Imagine you need to relay information about the most compelling benefits of a product to a prospect with a waning attention span within a fixed amount of time. Those circumstances might seem familiar. They generally surround one of the most fundamental concepts in sales — the elevator pitch. But that's not what I'm talking about here.
I'm going to add an extra caveat to that scenario. In this case, the pitch can't be delivered verbally. It has to be able to be distributed through the mail. What would you do then?
In all likelihood, you would create what's known as a sell sheet — a document that could be described as the physical equivalent of the elevator pitch.
What is a sell sheet?
A sell sheet is a one-page document that concisely details how your product or service solves a specific problem. It's essentially a single-page advertisement or brochure that should be visually compelling, neatly formatted, and persuasively worded with a definitive call to action for interested prospects.
A sell sheet is a physical first impression. It captures the essence of your brand's identity and your product's purpose. It's often distributed to prospects through the mail, via email, or at actual meetings.
It's a demonstration of your products' capabilities and company's professionalism. Distributing informative, engaging, well-constructed sell sheets shows your business is both trustworthy and has a lot to offer. So it's in any company's best interest to have some picture of how to make one.
Here, we'll learn the fundamentals of sell sheet design with the support of some sell sheet examples along the way.
Sell Sheet Design
Your logo and product name
An attention-grabbing headline that sticks
An intro paragraph
Product specifications and benefits supported by hard data
Appealing data visualization
A clear-cut call to action
There are some key design elements that often have a presence in well-crafted sell sheets. Though how you decide to construct yours is ultimately up to you, it's in your best interest to incorporate at least some of these components.
1. Your Logo and Product Name
This might go without saying, but prospects need to know who you are and what they're buying. Be sure to display these elements prominently, but bear in mind you only have one sheet — be mindful of how much space you're taking here.
2. Full-Color Visuals
A sell sheet is, at its core, a ploy for attention. That all starts with compelling visuals. Include images of the product itself if you can — ideally from multiple angles.
Give prospects a first look at what they're being pitched. If your sell sheet is strictly text, it won't be anywhere near as convincing. Prospects need to visualize themselves leveraging the product. Make that easier for themselves by providing relevant images — not just describing them.
This sell sheet from Dole has several colorful, attractive images of the product it's promoting. It has different pictures of the various kinds of packaging and other relevant products Dole offers for its sliced peaches. The key here is commanding attention. The images the company uses are engaging without being abrasive — always aim for that.
3. An Attention-Grabbing Headline That Sticks
This aspect sets the tone for the rest of the copy. Make sure it's concise and catchy. It could be as simple as your company slogan, but that might not be your best course of action. If you can come up with something that better captures the essence of the product itself and the benefits it offers, go with that.
Here's a headline from a sell sheet for Dole's Chef Ready Frozen Fruit Cuts. It's direct, compellingly worded, and designed to grab attention. It captures the essence of what the product actually is, and if someone were to read it and it alone, they'd still understand what the product is for.
4. An Intro Paragraph
An introductory paragraph can give prospects some perspective on your company's identity, reliability, and esteemed reputation. If a prospect has never heard of you, they might be reluctant to buy from you — even if they're interested in the product. It can't hurt to give some insight to calm their nerves and establish yourself as an authority in your space.
5. Product Specifications and Benefits Supported by Hard Data
This component is the real meat of the sell sheet. It's where you prove your product is worth your prospects' time and money. Establish clear benefits that they can expect to see, but don't stop there. You have to have hard statistics to substantiate your claims. Also, give some specifics about what the product is and how it functions. Those are necessary, but your big selling point will still be the potential benefits.
6. Appealing Data Visualization
If you're including hard data to back your claims and product specifications, it's in your best interest to arrange it appealingly. Make sure your statistics are easy to make sense of, and that often means presenting them graphically.
Your sell sheet isn't a research paper. Prospects won't be interested in poring over and making sense of a full page of raw data. It's a bite-sized picture of your product, so you're best off presenting your data in a digestible fashion.
Here's another example pulled from Dole's Chef Ready Frozen Fruit Cuts sell sheet. Here, the data on fruit preferences is laid out concisely and accessibly. The fruit backdrops are fun and engaging without compromising the value of the data they support. It's an excellent example of a company making dry data palatable in a sell sheet.
7. A Clear Cut Call-to-Action
This is the most essential component of all. Say you make an outrageously compelling sell sheet. A prospect reads it and is absolutely hooked. Your visuals, data, graphs, headline, copy, and tone all blew their mind. They're totally on board. That would be awesome, but if you didn't have a call-to-action included in your sheet, all of that excitement might go to waste.
Always give next steps in your sell sheet. Make sure prospects know where to go after they've been sold on your awesome pitch. Should they visit your website? Should they give you a call at a provided number? Should they email you? Should they go to specific retailers where your product is carried?
A sell sheet is always designed with intention — this is where that intention is expressed.
Sell Sheet Template
There's no be-all, end-all standard for sell sheet design. In a lot of ways, it's an excellent opportunity for your company to express some creativity. Still, it can be helpful to have a jumping-off point to reference and structure your sheet around. Visme, an online graphics tool, provides some excellent sell sheet templates like this one:
Ultimately, your sell sheet is just that — your sell sheet. There's no strictly regimented strategy or formula that you can follow to expect incredible results. You're going to have to tailor your efforts to best highlight the better parts of your product.
Still, there are some guidelines you can reference to ensure that you're including the necessary information in your sell sheet and conveying it convincingly.
Originally published May 18, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated March 19 2021