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How to Write a Sales Letter

Best letter for selling
Yesterday, in "World's Worst Sales Letter," I posted what I believe to be one of the worst direct mail pieces in existence. I've never written sales letters for real estate companies, but here's my rewrite, as promised (the numbers refer to my explanatory notes below):

Dear Mr. and Mrs. James:
As a property owner, you're no doubt aware that these are difficult times for the real estate market. You've probably even heard that property prices have declined in your area. If you're thinking of selling your home, you're probably wondering whether it's still possible to get the best price. [1]
Turns out that many homeowners in this area are getting record prices for their homes. The key to achieving the best price is marketing your home in new and creative ways. Ways that leverage the unique characteristics of your house and its neighborhood. This is what Century 21 is all about. [2]
Century 21 has sold more houses, for a higher average price, than any other realtor in the area. We know this market, and we know how to ensure that you get the best price. And we'll be happy to put you in touch with some past customers who'll vouch for our ability to sell a house quickly and at the best price, even under challenging conditions. [3]
If you're thinking of selling, please call me first. [4] Even if you don't list with me, you'll learn some facts about today's market that will help you get a better price. [5] And if you know somebody else who might be interested in selling their home (or buying one), pass my name along - if a sale takes place as the result of your referral, I'll pay you a $100 finder's fee, right out of my commission! [6]
Thanks for your time.
Explanatory notes:
  • 1. Make them feel the pain. Give them a reason to read the rest of the letter.
  • 2. Position your firm as the unique (and perhaps only) solution to that pain.
  • 3. Provide proof that your positioning is valid.
  • 4. A simple call to action that also pre-qualifies the lead, reducing sales cost.
  • 5. Promise value from the start of the relationship. What have they got to lose?
  • 6. Provide a real incentive for them to find you some business.
The above is based upon the basic principles of sales and marketing that I've been writing about in this blog for the past year. I'm no expert on real estate selling, but I'm 100 percent certain that my version would generate far more business than the lame letter that spawned yesterday's post.

UPDATE (5/2): BNET community member mfradella just pointed out that the offer of $100 might be illegal due to regulatory restrictions, so don't try that technique unless you're sure it's legal! A better approach might be to provide a $500 credit on the commission for the future sale of the house of somebody who provided a reference that resulted in a listing. That way you'd get the homeowner "locked" into listing with you, if only to finally get the $500.

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