Techniques for different occasions
If you are making a request, for example, then your success depends very much on how your audience reacts, and your communication needs to reflect that. You need to adopt a tone that indicates that you appreciate that the person you are addressing can refuse or agree to your request.
I believe I have worked hard during the past year, and in particular that I have achieved the goals you kindly set me when I first started in your department. Indeed, you have been good enough to compliment me on my progress on several occasions, for which I am very grateful – it is always helpful to receive encouragement from one’s manager, especially one as busy as you are.
Agreeing to a request
If you agree with the request, then you should say so immediately. Your aim is always to make a good impression, and to do so as soon as possible. Agreeing to the request should make you very popular, so do it at the start – preferably in the first paragraph, but certainly no later than the second. If there are any strings attached to your agreement, they should come later rather than diluting the good first impression.
Refusing a request
Refusing a request calls for the opposite approach to the one you would adopt if you were agreeing to it. Build up to the refusal gradually. Express an understanding of the other person’s problem, explain the lengths you have gone to to find a way of solving it, give the reasons for your refusal, and then say ‘no’. As with agreeing, your aim is to make as good an impression as possible. Building up to your refusal gives you a chance to get the other person at least to understand your position before the disappointment of being turned down.
Writing Sales Letters
Sales or promotional letters resemble advertisements, and when writing them you should be thinking like an advertiser. Adopt an enthusiastic tone and choose positive words. You should also pay particular attention to the order in which you present your case.
Enthusiasm is important; if you are not enthusiastic about your product or service, how can you expect your readers to be? So although you should not be so enthusiastic that you mislead your readers, you do need to adopt a positive, upbeat tone.
Similarly, you should use positive words. If you are writing about a problem the customer might have, to which you have the solution, then you can use words with a negative connotation, but otherwise avoid them, and do not use negative words when referring directly to your reader. So you could say, ‘Does your office become messy and littered because there is no one with direct responsibility for cleaning it?’ But you would put your reader off if you said, ‘I will take complete responsibility for your messy and littered office.’ In the first sentence you are only asking if the reader’s office is messy. In the second, you are implying that it is messy.
What market are you aiming at?
To be effective, a sales letter should be aimed at a specific market. Many people seem to think that they can write an all-purpose letter that will appeal to a wide range of customers. This is very seldom the case.
The reason is that you might need to emphasise different aspects of a product or service to appeal to different audiences. The letter above, for example, is aimed at business people, so Pam writes about a service geared to their needs. A letter to members of the public, or to people planning a wedding, would have quite a different emphasis.
The benefits might vary according to the audience. Pam Silverman’s letter to businesses points to several advantages she can offer: an attractive office environment, a good company image, a service tailored to the company’s needs and budget, the only service of its kind in town. If she were writing to personal clients, she would offer different benefits: the beauty of flowers as a gift, for example, special rates for weddings and big occasions, a same-day delivery service. It is therefore important to decide on the market you are aiming at, and then to think of all the benefits you can offer that market.