3 Reasons Handwritten Letters Win Sales More Business

Handwritten Letter for Sales
Example provided by MailLift

The importance of gifts and letters was a sales lesson my dad taught me when I was just a kid, rolling around with him in his car to client meetings. He’s in commercial real estate and it’s a competitive field. Hungry brokers were calling on businesses daily, hoping that today was the day some business owner was ready to buy or sell a building.

He, too, was calling. However, he took it a step further: he’d butter up gatekeepers with flowers, handwrite letters to prospects after showings, and send a hyper-personalized gift to clients after the deal. He made every call count by going the extra mile. It got him deals, referrals, and a small amount of notoriety.

I send handwritten letters too. It worked twenty years ago. I can tell you with confidence that it works even better now. It turns out personal touch and attention to detail won’t be going out of style anytime soon.

“…handwritten letters helped me earn $212,000 in business between 2014 and 2015 by assisting in new speaking gigs, co-webinar opportunities, clients, and partnerships.”

Here are three reasons handwritten letters close more business more often:

#1. Most sales people are bad at their jobs

Let me know if you’ve ever encountered this salesperson. They give you a templated pitch to get the appointment, a templated presentation during the meeting, and then send templated email follow-ups afterwards. Their CRM puts your first name in the email and the salesperson hastily throws in your logo right before the appointment.

However, if you think that “Thanks for your time {Contact.FirstName},” is the best way to follow-up with a client whose business you’re trying to win, you’re not trying hard enough. You’re just like everybody else, sending the same emails and getting the same results. At that point, it really is a numbers game. You just hope the client happens to pick you.

My dad made the same amount of calls as everybody else – he just made sure each call counted.

My goal is to communicate to the client that I am one of the 5% of sales people that are good at their jobs. I want them to feel like I’m a professional, that I care about their business, and that they’re in good hands. One of the easiest ways to do that is with follow-ups that are just slightly better than everyone else’s.

partnership letter template
When I leave a sales appointment, I immediately handwrite letters personally addressed to everyone in the room, customized to their titles and questions. There are more and more decision-makers in business these days. I’ve sent as many as four before, all of which I wrote on the way home on the Caltrain 30 minutes after the appointment.

One time I wrote a letter to the kind woman at the front desk for freeing up a conference room for us. Don’t forget them: they actually run the place.

I send letters with two-day shipping (“time kills deals” – Dad) and I assume the close. I’m not “thankful for the chance” because we will be working together. I thank them for their time, mention something that particular person said, and tell them that I’m excited to get started with them.


#2. Sales is (still) relationship-based

The value you promise to provide is what got you in the door. But step into your prospect’s shoes. Everybody promises to provide value! At this point, it’s only a promise. How many times have they heard this song and dance before, only to get burned?

I think it’s instructive to assume that every client you deal with has been burned at least twice by vendors similar to yourself. My clients have told me that previous vendors did not:

“deliver on their promises”

“care about the client’s business”

“listen to what really mattered”

“communicate enough (if at all)”

“employ experienced professionals”

#2-#5 above can easily be taken care of with a physical letter. If you don’t have a great value prop, consultative approach, and references, you probably need more help than what’s contained in this post.

ben childs appreciation card

A letter is the sign of a vendor who is focused on a lifelong partnership, rather than on a transactional exchange of money. It’s so easy to show that you care, listen, and are professional. Of course, that’s only a promise as well, but the minimal amount of effort will convey to the client that maybe, just maybe, you’re the vendor they’ve always been looking for.

I don’t know how many referrals my dad got with thoughtful hand-addressed letters and personalized gifts, but it was a lot. More than just referring an effective service, his clients were sharing a relationship with a trusted advisor.

Case in point: A company brought us on and the marketing manager told me my letters were what finally sold the team. Within a month, the marketing manager accepted a position at a different company and immediately called me. Why? She told me that she could tell that I cared and her team needed someone that they could trust after going through their last vendor.

