The 3 Benefits of a Well Done Prospecting Letter

I previously wrote a post on The 8 Steps to a Killer Prospecting System.  Step 4 in that process deals with the use of a prospecting letter.  In my business, we sent just 20 letters to Dollar Store owners every week.  Then we called them the following week.

iStockPhoto from cosmity

iStockPhoto from cosmity

For the past 2 years I have used this system religiously.  It has had 4 different types of results for me:

  1. It hits the trash immediately.
  2. They see my name on the envelope before it hits the trash.
  3. It is opened and read. 
  4. It motivates the reader of the letter to call me first.

You have to assume that at least 50% of recipients are not going to read your letter.  They just won’t.  And that is fine.  All I’m trying to do is warm up my initial cold call.  When I call those who actually read it, my ratio for getting a meeting goes up.

On average, they will call me first about once a month.  70% of those calls turn into listings – that is our close rate when they call us from the letter.  That is a huge number for the cost of paper and a stamp.

I want to share 2 things in the remainder of this post:  why send a letter, and how to increase your open and read rate.

3 Reasons/Benefits to Sending a Prospecting Letter

  1. Letters warm up the cold call – This is obvious, but it works.  Not only do I have a higher success rate in getting meetings with those that read the letter, it gives me something to refer to right off the bat.  ”Hi Mr. Smith.  I’m Bo Barron and I’m calling to follow-up on the letter I sent you last week…”
  2. Letters force you to follow-up with a call – How is that, you say?  The letters force me to call because I tell them in the letter that I will be calling in about a week.  This is built-in accountability.  It gives you your first opportunity to follow through with integrity – or drop the ball.
  3. Letters force you to be intentional and systematic with your prospecting – This is a huge benefit for most.  To send out a certain amount of letters a week means you must have your database set up.  It means you are intentionally signing X number of letters a week.  It means that you are planning ahead.  It means that you are differentiating yourself from 95% of the rest of the brokerage community.

Now that I have covered why to send the letters, let’s discuss how to get more people to actually open and read the letter!

  • Handwrite the envelope – Studies show that more people open mail that is handwritten versus printed.  I generally had my assistant do it.  She has much better handwriting.  Once a week, 20 letters appeared on my desk.  I signed them and gave them back to her.  She addressed the letters and sent them.  She logged into my cloud-based CRM system and scheduled the cold calls to the recipients.  I made the calls.  Clockwork.  Simple.  Effective!
  • Write a scannable letter – This is a scannable blog post.  I utilize simple sentences.  Short paragraphs.  Lists.  Bullet-points.  A friend of mine runs a local Packages Plus business.  He was sharing with me that studies have been done on increasing the read rate of a letter.  The second most likely thing that is read in a letter is bullet points.  I will tell you the first in a second.  Use them.  That is where your most important information belongs – written in a benefit statement for the reader.
  • Keep the letter short – Anything longer than a page is way too long.  Three-quarters of a page is what I think is best. You have about 15 seconds of eye-ball time.  After that, you lose their attention to something else.  Short and simple works best.
  • Talk about them – Don’t send a letter all about you.  They don’t care.  They care about themselves.  Talk about what is happening that affects their property – their bottom line – their lives.  If you don’t do this, you are wasting your time.
  • Use a Postscript – That’s right – the P.S.  The postscript is the single most read thing in a letter.  Therefore, put the most important thing in the postscript.  I suggest to you that is where you tell them you will call them.  If they read nothing but the postscript, and you tell them you are going to call them, they are much more likely to then read the letter.

Most of you will not do this.  Some because you are lazy.  Some because you don’t know where to start.  Some because you won’t pause long enough to build your database in the first place.

I challenge you to try this for 90 days.  I think you will be blown away with the results.

Let me hear from you.  Have you used prospecting letters in the past?  What worked well?  What didn’t?  Comment below!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • joe heffernan

    20 per week, and call the following week, seems simple enough. As new to a territory how do you feel about sending larger numbers, say 500pc in form of postcard. Is it effective to do this 3-4x over course of 3 months, then calling through as followup. Idea of repetition will get through better vs sending 1 mass mailer 1x. Like making sales call might take 3-4 times to get through, similar with mailer.

    • Bo Barron, CCIM

      Joe – we are talking about 2 different ideas – prospecting and creating presence. The activities are often the same, but the purpose is different. The prospecting letter that I am writing about is for the purpose of warming up a call that you know you are going to make the following week. It is systematic and intentional. You are going in and asking for the business.

