Sell Your Offer, Not Your Offering

In B2B Direct Mail Lead Generation, Sell Your Offer, Not Your Offering. 

by Alan Sharpe

In business-to-business direct mail lead generation, sell your offer, not your product.

This sounds like lethal advice to a sales person, and it is, to a salesperson responsible for closing sales and meeting quota. But your direct mail is not responsible for closing a sale but for opening a dialogue. Your goal with a B2B lead generation letter, postcard, dimensional mailer or email is not to persuade prospects to buy but to motivate them to respond.

This makes perfect sense in B2B direct marketing more than anywhere else, particularly when you are selling to large companies, where:

1. Sales cycles are longer (months or years rather than days or weeks)
2. The buying process is more involved (gathering information on solutions, establishing specifications, requesting proposals, interviewing promising suppliers, checking trade references, testing the product, haggling over terms and price)
3. The buyer isn’t a person, but a committee
4. The costs of making a poor buying decision are usually great

Not all B2B direct marketers face these challenges, of course. One of my clients, a Brazilian manufacturer of high-end women’s footwear for the North American market, is able to generate sales with a simple two-step process. The company mails a postcard to prospective business buyers (women’s fashion boutiques, for example), and offers a free pair when the prospect buys a case of shoes from the company website. The postcard generates the lead and the website closes the sale. Cha-ching.

But most B2B sales aren’t that simple. And that’s why your B2B direct mail shouldn’t sell your offering, which is your product or service. It should sell your offer, which is the incentive or reason you give prospects to respond now.


In practical terms, what this means is that your direct mail package should offer prospects something that is so compelling, valuable and exclusive that they take action and respond. They “raise their hand,” as we say in the trade, and show their interest. And they usually do that when you show, through your offer, that you can solve their problem.

“When you are responsible for generating sales leads, focus on promoting your offer as the solution to your target audience’s pains before you start selling them on your company or product,” says Russell Kern in S.U.R.E.-Fire Direct Response Marketing, a book I highly recommend and sell from my website.

By phone, fax, email, web or mail, your prospects respond to your offer. Then you follow up with them, qualify them, sell them on the features and benefits of your offering, or nurture them until they are ready to buy.

Here’s an example of selling the offer and not the offering. Every couple of months, I receive a phone call from an affable chap from Pitney Bowes. He doesn’t try to sell me an expensive digital postage meter for my office. He doesn’t tell me the mailstation™ has a built-in scale. Or that it processes up to 20 pieces of mail per minute. Instead, he offers to let me test drive the postage meter risk-free for 60 days—and he throws in $30 in free postage to make me respond then and there.

That offer would work just as well with direct mail. It’s a great lead generator because Pitney Bowes doesn’t sell the digital postage meter. That’s the offering. They instead sell a free trial and free postage. That’s the offer.

When Pitney Bowes sells its high-volume mailing systems to larger accounts, it uses offers that match the needs of these prospects, which is not a simple trial or $30 in free postage. They offer:

• White papers: “Managing Content Through the Enterprise”
• Case studies: “Bank of America Saves Millions in Postage and Operational Costs”
• Featured articles: “The Future of Mail”
• Webinars and online presentations: “Bringing Customer Communication Into The Boardroom”

Whoever your target audience is, make your offer irresistible. And make sure your list is gold. After all, I should respond, take the Pitney Bowes trial, use the free postage and become a long-term customer. But, even though I’ve enjoyed hearing their frequent sales pitches for the last two years, I remain a lousy prospect. But that’s another topic altogether, isn’t it?

© 2006 Sharpe Copy Inc. You may reprint this article online and in print provided the links remain live and the content remains unaltered (including the “About the Author” message).

About the Author: Alan Sharpe is a business-to-business direct mail copywriter and lead generation specialist who helps business owners and marketing managers attract new clients using direct mail marketing. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at



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