And is it Persuasive?

It was the struggle a client was having writing effective sales emails that lead me to resurrect a blog from some time ago.  The issue was to what extent “fear” should be used to drive sales.

There are two versions of this conflict:

  • Using a Subject line of “Who Else Wants … ?”  With this technique, you're making the implication that everyone else is doing it. And also playing on the fear of being left out. The "it" is the solution your client's product or service offers.  Fear of loss is a powerful trigger.
  • Having a “villain” in your message.  It's the villain who determines how much you like the good guys. And, it's the villain who is #1 in any story. And guess what? It's the exact same in your emails, too.

Regardless of what you sell (product, service, fundraising, etc., doesn't matter) or whom you sell to, your product is the hero, riding in on his noble steed and slaying the bad guy.

But, if the bad guy is not seen as a truly credible threat, something evil and malicious, and who will destroy the world (or, rather, the prospect's world), then your product will not look nearly as effective as it really is.

What do your clients think of denigrating the competition?  That’s the risk!  Do they find it off-putting?  Some do, but it has been said "C-level" copywriters fall back on the 'old reliables' of fear and greed. And while those two emotions can power some successful promotions, you'll miss huge opportunities to write successful copy if they're the only emotions in your toolbox.

As the great copywriter Clayton Makepeace says, your sales message should activate a relevant and actionable DOMINANT EMOTION in the prospect. Because human beings almost never make purchases for logical reasons, but as their emotions dictate, the copy should activate a fear, frustration and/or desire that the prospect already has, then offer him a way to fulfil or assuage that emotion.”

I’ll come right out and say the principles expounded in this blog post are based on the first version.  They are useful not just for emails, but also sales letters, and indeed quotations, proposals and tenders. 

But would the second be more effective?  After all, effectiveness is what counts when you are after sales!

I’ve added some additional comments.

So here we go.

Do you know what is NOT effective in a Sales Proposal or Sales Letter?  You should, because these mistakes are far from rare.   They occur time and time again.  And they are so off-putting.

The first mistake occurs right at the beginning of the pitch.  It’s where the business starts talking about themselves, how good they are, how they are unique, unmatchable in every respect, the “ant’s pants” in fact.

I call these ME-ME proposals.

So let’s look at what you can do to change all that, and write a sales email or proposal that works.

Start with the Headline

If your headline doesn’t grab them, then they are not going to read on.  So it has to be meaningful to them.

The Hook - you need to grab your prospect’s attention.  Headlines are the advertisement for your promotion, so you need to create an impact.  The headline has to have a hook that leads the reader on.  You only get one chance to grab their attention before they file your message in the round file.

And then the Key - the key to understanding headlines is that what grabs attention is personal benefit, known as WIIFM – What’s In It For Me.  So you need to highlight a key benefit, preferably backed by a promise. 

An example:  Low Maintenance School Uniforms – That Last

So in this example the benefit is Low Maintenance School Uniforms and the promise is That Last. 

There are some classic headlines leads that are used over and over again ….. because they work.  Some have benefits and promise, others just benefit.  Swipe and deploy!

(Comment – should “fear” – either V1 or V2 -be used in the Headline?)

The First 50 Words

What comes next is also very important; the opening paragraph.  This is where the ME-ME shouldn’t come in, but so often does.

Your opening paragraph must be about your prospect, and their problem.  Show that you understand them, their problem, and the difficulties it causes them.  Empathise with them.  Remember, it’s about them, not you.   You can’t be persuasive if there is no empathy.

A typical way to do that is to highlight the gap between where your prospect is right now, and the benefit and promise of the headline. 

After all, if there wasn’t a gap they wouldn’t be interested.

Staying with school uniforms: “Are you sick and tired of always having to buy expensive school uniforms only to find they are high maintenance; they pick-up dirt marks so easily, those dirt marks are hard to remove, they always requiring ironing.  And they don’t last.  It doesn’t have to be that way.” 

The prospect is now being troubled by the problems they are facing.  You’ve brought the problems to front of mind.

(Comment – “fear” could agitate the problem, bring it to more of the forefront of the mind)

Now you are need to develop Interest 

Remember the task of the opening paragraph is to build on your headline to lead the prospect to read on. 

I like using the acronym PIPES:

P – Problem; we started with that.

I – Implications; what are the implications for them if they don’t solve their problem.  Use emotional concepts.  Remember, people buy on emotions, and rationalise their decision with the facts.  “Fear” in either version could have a real role here.

P – Potential; what can they achieve/do/enjoy when their problem is solved.  Again, emotions help.  Ask them to visualise their situation once the problem has gone – Imagine this …..

(Comment – without the villain on the scene, what could be achieved?)

E- Explanation;  This is where the facts come in.  Why there is a solution, and how it will work.  This is not yet your solution, but why the type of service/product you provide will solve their problem. 

(Comment – Version 1, what is needed to not be left behind, Version 2 – how to vanquish the villain!)

S – Solution;  Now you are going to lead the reader into all the benefits of your product or service, why your solution is the only logical choice.  You are telling them you have the solution to their problem, that your product will close the gap referred to above – guaranteed.

(Comment – why your product/service will overcome the problem in V1 or V2)

Introduce all the benefits of your product or service and why they offer the desired solution.  It is about the end results.

To have the greatest impact use bullet points to illustrate each benefit.  Bullet points are built for flyers and a lot of other promotional messages.  So often people skim through your copy.  Bullet points make skimming easy. 

You don’t have to use a lot of writing tricks like connectors and other means of transition; just load the bullets, one after another.

Don’t just list the features (what your product is or has) of your product or service.  Tell them what the feature will do for them.  That’s the benefit.  It tells them WIIFM.  “Our uniforms are all made from XYZ Wonder Fabric.  This means:”

But there is more to your persuasive sales email or proposal.  We haven’t finished yet. 

Next week I’ll look at four more steps.

Could your Sales Emails, Proposals or Tenders be Improved?

There’s nothing like an outside view, a second opinion.  Very often when we read something we’ve written, we read what we expect to see.  And miss the mistakes, or lack of logic, or lack of persuasiveness.   Are you fighting villains, or seeking to stay in front?

If you would like to discuss how you could improve your sales letters, proposals or tenders, contact me.  There’s no cost for a consultation.  It is my gift to you.

© Copyright 2018 Adam Gordon, The Profits Leak Detective 

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