The simple way to write a sizzling sales letter

Much as we spend most of our lives online, there are still occasions when a printed letter is required … even if all you do with it is to attach it to an email! Here, then, are some tips on how to approach it effectively.

It’s important to differentiate here between the really hard-nosed direct mail sales letter, and, say a new business announcement, or a covering letter you send out to accompany some marketing or other information to a prospect or customer. The former type is best left to professionals, because it takes a great deal of skill, practice and experience to do it well. The latter kind, though, can be done quite effectively by the DIY sales writer. Here are my thoughts on that.

The one main difference between sales letters and personal letters is the role you play. In a personal letter you write in your own style about what you want to say. In a sales letter your focus is totally on the recipient, and you write in the style that he or she will identify with most readily – regardless of your own personal style. Because of this, your style will vary according to who is going to receive the letter.

Show them you care from line one

Right from the very first line, you need to show your readers that you empathize totally with their needs. The better you do that, the more likely they are to keep reading. To achieve that you need to do your homework and find out what your readers real needs are, and focus everything you want to sell them on how it meets those needs and benefits them.

You also need to focus very firmly on “you” and avoid talking more than strictly necessary about “we” and “us,” except for where it obviously benefits “you.”

Facts, not sales talk

Finally, a good sales letter needs to focus on facts – not selling jargon. Readers aren’t stupid. They’re not going to be interested in your product or service unless a) they know precisely what’s “in it for them” right from the beginning, and b) why that’s in it for them. The only credible way to answer the “why” part is to give truthful, straight facts. The selling skill isn’t in making up a plausible sounding story. The skill lies in showing readers how the facts will benefit them.

Let’s use a consumer example, although the same theory applies to the business-to-business variety. This is the launch of a new window cleaning service. First, the wrong way…

Dear Sir
(First mistake. Many householders are women. It’s also a bit too formal for this audience, and this service.)

We are proud to announce the new See-Through window cleaning service in the XXXtown area.
(Wrong again. You may be proud to announce it, but to say so sounds old-fashioned, pompous and affected. The reader doesn’t care about you or whether you’re proud or not.)

Our 20-strong team of cleaners has been fully trained to ensure an efficient and thorough service to householders …
(How many cleaners does it take to do the windows of the average home, unless you’re talking the White House, Buckingham Palace, or the Sydney Opera House? One? Two maybe? You may be impressed by your 20 star performers, but they’ll make your readers think they’re in for a large expense.)

… at very attractive, cost-effective rates.
(Nonsense, says the reader. Cost-effective is what businesses say when they try to justify high prices. I only react to facts. Like how much would it cost for an average three-bedroomed townhouse?)

We also offer discounts to groups of ten or more households wishing to have their windows cleaned at the same time.
(Where? Zimbabwe? Alaska? Halfway up the Andes? What about me and my neighbors?)

Further details of this discount facility are available on request.
(You’ll tell me about prices if I ask you nicely. Nuts to that. I want to know now.)

If you would like more information on the new See-Through window cleaning service, please contact our office.
(Well, at least you finally remembered who you were writing to. But why should I contact your office? And who? The canteen manager? And where? One of those funny little phone numbers at the bottom of the letterhead in 6 point type? If you want me to buy from you, make it easy.)

Yours faithfully
(oh come on … you’re not writing to a tax inspector!)

I Glass
(Gosh, a real chairman. I wonder how much he knows about how I like my windows cleaned. Haven’t you got someone a bit more in touch with me and my needs?)

OK. Let’s try again with a more appropriate style and approach, using headings to break up the text and emphasize key benefits. We also need to give far more in the way of facts.

Dear Householder,


Window cleaning can be a time-consuming chore for you … messy, dirty and even dangerous. Paying someone else to do it can help. But can you always rely on them to turn up regularly?

Now, though, you can leave the problem of window cleaning to us. See-Through window cleaners have just set up a new professional service in your area … to clean your windows as often as you want, on a regular basis. All you have to do is tell us how often you want us – biweekly, monthly, three-monthly or whatever suits you best – and one of our fully trained cleaners will be there every time, on time.

