How to Write a Salesletter Even if You’re Not a Copywriter

I wrote my first real salesletter back in 2002 in an effort to sell a tiny little music accessory (called an oboe reed) on the internet. By all accounts, the salesletter was terrible. Except that it sold a lot of our products. I was excited and thought it meant I knew something about writing copy.

As it turns out, I had stumbled onto THE secret for writing effective copy, which I’ll reveal in just a moment.

While there are countless books written about how to write copy, many of them can be completely overwhelming. So at the risk of underwhelming you, what follows is probably the world’s shortest guide for how to write a salesletter.

It is written with a single focus: to give you a framework to follow, starting just 5 minutes from now, to write a salesletter even if you’re not a copywriter.

One tip before we jump in:

While writing a sales letter is about “writing,” it’s best not to put on your writing cap. Stop trying to “write” and simply transcribe what you would say if you were talking to a single person about what you have. That makes this process much easier.

So let’s get started…

STEP 1: Shine Your Spotlight on the Right Target

Writing effective sales copy is about making a connection, on an emotional level, with your reader. This is difficult to do if you focus only on your own wants and needs.

The way to create an instant connection is to structure what you write from the perspective of your reader. Step into their shoes and stay there.

The goal is to develop a clear understanding of the emotional condition of your reader. What are they feeling? Once you know what that is, practice feeling it yourself. This will inform the way you write and it will allow you to truly understand the perspective of your reader.

Writing a salesletter is about THEM, not YOU. Stop thinking about what you are trying to achieve with the letter and start thinking about what they are trying to achieve in their life. Shine the spotlight on your reader and keep it there.

How are you supposed to get them to want what you have if you’re not shining the spotlight on it?

You don’t have to create desire in your prospects for what you are offering (thank you Mr. Eugene Schwarz). Your prospective buyers already have wants and desires. What are those wants and desires? That’s what you focus on. The trick is to position what you are offering as the vehicle to get them those wants and desires.

Instead of “trying to sell,” the goal is to create an environment where they want to buy.

STEP 2: Uncover the “Big Idea”

Building your salesletter on a single BIG IDEA is how you keep your reader interested. (For a step-by-step process on finding the big idea, read this.) Your copy is focused on the big idea and keeps referring back to it to revitalize the reader’s emotions.

For example, imagine that you design websites for clients to sell their products/services on. This is a small idea. Your potential clients would be far more interested, inspired and excited by the idea of buying “virtual oil wells” that are setup for them to create revenue on demand. Your “web design” becomes a “virtual oil well.” That’s a big idea.

What is THE big idea that your product is built on? If you don’t know yet, figure it out before you start writing.

This clarity helps your writing because it gives you the “main idea” that everything you write about relates back to. It serves as the foundation of your writing because it’s exciting/inspiring/empowering to your reader.

STEP 3: Write a Headline That Conveys Your “Big Idea” in a Way That Prompts Your Reader to HAVE to Know More

If you were walking down the street and your reader was approaching you from the other direction, what would you have to say to the stranger to instantly attract their attention about what you have?

Your headline doesn’t need to solve their problem in one sentence, it simply needs to get their attention. You’re not closing the sale here, you’re simply opening the door.

After you’ve written your headline, step into the shoes of your reader and ask yourself, “Does this make me want to read more or not?”

That will tell you if there’s more work to be done.

STEP 4: Transport Them Somewhere Else

You can’t sell much if no one reads your letter. So the first priority once you earn your reader’s attention is to KEEP that attention.

The beginning of your salesletter is not something you gloss over just to get to the part where you tell them what you have. The beginning of your letter is where you earn (or lose) the opportunity to tell your reader about how you can help them. After the headline, this is the most important part to get right!

If the beginning of the letter bores them or turns them off, you are done.

This is why starting with a story is so effective. People love stories. They love to see how stories end. Stories are a very simple way to draw your reader into a new world and transport them away from what they were just doing.

So start your letter with a story, or a little known fact, or a mystery or something else extremely interesting. This really IS important, so take time on this step.

Ask yourself, “What is the best thing for me to say right now that would make my reader WANT to know more?”

STEP 5: Tell Them What You Have

Once your reader is sold on reading your letter, that’s when you can move into the body of your writing and introduce what you have.

Remember, the goal here isn’t to sell them, it’s to engineer an environment where they can’t help but buy.

This is why positioning what you have as a clear and effective solution to a problem they have is so effective. People already want solutions, so half of your work is done.

The body of your letter is where you tell them what you have. It’s where you mention the features and benefits of your product or service. And it’s where you make promises and claims that you support with PROOF.

The body of the letter has to appeal to your reader’s mind while not losing the connection to their emotions. This is why the BIG IDEA is so important. Referring back to the BIG IDEA rekindles the emotional flame in your reader.

STEP 6: Is Your Offer Good? Is It Great?

At some point in the body of your letter, you’re going to spell out exactly what your buyer will get and for how much. This is called your offer.

Do you think your offer is good enough to sell? That’s the starting point. Good enough is not good enough. Great is where you want to aim. When in doubt, increase the value of your offer.

The goal is to make your offer such a “no-brainer” value that they want to buy it. Great offers make everything else easier.

That way you can get out of the “selling” mindset and into the mindset where you’re simply offering people diamonds in exchange for pennies.

Put yourself in the shoes of your reader (again) and ask, “Would I buy this without even having to think? Is it that good? Or would it be something I’d have to consider?”

STEP 7: Filling in the Holes

Effective copy leaves nothing to chance. Have you left any questions unanswered? Have you left any objections unresolved?

Is there any other information required for your reader to take action?

Have you made it clear what action is to be taken and given a believable reason for that action to be taken sooner than later?

You need to imagine BOTH sides of the conversation. Writing effective sales copy is not about talking AT your reader, it is about having an “imaginary” conversation with them.

The Copywriting Secret I Discovered in My First Salesletter

Back when I wrote that first salesletter for my products, I stumbled upon a big secret to writing effective sales copy.

Here’s the secret:

What you say is much more important than how you say it.

And figuring out what to say has everything to do with the person who’s going to read your letter.

Never take your focus off of that person. And do the work required to truly understand that person on a level deeper than they even understand themselves.

That’s the work to be done.

Does this help you with your salescopy writing skills?

[Ed. Note: Jason Leister is a direct response copywriter, internet entrepreneur and editor of the daily e-letter, The Client Letter, where he empowers independent professionals who work with clients. He has six kids and lives and works by the lake in Minnesota.]