The Ultimate Sales Letter

By: Dan S. Kennedy



The idea of writing a sales letter is actually something of a false idea. It suggests sitting down with a pristine, blank sheet of paper and conjuring words. In actuality, a truer description is assembling a sales letter like you would construct any other piece of equipment. In his book: The Ultimate Sales Letter, Dan S Kennedy sets out 29, yes 29 steps we should take to create the sales masterpiece that can Attract New Customers and Boost your Sales.

We have distilled these steps into six phases that are needed to create an effective and successful sales letter. Six phases in 10 minutes? We better get going!

The IdeaCode is a shorthand system to help you memorise the core concepts, so you can quickly apply then in any situation. The IdeaCode for “The Ultimate Sales Letter” is KERCET:

K - Knowledge- Gain as much information on your client, your product and your offer.

E – Envision - Visualise the actual letter opening and reaction and anticipate its outcomes.

R – Write, Review, Refine

C – CheckList – the last chance to make it even better

E – Edit for Emotion – Appeal to the senses of the reader.

T – Test before Transmit – Before you send to all recipients test with a few.

Phase 1: Get the Knowledge

If you’ve ever visited London, you will have seen the scooter riding, clipboard reading taxi driver trainees gaining “the knowledge”. They do not become fully fledged taxi drivers until they know the backstreets of London like the back of their hand. Similarly, you will not be able to create the most effective sales letter until you have gained the knowledge relevant to the opportunity.

Get “Into” the Customer
The goal is understanding. To persuade someone, to motivate someone, to sell someone, you really need to understand that person. The more in touch you are, the more probable your success.

Here are some facts you should establish about your customer:

  • What keeps them awake at night?
  • What are their top three daily frustrations?
  • What trends are occurring and will occur in their businesses or lives?
  • What do they secretly, ardently desire most?
  • Who else is selling something similar to their product, and how?

A great way to establish these facts is to visualise you letter's recipients as living, breathing, thinking, feeling, walking, talking human beings. Try to become one with the recipients of your letter, so you can anticipate their thoughts and reactions.

Get “Into” the Offer
Just as you try to get inside the letter recipient's mind and heart, you need to fully understand your product or service as well.

If you're writing a letter to promote a product, use it as the consumer would, play with it, test it, take it apart and put it back together, even demonstrate it to others as a sales-person would. If you're writing a letter to promote a service, use it yourself if possible. Go talk to those who do use it. Talk to people who use a competitive service.

The idea is to list every possible feature and benefit, then organise them by importance - from the customer’s perspective.

Acknowledge and Address Flaws Openly
This may seem strange at first, but identifying the flaws in your product, service, or offer is a big step forward toward making the sale. By acknowledging the flaws, you force yourself to address your letter recipient's questions, objections, and concerns. You also enhance your credibility.

Every product, service, and offer has some unattractive points. Nothing's perfect. By admitting and openly discussing the drawbacks to your offer, your “credibility stock” goes way up on most of your letter recipients' charts. Instead of looking at them as problems and obstacles to a sale, look at them as building blocks in a believable, interesting, and persuasive message.

Phase 2: Envisage the Moment

Like top athletes, visioning the action can prepare you for real life and anticipate what needs to be done to achieve success.

Get Your Sales Letter Delivered
Early in the process of putting together your sales letter – and a key part of the valuable knowledge you need to gain - you need to think about getting the finished letter into the hands of people who can respond. If it screams “junk mail,” it tempts recipients to bin it without a second thought. If it appears to be important or desirable, it is less likely to enter the recycle bin unopened.

In the same way, you need to consider the perceptions of the gatekeepers — that is, the people you have to rely on to get your letters into the hands of the intended recipient. In B2B, there may be one, there may be several, standing — and sorting — between your letter and its intended reader. Your letter must appeal to them also. If it looks valuable or as if the recipient would expect delivery, it’s more likely to reach its destination.

Get Your Sales Letter Looked At
Picture the person you've sent your sales letter to with a stack of mail in his hands, sorting through that stack, standing next to a wastebasket. How do you get your sales letter opened?

Use the outside of the envelope to get the reader excited and curious about what's inside but remember: unfulfilled envelope promises destroy the credibility of everything enclosed and everything you have to say. Fulfilled envelope promises work to enhance your credibility.

Get Your Sales Letter Read
In person-to-person selling, there is a little formula taught almost universally: AIDA, which stands for: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. This is the orderly process of a sale. So, once you've gotten the letter recipient's attention, you must work to develop his or her interest.

No one is sitting around hoping and praying that he will receive your sales letter. When it arrives, it is most likely an unwelcome pest. How do you earn your welcome as a guest? By immediately saying something that is recognised by the recipient as important and valuable.

For general public mailings - say it with a headline.

They Didn't Think I Could – fill the blank -, but I Did.

Who Else Wants - fill the blank -?

How – fill the blank - Made Me – fill the blank-?

You’ve seen them all before – and they generally work!

B2B? You have to give extra concern to your letter's image when preparing mailings to executives and business owners. These people respect and generally prefer to do business with successful merchants.

Here are some ideas. Use superior quality paper and envelopes — something with a texture or watermark. Avoid stuffing too many advertising enclosures in the envelope. Incorporate prestige appeals in your sales letter with offerings like: alternative exclusive association individual membership and so on.

Selling Professional Services? Credibility is critical here. Descriptive items of fact (such as number of years in business, number of clients served, sample client lists, and so on) can all be of tremendous value. However, “believability” is even more important than “credibility.” Facts and credibility only support persuasion. Consider offering a free initial consultation or a free package of informative literature; this may break down barriers of skepticism and mistrust.

Motivate Action
OK. So the recipient has read your letter. How can you motivate them to commit to the sale?

Limit the number of items/engagements that you offer. By reducing supply, the product/service can appeal as a premium and entice the reader to act immediately – or miss out.

Imply trends. By creating the idea that a huge trend has developed and everybody is getting involved you can imply anyone who passes it up is, quite simply, an idiot – and no-one wants to be an idiot.

Imply discerning buyer. Create the idea that it takes a very special individual to appreciate the value and your reader is that type of person. As a variant you can imply exclusivity, that the reader, because of a specific trait, has been specially selected to receive the offer.

Offer strong guarantees or imply special discounts. This creates a feeling of reasonableness, conservatism, even objectivity — all reassuring to the reader and a guarantee boosts response - the better the guarantee, the better the response.

Be a Storyteller. If you want to take your sales letters to an advanced level, become a great storyteller. All good products and service sell through their back story. It allows customers to engage emotionally with your product and service, leading with the heart and not the head.

Phase 3: Black Pen, Red Pen

Write the First Draft
Up until now, the steps of the system have put you through a great deal of preparatory work. Now you can start doing what you wanted to do in the first place — write. No hesitation, no reading back, just write. Let your creativity flow.

Now Rewrite for Strategy
You've written your first draft; it's probably too long. Now comes the rewrite stage. You need to whittle away at the masterpiece you've created to be certain it conveys the clearest possible message as concisely as possible.

Shortening your copy to a length everybody will read is counter-productive. Instead, you need to focus your energies on the relative minority of the letter recipients who will be interested in the message. Write for the buyer, not the non-buyer.

And after that Rewrite for Style
Sales letters should be reader friendly. That means the letter appears easy to read, is easy on the eye, uses everyday language, and doesn't require you to be a Harvard grad or a determined masochist to get through it. You should also stick mostly to short paragraphs (ideally, those only three or four sentences long).

In the first paragraph, you sell the recipient on reading your letter; then in the letter, you sell your proposition. Thereafter be entertaining. Appeal to the senses. Use big impact words and phrases but make your letter reflect your or your businesses “personal style”.

Answer Questions and Objections
Unanswered questions and unresolved concerns sabotage sales letters! By carefully countering every possible question and objection, you put the ultimate sales presentation on paper. Remember you’re not there to react so the letter has to respond to every possible objection. The answers to most objections or questions should include most of these items: a direct answer to the question or objection, a verifying testimonial comment, case history, or story and a restatement of or reference to any guarantee/free trial offer made.

Phase 4: Check the Checklists

Time to go back to the beginning and to make sure you’ve covered all the bases.

Are you writing to your reader about what is most important to him/her (not you)?

Did you build a list of every separate Feature of your product/offer?

Did you identify the disadvantages of your offer and flaws in your product? Did you develop “damaging admission copy” about those flaws?

Did you make a list of reasons not to respond? Did you raise and respond to the reasons not to respond?

Did you give careful thought to getting your letter delivered and/or through gatekeepers to its intended recipient?

Did you use an interesting story about yourself?

Were you interesting and entertaining? … Is the letter enjoyable to read?

Phase 5: Rewrite for Passion! Edit for Clarity!

It doesn’t matter what business you're in or who your prospects or customers are, they buy by emotion and then justify their choice with logic. The purely factual approach fails almost every time it's used. A sales letter needs an enthusiastic personality — and because it is ink on paper, not warm flesh and blood, the letter has to work harder at being enthusiastic. Cut out every word or phrase that fails to advance, strengthen, or reinforce your basic sales story. You're not editing to shorten. You are editing to clarify, and that will automatically shorten the letter.

Read the Letter Aloud It should “flow” smoothly, conversationally, whether read silently or aloud. If you find tongue twisters or hang-ups, fix them. The sales letter must read easily. Have a Young Child Read the Letter Aloud to You Any words or phrases the youngster has difficulty with should probably be changed.

Phase 6: Test before Transmit.

Now is the time for you to put together the best mockup of the entire mailing that you can, with all the enclosures, then mail it to yourself. Your objective here is to receive it, see it, and handle it in the context of your normal stack of mail. If your piece is of such a size that it will be roughed up and damaged by the post office, you should know that. If your piece does not compare well to the other mail you receive on an average day, you should know that.

Happy? Then re-test with a sample of “friendly” customers. Ask them what they thought. Did the letter appeal to them? Were they enticed by the offer? Did the letter stand out? Again the checklists are valuable here and the same questions should be asked.

So there we are -Six phases for one letter. Seems excessive? Maybe, but the end will justify the means.