See the Greatest Sales Letter Ever Written

May 16, 2018

sales letter

A sales letter (sales letter!) generated over $2 BILLION dollars in sales.

One letter.

Want to see it? Maybe use some of it for yourself?

A few years ago, some clever person at the Wall Street Journal wrote what has come to be considered the greatest sales letter ever.

Because it sold $2 BILLION dollars of subscriptions.

That’s a lot of papers.

Here’s a slight variation on the letter:

On a beautiful early summer day, just this year, two young, eager entrepreneurs were attending the same event. They were very much alike, these two business people. Both were better than average at what they did, both were personable and both were filled with ambitious dreams for their future.

And both, it turned out, had started their businesses around the same time, and actually were masters in the same discipline.

But there was a difference. One of them was stuck beyond stuck, and couldn’t figure out how to get customers to build their business to match those ambitious dreams.   The other was the company president of a very successful business.

What Made the Difference

Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference in people’s lives? It isn’t always an innate ability or talent or dedication. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.

The difference lies in what each person knows and how he or she makes use of that knowledge.

And that is why I am writing to you, and to people like you, about the Wall Street Journal. For that is the whole purpose of The Journal: To give its readers knowledge– knowledge they can use in business.

Now there are many adaptations and straight-up rip-offs of this letter over the years.  Most experts agree this letter is the root.

Advertising Age said this letter is responsible for selling the most stuff ever! Ever.

What did this sales letter do that was SO GREAT $2 Billion dollars got slapped down on the table?

Well, first it offered a story of two people the readers could relate with.  They were, or wanted to be, young and eager entrepreneurs.

Next, it created some curiosity and suspense that encourages you to keep reading.  What was the reason one succeeded wildly and the other was stuck?

Lastly, the letter told you the solution to the problem…the problem many of their readers likely had.

I’m betting you have prospects who might not be paying as much attention to you as you’d like.

Perhaps this letter offers you a “role model” to use to reconnect.

Try this.

Give them a story of people they can relate to, who have a similar problem.

Create some curiosity and/or suspense in the story to encourage continued reading.

Make sure the problem you’re solving is the problem your Ideal Customer wants to solve.

You might not sell $2 Billion dollars of your stuff.

Then again…maybe you will :>)

Go forth and do great things,

Martha Hanlon & Chris Williams

What Mom Taught Me About Sales

May 9, 2018

girl scout cookies

 

I thought I was going to die.

Right there.  On the spot.  I was done for.  That’s it.

She had to be kidding me.

My Mom could kid like that.

I asked again. Same answer.

Not kidding.

She really, really meant it.

So, I was going to die.  At the very least, I would be the embarrassment of the entire Girl Scout Troup 271.

My Mom was NOT…under any circumstances…going to sell my Girl Scout cookies for me.

Say the words “Girl Scout cookies” to people, and they get different images, depending on their age.

Younger folks think of a gaggle of girls sitting in front of the Safeway, Acme, Wegmans, Publix…WITH THEIR MOMS…with boxes of Girl Scout cookies piled on a folding table.

As you walk in and out, a bunch of little voices call out “would you like to buy some girl scout cookies?”

You turn around and buy 6 boxes.

Because you knew the cookies wouldn’t be available for long.

Easy sale.

If you’re a bit older, you probably remember the sales approach and system a little differently.  You went door-to-door or (worse) called for sales.

That was me.

Now you can see (appreciate??) my terror…I had to go door-to-door and TALK TO PEOPLE I DIDN’T KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ring their doorbell.

Say something.

Smile.

Look them in the eye.

Talk.

Sell.

Gulp.

Now my Mom had a job.  She saw and enjoyed chatting with lots of people every day.

I concocted a plan:

  • Step 1—Hand Mom my cookie order sheet
  • Step 2—Mom puts said cookie order sheet on her desk
  • Step 3–Mom asks people to buy as they stop to see her
  • Step 4—Mom sells LOTS of cookies, and I become the top Girl Scout cookie sales person in my Troop

She LIKED talking to people.  Loved it.

Twelve-year-old me.  Hated it.

This was a GREAT plan.

Except she was having none of it.

If they were my cookies, I would have to sell them.

Mom taught me a great lesson that day.  If you want something, it’s your responsibility to go get it.

She taught me I wouldn’t die if I talked to people about what they want (cookies, now, because they wouldn’t be around long).

She taught me I was responsible for my own success.

It’s a lesson I’ll never forget, and one that’s been so important to me in my life I’ve chosen to share it with you.

Go Sell.

Find out the problem your Ideal Customer has and solve it.

We could call it “being of service” because it is.

But that just hides the word “sales” which isn’t a dirty word.

You’re responsible for your success. If it’s your job (at least for right now) to sell for your business, GO SELL.

You’re not going to die.

I didn’t.

Thanks, Mom.

Go forth, do great things…and say THANKS to your Mom,

Martha Hanlon and Chris Williams

P.S.  The Epilogue:  I did go out and sell Girl Scout cookies.  My Mom pointed me towards the “rich people’s neighborhood” and they bought lots of cookies.  I was top sales person in my Troop that year.  Love you, Mom.

When They Only Care About Price

May 2, 2018

cost too much

“Why didn’t they buy from you?” I ask.

“It cost too much,” they answer.

Could this be your most insurmountable obstacle to making the sale?  It’s actually not.

“It costs too much.”

We don’t talk enough about pricing, yet it’s one of my favorite topics.

Listen to me—the odds are outstanding…OUTSTANDING …your products and services DO NOT cost too much.

Frankly, we find the opposite is usually true.  You don’t COST ENOUGH.

Your price is generally not the issue.

We’ve all bought things that didn’t cost the least.  You’re not driving around in the least expensive car on the market.  You’re not purchasing the least expensive clothes available.  You’re not pinching your pennies and only buying food from the cheapest source.  You’re not drinking “Two Buck Chuck” wine (ever, I hope).

If you’re not buying the cheapest things out there, neither are you customers.

The problem rests with you–you didn’t establish the value of what you are selling.

For every purchase your customer makes they weigh the cost against its value.  And who’s responsible for establishing value?

You (ya, ya…I know you knew that).

Yes, you have competition, and it’s growing.  Yes, people might be tightening their belts based on where you live or what you’re selling.

None of that reduces your requirement to lay out the value of what you are offering.

Value isn’t some vague, nebulous thing.  Value gets established by recognizing and building in several components to your offering:

  • Appeal (I want this because it takes away my headache, my pain/problem/issue/challenge/ concern/obstacle)
  • The outcome of buying this “thing” (their problem—as they see it—goes away)
  • Exclusivity (I can only get this from you—only you can take away my headache)

You can see what your job is, right?  Build in appeal, a client-desired outcome, and exclusivity.

And if you don’t, the client will decide those things for themselves—and they will most likely be wrong.  And then those disappointing, nasty words will be uttered…

“It costs too much.”

When you don’t.

Stop telling me about all the features of your “thing.”  Or all about the service.  Or all about you.

Your customers don’t care about you, your service or its features…yet.

They care about themselves.

They care about what you will do for them, how you will change their life, how you will take away their headache (the headache they want taken away, not the one you want to take away).

I’m not talking about spin, or hype, or fluff, or hypnotism, or twisting anyone’s arm.

I’m talking about the clear creation and then communications of the value of working with you.

How about ending the whole discussion of “It cost too much” in favor of “Okay, when do we start?”

Go forth and do great things,

Martha Hanlon and Chris Williams