FINDING AND FOLLOWING LEADS 1. "Quality" of the lead.—A majority of the sales letters that succeed are written to follow leads of good "quality." By the term "quality" is meant the degree of ease, or the degree of difficulty, with which the lead can be turned into a sale. This de gree is fixed to a large extent by conditions beyond the correspondent's control, which are, in many cases, largely responsible for the success of the letter. On the other hand, the degree of ease with which a lead can be turned into a sale can sometimes be increased by the correspondent. Often the writer's haste in attempting to win against competition leads him to write a letter designed to close a sale before he has sufficient information about his addressee to enable him to make his letter apply definitely to the exact requirements of the case, whereas he should have writ ten either to find out the "quality" of his lead, or if he already knew that, to improve it.
2. to get an is the writ er's duty to know or to find out the exact need of his addressee. If he receives a request for prices on paper, for example, it is best for him to make sure that he bows definitely what use will be made of the paper and what kind of paper in his stock will best serve this use. It is often advisable for him to re quest more definite information than the prospect's first letter gives him, rather than to attempt to get an order immediately. Such a request gives the av erage reader an impression of good salesmanship, es pecially if the letter asks specific questions that are easy for the prospect to answer. A request of this kind is proof of the fact that the writer is eager to sell exactly what is wanted. Sometimes, of course, a cor respondent can offer a choice of several kinds or quali ties of product; but it is advisable, when possible, to concentrate all one's efforts in an attempt to sell only the one thing that will best meet the need of the ad dressee. Therefore, the inquiry preceding the letter that attempts to close the sale, while it is often the longest way 'round, is perhaps the shortest and safest road to the sale. Over-eagerness to sell seldom pays.
3. Form letters that find leads.—When form let ters are sent to a large number of persons, even if all of them are prospective purchasers, it is often wise to attempt to get a response that will indicate live interest, rather than to try to get the order itself.
Asking for an order too soon is often as ineffective as not asking for it at all.
This securing of an expression of interest is one of the most important considerations in planning a series of follow-up letters that are successfully de signed to get some kind of response. True, in the first letter in the series, as well as in all the others, the correspondent ought to do as much as he can to close the sale. But it is doubtful whether it is effec tive to make one point in one letter and another point in another letter, and then attempt to close by means of a third letter.
When the third letter, or any later letter in a series, "pulls" better than the rest, its superior influ ence is seldom due to the fact that two or more let ters preceded it, but rather to the fact that this third letter was designed to find a lead rather than to close a sale. Often its effectiveness is due to this less am bitious purpose, and in most cases it would pull just as well, often better, if it were sent out as the first letter.
4. Getting a voluntary expression of interest.— The foregoing principle is illustrated by the case of a certain correspondent who sells power-pumps to con tractors. He found that a letter which opened with his best selling point and said nothing about the fact that he had heard that the contractor was in the mar ket for a power-pump, got better returns than a let ter in which he began, "I was informed that you are now in the market for a power pump," and then went on to try to sell his pump. His more successful let ter ended "If at any time you should be in the mar ket for a power-pump just check and mail the in closed card and we will quote you a price that will talk louder than words." The successful letter was short and was a form, but it was varied to fit each case as nearly as possible; no attempt was made, however, to make it seem ahy thing but a form letter. The purpose was to get a voluntary expression of interest. The questions on the return card were easy to answer, and yet they served to give this company important additional in formation.