sales letter - direct mail


There is no real mystery about how to create a compelling sales letter.

The approach you use will depend on the aim of the letter, the audience you’re addressing and the nature of your company or organisation.

However, regardless of that, there are some core elements all sales letters have.

This post will look at those elements and discusses how they can be adapted to suit your particular needs.

Let’s start at the top.

Making an immediate impact

The most important part of any sales letter is its opening.

Whether you opt for a heading before the greeting or a powerful first sentence, you have to grab the reader’s attention immediately if you want them to read further.

There are two schools of thought about the headline option – whether it should be creative, or stick to the primary benefit of what you’re offering.

Certainly, telling the reader you’re about to save them money is probably going to want them to read more, but so can a creative hook.

I recently created a sales letter for a finance company that provides flexible working capital for small businesses. Their existing raft of letters opened with the benefits of their increased flexibility, low rates, etc. However, they wanted to find a new approach that would set them apart from their competitors.

The solution I came up with was a more creative opening that would raise questions in the reader’s mind. A strong initial sentence and bullet points that highlighted the main benefits of their offering then reinforced this.

Format structure

There are several ways you can structure your letter: making an announcement, telling a story or asking a question.

My personal favourite is the problem/solution format. As the name suggests, after your strong headline, you state the problem you reader is facing and then provide them with a solution.

This works for most businesses, however, if you’re creating a letter for a charity, the story approach can be very powerful.

Writing it in the first person from an individual who has benefited from the charity, or as a story about a person can pull at the heartstrings of the reader because it humanises the cause.


Your product or service has benefits, and it has features.

Features are the nice to know, whereas benefits are the need to know because they are the ones that will make an emotion impact on your reader. They will make their life easier, save them money or make them more successful.

That’s why it’s important to stress the benefits in your letter.

Highlight them by showing them in a bulleted list, but make sure they are tangible and relevant to your audience.

Make your offer irresistible

Another important element of your sales letter is your offer.

People don’t buy products or services; they buy offers.

For example, if you’re selling glasses your reader will go for your ‘buy one get one free’ deal rather than ‘buy your designer glasses for £150’.

Equally, rather than signing up to buy 12 issues of your magazine, they’ll be falling over themselves to ‘sign up and get 50% off the newsstand price.’


Marketers talk a lot these days about the fear of missing out (FOMO), but the fear of being ripped off is just as powerful.

The best way to get your reader to buy is to offer them a cast iron money back guarantee. After all, if you’re so convinced your product or service is the best you should be prepared to back you claims up with a no quibble guarantee.

Plus, the more your stress it in your letter, the more likely you are to gain your reader’s trust.

Call to action

The final ingredient is the call to action (i.e. tell them what to do next).

You reader is intelligent, but it’s vital you still say what you want them to do.

Also, make it as easy as possible for them to order from you: enclosed a stamped address envelope, show your email clearly, offer a Freephone number – in fact, the more options you can provide the better.

Even if your phone number of email are in your signature or the header or footer of your letter, repeat it clearly and boldly after your call to action – you don’t want to give your reader any excuse not to get in touch.

These six elements are the vital ingredients for any sales letter.

It may take time to find the right combination and approach, and it’s always a good idea to test a couple of options to help you hone your recipe. Done well, a sales letter will still have an impact, despite the digital age in which we live. In fact, with the rise of email marketing, some people see it has a nice change to receive a letter.

Give it a try and experiment with a few different approaches to find out what works for your audience.

Sally Ormond has over ten years’ experience in creating eye-catching, compelling copy. To get your sales letters noticed, get in touch.