a reason why great copywriters and sales people have broad interests and are generally non-judgemental… it enables them to respect and reach out to people with diverse interests and values as equals. If you secretly despise the thing you are selling and the people who buy it, then that quickly becomes evident to your readers.
The two biggest problems here are:
- You secretly despise people who use and consume this product because of their lack of discrimination etc.; and
- You know so much about your product that you talk down to people who don’t immediately grasp its power and capability as you do.
Both of these problems show through in your tone and they are sales killers! If you can’t respect your readers deeply then you are selling the wrong the product.
#4 Product Research is King
The best copywriters dig far deeper into the product than just features, benefits, and transformations. This intimate knowledge provides them with insights and approaches that go far deeper than simple data and it takes work and imagination to complete.
Particularly when you are selling expensive, complex, products context is everything! Your research will reveal the nuggets of context that set your buyers imagination and lust for change on fire and transform your sales letters into powerful money-making engines.
You Can Always Do Better
At the heart of Direct Response Copywriting is the idea of beating the control and improving results. This demands testing and experimentation so that you get better results and find ways to beat your own promotion.
It’s the opposite of resting on your laurels and being content with decent results and relies on the mental shift that comes when you are always looking for ways to improve and new approaches that might work even better. This constant striving combined with consistent action (you can’t improve on the results of anything you don’t actually send) is a critical part of improving your sales results and creating consistent, predictable income.