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Building the Letter 1

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BUILDING THE LETTER 1. Successful letters built on good salesmanship.— One could not overemphasize the fact that successful letters are built on good salesmanship—whether or not the writer is conscious that he is applying selling principles. If he does consciously practise these prin ciples, however, his letter will be all the better on that account, for he will be much less likely in so doing to make fundamental mistakes. Good salesmanship will mean to him, primarily, a knowledge of conditions. He will give himself adequate opportunity to learn the reader's point of view, and will make good use of this knowledge as his best guide in building the letter.

2. No fixed process.—Few successful correspond ents build their letters consciously by means of a fixed process. This fact, however, does not mean that it is not valuable to know a fixed process that will be of help in the building of a successful letter. Many people play the piano by ear, for instance, but the greatest players are those who possess a thoro knowl edge of the technic of their art. For each one who plays well by ear, hundreds play well because they have devoted many hours to the study of harmony and counterpoint, as well as countless hours in finger exercises. In letter writing, which is about as much of an art as piano playing, the case is similar. The possession of a native ability to write effective letters is highly desirable, but it constitutes a strong argu ment for studying technic, and not, as some seem to think, against it. The man who writes letters "by ear" is never as sure that his letter will be successful as the man whose natural ability is coupled with a knowledge of the principles of successful salesman ship.

3. Fundamental it is probably true that no hard and fast rule for building a success ful letter can be laid down, yet among many writers of effective letters we find agreement in regard to the fundamental steps.

Men who have little or no experience in one kind of business, especially experience in dealing with cus tomers, are seldom able to write successful selling letters to prospective customers of that business, no matter how skilful they may be in expression. On

the other band, men who have had the necessary ex perience in their particular line of business cannot write successful letters unless they know how to ex press themselves effectively. One point, then, on which authorities agree, is that business experience and the ability to express one's self are both funda mental requirements for success in correspondence.

Nearly all writers of effective letters agree that the correspondent should think carefully before he writes. When a letter fails, it is generally because the writer has not done this. It is true, of course, that the man who has had years of experience does not need to give so much time to the planning of his letter. But this does not. mean that he need not plan it at all; it simply means that his previous experience enables him to plan much of his letter as he writes. The great advantage of planning beforehand is that when the time comes for writing, the correspondent is free to concentrate on effective presentation.

Another ' fundamental point of agreement among successful sales correspondents is the necessity that the correspondent have clearly in mind as he writes, the specific and definite purpose of the letter; and, equally important, a definite knowledge of the im pression, or the series of impressions, that he wishes to make upon the reader in order to gain the desired end. Moreover, it is agreed that the writer should know what facts will be most likely to make each im pression; as well as what kind of expression is most likely to convey the facts clearly and forcibly to the reader's mind.

Expert correspondents also agree on the impor tance of a proper arrangement of facts and impres sions. They are also agreed that there is no essential difference between the construction of an effective routine letter and the composition of a forceful sales letter. If this is so, a study of sales correspondence is of considerable value to the man who writes any kind of a business letter, irrespective of the amount of influence that it exerts upon sales.

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