How to Write a Sales Letter: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Sales Letter

Photo of a smiling 60s woman in glasses sitting at a table reading a letter.
Knowing how to write a sales letter includes tactics like “show them the dream.” Learn more in this article. (Photo: fizkes)

Did you know that one sales letter could generate tens of thousands of dollars per day?

A famous direct-mail piece written in 1975 generated upward of $250,000 per day in sales for The Wall Street Journal. It has been called “The Greatest Sales Letter of All Time.”

Of course, most people don’t like sales letters, salespeople, or being sold to.

However, by using the right techniques of how to write a sales letter, you can change the narrative around them. Instead of people feeling pressured to buy from your company, you’re giving them an opportunity to solve a problem or get ahead in their life.

The power of a well-written sales letter can’t be overstated—this one letter could fund your business for years to come.

The Wall Street Journal letter mentioned above is a stellar example of how to write a sales letter that consistently generates sales without any additional work.

Here is a portion of it:

Image showing a portion of the famous Wall Street Journal sales letter, which begins: "Dear Reader: On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both—as young college graduates are—were filled with ambitious dreams for the future. Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion. They were still very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company after graduation, and were still there. But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president."
This sales letter brought in upward of $250,000 per day for The Wall Street Journal.

Here’s the interesting thing, though: There is nothing overly exceptional about the sales letter that generated $250,000 per day.

It’s well-written, but it’s certainly not a masterpiece. What sets it apart is how it uses certain sales elements perfectly.

And guess what?

You can reverse-engineer those elements and use them for your own sales letter. Here are five questions to ask yourself on how to write a sales letter.

In a rush? Get this article as a PDF guide so you won’t miss these tips!

1. Who Is My Headline Targeting?

Your headline is arguably the most important part of knowing how to write a sales letter. It tells your prospects what they are about to read, gets them engaged, and gives them a reason to keep reading.

Headlines should make a specific promise to your reader.

Don’t ask a question. Instead, state how you can help with their problem.

For example, if you sell washing machines, don’t ask, “Don’t You Wish You Had a Washing Machine?” Instead, state, “All Your Laundry Washed in One Hour: Why You Need a Washing Machine.”

It’s also essential to write your headline for your target audience. Researching and understanding your ideal clients is one of the most crucial aspects of how to write a sales letter. You need to know the characteristics of those people who are most likely to buy your product or service (called demographics and psychographics).

Typical demographics and psychographics that you can target include:

  • The audience’s age range, occupations, and locations
  • People’s pains and fears
  • Any barriers your customers face to getting what they want
  • Their goals and aspirations

Go beyond simple demographic info, such as the age and educational background of your audience. Those can be important, but they’re not enough. You want to know their interests, attitudes, and goals. These are psychographics.

Think about psychographics this way:

  • If someone is reading an article on reducing their car insurance, it’s less important that they’re 45 years old and graduated from college.
  • What’s more important is that they’re probably interested in cutting their expenses.
This is a chart titled "Demographics vs. Psychographics." The subheading says "Combine them for your buyer persona." Under the Demographics column, the list is: "Single; Male; 35 years old; Works at Company XYZ Inc.; IT professional; Makes $110,000 per year; Lives in Boston area." Under the Psychographics column the list is: "Dog lover; Green Party; Comic Con fan; Takes beach vacations; Loves K-Pop music; Prefers plant-based foods; Values family bonds." Chart by Super Copy Editors.

Again, headlines are critical. Brainstorm several that speak to your target audience and state your product or service’s solution to their problem.

Some people prefer to write their headlines after they have written their sales letter; some prefer to do so before. The advantage of after is you have a total overview of your letter, so it’s like putting a bow on the finished package. The advantage of writing it before is that it gives you guidance when writing your sales letter.

Two types of headlines work best for sales letters:

  • Question headlines, which work best for cold traffic. For example, “How Can You Generate More Revenue With Your Sales Letters?”
  • Straight-to-the-point, benefit-driven headlines, which work better for the bottom of sales funnels. For example, “How to Write a Sales Letter: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Sales Letter.” (Hey, that headline got you to click on this article, right?)

Additionally, be sure to include a subtitle to supplement your title. It should provide a little more information and further prepare readers for what they are about to read.

A good title and subtitle combination sets the tone for the rest of your sales letter.

Preview image of the sales letter template, which you can download for free

Download Our FREE Sales Letter Template

This is a Microsoft Word document that we started for you with all the critical elements of a sales letter. Just add your text in the appropriate places. Instantly write a better sales letter.

2. What Am I Offering My Readers?

Once you have hooked your audience with your headline, it’s time to start reeling them in.

Your mission, of course, is to make your readers want your product or service. Think like your prospective reader and ask yourself, “What’s in this for me?”

In the body of the sales letter, you can expand on the details of your product or service. These details will help prospects become more comfortable with the idea of making a purchase.

Here, you’ll also want to introduce your “hooks.”

Hooks are psychological writing methods you can use to capture the attention of your readers and get them interested in buying your product.

There are several types of hooks you can use, and they are an important piece of how to write a sales letter:

  • Show Them the Dream: This includes anything that communicates that the reader’s future will be better than it is now. “You can make passive income so you never have to work again.”
  • Hit Them Where It Hurts: Fear works well as an attention grabber. Then state how you will help. “Here’s why you always gain back the weight you lose.”
  • The Shocking Discovery: A new way to get around a barrier or resistance. “After I started this diet, my life was never the same.”
  • Show Them What They Get: State plainly the great benefit of your product. “Create a T-Shirt With Your Logo for Only $4!”
  • The Hurtful Truth: Stating an unspoken truth that may be uncomfortable but is true all the same. “There’s no easy way to make money online—but that shouldn’t stop you from trying this method.”
  • Hopes and Dreams: This one is usually an incredible story that the reader can’t help being impressed with. “This man lost 250 pounds.”
  • State a Command: Take a forceful stance and write a straightforward statement. “Stop wasting your money on passive income scams that don’t work.”