She didn’t even wait to see the results we got at the original company! I was already a trusted advisor.


#3. I get full undivided attention

How many times a day do you get cold-emailed, retargeted to, or pre-rolled? We all know it works (we do the same!), but the hope is that you’ll get the right person, at the right time, in the right mood to even notice your ad. Yet display ads only get clicked on 0.06% of the time and 33% of internet users find them completely intolerable.

Win sales with handwritten letters
Example provided by MailLift

In 2016, a classic handwritten letter has become a novelty. It interrupts prospects’ patterns of dealing with sales reps and, for a brief moment, puts a smile on their face. When someone’s reading my letter, they’re actually reading my letter. It’s not on one of their three monitors, lost in another tab, or, most importantly, on their phone.

In that moment, there is no competitor that can match your share of voice. No email that cements your message with a multisensory experience. No phone call that’s guaranteed to brighten someone’s day.

I learned from my dad that there will always be hordes of hungry sales people out there competing for potential business. How many presentations have your prospects taken and forgotten this month? Do you think you’re the only salesperson they’re dating?

If we accept that as truth, then standing out has never been more essential or more powerful. I’m the person that follows up professionally. I’m the person that cares about the prospect. I’m the person that they remember, even after hundreds of pitches.

There’s an expression that I think is applicable here: the medium is the message. Think of it this way: I’m going to try and write as great of a message as I can in my letter. However, that message will rarely overshadow the fact that I’m sending an actual physical handwritten letter to someone. It speaks volumes to everything I’ve said in this post, regardless of what I write.

That thoughtfulness is more than I could ever say, and in that sense, the medium is the message. That message wins me more business, more often than my competitors.

If you like this guest post, you might like Josh Braun’s guest post on how Hugo Boss engages customers quickly with handwritten notes or to learn more about MailLift’s handwritten letter services.

How Hugo Boss Engages Customers Quickly

Josh Braun, is VP of Customer Happiness & Success at Basecamp helping Basecamp be even more awesome in the areas of customer success, churn mitigation and growth. Josh writes about sales on his blog SalesJunkie.

Building relationships, thank you note, importance of customer relationship

It was the mannequin wearing a dark blue wool and silk suit that drew me into the Hugo Boss store in Boca Raton, Florida.

But it was Dawn, the stylist that kept me there. After answering a few questions, she showed me a suit, helped me try on the jacket, explained why it was the right choice for the occasion and responded to my objections without sounding sales-y.

“Don’t worry about it sweetie,” Dawn said. “We’ll see Matt in alternations next and he’ll take care of it. Relax Josh. Want some wine?”

It was a fantastic shopping experience.

Five days later I received this handwritten thank you note from Dawn:

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 3.21.29 PM

Wow. Typically, when I’m asked for my contact information at checkout I get a catalog, but Dawn used this information to create a wow moment. It’s the only time I’ve experienced this level of customer service at a retail store.

Worth it? You bet. Not only did it strengthen my relationship with Hugo Boss (you should see my closet), but I’ve also shared Dawn’s note on social media and at my speaking engagements which often have audiences of 150 people.

In the fast-paced world of multitasking and digital communication, a handwritten thank you note is like taking a deep breath. It slows things down –– even for just a minute.

Regardless of the product or service you sell, you’re in the relationship building business. Period. And few things come close to building relationships more than a handwritten thank you note.

Handwritten thank you notes are also a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition because so few people send thank you’s let alone handwritten notes.

If you’d like to try this “low-tech” method of thanking your customers, consider sending a handwritten thank you note as a simple touch to make a prospect smile or after:

  • Getting a referral
  • Giving a pitch
  • Winning a sale
  • Losing a sale
  • Having an initial phone conversation
  • A face to face meeting

If you liked this post, you might like: 6 Unique Use Cases & Templates for Direct Mail.

