Selling without Technology: The Power of the Written Thank You Note

Learn why handwritten thank you notes can still be a salesperson’s best friend, and discover several ways to use them in your social selling process.

January 4, 2017

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Have you ever played the game “would you rather”? If so, you know it only works if the player is forced to choose between two equally good or equally bad options.

For example:

Would you rather make $200k this year or become VP of Sales in five years?


Would you rather lose half your contact list or half your base salary?

Both of the above questions would require most sale pros to think before answering, at least momentarily. These next two questions, not so much:

Would you rather struggle to gain attention, or would you rather have people think positive, warm thoughts whenever they hear from you?


Would you rather spend your days on prospecting and cold outreach or would you rather get most of your business from referrals?

These are horrible “would you rather” questions because you can’t answer them fast enough – we’ll take immediate acceptance and referrals any day of the week. Not only do we vastly prefer these outcomes, we actively seek out new strategies that help us accomplish them. But is there an “old” strategy we’re not using to its full potential?

“I Became a Thank You Note Fool”

 “And guess what happened?” implores sales trainer Tom Hopkins. “By the end of my third year in sales, my business was 98% by referral! The people I had expressed gratitude to were happy to send me new clients as a reward for making them feel appreciated and important.”

Sending thank you notes is by no means guaranteed to yield immediate superstardom – notice Hopkins cites his results after the three year mark – but there’s reason to expect incremental improvement. And supposing you never achieve a 98% referral rate, most B2B sales pros would happily invest ten minutes per week in an activity that’s guaranteed to generate just one referral per quarter.

Why Handwritten?

Let’s set aside arguments about personal touch for a moment and consider only the medium. The average corporate email account receives 121 emails per day. Text messages aren’t far behind, especially among young adults.

Personalized letters, on the other hand, are almost certain to stand out. As of 2010, the average home received a personal letter once every seven weeks. That’s down from once every two weeks in 1987. Sure, it’s not as easy to reply to a physical letter, but that’s not the point. And it’s a heck of a lot harder to “delete” a letter without taking stock of who sent it and what they had to say.

No Customers to Thank? No Problem

A common misconception about thank you notes is that salespeople should send them after a closed sale. Because referrals are the ultimately goal, we toss in a handful of business cards for good measure. But what about the other stages of the relationship? After all, if handwritten thank you notes can strengthen a relationship, why not use them when a relationship is at its weakest?

“Beginnings and endings have a disproportionate power to affect your customers,” explains customer service consultant Micah Solomon. “The brain selectively chooses which events to store in memory. All things being equal, the brain ‘guesses’ that the beginning of an interaction (the hello) and the end (the goodbye) are worth taking a mental snapshot of for future recall.”

Hopkins takes it a step further, suggesting that after the purchase is just one of ten opportunities to send a thank you note. Other opportunities include after the first contact, after a demo or presentation, even after your prospect buys from someone else.

Personal Touch Never Goes Out of Style

The more genuine and personalized your message, the more likely it is to achieve the desired outcome. Check out How Personalized Selling Unlocks Competitive Advantage and learn how to engage your prospects and customers the right way, regardless of the medium, to achieve meaningful, sustainable results. Or would you rather keep doing what you’re doing?