Hooks are not complex—they are meant to create an emotional connection with the reader and give them some skin in the game when reading the rest of your sales letter.

Ideally, you should choose three different types of hooks that can be used in the context of your content. Weave them into your product or service’s story, and you will have a compelling sales letter.

Remember: Facts tell, stories sell.

Once you have your sales letter’s message constructed, you’ll want to ensure it is presented as effectively as possible. Have the professional proofreading team at Super Copy Editors put the finishing touches on your work, so it converts the maximum number of readers to customers. Learn more about our proofreading services for marketing materials.

This is a graphic from Super Copy Editors titled "Anatomy of a Highly Effective Direct Mail Sales Letter." It shows all four pages of the famous Wall Street Journal sales letter mentioned above, and has various labels pointing to different parts of the letter to highlight specific aspects of the letter that work well. Examples include: "Draws the reader’s attention to key message and entices them to keep reading. This is called a Johnson Box, but you could also use a traditional headline." and "When you know your audience, 
you’ve already won half the battle." and "Often used in bulleted lists, fascinations like this provoke intense curiosity, making the offer irresistible.”

3. What Proof Do I Have That My Offering Is the Best?

A crucial process of how to write a sales letter is gathering and presenting proof that your product or service is the best.

Think of yourself as the customer:

  • Why am I interested in this product?
  • How does it make my life better?
  • What proof do I need in order to buy?

These are the questions your sales page should answer.

Here are some more tips on providing proof:

  • Be sure to include bullet points in the body of your sales letter, especially when introducing proof and benefits. Bullet points are more like fascination points—they draw the attention of the reader to the most important parts of your pitch.
  • Include testimonials and customer reviews of your product or service. Nine out of 10 customers now read a review before purchasing.
  • Statistics are another fantastic way to earn readers’ trust.
  • Offering a guarantee of your product or service provides yet more proof that you stand behind what you’re selling and lowers buyer fear.
  • Finally, what is your unique selling proposition (USP)? What are the features that make it great? The USP is the one unique thing that will put your product or service over the competition, while its features are the rest of its selling points.

Again, don’t forget to use bullet points to emphasize your selling points. Bullet points are great for both detailed readers and skimmers, who will pick up the main ideas and perhaps be persuaded to read further.

Don’t Miss: Conversion Copywriting: 5 Keys to Writing Marketing Copy That Gets Results

Photo of a modified one-way road sign that has a big arrow pointing right with text above it that says, "CALL TO ACTION."
A great sales letter doesn’t make the reader guess what to do next. (Photo: Arnel Manalang)

4. How Am I Persuading Them to Buy?

If the body of your sales letter has done its job, persuading the reader to take the last step should be the easiest part to write. All you need is a solid call to action (CTA).

Closing out your sales letter, the CTA tells your readers in the simplest possible way how to keep moving forward.

A strong CTA generates a “wow” factor. Think beyond “Call Today” or “Buy Now.” Make the reader feel like they are becoming empowered by acting on your offer, like their life is going to change afterward.

Strong CTAs for sales letters include:

  • Claim Your Free Trial
  • Join 5,000+ Happy Clients
  • Get 30% Off
  • Start Saving Now
  • Compare Plans
  • Get Instant Access
  • Request Your Free Estimate
  • Schedule Your Strategy Session
  • Speak to an Expert

Don’t make your readers guess the next step, and don’t provide multiple options—one sales letter means one CTA.

Don’t forget! Download “How to Write a Sales Letter: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Sales Letter” to keep it handy and take action on it. Click here to download it now.

5. How Do I Close the Deal?

You’ve presented an irresistible offer and a strong call to action. Perhaps that wasn’t quite enough.

The final tip for how to write a sales letter is to use a postscript to close the deal. This simple “P.S.” at the end can light a fire under the reader and get them to act quickly.

A postscript is ideal for giving your best effort to make the sale:

  • In your postscript, be sure to remind the reader of what they will lose out on if they don’t act on your offer. Remember that people buy based on emotions … so appeal to their emotions.
  • Then, make it a no-brainer decision by offering a deal, discount, or gift.
  • Introduce a sense of urgency by setting an expiration time. (“This is a limited-time offer.”)
  • Postscripts should also include a guarantee that your product will be replaced or the customer’s money will be refunded if they aren’t satisfied. If your offering is as good as you say it is in your sales letter, you shouldn’t have to worry about refunds.

How Long Should My Sales Letter Be?

As long as it needs to be! There is no one-size-fits-all length. The average I’ve seen is three or four pages long, but I’ve copy edited sales letters containing up to 20 pages or more.

Writing an effective sales letter can be a daunting task. You will consider many elements and write many drafts before the right one appears. The proper sales letter has all five elements discussed in this article but must also be presented flawlessly to preserve trust.

The editing and proofreading team at Super Copy Editors can help you put out your best possible sales letter. Our professional editors have years of experience working with marketers on all types of sales collateral. Let us help you get your copy sounding and reading the best it can be so that it drives more sales and makes you more money. Get your quick quote now for our worry-free editing services.

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than two decades of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes after Hurricane Katrina. Today, I have put together a hand-picked team of copy editors, and we especially love working with ad agencies, marketing departments, and education companies to make their text as polished as possible. Learn more here.

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