12-Step Foolproof Sales Letter
By David Frey
You dont have to be an award-winning copywriter to create effective sales
letters. In fact, writing great sales letters is more of a science than an art. Even the
pros use proven templates to create sales letters that get results. The
following is a 12-step template for writing foolproof sales letters.
Overcoming the Hurdles Leading to Buying Resistance
Every person has some form of buying resistance. The objective of your sales letter
should be to overcome your readers buying resistance while persuading them to take
action. I liken writing a sales letter to running a steeplechase foot race. The first one
to the finish line who has jumped over all the hurdles is the winner, or in this case,
gets the sale.
Whether youre giving a sales presentation in person or on paper, the process of
overcoming the hurdles leading to buying resistance are much the same. These hurdles are
manifested in many spoken and unspoken customer comments such as:
You dont understand my problem How do I know youre
qualified? I dont believe you I dont need it right
now It wont work for me What happens if I dont like
it? I cant afford it Results-oriented sales letters will need to
address some or all of these objections to be effective. The 12-step sales letter template
is designed to overcome each of these objections in a careful, methodical series of
copywriting tactics. The 12 steps are:
Get attention Identify the problem Provide the solution Present your credentials Show
the benefits Give social proof Make your offer Inject scarcity Give a guarantee Call to
action Give a warning Close with a reminder Each of these 12 steps add to readers
emotions while calming their fears.
Motivation Is An Emotional Thing
Its important to remember that people are motivated to buy based on their
emotions and justify their purchase based on logic only after the sale. This means that
each step in the sales letter process must build on the readers emotions to a point
where they are motivated to take action.
That being true - - there are only two things that truly motivate people and they are
the promise of gain or the fear of loss. Of the two, the fear of loss is the stronger
Think about it.
Would you rather buy a $50 course on How to Improve Your Marriage or
How to Stop Your Divorce or Lovers Rejection? I have empirical data that
proves that the second title outsells the first 5 to 1. Why? Because it addresses the fear
Learn how to write
copy that sells
Underlying the promise of gain and the fear of loss are seven universal
motivations to which everyone responds. Whatever product or service you are selling
you need to position it so that its benefits provide one or more of these universal
To be wealthy To be good looking To be healthy To be popular To have security To
achieve inner peace To have free time To have fun Ultimate motivations are what people
really want. The product or service is just a vehicle to providing these
benefits so make sure your sales letter focuses on these motivational factors.
The 12-Step Sales Letter System
Now that we know what impedes a person to buy and what motivates a person to action
lets review the 12 elements of a winning sales letter.
- Get Attention: Assuming the reader has opened your envelope, the
next step is to get their attention. The opening headline is the first thing that your
reader will look at. If it doesnt catch their attention you can kiss your letter
goodbye. People have a very short attention span and usually sort their mail over the
wastebasket. If the headline doesnt call out to them and pique their interest, they
will just stop and throw your letter away.
The following are three headline generating templates that are proven to get attention.
HOW TO _____________________
People love to know how to do things. When combined with a powerful benefit the How
to headline always gets peoples attention. In fact, theyre probably the
two most powerful words you can use in a headline.
SECRETS OF _________________ REVEALED!
People always want to know insider secrets. We love to know things that other
people arent privy to. Knowledge is power and those who have it feel powerful.
Besides that, most of us enjoy a good mystery, especially in the end when the
secret is revealed.
WARNING: DONT EVEN THINK OF ___________ UNTIL YOU ___________.
Remember that people are motivated by fear of loss more than the promise of gain? Well,
the warning headline screams fear. The word warning demands
attention and combined with something of interest to the reader, is a very powerful
- Identify the Problem: Now that you have your readers
attention you need to gain their interest by spelling out their problem and how it feels
to have that problem. The reader should say to himself, Yeah, thats exactly
how I feel when they read your copy. In fact, you shouldnt stop there. Pretend
that its an open wound that youre rubbing salt into.
This technique is called, problem agitate. You present the problem then
agitate it so that they really feel the pain and agony of their situation. People are such
strong creatures of habit that we rarely change our ways unless we feel great amounts of
pain. In fact, companies are no different. Most businesses trudge along doing the same old
thing until things get so bad that they have to make a change.
For example, if you were selling garage door openers you might agitate the problem by
telling a short story about what happens when it doesnt work.
Theres nothing worse than getting home in the evening and not having your
garage door open. Its dark outside and after tripping on the porch step you search
for your front door key.
Finally, you find it only to scratch your new front door up trying to find the keyhole.
Exhausted, you get inside and plop down on the couch just when you remember your car is
still running in your driveway
In this scenario the problem was a faulty garage door opener and the agitation is all the
terrible things that happen because of the faulty garage door opener.
