The objective of a lot of direct mail is to sell something in one step, to close the sale. A package is assembled with each component playing a strategic part; indeed, we talk about the different “voices” of the letter, brochure and reply card, which mimic the distinctive personalities of their counterparts in a live sales encounter.
Advertising, John E. Kennedy observed, is “salesmanship in print,” and nowhere is this more correct than in direct mail copy. Copy is not the mere arrangement of words on the page, but the execution of a clearly defined, clearly stated sales argument. Fortunately, creatives and marketers can adapt proven sales techniques from other fields for their copy platforms.
How many of these quintessential closers can you use?
1. The assumptive close. As the name suggests, your copy assumes the prospect will buy your product. “Do you want to take delivery on Monday or Wednesday?” and “Do you want to pay by cash or check?” are two classic examples of the attitude of the salesperson when he makes his pitch in this style. A key advantage of the assumptive close is that it shortens or compresses the distance between prospect and product, making it appear as if you’ve removed a barrier to the final sale.
2. The yes/no close. This well-known sales technique involves listing the advantages and drawbacks of buying. A witty example is Bill Jayme’s letter for Worth magazine in which he recorded the pros and cons of subscribing side-by-side on the first page. With typical Jayme charm, the negative column had only one item: that the subscriber would be very, very rich! The letter became an instant control.
3. The smaller to larger close. Some prospects can’t grasp the totality of committing themselves to a major buying decision. They need to be brought along gradually. This technique begins with a series of small closes or agreements and works its way to the big final close.
For example: Instead of just trying to get the prospect to buy a high-priced home security system, you start by saying, “Nothing is more important than keeping your family safe, wouldn’t you agree?” or “Letting ultra-modern technology work for you makes sense, doesn’t it?” You get the prospect to nod in agreement with the minor parts of your sales pitch before moving on to your big push.
4. The pay more later close. This underscores how the prospect will regret not acting now. Let’s assume the prospect likes what you’re selling but can’t justify buying right away. Solution: Show how putting off the decision puts him at risk. The risk could be practical (a future price increase), tangible (the loss of key intelligence) or psychological (losing that ever-important “edge”). You trade on the fear of getting left behind and paying more later to regain footing.
5. The exclusivity close. It’s human nature that we most want what we cannot have. The more convincing your argument for the rarity or scarcity of what you’re selling, the stronger the desire to possess it.
Suppose you’re trying to sell a subscription to an investment newsletter that promises to mint a new generation of millionaires. You’ve supported your claims with a fearsome track record and objective corroboration. You’ve painted alluring word-pictures of the good life your system is proven to provide. But because your method is so foolproof, you will take only 500 new subscribers this year. Once you reach the limit, the door will be closed, and those who don’t act will be left to struggle financially for another year. Think you’ll make a sale or two?
6. The halo close. Another part of human nature is a reluctance to take a chance, but that resistance melts away when someone we trust stands up for the product we’re on the fence about. This close capitalizes on that trust or halo effect. Endorsements, testimonials, case studies with results and rave reviews from objective third parties can assuage our hesitancy and foster a belief that our decision to buy is correct. An endorsement need not come from a celebrated party. Regular customers “just like me” provide an authentic, powerful push to would-be buyers.
7. The limited time close. This focuses on a narrow window of opportunity in which the prospect can buy. Once your inventory of a product is gone, it’s gone. An obvious example is collectibles companies that promote limited-edition items, claiming that the original molds will be destroyed after the supply is depleted. Collectors respond to that ultimatum.
Still another example is a newsletter or magazine publisher who offers a limited-edition editorial report only while supplies last. A third example is a subscription letter that says only so many copies of each issue will be printed, so serious subscribers shouldn’t delay. True or not, it creates a sense of urgency that can close the sale.