Sales Tips

The Long-Lost Art of Sales Prospecting Letters

Sales Prospecting Letters
Suzanne Scacca

Chances are, you’ve handled most of your sales prospecting through email and phone calls these past few years.

With so many consumers checking email daily, it makes send that you’d use sales emails to get in front of them. Plus, the phone continues to be an essential part of a salesperson’s toolbox:

cold calling lives - stats on selling through phone calls

But you’re not the only one who uses these channels for sales prospecting. So, how effective can it be to solely rely on email and phone if your consumers are inundated with messages from a bunch of companies, all selling a similar thing?

Here’s an alternative that fewer and fewer people are using today:

Add a little old school flavor to your strategy with sales prospecting letters.

Are sales prospecting letters even relevant anymore?

If you’ve never used direct mailers before, you’re probably wondering what the heck sales prospecting letters are. (They’re like sales prospecting emails, but they’re written on paper and sent through snail mail.)

For everyone else, you’re probably wondering why you’d use them if you can just mass-produce prospecting emails and automate the work instead.

Here’s the deal:

Sales channels are overpopulated right now. While emails, phone calls, and even social media DMs have proven effective in prospecting, that’s only the case once your messages get in front of the right decision-maker… and you’ve reached out numerous times.

So, why not add one more approach that’s sure to make your sales prospecting pitch stand out from the rest?

How do you write a sales prospecting letter?

Your goal in sales prospecting is to get through the gatekeeper and get your message into the hands of the decision-maker. As you can imagine, this person is tasked with sifting through countless messages every day—from a variety of channels.

A sales prospecting letter done right gives you the chance to cut the line.

Here are some tips on how to write a sales prospecting letter that’s sure to get you noticed and escalated to the person in charge:

Tip #1: Use stationery.

Don’t litter your letter with phone numbers and email addresses. Let your professional stationery provide pertinent contact details so you can keep the message focused on value.

sales prospecting letters tip 1: use stationery

Bonus tip: Paperclip your business card to any stationery you send out.

Tip #2: Write it out.

Want to make your sales prospecting letter really stand out? Write your message out by hand.

This shows that you took the extra time to craft the letter.

Just remember: you don’t want any friction to come between the letter and its recipient. If you’re not feeling confident in the legibility of your handwriting, see if an assistant or someone else with a clearer writing style can take care of it for you.

Tip #3: Keep it short.

Keep your sales prospecting letter to one page. Better yet, skip the formal 8 ½” x 11” letterhead and write your message on a card that would fit a 4” x 6” envelope. Or, write it on a custom-designed postcard.

Tip #4: Make the letter easy to read.

The same principles you’d use to write an email to a prospect or even when writing copy for your website apply here. In other words, make it as easy to consume as possible.

When writing a sales prospecting letter by hand, there are a few ways to do this.

First, structure the letter logically. There should be:

  • A clear introduction to you and your business.
  • A body paragraph (or two) that breaks down your pitch.
  • A conclusion that provides the prospect with a call-to-action.

Also, be sure to write in shorter sentences and paragraphs. Type out your letter before you commit it to paper. For any sentence that runs longer than the width of the page, see if it's a run-on sentence and if so, cut it down. For any paragraph that runs longer than two lines on the screen, check if you can break it apart without sacrificing meaning or clarity. This will translate better to paper.

And be mindful of the words you use—technical or industry jargon will only create friction. Keep it simple and conversational in nature, so the reader can focus on your pitch rather than on looking up the meaning of the words you wrote down.

Tip #5: Draw attention to key phrases.

One of the drawbacks of writing a letter by hand is that you don’t have the convenience of a word processor to highlight parts of your message. Fortunately, the letter you’re writing won’t be too long in length, so things like heading dividers or pull-quotes aren’t really necessary.

That said, you don’t want to leave it to the recipient to have to pick up on the tonal emphasis left behind by your words.