Provide the Solution: Now that youve built your readers
interest by making them feel the pain its time to provide the solution. This is the
part of the sales letter where you boldly stake your claim that you can solve the
In this section you will introduce yourself, your product and/or your service. Relieve the
readers mind by telling them that they theres no need to struggle through all
their problems because your product or service will solve it for them.
- Present your Credentials: In most cases, after you have
introduced yourself and your product or service your reader is thinking, Yeah, sure
he can fix my problem. Thats what they all say. So now its important to
hit them right away with the reason why you can be trusted.
List your credentials including any one of the following:
- Successful case studies.
- Prestigious companies (or people) you have done business with.
- The length of time youve been in your field of expertise.
- Conferences where you have spoken.
- Important awards or recognitions.
Your reader should get the impression after reading this section that youve
been there and done that with great success and that the reader can expect the same
- Show the Benefits: Now its time to tell the reader how they will
personally benefit from your product or service. Dont make the common mistake of
telling all about the features of your product without talking about the benefits. As I
already stated, people are interested, not so much in you, or even your product or
service, but what it will do for them.
Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the center of the paper. Now write all the
features of your product or service on the left. Think about the obvious benefits and
not-so-obvious benefits of the each feature and write them down on the right side of the
paper. Most of the time your product will have hidden benefits that people wont
naturally think of.
For example, a hot tub not only soothes and relaxes your muscles but it also gives you an
opportunity to talk to your spouse without interruptions. The hidden benefit is greater
communication with your spouse and ultimately a better marriage!
Bullet point each benefit to make it easier to read. Think about every possible benefit
your reader may derive from your product or service. In many cases, people will buy a
product or service based on only one of the benefits you list.
- Give Social Proof: After youve presented all your benefits the
reader will again begin to doubt you, even though they secretly want all your claimed
benefits to be true. To build your credibility and believability present your reader with
testimonials from satisfied customers.
Testimonials are powerful selling tools that prove your claims to be true. To make your
testimonial even more powerful include pictures of your customers with their names and
addresses (at least the city and state).
You might even ask if you can use their phone number. Most readers wont call but it
is a powerful statement to include their complete contact information. It demonstrates
that you are real and so are the testimonials.
- Make Your Offer: Your offer is the most important part of your sales
letter. A great offer can overcome mediocre copy but great copy cannot overcome a mediocre
offer. Your offer should be irresistible. You want your reader to say to themselves,
Id be stupid not to take advantage of this deal.
Your offer can come in many different formats. The best offers are usually an attractive
combination of price, terms, and free gifts. For example, if you were selling a car your
offer might be a discounted retail price, low interest rate, and a free year of gas.
Hint: When developing your offer you should always try to raise the value of your offer by
adding on products or services rather than lowering your price. Include vivid explanations
of the benefits of the additional products or services you are offering in order to raise
the perceived value of your offer.
- Give a Guarantee: To make your offer even more irresistible you need to
take all the risk out of the purchase. Remember, that people have a built-in fear that
they are going to get ripped off. How many times have you purchased a product and got
stuck with it because the merchant wouldnt give your money back?
Give the absolute strongest guarantee you are able to give. If you arent confident
enough in your product or service to give a strong guarantee you should think twice about
offering it to the public.
In reality, almost all small businesses already have a very strong guarantee, but
dont realize it! If you had an irate customer that wanted their money back would you
just say, No, Im sorry. I will not give your money back? Probably not.
If they insist on getting their money back, in most cases youll give it back to
You see, most businesses already have a strong guarantee and dont hold it up and
trumpet it for fear that a lot of people would take them up on it. Thats simply
doesnt happen. When was the last time you asked for a full refund on something? If
youre like me, its been a while.
Here is an example of a guarantee that I give for one of my products:
"100%, No Questions Asked, Take-It-To-The-Bank Guarantee"
I personally guarantee if you make a diligent effort to use just a few of the techniques
in this course, you'll produce at least $4,490 profit in the next 12 months. That's right,
$4,490 extra profit you never would have seen without this course. If you don't, I'll
refund the entire cost of the course to you.
Actually, you get double protection. Here's how. At any time during the 12 months, if you
sincerely feel I fell short in any way on delivering everything I promised, I'll be happy
to give you a complete refund. Even if it's on the last day of the twelfth month!
This guarantee extends for an entire year and that they will receive specific benefits (in
this case its money). It they dont get what they expect, they get their money
back with no questions asked. This virtually eliminates all the risk for the buyer.
Hint: Your offer may be so good that people wont believe it. Youve heard the
old axiom, If its too good to be true, it probably is. To avoid this
thinking, give the reason why you can give such as great offer. For example, you might
have goofed when ordering inventory and now youre overstocked and thats why
you can offer such a great price. When people read the reason why, it will help them
reconcile your irresistible offer in their mind and make it more believable.
- Inject Scarcity Most people take their time responding to offers, even when they are
irresistible. There are many reasons why people procrastinate on investing in a solution.
