The Most Dangerous Letter

By Michael Roderick  -  On 08 Apr, 2015 -  0 comments

Whenever someone asks me to look at a sales letter or listen to a pitch, there is one letter that I pay extremely close attention to. If I hear it too many times, I know the project is in trouble. It’s nearly impossible to avoid and has already appeared in this post a number of times. Can you guess what the letter is?


That’s right. The letter “I” can ruin a sales letter, sales pitch, and in some cases a really great conversation if used too many times for one simple reason:

It takes the focus off of the other person and returns it to you. We as people are naturally focused on our own needs. If we weren’t we would have a lot of trouble taking care of ourselves and continuing to exist on this earth. Our desire to take care of ourselves is an essential thing, but it can also work against us when there is something that we need like a sale or a partnership. Our desire for that thing that will help us achieve our goals can give us asking blinders. Much in the same way a horse has blinders on so it won’t see anything other than the road; we can put our own blinders on when we think about the things that we want. Once these blinders are on, the conversation turns to the “I” rather than “You” or “We,” which in turn makes the person across the table feel like we don’t care about them, which damages the relationship. I want to stress again that this is more biological than anything else. Our need to protect ourselves from harm gives us this desire to get the things we need as quickly as possible and it can be the thing that saves our lives in life threatening situations. The problem is, no matter how much we want to argue with this statement, the fact remains:

You will not die if you do not get what you want.

You may be disappointed or frustrated, but the odds of you no longer being able to exist on this earth are very, very slim. So the question then remains how we can take off these blinders. How can we get that letter “I” to a minimum in our sales letters and pitches? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Get what you want out of your head – If you’re writing something or in the middle of a pitch, one of the things that will often sabotage you is living in the future instead of in the present. If the entire time you are speaking to someone or writing to them, you are thinking about what you want out of the conversation, you may miss the important information and clues they are providing you in the moment. So rather than let that sit all bottled up and ruin your interaction, sit down long before and write out what you want. Put it on paper so you have a clear picture of it and so that it won’t dominate your thoughts. Once it’s there on a piece of paper, you can revisit it later and see if you made it happen. The important thing is that now that it is somewhere else other than up there banging around your noggin, you can return your focus to the other person.
  2. Put yourself in their shoes - One of the most effective techniques you can use when reviewing a pitch or a sales letter is to read it as if you were the one making the decision. It can be a little head-trippy, but if you do it well, you’ll instantly see where you are not connecting. Take the email you are about to send and sit down and read it as if you were the one who had to spend the money. Would you? If the answer is “No” ask why. Chances are the conversation is still too focused around what you want rather than what will make the other person’s life better. Remember that your business or service is not for you, it’s for the customer, so think more about what the customer wants and you’ll have a more compelling sales letter.
  3. Let go of your ego - When you are describing your services, your immediate thought is going to be to make sure that they know about all of the awards you’ve won, or how cost effective your solution is, or how many people you’ve worked with. The truth is that no one really cares. They care about whether or not you can help solve their problem. It’s really nice to win awards and hit certain milestones in a business, but those things are not what win people over, its how much attention you show the other person and the things that they need. Remember, if somebody wants to see your trophy collection, they’ll ask to see it. Save that for later.

Zig Ziglar is famous for saying that you can have anything in the world that you want if you help others get the things that they want.

Don’t assume what they want.

Ask them.

The only way to take off asking blinders is to start asking your clients about the road ahead of them.

Do that and that dangerous letter will start to fade away.

It will no longer be about you, but you can bet you’ll see the benefits.