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A few weeks back I opened a letter from a cleaning firm. It was a "Dear Building Manager" message, introducing their services. They may be a fine firm, and probably would do an outstanding job, but what stood out to me (and could scare other businesses away) was that it was too long! One full page in 12-point font, providing all kinds of company background and a menu of their services.
My immediate advice to them: wrong.
Want to send a power letter? One that will stand out? Follow these two basic rules: Be personal, and be brief
The best letters open with a punch. "That was a terrific meeting!" Use punctuation to highlight key words. Follow that with three or four sentences, tops. "Thank you for your candid comments, as it makes my planning far more effective."
A personal comment helps you connect as a person, not just a supplier. I like to make a direct reference to something in which the customer expressed interest ("and helping you stay competitive is obviously important.") or a piece of small talk we had ("and I will take you up on that golf invitation"). These have a specific purpose: they add a strong, personal touch that shows you were paying attention and weren't just there for the sale. These comments have an even greater impact when they're added to the letter as a hand-written post script.
I'm not a huge fan of Introduction Letters, "the kind that are mailed in advance of an initial phone call. They're very hit-and-miss. By many estimates, they never reach the eyes of the prospect. Plus, you can't get very personal in a letter of introduction ("Hey Joe" would not have worked for the cleaning company). I do know salespeople who use them, and with great success. (I'll pass along some of their secrets in a future column.)
And, of course, don't forget brevity. Brief is best. The history of your company might be important to you, and might be an eventual selling point, but leave it out.
A short, crisp letter, with punch and personality, will get read and remembered.
Ps to the cleaning firm: Thanks, really, but I empty my own wastebasket. Sometimes my wife makes me clean the bathrooms, too.
Joe Guertin is an advertising sales trainer, speaker and coach. His programs have informed and entertained newspapers nationwide. Your comments are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his Sales Resource Center at www.streetfighterselling.com.
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