Writing to Sell in Eight Steps

How to write an effective sales brochure, web page, sales letter, or presentation

Capturing your reader’s attention and persuading them to buy or take a desired action is a craft. Like any craft, you can learn a lot from the pros. Fortunately for you, effective sales writing is all around you… take a look at some well-respected company websites and other communications for some great examples. Alright, looking at examples of what others have done can provide some inspiration and ideas, but what about your situation? How will you sell your product or service?

A good structure will help guide you through your own writing process. There will typically be several steps along the path from your opening headline to your call for action and you may lose your reader anywhere along the path. The following steps may be incorporated into a brochure, a blog, an email, a sales letter, or a presentation. Depending on your situation you may not use all of the following steps, but these are time-tested elements to consider as you sit down to write.

Step 1 – The Headline

You can draw the reader in or lose them with your headline. Choose your words carefully!

Consider using a “How To” headline. Most of your readers will be more interested in learning how to solve a problem or learning to do something as opposed to reading about your product or service. Note that the title to this article is really a “How To” headline. Some examples follow:

– Build a Shed This Weekend

– How To Turn Your Junk Into Cash

– Learn To Design, Build, and Sell Your Own Smartphone App

Try to keep the headline short and sweet. If you need to elaborate, consider adding a Sub-headline. For example, Turn Your Junk Into Cash can be followed up with: Clean Out Your Closets and Sell Your Stuff Online. Ditch That Expensive Phone Bill can be followed up with: No contract, you only pay for what you use. The Headline should grab the reader’s attention. The Sub-headline should reel them in.

Step 2 – The Opener

OK – you’ve got your reader this far. Next, show them that you understand their problem and that your product or service can solve it.

Free up your weekends, let us take care of all your yard work and landscaping projects this summer.

Be sure to demonstrate that your product or service will make the reader’s life easier. People are looking for hassle-free, quick, and easy solutions to their problems. In addition to text, a video or pictures can be very effective in showing how easy something can be.

Step 3 – Future Vision

Help your reader see the future – a better future. A simple way to help your reader see the future is to ask them to Imagine… [fill in the blank to your future vision here!]

Help your reader imagine what their world will be like after their problem has been solved. This is another opportunity to use visuals – videos or some beautiful “after” pictures can effectively show a future vision. A sparkling clean window, a salon chair spinning around to reveal a smiling young man with a sharp-looking new haircut, a smiling woman getting the keys to her shiny new car. You get the idea.

Step 4 – Demonstrate Credibility

Alright, now you have shown your reader a vision for a better future. But wait, why should your reader trust you, how are you qualified, and why should your reader use you vs. someone else?

A few examples of how to show that you are credible include:

– Qualifications and Credentials: Are you a PhD, a CPA, an Award-Winning Chef? Tell your reader what your qualifications and credentials are to demonstrate credibility.

– Endorsements and Testimonials: An endorsement from a respected colleague or a testimonial from a happy customer can go a long way to build credibility.

– Statistics: Numbers or charts can be used effectively demonstrate credibility. Hey, if 4 out of 5 dentists recommend… you remember that one, don’t you?

– A powerful personal story can be used to show how you did it.

Step 5 – Sell The Benefits

Next, explain the benefits of your product or service to your reader in a few key points. There is not a magic number, but more than five is probably too many in most cases. This part of your document should stand out. Use indentation, bold text, bullet points, or some other way to highlight the key benefits of your product or service and draw the reader’s eye to these key points. This is a good place to break things up a bit. You don’t want your reader to miss the benefits of your product or service. You want to ensure the reader sees and processes the benefits of your product or service.

Always remember that you should sell the benefits and results of your product or service, not the product or service itself. It’s more effective to sell a beautiful green lawn rather than a sack of fertilizer. It’s better to sell the feeling of owning your dream home than to sell a mortgage at 4.2%, even if 4.2% is a great rate.

Step 6 – Prove It

OK, I can imagine what your product will do for me, I see that you are credible, I understand the benefits of your product, but I want to see Proof that your product will work!

Anyone that has been to a the State Fair or watched an infomercial has seen the Prove It presentation. The vacuum that is so powerful that it sucks up all the pet hair or can hold a bowling ball, the amazing non-stick pan that cooks your eggs to perfection, the super-sharp knife that can cut through a tin can and then slice a tomato with ease, the amazing detergent that gets out the toughest grass stain, etc.

You can prove it with data, statistics, or reputable sources that back your claims. Celebrity or expert endorsements, expert testimonies, and large numbers of people on the bandwagon are all ways to prove your claims. Proving with writing is good, but this is another great place for visuals. If your reader can see before and after photos or a video showing an amazing transformation you can leverage the famous saying: a picture is worth a thousand words.

Step 7 – The Offer

Here is where the “deal” is explained. How much money for your product or service should be explained here. You should answer all the expected questions that the reader will have… Clearly answer questions like: How much money? When will I get the product or service? How can I pay? How big? How heavy?, etc.

Everyone likes a deal. So, you may consider offering a discount for acting early, a discount for buying more than one, a rebate for recommending a friend, and so forth. Providing a discount or bonus for acting early can be a powerful way to boost sales for some products and services. Urgency can also be created by having a limited number of products available for sale, a limited number of seats for a concert, etc. Be careful though, use legitimate urgency triggers or you may risk losing credibility as well as the sale.

Another way to sweeten the offer is to take risk off the table for the customer. Some ways that you can do this include a money-back guarantee, a free sample, or a free trial period.

Step 8 – Call To Action

Don’t forget the call to action. This is how you close the deal. Tell your reader what you want them to do. Tell them clearly and make it simple.

– Call this phone number to order

– Click this button to order

– Call this number for a free in-home demonstration.

There you have it – eight steps to write your sales piece. You don’t need to include all these elements for each sales document that you write. However, this is a useful structure and set of steps to work through as you consider important elements of your sales document.