The following are just a few:
- They dont feel enough pain to make a change.
- They are too busy and just forget.
- They dont feel that the perceived value outweighs your asking price.
- They are just plain lazy
To motivate people to take action they usually need an extra incentive. Remember when I
said that people are more motivated to act by the fear of loss rather than gain?
Thats exactly what you are doing when you inject scarcity into your letter.
When people think there is a scarce supply of something they need they usually rush to
get some of it. You can create a feeling of scarcity by telling your reader that either
the quantity is in limited supply or that your offer is valid for only a limited time
Your offer could sound something like this:
"If you purchase by (future date) you will get the entire set of free
Our supply is limited to only 50 (product or service) and will be sent to you on a
first come, first served basis. After they are gone there wont be any
This offer is only good until (future date) after which the (product or service)
will return to its original price.
One word of caution: If you make an offer you need to live up to it. If you go back on
your word after the deadline date you will begin to erode the trust and confidence your
customers have come to expect from you.
- Call to action: Do not assume that your reader knows what to do to
receive the benefits from your offer. You must spell out how to make the order in a very
clear and concise language. Whether its picking up the phone and making the call, filling
out an order form, faxing the order form to your office etc
. you must tell them
exactly how to order from you.
Your call to action must be action-oriented. You can do this using words like
Pick Up the Phone and Call Now! or Tear Off the Order Form and Send It
In Today! or Come to Our Store by Friday and
Be explicit and
succinct in your instructions.
Plant your call to action throughout your letter. If you are asking the reader to call
your free information line then perhaps some of the testimonials might say, When I
called their free information line or in your offer you might say, When you
call our free information line
Then when you give the call to action at the
end of the letter, people wont be surprised or confused. It will be consistent with
what you said all throughout your letter.
- Give a Warning: A good sales letter will continue to build emotion,
right up to the very end. In fact, your letter should continue to build emotion even after
your call to action. Using the risk of loss strategy, tell the reader what
would happen if they didnt take advantage of your offer. Perhaps they would continue
- Struggle day to day to make ends meet.
- Work too hard just to get a few customers.
- Lose the opportunity to receive all your valuable bonuses.
- Keep getting what theyve always got.
- Watch other companies get all the business Etc.
Try to paint a graphic picture in the mind of the reader about the consequences of not
taking action now. Remind them just how terrible their current state is and that it just
doesnt have to be that way.
- Close with a Reminder: Always include a postscript (P.S.). Believe it
or not, your P.S. is the third most read element of your sales letter. Ive seen good
copywriters use not just one postscript, but many (P.P.S). In your postscript you want to
remind them of your irresistible offer. If youve used scarcity in your sales letter,
include your call to action then remind them of the limited time (or quantity) offer. It
sounds like a simple step but postscripts get noticed.
Voila! You now have a powerful sales letter. Using this 12-step formula anyone can
write an effective sales letter that sells. The following are a few extra tips to help you
write an even better sales letter:
- Tip #1: Write the Features/Benefits The biggest hurdle to
writing a great sales letter is just getting started. Many people have a fear of writing.
One way to get your letter started and develop a helpful guide for your letter is to write
a feature/benefit list.
Take a set of 3 x 5 cards and write all the features you know about on one side of the
cards. Then turn the cards over and write a benefit for each feature. Youll have
started your letter and produced a list of benefits you can use to write it.
- Tip #2: Once you have completed the letter, let it sit for a day or so.
This will allow you to be more objective you when you edit your letter. If youve
just spent the last few hours working on it you will find it hard to catch the mistakes or
edits in the letter because youre just too close to it.
- Tip #3: Develop a swipe file to help get your creative
juices flowing. When you see a great ad or receive a particularly effective letter in the
mail, keep it in a file that you can refer back to again and again. Companies pay
thousands of dollars to develop their marketing materials; you might as well take
advantage of that by using it as a model for your own work.
- Tip #4: Before you start writing your sales letter, develop a customer
profile sheet by documenting every thing you know about your target customer. Some great
copywriters put a picture of a typical customer in front of them as they write to help
them remember to whom they are writing the letter.
- Tip #5: I often get the question, How long should my sales letter
be? and my answer is, As long as it needs to be. Each part of your sales
letter should be building your case. If it takes ½ page to build your case then
thats how long your letter should be; however, I use a 24-page sales letter to
successfully sell one of my products.
Most anyone can write a powerful sales letter by just following this simple 12-step
process. Make sure that you include each of the steps because each step builds your case
in a unique way and adds to the readers emotions.
How To Increase Your Sales & Search
About the Author:
David Frey, President of Marketing Best Practices Inc., a Houston-based small business
marketing consulting firm. and is the senior editor of the Marketing Best Practices
Newsletter featuring small business marketing best practices. http://www.MarketingBestPractices.com
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