How to Close Business Letters?
A common fault of many salesmen is that they lead their prospect right up to the point of signing the order and then fall down. They lack the knack of closing. And many sales letters have the same fault.
No matter how faithfully you comply with the rules of successful letter writing, if you fail to induce your reader to act — to do the thing that all that has gone before was simply leading up to — your work will be an utter failure.
You can readily recall letters you have received that lacked the vital spark of action. They attracted your attention, aroused your interest, created a keen desire for the goods and then, somehow, the writer seemed to weaken — he trailed off to a vague conclusion, expressed himself in generalities or suggested that you suit your convenience.
A sales letter to be well rounded out must have a strong climax. The writer must always keep the situation he has created well in hand. He must tell the reader what to do, why it is to his interest to do it and then insist that it be done at once.
This is not accomplished by threats, force or blows. On the contrary, persuasion, inducement and desire for gain are the action-compelling elements employed. The prospect is shown the reason why it is to his interest to order NOW.
There are many inducements that may be offered to secure action. Here are a few of those most commonly employed.
3. Free sample
4. Special price for a limited time
5. Special price to introduce
6. Guarantee of money refunded if not satisfied
7. Limited quantity on hand
8. Last chance — offer will not be repeated
9. Goods reserved, subject to your decision
10. Nothing down — easy payments
The good climax has two parts. In the first part you summarize the strong points that have gone before. It is a miniature word-picture of all that the reader will gain and all that he will lose if he does not act. It should bring him up on his toes. It is the point where he exclaims — 'Tm convinced — I'm sold — now what shall I do?"
The second part is your clincher. It is the part that answers that natural question — that tells him what to do. And it tells him simply, plainly, unambiguously, so that he will have no reason for not doing it.
If you fail in the first part of your climax, you will not add that finishing touch, that knock-out blow that will give you the count. If you fail in the second, your victory will be barren of fruits.
Take a lesson here from the salesman. When he has worked his prospect up to the point of action, does he ask him to write a letter, send in the order next week, or give his answer when convenient? He does not! What he does is to place an order blank before you, hand you a fountain pen and almost guide your hand while you sign it. He knows there is many a slip and he leaves nothing for granted. At the least show of hesitation, he again drives home what this action will mean to you — how you will profit.
You can't stand over your prospect in a literal sense, but you can in a figurative sense and you can supply the coax or urge — the order blank — too. Here is where your return card, order form or coupon comes in. These are the connecting links between the salesmanship you have displayed in your letter and the injunction to sign and mail today.
Compare this close with one that follows it.
"If you are interested in what we have said and in our proposition, we will be grateful if you will fill out the enclosed."
Now see the punch in this.
"But the first order gets them — so don't delay a single day. The blank enclosed will tell us just how many to make up for you and your check will insure prompt prepaid delivery — scoring a beat on your slow-moving competitor."
Here the inducement is a limited supply. You must hurry to get what is offered. And the reference to your competitor is a clever spur to urge you on.
This installment proposition is brought to a strong close. It summarizes in the first part the biggest advantage offered in the preceding arguments and introduces in the climax the suggestion of disappointment if you do not act at once.
"This does not call for the expenditure of a cent of your money, except for gas, which you will find is a very cheap fuel for cooking purposes. As there are only 100 of these stoves to be sent out in this way, it will be necessary for you to fill out the enclosed slip and mail at once or you will be disappointed."
Note how logically and forcefully an advertising agency closes a letter on a special advertising proposition. If you have been convinced by this letter that you should have this advertising how can you escape after this straight-from-the-shoulder statement? You can't, for it is human nature to want for yourself something that has been offered to the other fellow — to beat him to it.
"This offer is not made to you alone. We could not afford to do that. It is for you to decide if your order shall reach us first to secure the exclusive use of this series, as we will be obliged to grant the first applicant from your territory. The price is so low. The advertising is so good. The advantages are so obvious. There is every reason why you should mail an order right now — this very hour."
This letter carried a postscript, again summarizing the advantages of immediate action and again urging that the order be sent at once.
Don't overlook the value of a good postscript and don't overwork the postscript idea. Used occasionally, it has great strength. Adopted for all letters it will have the same effect as the salesman who says a word too much.
When used with discretion a postscript may serve to mirror up again to the reader the principal points of the proposition and perhaps turn him back from laying the letter aside. It might be termed added emphasis, but added emphasis is sometimes overemphasis.
An office appliance manufacturer has found that the simpler the task of replying is made the greater the returns. This close is typical of many of his letters….
"Don't bother writing your reply. Just 0.K. the letter and return it in the enclosed stamped envelope."
This is a good point to remember. The more red tape you require your prospect to go through the more likely his buying mood will cool off.
The same idea has been worked out by this concern….but the enclosure of an addressed envelope would have strengthened it.
"Your business needs this book. You can secure it by simply writing YES on the bottom of this letter and addressing it to the undersigned."
A guarantee, when rightly used, has a strong effect on the prospect who has been brought to the buying point. A tire company uses this inducement cleverly.
"If the S-V doesn't cost you less, mile for mile, than any other standard tire you run opposite it, we'll return in cash its full price.
"We put it in writing and sign it."
Questions, as a general rule, will weaken your close. Avoid asking them. This is a time for decision, for firmness, for taking for granted that the reader intends to act and will act. Questions play into his hands. You are put on the defensive. Keep cool. Keep him in line. To illustrate….
"Won't you please write us a letter telling us whether you expect to take up stenography? Have you any questions to ask us? We want to hear from you."
See how completely the writer has lost his grasp of the situation. There is no inducement, no climax, no positive points. The reader is quick to detect the uncertainty expressed and the whole effect of what has gone before is lost — the letter finds its way to the wastebasket.
Equally inefficient — even more so — are those timeworn and threadbare expressions we find in so many letters we receive. They have been handed down from a past generation, when the sales letter was an unknown quantity and why business houses of today continue to use them when they would not think of using the quill pens that coined them is beyond comprehension.
"Thanking you for any favors you may grant and awaiting your commands."
"Assuring you of our appreciation of your interest and hoping that we may hear from you further."
These, and hundred of others equally devoid of either sales or horse sense, are climaxes you should never be guilty of.
Remember, as a closing injunction, that "procrastination is the thief of time" in a letter as in anything else and that in a letter it is also the thief of the order. Never permit your prospect to postpone, defer, delay or put off until tomorrow. Today — that moment when he is at the conclusion of your sales letter — is the golden moment and by having the right climax and the right clincher you will add him to your list of successful conquests.
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