Direct Marketing Article
Why Was This Sales Letter So Successful? How
To Use The Power of Storytelling To Persuade Others And Win Them Over
By Mark Satterfield
Perhaps it's just because of the nature of my profession, but I've long been
fascinated with why one sales letter attracts a swarm of interested clients
while another is studiously ignored.
This question motivated me to do some poking around and research what the
most successful sales letter of all time was.
The first step was to determine how we defined success. Would it be the
number mailed? That didn't seem right. Just because a letter is mailed a lot
doesn't necessarily mean it is effective. What about the greatest number of
responses? That seemed better, but simply getting people to say they'd like
more information didn't seem like a high enough bar for a letter deemed the
"most successful sales letter of all time."
No, in order to be crowned with that honor, the letter would need to
actually motivate readers to pull out their wallets and spend money. Not
just one person who spent $25 million on a Gulfstream, but lots of people
buying something. Now, that would be a letter worth examining for its
secrets. Imagine if we could capture that letter's essence.
Surprisingly, it wasn't all that hard to find. What was surprising was how
long ago it was written. I would have thought that with all the new
information we have about buying behavior and the sheer number of excellent
copywriters working today that the "Greatest Sales Letter" would have been
written less than ten years ago. Apparently, we don't know as much as we
think we do, since the letter I'm referring to was written more than 40
According to numerous sources, the letter that is credited with selling the
most "stuff" (to put it inelegantly) is a sales letter written for the Wall
Street Journal. It's been used on and off by them for decades and it's been
copied by numerous copywriters and used successfully to sell a wide variety
of goods and services. You may actually be familiar with it. Here's how it
"Take two men, both graduates of good universities, both hardworking and
"Flash forward twenty years and one is in the corner office commanding the
attention and respect of hundreds. The other toils amid the legions of
middle managers in a largely obscured position. Why did one ascend to great
heights and the other plateau so early?"
The letter to goes on to point out that one key point of differentiation is
that one person read the Wall Street Journal and the other did not.
Regardless of the Journal's actual ability to elevate you to the corner
office, this is one very successful sales letter.
Which raises the next question: Why? What makes this letter so effective?
Why did this one, amid all the others that have flooded our mailboxes over
the years, motivate so many people to take action?
The answer is actually fairly simple: It tells a story. A story that is
deceptively simple in the telling. In a mere 57 words, we are transported
from reading words on a page to visualizing two men, one successful, the
other considerably less so. Not only does the story enable us to visualize
the scenario, but it also does a masterful job of forcing us to decide which
camp we are in. Are we resigned to the plateau? Isn't there more that we can
achieve? What's the answer? What's the secret? How can we, too, get to
whatever level of success we most aspire to?
Unleashing this psychic visualization of desire and limits is the power
behind a great sales story. The power is in its simplicity. It's elegance is
in its restraint.
Those of us who offer our services for a living often hear about "selling
invisibly." It's an appealing concept, especially when the concept of
"selling" is uncomfortable. However, while selling invisibly seems like a
good idea in theory, how exactly is it done?
About the Author:
The key to selling invisibly is to tell great stories. Mark Satterfield is
the author of the #1 Amazon Best Seller, Unique Sales Stories: How To
Persuade Others Through The Power of Stories. Get Mark's latest
mini-book on how to implement a marketing system in less than a week for
under $300 by visiting