      Sending a postcard blast is a great tactic to build presence. You are trying to raise your awareness in a market. This, done over a period of years, along with creating presence face to face and through social media, can help you reach top of mind status.

      So – I suggest you do both. 80% of sales happen after the 5th contact or presentation! How many people do you think quit long before that?

  • http://thebrokerlist.com Linda Day Harrison, CPM, CCIM

    Bo,
    All excellent points. ‘Talk about them’ is such a key point here. When I would do presentations or proposals, that was the approach as well. Any potential client wants to know what you know about their property or their market. If your mailer has something that grabs them about their interest, it does help tremendously! Great post. Let us know if we can use this one at theBrokerList. We are overdue and need a “Bo Blog” fix over here on our blog!
    Good job and thanks,
    Linda

    • Bo Barron, CCIM

      Linda – feel free to repost on theBrokerList.com. And thanks for your comments!

      • http://thebrokerlist.com/ Customer Service

        Thanks! Will do.

  • http://www.massimo-group.com Rod Santomassimo

    Bo, as always great points. Joe, as Bo Knows (if you are over 40 you would get the reference, if not – good for you!) Presence and Prospecting are synergistic. Prospecting without presence is an uphill battle. Presence without prospecting is an opportunity lost. Continue your path of doing both consistently and follow Bo’s advice and you will see the results in the shape of commission dollars.

    • Bo Barron, CCIM

      Thanks for the endorsement and reinforcement Rod. I learned from the best! For those of you that don’t know – I learned from Rod!

  • Zach

    Hey Bo,
    Really appreciate the blog! I’m basically brand new to CRE and the area that I now work in. I’ve been cold-calling, walking around and talking to owners, and I just sent my first batch of letters before I read this blog. I’ve already made appropriate adjustments but what do you mean specifically when you say talk about “them”? I’ve included some general market information and indicators but how do I make that more personal?

    Thanks again!

    Zach

    • http://www.bobarron.com/ Bo Barron, CCIM

      Zach – if you are prospecting on downtown office space, then include some information about what that market is doing. Make it specific to the prospects property holdings. You could also take the time to make each letter more personal and specific to that property owners. I prospected on Dollar Stores, so letters were all the same. It will just depend on what your specialty is. Does that make sense?

  • Greg Finley

    Bo, great information…thanks for posting! I received a call last week from a prospective client who had held on to one of my letters for three years.

    • http://www.bobarron.com/ Bo Barron, CCIM

      Greg – that’s outstanding! It must have been one heck of a letter.

      • Greg Finley

        #Shelflife

        • Bo Barron, CCIM

          No doubt!

  • http://twitter.com/DouglasDowellJD Douglas Dowell, JD

    Outstanding read Bo!

    • http://www.bobarron.com/ Bo Barron, CCIM

      Alright – some Twitter crossover! Thanks for the kind words Douglas.

  • http://twitter.com/officespacebrkr Paul Andrews

    Bo: I love the sales letter idea, because it works. When I was a Listing & TenRep broker, we would do blind mailers and even those worked for finding sale & lease listings. We wouldn’t even have to make the follow-up call. However, I like your approach better as my old strategy was hit & miss and had a much lower success ratio. Since I’m now 100% TenRep & have been for a while now, it seems to me that this may not work as well with tenant assignments? Have you or any of your colleagues tried this for TenRep? I usually send the letter AFTER I leave a message or call.

    • http://www.bobarron.com/ Bo Barron, CCIM

      Tenant rep is a different animal, but you still have your database of prospects that you should be systematically pursuing.
      My letter to a tenant rep would talk about a recent lease where I was able to get my tenant great space, below market rent, and extra special concessions from the landlord. Then ask the question, “Could you achieve the same results?” Plant the idea that they need you. And never give specifics of the transactions – just wet their appetite. They have to meet with you to get the specifics. Happy hunting!

      • http://twitter.com/officespacebrkr Paul Andrews

        Thanks Bo. You’ve confirmed most of my thoughts. BTW: I also liked your “recommended content” on the bottom of the page. Good stuff.

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  • http://www.salesproblog.com/ Johnny Bravo

    Bo, great post. I always use an email prior to my call. And let them know exactly when I will be calling (within 30 minutes). But I am working on getting some branded note cards so I can hand write them. Great idea!