Connecting with Customers through the Entire Lifecycle

This is a guest post by Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD Gray has emerged as strong voice for marketing automation and conversation marketing with 13 years of experience in the industry.

customer life cycle, customer life cycle marketing,

For the first time in history, consumers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to making purchases. Social media, review sites, peer networks—all of these resources are at the fingertips of buyers, enabling them to obtain information and comparison shop on their own time and at their own pace.

Thanks to these technologies and innovations, today’s buyer now expects instant gratification from companies in the form of content, social media response and readily available information they can access whenever it works with their schedule.

Interestingly, this has become true of both B2B and B2C customers. No one wants to spend time on the phone to speak to someone, or fill out a form and wait to be contacted. Any delay in gratification is likely to push them to the nearest competitor until they find a company that understands how they want to be communicated with.

This shift in consumer power has altered something else: the once-linear customer lifecycle. Once, buyers followed a pretty straight path to purchase:

Awareness > Familiarity > Consideration > Purchase > Loyalty

But smart marketers have recognized that the change in consumer behavior means their marketing tactics must change as well. Consumers not only expect instant information, but they also expect an enjoyable customer experience. So instead of ending the cycle at purchase and crossing one’s fingers that a periodic phone call or marketing effort will retain their business, savvy marketers are bending the lifecycle into a circle. They know that a constant cycle of compelling marketing messages will keep customers’ engagement at a consistent pitch.

The New Buying Experience

Global consulting firm McKinsey has been following this trend for years. Back in 2009, they created their own model for what the modern buying experience looks like now.

1.     Initial Consideration

Buyers begin to consider a set of brands, usually based on a recent touchpoint or general awareness.

2.     Active Evaluation

The buyer will research top picks, learning about each company’s offerings, finding reviews, looking at social media and soliciting feedback from others.

3.     Moment of Purchase

It’s time for the buyer to select a company and make a purchase.

4.     Post-Purchase Experience

A customer’s engagement with you doesn’t (or shouldn’t) end after a purchase. This is the moment when your interaction can set the tone for how their entire experience with you will be viewed, and for determining whether or not a referral and/or repeat purchase will be on the horizon. Be aware that this isn’t just about loyalty, it’s about creating a positive, ongoing customer experience.

From the fourth step, this is where it’s beneficial to loop customers back into your marketing by continuing to actively engage them with high-value messaging and content. For their next purchase, they still may go through steps one through three, but hopefully, if you’ve done your job well as a marketer, those decision points become shorter and easier as you stand out as the clear choice. What’s more, satisfied buyers net other satisfied buyers.  Advocates are worth many times their own weight in revenue.  Remember, no one likes change; if you can motivate your customer to continue buying from you and to share the experience with their friends, they probably will.

So now that you understand how the modern consumer buys, let’s look at how you can market to them effectively at every point in the purchase lifecycle.

Content, Content, Content

Good content marketing is all about—say it with me now—delivering the right message to the right person at the right time via the right channels.

Multi channel marketingGleanster Research has found that about 50 percent of leads are qualified but not yet ready to buy. And that makes sense when we look back at McKinsey’s model and what we know about the modern buyer: it’s all on their terms. Buyers will let you know when they’re ready for more direct contact with you and when they’re close to making a purchase decision. How? By increasing their engagement with your marketing initiatives.

And this is where the magic combination of content and marketing automation comes in. Marketing automation has always been around, but until recently, was priced out of the reach of anyone but enterprise-level companies. Now, the market is filled with affordable providers, so businesses of every size can benefit from these powerful tools.

But first…

Develop a Strategy

Your customers have different needs depending on where they are in the buying cycle. Someone who just discovered you thanks to a banner ad or Google search will respond to different content than someone deep in the evaluation phase.

Begin by developing a map of the purchase cycle and identifying each point along the way where a lead will benefit from receiving content from you. These are not one-off communications, but rather sequences of messages that build on one another to bring that person closer to a purchase. Some examples:

Educational Content – A good way to draw in new leads. Educational content is content that positions you as a thought leader or industry expert, such as white papers, articles, webinars, etc. Once someone requests a piece of content, continue to market to them by promoting content on similar topics.

