They bring out the product differential. They focus on the unique selling proposition (USP). While avoiding an overdose of superlatives and tall claims, the sales letter should focus on the strength of the company and the merits of the offer. The business letter writer should have a good understanding of the essential features of product marketing or services marketing, as the case may be, and use them to his advantage while drafting sales letters. Any product has its tangible and measurable features.

If the sales letter concerns a product, it is desirable that the product-related features such as price, strength, colour, weight, ease of operation, after-sales service and varied qualitative and quantitative dimensions are appropriately highlighted. Similarly, if the sales letter concerns a service which is essentially intangible, the service-related features such as courtesy, promptness, employee attitude, physical facilities, and customer identification/recognition, speed, and clarity, communicative and interpersonal skills are to be highlighted. As we have noted earlier, there is tremendous scope for being creative and imaginative while drafting sales letters. A good letter writer makes it a point to develop the appropriate word power and play with words and ideas.

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It is necessary to consciously avoid dull and outdated words and instead use vigorous and current words. Some examples of vigorous and current words would be robust, cost-effective, user friendly, savvy, eco- friendly, quality standard, zero defect, premium brand, win-win proposition, tailor-made, designer, garden fresh and fast moving, just to name a few. Similarly, compelling phrases can also be used to make a point. For example, freshness of the product was imaginatively brought out by a restaurant in the following statement—’The fish you are eating today was swimming yesterday.’ The skill lies in making the product or service look special or exclusive or distinctly different. Collection and recovery letters are plain speaking and sometimes harshly worded.

The letter writer should know which approach would be appropriate under each circumstance. Some organizations follow the practice of sending a reminder even before the due date. Obviously, such letters should be very polite and make for a pleasant reading. Similarly, even after the due date, the first set of letters will have to be polite and warmly worded. It is a common practice to send a simple pre-printed reminder using a well-worded format, duly filling up the name, address and due date. It is possible that the addressee has forgotten or overlooked to make the payment or has been out of station or any such genuine reason.

Under no circumstance should such a person be embarrassed or undermined. While collection of dues is important, as far as possible it should be done with due sensitivity and without hurting the feelings of the person from whom the amount is due. The letter writer should discriminate between a wilful or intentional and an unintentional defaulter. The letter writer should also discriminate between the first time defaulter and a habitual or hardened defaulter.

The customer is important and the business will have to deal with them in future too, as long as the relationship is worthwhile. The letter should not hurt the feelings of the addressee and result in a severing of the business relationship, unless such an extreme situation is warranted. Notwithstanding what is stated above, there will be occasions when a strongly worded letter will have to be drafted. Skills of letter writing come into full play under these circumstances.

A series of letters may have to be addressed with increasing intensity. Politeness and consideration for feelings and relationship will give way to plain speaking and emphasis on business compulsions. In Sanskrit language and ancient texts, there is a reference to chaturopaya, i.e., four options, viz., sama, dana, bhedha and danda. Starting with a friendly approach one moves on to threatening and punitive messages.

The letter writer should not only know the category to which the addressee belongs, but also the payment culture in that particular line of business, and when to blow the whistle. ‘Please note that we will be compelled to take the extreme step of legal action against you’ should be the last resort, as far as possible. Another important aspect to remember is not to make a final or terminal statement limiting the scope for further correspondence. A keen sense of understanding, appropriate choice of words and persuasive skills assume significance.