Sell Sheets: Meet the Diamond in the Rough of Marketing Materials

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When you mention a great new program (offering, service) to a prospect and they say “yeah, send me something” a sell sheet is what you send. 

Its purpose is to convince them that what you’re offering is perfect for their needs and unique among all other options out there, whether it’s freight brokerage, warehousing or drayage.

Do it right and you’ll earn a place in a prospect’s mind as their potential solution. 

Do it wrong (i.e. in an irrelevant, diluted or unprofessional way) and your brand will be forgotten at best, or tainted at worst. 

Are your sell sheets overdue for a revamp or refresh? Do an SUD test to determine if they are Substantive, Updated and Differentiated.

Two Important Things about Sell Sheets – aka 1- or 2-Pagers and Slicks: 

  1. You need them when you need them. When you want to follow up with a prospect or you’re going to a trade show, you have to have something to reinforce what you’re selling. The sell sheet is that something. Without it, you’re empty handed.
  2. A sell sheet represents the perfect crystallization of what you’re selling. This exercise is essential because it organizes your thoughts and provides core language and positioning your team can align on. Don’t be lazy. Putting thought and care into creating a sell sheet is worth the effort. (And if you need help, let me know, wink wink.)

Sell Sheets Occupy an Important Point in the Sales Funnel

Your service is perfect for prospects – you know it is but they don’t yet. 

You know it’s just what they need because you’ve seen their challenges before and you created your program or solution precisely to solve it. 

Even if you have the chance to explain this to your prospect, they’ll forget it. Sorry, but your prospects have way too much going on to remember your details. So help them remember you with a sell sheet they can read, refer back to, file for later or forward to their team.

Think of your sell sheet as an awesome elevator speech that doesn’t dissolve into the ether. It has staying power – and it’s there to direct prospects to a next step when they’re ready. 

Different Types of Sell Sheets – It’s Okay to Have More than One

There may be situations that require a different type of sell sheet. For the Food Shippers of America Conference, you’ll need one for your company and another for the food vertical. For the Mid-America Trucking Show, you’ll need one promoting your company and another promoting career opportunities. Here are five types of sell sheet to consider.  

For the Company: Your sell sheet should say who you work with, why you’re different and a high-level view of what you offer. Give a taste that leaves readers wanting to know specifics.

For a Service: Create a sell sheet promoting a single service line like freight brokerage, warehousing or drayage. You could even do sell sheets to highlight services within services like kitting or flatbed hauling.

For a Solution: If you have a comprehensive solution that combines or customizes services, your sell sheet can explain how you meet needs and/or address a specific challenge, such as managed transportation, subscription order fulfillment or Walmart transportation consolidation.

For a Program: If you have environmental, social, governance initiatives or similar programs, 1-pagers providing details are useful press materials and conversation starters. 

For a Vertical: You could have a sell sheet for each vertical, in which you highlight your company’s expertise in verticals like food and beverage, automotive or building materials. Demonstrate how your services provide the perfect fit. 

Five Keys for Successful Sell Sheets

  1. Persuasive message. Address a pain. Clearly differentiate your strengths. And present the benefit of every feature you list.
  2. Be brief. Satisfy scanners by making it easy for them to find what they need fast. Use subheads, bullet points and short paragraphs to make text inviting like little morsels on a plate.
  3. Singular focus. Don’t try to do too much. One service, one program, one vertical is enough. It’s okay to leave details out. If you leave readers wanting more, it can prompt them to reach out, which can spur a conversation or move them further into the sales funnel. 
  4. Branded look. Make sure the design of sell sheets matches your brand identity on your site and everywhere else. Consumers like consistency. Brand cohesion across media and touchpoints are the mark of professionalism and strengthen your message. 
  5. Call-to-action. Spur a next step. Make it clear. Make it compelling. Offer a demo or intro call. 

This sell sheet for a cruise-booking platform addresses a market opportunity for prospects and is brief and focused. It has a compelling headline “Profit from…”, and instead of a subhead, it uses an eyebrow, “Galileo Cruise. Part of…” for clarity. 

The Sell Sheet Format I Favor

Write a headline that gets attention by imparting a compelling benefit, a memorable attitude or strong claim. 

If your message is long, use a subhead to break it up. I often use an attention-getting headline paired with a subhead that delivers the straight line. 

The first things readers see on a sell sheet are the headline, subhead and logo. That combination needs to communicate what you do, for whom and why readers should care.

Write an intro paragraph or few short paragraphs that presents the problem your service solves for and then briefly explains why your service is the best solution. When space allows, it is a bonus to touch on why other companies or solutions out there can’t compare. 

Bullet points can be used to express top features and benefits that readers definitely need to see in order to decide whether you are a viable candidate for their needs. So make them clear, short and scannable. Once again, highlight benefits. 

Bullet points can also be used for credentials statements also referred to as social proof. What achievements can you list that demonstrate you’re the real deal. Awards won and KPIs met are fair game. 

Got a great client testimonial? Use it. Social proof and an endorsement can be the nudge that tips the scale in your favor – and makes your company a must to include in the RFP. 

Remember a call-to-action. What would you like readers to do? Visit your site? Request a case study? Do a demo? Spur a next step and if possible, make it enticing. 

Check out this 2-pager I did for NAFA Fleet Management Association’s fleet management 101 educational series to see these features in action.

Make Outstanding Sell Sheets Your Secret Sales Weapon

What if your sell sheet was so good that a prospect felt like they had to save it or act on it? It’s not beyond the pale when you consider that most companies don’t really put a lot of consideration at all into creating their sell sheets. A sell sheet that was more than a fact sheet and that actually presented a unique solution to prospects’ needs would stand out. 

That makes sell sheets somewhat of an unrealized opportunity. Ready to explore the potential of your sell sheets? Want to build an arsenal of powerful sell sheets you could fire off to prospects or proudly pass to trade show attendees? Let’s talk.