Product Content– Maybe someone has requested information on a landing page, or got into your database by attending an event. These people are interested in your company and want to learn more, but are likely early in the research phase. Send a series of communications that introduce your products or services with increasingly more detailed information.

Deep Decision-Making Content– This is for leads who are qualified enough to be in touch with your sales team, but perhaps have a longer decision cycle or have others involved in the process. They know who you are and what you offer, and are now looking for deeper content that will help solidify the decision to choose you. Work with your sales team to develop a content series that addresses the information most requested at this point.

Creating a content map is a time-consuming and somewhat laborious task, but it’s essential you see the whole picture before you begin building campaigns in your marketing automation system. Seeing the full scope will help you identify gaps at the outset rather than scrambling to fix them later.

Close the Loops

The examples in the previous section are all examples of nurturing content, thoughtful messaging that both educates and builds trust over a period of time. No one likes a hard sell, especially the modern consumer.

Effective nurturing can have a remarkable impact on your conversion rates and sales numbers. An Annuitas Group study found that businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451 percent increase in qualified leads, and nurtured leads make 47 percent larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.And, those leads cost less to get—companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads at 33 percent lower cost (Forrester Research).

To develop effective nurturing content that addresses consumer needs, be sure to ask these questions:

  1.      Where is the lead coming from? What is the source?
  2.      What are they looking for at this point?
  3.      What will they want to learn or do next?

As you develop your content, it’s important to remember that no content sequence should ever truly end—everyone should be fed into some kind of content loop that keeps your business in front of them. Made a purchase? They should go into a training or upsell loop. Told sales they aren’t ready to buy? Keep nurturing with periodic updates on new features or special promotions. Finished a short-term nurturing cycle without engaging enough to move to sales? Put them in a longer-term series with case study content.

The buying cycle is a never-ending circle, so your content should be as well. Just don’t be annoying about it. Make sure you’re thinking strategically about what and how much content leads and customers get.

Smart Scoring

If you’re an organization with a sales team, the lead scoring tools in your marketing automation system are an invaluable way to keep customers moving along the buying cycle in a way that makes sense to their decision-making process.

Lead scoring allows you to assign point values to different types of actions, to help you better determine which leads are more qualified and likely to make a purchase. Content ties in closely with lead scoring, as criteria often includes actions like opening emails, clicking links and requesting multiple pieces of educational content.

Remember, modern buyers wants to advance through the cycle at their own pace, so rushing them into sales just to try and make your quotas is likely to backfire. An intelligent scoring system along with strategically developed content will follow and encourage buyers along their path.

Don’t Forget to Be Social

Consumers are looking for information about you, so make sure you have a presence everywhere they might look. Get on social media and actively engage with people. Don’t just use social as a “well, we should have a presence, so here we are” tactic. That’s not doing you or your potential customers any favors and is more likely to contribute toward a negative perception of your brand.

Consumers look at social channels early in the evaluation stage, so failing at engagement here could mean you’re out of the running before you send a single piece of marketing messaging.

As the consumer buying cycle has changed, so has the way marketers reach them. Both have come full circle: customers demand a consistent, comprehensive customer experience that caters to them; and marketers have embraced technologies and tactics that help them serve the customer at every point along the circle. Be strategic, thoughtful and customer-centric, and customers will reward you with their dollars.

Direct mail marketing is a key part of multi channel marketing strategy. According to ExactTarget 2012 channel preference survey57 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds have made a purchase as a result of a direct mail offer. If these direct mail pieces are handwritten or sent in hand addressed envelopes, they tend to have higher open and response rates. If you want to try handwritten direct mail as part of your multi channel marketing strategy to boost response rates and renewals, check out our handwritten direct mailing service.