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Building the Letter 1

talk, selling, close, statements, closing, successful, reader and attention

BUILDING THE LETTER 1. Parts of a letter.—It is a mistaken idea that the close of a letter is the principal element in its success. The main problem in closing a letter ef fectively is to know when to stop—that is, when fav orable response is assured.

To say that the closing talk in a personal selling canvass is the most important part of the presenta tion is a generalization which is true of few cases, and presentations ought to be such that it would not be true of any. As a matter of fact, the entire sell ing canvass should be "closing talk." The opening statements sometimes have much more to do with closing the sale than the final statements. What is said in the body of the talk is all designed to close the sale. The mere fact that a few well chosen words happen to precede immediately the closing of the sale, does not signify that those words are necessarily largely responsible for the success of the talk.

Now the sales letter is a written selling talk. Just as it is wise to consider one part of a personal sell ing talk of as much importance as any other part, so it is best to consider that the opening, the body and the close of a selling letter have an equal influence in making the letter successful.

These divisions of the letter are merely mechanical conveniences. No general statement should be made to the effect that the most important part of a letter is either the opening or the close. Yet each of the divisions of a letter offers a distinct problem. To insure that the reader will give favorable attention to the rest of the letter is the writer's main problem in the opening, which is often called the "point of con tact." As regards the body of the letter, the corre spondent's chief concern should be to satisfy, as com pletely as may be necessary, the reader's desire for facts that will lead him to accept the offer. And in the close of the letter, as mentioned above, the princi pal point is to know when the reader's acceptance is assured, and to stop neither too soon nor too late.

2. Point of statements of fact, which suggest that, in all probability, it would pay the addressee to read on attentively, are found at the be ginning of many successful letters. In some cases these statements are designed also to cause the reader to feel that the writer has the reader's point of view and knows what he is talking about.

Here is the beginning of a letter to druggists that was successful: After you have run up front a half-dozen times to sell a couple of stogies, a package of court-plaster and a post age stamp ; to change a five-dollar bill for the barber ; to answer the 'phone and inform Mrs. Smith that Castoria

is thirty-five cents a bottle ; and to assure Mrs. Jones that you will have the doctor call her up as soon as he comes in, then take a minute for yourself and look over this proposi tion. It is worth while.

This opening paragraph caused the druggist to want to read on. In the first place, there is a touch of good nature which causes the reader to feel that he might get some further enjoyment from finishing the letter. But a busy druggist is not l'avorably in fluenced by this so much as by the impression that the writer knows what he is talking about—perhaps, be cause he has had experience in a drug store.

3. Credibility in the is said at the beginning of a selling letter must command belief as well as interest. There is a great temptation to make an exaggerated statement of the profit that the reader will derive if only he will read on into the let ter and then act upon the suggestions that are made. Lack of credibility only serves to lessen interest.

Openings which begin with "If" seldom get fav orable attention. "If" implies doubt, and therefore interferes with belief.

If, from where you arc sitting you could lay your hand on the best methods of selling more goods . . .

"If within arm's reach you could have ideas and sugges tions based upon the combined experience of 115 prominent sales managers . . . you would value this information highly.

This is the beginning of one letter that attempts to sell a book. It runs on with a long string of "if" sentences designed to sustain interest, altho the con clusions that complete the conditions are rather ob vious. The letter was not successful. Mechanical suspense of that kind seldom arouses interest. The appeal to self-interest is not as strong and direct as is necessary to arouse favorable attention. Buyers like to eliminate all "ifs" before they purchase. They depend on facts. Therefore, it is important that the correspondent convince them that the statements in the sales letter are true and are accurately expressed.

4. Abrupt openings openings that pave the way for a whole-hearted reception of facts are often necessary and effective, yet, as a rule, the opening that immediately wades into an impor tant fact, especially a fact that possesses high "news value" for the addressee, is most likely to get favor able attention; for example: Dear Sir: