Letters and Executive Sales

By | April 20, 2011

Tim Askew - CEO Corporate Rain InternationalHere’s a little dinosaur wisdom: If you want to initiate new business with real corporate decision makers, write a letter. Send it snail mail, just like Grandma.

Yup. That’s my brilliant marketing suggestion for the week. Send this letter with a real stamp, ideally an attractive commemorative. Do not use labels for the address, but only direct printing on the envelope. Be sure to use expensive stationary. Spend the money. It’s a very minor expense and it makes a major statement. The very touch of your letter connotes seriousness and respect for yourself and your potential client. It creates a sensual branding statement.

Ideally the body of the letter should absurdly, insultingly oversimplify the wonder of your company. It should be able to be scanned essentially in five seconds by a busy executive. The letter should go something like this:

  • Request a meeting on a specific date. (The date means nothing. It’s simply a technique for focusing the reader’s mind.)
  • Describe very briefly what you do, some authenticating clients and any salient defining information (awards, differentiators, rankings, quotes from major press, etc.).
  • Most importantly, one short paragraph should have two case studies of one sentence each–emphasizing money, ROI, or percentages of increased sales or savings. Pure green eye shade stuff.
  • No creativity. None of the unique qualitative reasons to use your firm. Then bold maybe four phrases in the letter.

That’s it. The letter should include no collateral and make as little time demand as possible on a busy corporate executive. The point of all this is simply to create a hint, a fragrance, a trope, a memory that he or she got something serious from you. Then you or your representative, of course, must follow up, referencing the letter. But that’s a discussion for another day.

There is one thing a corporate decision-maker is looking for. That thing is clear ROI, whether in the form of earnings, savings, or efficiency. If you can make a compelling, differentiated, classy appeal, your chances of penetration distinctly improve.

Despite all the magical new technology and social messaging, real executive rain-making must be personalized. I feel it is insulting to try to initiate with a busy corporate executive without the weighted intonation of a letter. Quite aside from issues of spamming and information overload, a personal letter is innately imbued with the assumption of a high-level courtesy and a bespoke respect between equals. The most important fact about selling to decision-making corporate executives is simply this: They like to deal with their peers. They like to be deal with people of equal gravitas and authority.

Singer/songwriter Peter Allen wrote a song many years ago called “Everything Old Is New Again.”  Ironically, snail mail’s very decline in the face of the Internet’s communication maelstrom, makes it increasingly more effective and noticeable when it is used.

For, as John Donne said in his poem “To Sir Henry Wotton” (1633), “Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls.” Thank you, John.

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8 thoughts on “Letters and Executive Sales

  1. Frank Verrill

    Good points. We also find that “Snail Mail” is having a resurgence. In fact the more successful the e-marketing campaign the larger the opt out list becomes. We developed an application on Salesforce to address this very real issue. Sending real mail, letters, greeting cards, postcards and sales brochures as easy as sending an email. Salesforce and Cloud2You

  2. Jay Adams

    I don’t agree with Frank’s comment about more success breeds more opt-outs, but I do agree with using mail as a means to continue to market to opt-outs. We’ve integrated Cloud2You on our MakesBridge marketing automation platform and we’re avid users. The automation component allows us trigger, print, and post greeting cards to all new U.S. prospects when they enter our database. And we automatically send full brochures to prospects if they hit certain quality thresholds.

    We love calling prospects and hearing the say “hey, I got your greeting card”. It’s a physical connection in a noisy non-physical marketing world.

  3. tim askew

    Hi, Frank. Thanks for your note. My company, Corporate Rain International, uses your excellent Salesforce CRM and has for years. There is no question it is the best in class.

    I am interested in checking out how to use your technology even more fully and I will have my tech guy look at your abilities with snail mail.

    As far a “snail mail” goes, I firmly believe it will be an increasingly used communication channel. Everything old is, indeed, new again.

    Thanks for your kind words about my post.

    Tim Askew
    Corporate Rain International

  4. tim askew

    Dear Jay,

    Of course everything should be used. Your comments on Cloud2You and MakesBridge are interesting. I am unfamiliar with either, but I’ll look them up.
    I obviously believe strongly in the personal touch of snail mail.

    Thank you for your contribution to the dialogue.


  5. paul borkowski

    Why do we insist on saying this is the old grandma way of communicating? A well crafted business letter or note is an art form that has landed many opportunities in the past and is still very effective today. The space is crowded with communication tools so the letter is now even more effective as long as we approach it as a new modern tool within the various other means of communication. Tim’s road map is helpful and his advice on the 5 second scan is spot on. Thank you!

  6. tim askew

    Thank you, Paul. I sometimes have a hard time getting people to look at simple things like the old fashioned letter. It’s not as cool as the latest app. But executives who forget about snail mail are missing what I consider an increasingly viable sales outreach. Particularly when you are dealing with real decision-makers like my company Corporate Rain does.

    Also, one of my pet peeves is that sales executives no longer take the care or have the skill and judgement to write effective letter.

    Again, thanks for contributing to the dialogue.


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