One of the things clients frequently want my advice about is whether an email or letter or bio statement are polished enough to send to a business or corporation in order to secure a meeting or sell a program.
Since so many of my clients talk about this, perhaps you might benefit from my thinking on what goes in to writing a good business letter. Here are some guidelines to consider when putting together your own letters.
- Put Yourself in Their Shoes
The first thing to think about is that the person reading your email or letter is really busy. They have other priorities that are probably all more important than your communication. So, don’t make them hunt for the information they need to determine whether or not they can or will respond or help you move through their proposal process.
- Get to the Point, Quick
That’s why you need to get to the point, and do it quickly. Long, wordy explanations, combined with long lists of how wonderful your service is and how much education you have in a first correspondence are a sure way to lose someone’s attention. Unless they’ve asked you for a long resume of all your experience and training, make it clear, up front, what you want, why you’re qualified to perform said service for them, and what the next step is.
- Explain the Value
You’ve heard of “WIIFM” – it’s great to explain why you’re so excited about offering your service, but, more importantly, describe why the person reading about it needs it and how it benefits them and their company. If they aren’t able to quickly understand why helping you helps them, they probably won’t respond, or be willing to champion their peers or supervisors to hire you.
- Make It Easy
If you’re asking them for a favor, don’t suggest a one hour meeting, just suggest a meeting. Take out obstacles like asking them for too much of their time, difficult next steps, and a huge, complicated explanation of every detail of your service (unless they asked for it)
Here are some questions to consider answering as you put together your letter. They are intentionally curt to help you focus!
- Who are you and why are you writing me?
- What do you want?
- What is the service or product you are offering me?
- Why should I/my company care about you and your service?
- What value does meeting with you/using your service have for me or my company?
- What are you expecting from me as a next step if I’m interested?
- Is there any reason this is time sensitive?
- Is there any relevant information in your bio or testimonials that would help me evaluate whether to speak with you? (Keep this short, focusing on the credentials that will help you get a response, as opposed to listing every detail of your background, training, and experience.)
- If you don’t hear from me, what’s likely to happen? (e.g. “If I don’t hear from you in the next few days, I’ll give you a call to answer any questions you might have.”)
Remember the purpose of each communication you write is to get a response that takes you to the next level of a process. Keeping your words and explanations to the point are a great way to avoid wasting anyone’s time (yours included!) and provide the clarity that makes inspires someone to work with you.