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The Psychology of Sales Letters

If you’re an online entrepreneur, then you know something about what we call sales copy, sales letters.

Sales letters are written in a way that will persuade readers to buy whatever product is being offered.

They contain a number of sections, each of which is designed to take readers on an emotional journey – from feeling frustration about their problems to having hope for solving them.

The purpose of this article isn’t to discuss the sections. That’s the job of a copywriter.

There’s a lot of good material available that will teach you those things.

Instead, I want you to understand something about the psychology of those letters.

If you can grasp this and apply it to your own copy, then you’re letters will reach people like they never did before.

Audience

Any time a writer writes something, whether is sales copy or a novel, two questions are asked.

Question 1

The first one is, who is the audience?

It is vital to anything you write that you know that in advance.

Why?

It’s because like all letters, you’re writing it to a particular person.

And you have to have that person in mind when you write it.

Example

The easiest way to give you an example, in this case, is to explain the difference between your audience – your target market – and anyone else.

If you were writing to your spouse or partner, then the language would be different than if you were writing a cover letter for a job application.

If you were writing to a friend, then the language would be different than if you were writing to a university professor to inquire about attending graduate school.

If you were writing to your accountant, then the language would be different than if you were writing to your mother, or brother, or other close relative.

Can you see the significance of this?

When you write sales copy, you do so from the perspective of the reader.

You imagine that you are the person who needs the product that you want your prospects to buy.

Perry Marshall talks about imagining that he has turned his chair 180º, so that instead of writing as a writer, he is writing as the reader.

Too often, sales copy, whether it’s in the form of letters or emails, is written as if the writer was also the buyer.

As you’re not buying your own products, you must write from the perspective of the reader.

Question 2

The second question is, what do I want the audience to do as a result of reading the letter?

Like all good writing, you want the reader to reach the same conclusion at the end as you do.

When you write sales copy, you do so in the hope that the person who reads it will buy the product you offer.

If the person doesn’t buy – and only a small percentage will – then you must go back and examine how you answered the first question.

You see, your sales letter has to connect, it has to resonate with the reader.

If it doesn’t, then the reader won’t feel that you understand the problem that he or she wants to solve.

 

Back to Question 1

From the beginning, your audience has to feel that you understand their problem.

How do they know if you do?

They know you do because you are able to describe how they feel.

No doubt, you’ve experienced this yourself.

It could be that it was in a sales letter.

It could also be somewhere else, such as an online ad or on a billboard or on the TV or radio.

It could be a detailed description of your situation.

Books do this sometimes.

They’ll begin with four fictitious people.

The author will seek to embody the principles of his or her ideas in the personas of those people.

The reason for this is so that you will find it easier to identify with the problems of one person and be willing to put into practice the recommendations made in the book.

In a sales letter, you don’t have 50,000 words to explain the different personas.

You are pursuing only one.

And because you’re pursuing only one, you must gear your entire letter towards that person.

To think of this another way, you have to write that letter as if you were the one that needed the product on offer.

We call this empathy.

 

Empathy vs. sympathy

What’s the difference between empathy and sympathy?

Empathy can only be experienced by those who have also experienced it.

People who are empathic can say, “I know what you’re going through.”

Sympathy is what people feel when they hear of something that someone else has or is going through, but they haven’t experienced it.

They can only imagine how terrible it must be.

People who are sympathetic might say, “I feel for you.”

The wise ones will say, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”

They may also say, “What can I do to help.”

Now the problem comes in when those who are only sympathetic pretend that they’re empathic.

 

Example

A perfect example of this is with clinical depression.

A person who is sympathetic will say, “I get bad days.”

A person who is empathic will say, “I know exactly how you feel.”

 

Empathic sales copy

To be empathic, you have to have experienced one of two things.

Either you’ve been through it yourself, or you’ve spent a lot of time with people who have.

If you’ve been through it yourself, then you’ll have no trouble describing how it feels.

When you’ve spent enough time with enough people who have experienced it, then their language will begin to rub off on you.

Either way, you’ll be able to speak the language of the people who have the problem that the product your sales letter promotes is designed to solve.

And people who have that problem will be able to spot the difference a mile away.

They’ll know from the beginning if you know what you’re talking about or if you’re just pretending.

 

The Hack

The Hack, therefore, is to make sure that the emotions you convey from the very beginning of that sales letter mirror those of the person you’re writing to.

If you lack that ability, then you’ll never sell anything.

Sales people are taught to pick up on words and phrases that their prospects use and to use them in their responses.

Why are they taught that?

It’s because they’re trying to be empathic about how you feel.

Of course, this has to be handled very, very carefully.

If you’re a good listener, or a good writer, or a psychologist, then the use of that technique is like a red flag.

You know right away that there’s something else going on; some form of subterfuge.

If it’s handled in the right way, in a natural way, then it can be effective with everyone; even though you know what’s going on.

The thing you must remember is that you are not buying from yourself.

What sounds good to you may be of no consequence to anyone else.

Your sales copy must be written for the benefit of the person to whom you send it.

As long as you remember that, your sales letters will produce the results that you want.

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