If you want to draw attention to key phrases in your sales prospecting letter, physically draw it onto the page. Underline a word or words that you want to really grab their attention. Draw an arrow to a key statistic placed within the conclusion of the letter. Use hand-drawn bullet-points to list off the highlights of your pitch.

Tip #6: Don’t mass produce.

Never use a canned message in a sales prospecting letter. If it looks mass-produced, the recipient will most likely be able to tell and your letter will end up in the wastebasket.

Take the time to personalize sales prospecting letters. If this contact has been vetted and you know the potential for them to become a customer is high, don’t waste their time—or your own.

factors that influence buying decisions

Buyers want to see that you’ve done your research. If the sales prospecting letter is solely about how awesome your company or product is, don’t expect to make it past the gatekeeper.

Instead, find something relevant to write to them about.

  • Subscribe to relevant news channels or Google alerts and congratulate them when their company has made the news.
  • Research the latest goings-on in their company and refer to expansions, location openings, new product releases, recent awards, and so on.
  • Stay abreast of what’s happening in their neck of the woods (e.g. changes in legislation, neighborhood upgrades, increase in costs, etc.)—this is especially helpful in B2C sales.

Just remember that the personalized reference has to tie into what you’re selling. Don’t just flatter for the sake of flattery.

For example:

example of a handwritten sales prospecting letter

This way, when you do connect with the prospective customer, they’ll remember exactly who you were. Personalization and genuine attempts to connect will go a long way in developing a good relationship with them from the get-go.

Tip #7: Add a P.S.

This is your chance to solidify your connection by making a strong first impression.

Keep the message positive in tone and conversational. Don’t be afraid to infuse some of your personality into it either. Make sure the pitch is clear, to the point, and benefits-driven. But you know all that already.

Want to really create a strong impression with the ending of your letter? Add a postscript after your signature. This is your chance to reinforce this unique offer. You can also use it as a way to express urgency and let them know you only have their best interests at heart:

“P.S. Taxes are due April 15, so make sure you call my office by April to receive your discount in time!”

Tip #8: Proofread… and then proofread again.

Just because you’re writing something by hand doesn’t mean you’ll be excused for having spelling or grammatical errors.

Your best bet is to type your message into a word processing document and proofread it using an online tool.

Once you’ve confirmed it’s error-free, copy it down by hand. Then, give it to someone else to proofread against the digital source.

Tip #9: Send through snail mail… with a treat.

Because a sales prospecting letter is sure to get noticed, you want to go the extra mile to make it memorable.

Obviously, if you’re taking the time to write a sales prospecting letter by hand, you need to send it through a non-digital channel. While you might be tempted to fax it, there’s a sort of impersonality that goes along with faxing. (Also, who still has a fax machine these days?) It also robs you of the opportunity to stand out from the sea of other letters they receive.

Instead, place your letter or postcard into a regular envelope, hand-write the delivery details, and use a stamp to send it along.

Before you seal it, add a small trinket to the envelope. A branded pen. A couple of dice. A coaster. Just make it something that's small enough and won’t weigh down the envelope. If it gives the envelope a lumpy texture, don't worry—that just might make it stand out from the other mail.

Tip #10: Follow up through other channels.

This is not a way to replace digital sales; this is a way to bolster your multi-channel sales strategy. Just because you’re throwing a sales prospecting letter into the mix doesn’t mean phone calls or emails are off the table.

After your letters have gone out, give your prospects a call. When you inevitably reach the gatekeeper, remind them of the handwritten letter you sent and mention those personalized details. If you made the right kind of connection, you’ll get fast-tracked to the decision-maker.

Put your mail on the map.

The bottom line is that a sales prospecting letter can put you on the map in a way that more modern sales channels might not be able to—and it might do it more quickly, too.

Concerned that your messages are getting lost in the sea of lookalike companies or cutthroat competitors? Sales prospecting letters could change the game for you.