And you don’t pay more because we’re professional. An average three-bedroomed townhouse costs around YY.00. That’s less than many independent casual window cleaners charge.


For ten or more homes on a regular basis, we’ll give you a discount of 20%. That brings the cost of an average three-bedroomed townhouse down to just XX.00. And twenty homes or more get a massive 50% off.


Just mark and post the enclose reply-paid card, or email us here:

We’ll get in touch right away to make an appointment for one of our specialists to visit your home and give you a free, no-quibbles quote.

And if your windows need attention urgently, call us now on our Hotline – 0123 456789. We’ll get one of our team over to you within 72 hours, at no extra charge.

Let See-Through give you a cleaner, clearer view from your windows – at a cost that clearly makes sense.

Warm regards

Customer Services Manager

Sizzle on with these:

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand




  1. I like it. The 1st letter is almost a replica of the Spam e-mail I receive frequently and sadly the 2nd letter one that I don’t think I have had for a long time.

    • The first letter is all too common, Lynn – people just can’t seem to understand that you need to write about what’s good for you, the reader – not what’s good for me, the writer! What’s particularly annoying is that so much time and money are wasted on bad communication. Ah well….! Thanks for your comment.

  2. “The former type [hard nosed sales letter] is best left to professionals, because it takes a great deal of skill, practice and experience to do it well”

    Hmm. This all depends. If you develop the relationship with your audience properly, you simply don’t need the pro copywriter to write the hard-nosed sales letters (because you don’t need them).

    Case in point: the sales letters for my wife’s website are just 360 words long and I write them in the same way I write my daily emails — and the last three have converted at 16%, 37% and 47%.

    As a rule of thumb, if you’re going into a cold, competitive market then you probably do want a pro; if you’re just dealing with your local market and your existing customers and clients, and your competitors are Fred and Joyce down the road, then you probably don’t.

    And in any case, be very careful about choosing a copywriter for writing a sales letter. I’ve seen some utter crap from so-called professionals. Alas, the schmuck business owners to a man (and woman) hadn’t educated themselves in what decent sales copy should look like so they didn’t recognise the lemon even as it was being pushed into their rearmost bodily orifice.

    Even as a pro-copywriter myself, and one of no small renown and repute, I think this ideas of sales copywriting is overrated and definitely misunderstood by a lot of people.



  3. Following these tips would help all of us write better sales copy!

    Let me add that every time I receive a “Dear sir” letter, I want to shriek.

  4. Great exercise! I have a background in journalism and creative writing, and business writing of any kind still scares me:) I would love to download your e-book on Better Business Writing, but I don’t seem to be able to find the right place. I have been subscribed to your newsletter for about a year and when I tried to subscribe again, it alerted me that I am repeating it. What am I doing wrong? Thanks for your help:)

    • Hi Lana – I’m sorry you’ve had trouble subscribing. Let me know when you’re ready and what name/email you have used ( at ) and I’ll take your name off the list so you will be able to join again.

      I’d love to be able to offer you my book, “Business Writing Made Easy,” for nothing but if I do both my publishers and my accountant will kill me… however you can get a quick, reasonably-priced download of it here:

      I had a look at your blogsite and signed up … your recipes sound absolutely wonderful.

      It’s great to meet you!


  5. Thanks, Susan:) And I am laughing as I did not mean to make your publisher or accountant mad – I was referring to the other free business writing book that you offer for free to the subscribers:) I am so used to people wanting my writing for free that I would really hate myself if I did it to another writer! We work hard for every article:)
    I am assuming that I subscribed under Lana, with jakoumna@aol as my email.
    Again, thanks!

    • Hi again Lana – subscribers get a free 7-day eCourse on how to brush up your business writing – is that what you mean? We’re having a bit of trouble with the signup facility at the moment but my business partner is going to sort it out over the next few days. I’ll keep hold of your email address and let you know when the signup facility is available again. Sorry about this! Sz

  6. Wow wonderful!! I just started a Cleaning Company and this is the best copy letter for me to able able to clinch some contracts!

  7. Brian Lodge says

    Thanks for the information. Since reading your article I’ve made some adjustments to it. I’ll let you know how it went.