World’s Worst Sales Letter (and the best one too)

I have written a number of posts on letter writing such as When Was the Last Time You Wrote a Letter? andparchment letter Writing An Effective Marketing Letter and take great pride in my ability to write a letter. But when I read Geoffrey James’ post about the World’s Worst Sales Letter I knew I had to bow to him as the master letter writer.

Now Geoffrey has the advantage as he is the author of seven books, including Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite and The Tao of Programming but what really amazed me was the impact his revision of the World’s Worst Sales could have on a Realtor’s success or failure.

Here is the letter that Geoffrey received. Read the letter carefully and be honest in your appraisal. The bracketed numbers refer to his comments:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. James

During the past few months, I have completed an intensive training program for real estate professionals through the _________ learning system. [1]

With this recent training and my experience as a full service agent, I feel quite confident in my ability to help buyers and sellers with their real estate needs. [2]

_________ is one of the best real estate firms in the area due to the many educational programs promoting current market strategies[3], as well as many years of experience within the real estate community.[4] In addition, we provide:

– Outstanding service to all clients.[5]
– Market data that is always changing.[6]
– Weekly updates for clients listing there homes.[7]
– A wide variety of buying and selling tools.[8]

It is great working with a company that has so much to offer their clients.[9] If you or someone you know is considering buying or selling [10] property feel free to give out my name or business card [11] and I will do everything I can to meet their real estate needs.[12]


Here are Geoffrey’s comments:

[1] OK, you’re fresh out of school. So why would I want to work with you?

[2] That’s nice. Unfortunately, you’ve said absolutely nothing to make me feel confident in you.

[3] Why do I get the impression that some marketing guy wrote this as boilerplate?

[4] Experience doing what? Sending out awkward direct mail pieces? And compared to whom?

[5] Outstanding in what way? Outstandingly bad? And by how much? And where’s the proof?

[6] Huh? Does this mean that the data is getting more accurate or less accurate or what?

[7] And that’s important because…? And what’s with the typo?

[8] Sounds like a hardware store. Why would I care? What do the tools do?

[9] Glad you like it. Why should I care? What’s with the grammatical error?

[10] Trying to address two different markets weakens the entire pitch.

[11] At this point it starts sounding positively desperate.

[12] Why would I risk my friendships for somebody I don’t know?

Not just a critic, Geoffrey rewrote the letter and I think he transformed it into a tutorial on How to Write a Sales Letter. (the numbers refer to his 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 _________ is all about. [2]

___________ 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 Geoffrey has been writing about in the BNET blog for the past year. While he does not claim to be an expert on real estate selling, he is and I are 100 percent certain that this version would generate far more business than the lame letter that he received.

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