Skip to content Skip to footer

How To Write A Life or Death Sales Letter

A life or death sales letter is an advert you write that just has to work. 

There is no plan B. 

It just has to work or else you are dead. 

I wrote my first life or death sales letter in 2010.

No one had a gun to my head when I wrote it. 

I wrote it because I borrowed some money from someone and promised him 3X returns within 4 months. 

Imagine going to someone and you say: “Loan me N500k and I will pay you N1.5m in 4 months”

That is a good deal for the person. 

But will you be able to repay within that time frame? 

That was the fire I set on my ass. 

So, I had to write a sales copy that is guaranteed to work. 

If you are a newbie who has never written any sales copy before, you will definitely need to at least learn the basics of writing a sales letter. 

What I am going to teach you in this email are the CORE dynamics of writing a sales letter that MUST work. 

I like to tell people that I am not a copywriter and I mean it. 

Even though I am highly skilled at copywriting, I don’t see myself as a copywriter. 

I am more of a strategic marketer. 

I look at the major reasons why something works and how I can focus on those areas in my marketing. 

For example… The first time I heard about a life or death sales letter, it was from the late Gary Halbert. 

He wrote a 361 word sales letter that was bringing in as much as 20,000 customers a day. 

But what led him to writing that sales letter was the thought: 

“What if you could only mail one letter and, if you didn’t get a response, you would quite literally be beheaded?” 

That thought drove him to create that promotion. 

I am saying this because if you are going to write a life and death sales letter, the first and very important thing is that… “There has to be a real or powerfully imagined life or death situation” 

The second time I wrote a life or death sales letter was in 2014 when I had some issues with the Ogun state government. 

That is another story for another day. 

I had to write a sales letter that just HAD to work. 

I hope you are getting me here. 

You have to put yourself in that “life or death” mindset. 


Once that is done, the rest is just engineering.

There are certain things that make up a highly successful sales letter. 

All you have to do is sit down and combine them. 

(1) The first part of engineering a life and death sales letter is putting together an irresistible offer. 

This is one thing that makes the TOP copywriters almost always come up with a winner. 

The offer is WHAT you are selling and how you are selling it. 

Now, pay attention here.  

Not all products will sell regardless of what you do. 

And if your life’s on the line, you won’t sit down and attempt to sell a product that just won’t fly. 

There is a saying: You can’t beat a dead horse. 

Gary Halbert will say – You can’t multiply zeroes. 

Think about it. Multiply zero with any number, regardless of how big the number is, you will still get zero. 

That explains how futile it is when you try to sell some products. 

So, the first thing you do is to check what you want to sell. 

Make sure it is a product that CAN FLY. 

If not, drop it and look for one that is promising. 

In the life and death sales copy I wrote in 2010, I wanted to sell a report on information marketing but I realized that the product itself didn’t carry enough weight to get the type of results I wanted. 

So, for 2 weeks I searched for something else. 

Eventually, I stumbled on an article that revealed how Nigerians were going crazy about acquiring new laptops. 

So, I just added that to sweeten the offer I had before and it became a winner. 

If you pay me to help you write a sales letter, the first thing I will do is to look at what you are selling and how I can convert it into an irresistible offer. 

Your offer isn’t just about the product you are promoting. 

It also has to do with how you are presenting it. I am talking about the price, the guarantee, the packaging, scarcity, bonuses etc. 

For my 2010 life or death sales letter, I think one of the thing that made it fly easily was the price. 

It was priced at N2500 only. 

I increased it to N3500 later and it still did well. 

I am NOT saying low prices always work.   

That is not the issue here. 

The audience and the value of what you are selling will determine a price that will work. 

Depending on what you are selling, a low price might even hurt you. 

But in this case, I was selling to business opportunity seekers and many of this audience don’t mind spending N2500 or N3500 to try something out. 

One powerful way to boost the power of your offer is to use the TRY it and pay later idea. 

This may not be applicable here in Nigeria because of our non existing credit card system. 

But think about it. 

If people know they can try something first and then decide to pay later, how much more people will make a buying decision? 

That is why POD works like crazy for people who use it. 

POD is Pay on Delivery. 

It works like gangbusters mainly for physical products. 

Of course it comes with some headaches, for instance, about 30 – 40% of the orders will be returned. 

But you will still end up making a boatload of money. 

I once advertised an information product and instead of telling people to buy it online, I told them to get it in their hands first before paying. 

The orders were crazy. 

Anyway… I can’t give a full lecture on crafting offers in this email. 

My friend Ronald Nzimora wrote a simple guide on how to craft offers that get people to beg you to collect their money. You can see it here.

Once you have crafted a really good offer, you can move to the next part which is: 

(2) To GET Attention 

In this life, nothing happens if you don’t get attention. 

The same applies to when you are writing a sales letter. 

And since it is a matter of life and death, you will want to FIND the most compelling picture, word, phrase or sentence that you can put together to get people’s attention. 

Most of the time, getting attention is all about the idea that is communicated. 

For example; 

If I say “how to write a sales letter that is guaranteed to make you money” 

Or “How to write a “life or death” sales letter that is guaranteed to make you money” 

Which one do you find more compelling? 

Here is another one: 

“How to lose weight fast”   


“Why Fulani women don’t get fat” 

If you are a woman looking to lose weight, which one will get your attention? 

My default formula for crafting a sentence that gets attention is a combination of something interesting or beneficial to my audience AND curiousity. 

This is it – Interest/Benefit + Curiosity. 

Look at this headline below for instance: 

How I finally got rid of my stubborn belly fat in 27 days using a strange combination of lipton and 3 fruits. 

Interest/Benefit: Burn belly fat 

Curiousity: Strange combination of lipton and 3 fruits. 

The MOST POWERFUL Way of getting your attention is to call you by your full name especially in a space where it is real. 

Imagine going on tomorrow morning and you see a headline that reads: “Everything Nigerians should know about (Your Name) before 2022” 

That headline doesn’t even make sense but I can guarantee that it will stop you just because it is your name. 

That is why in Gary Halbert’s 361-word letter sent to people, he calls out each person by their surname. 

Dear Mr Adetunji 

Dear Miss Ajaja 

Dear Mrs Obasanjo 

There is no way that won’t get your attention especially since it is a printed letter. 

You can still use something related via email but it doesn’t carry that type of power anymore because people have abused it. 

Getting attention is a much deeper topic than it looks but it all boils down to 2 things. 

1. Focus on the desires, problems and interests of the people you are targeting. 

2. And try to put yourself in their shoes. 

Think of the various attention getting tactics they are used to and don’t use them. 

Once you have the attention, you can move to the next part of the copy which is… 

(3) It has to HOLD attention 

Think about a movie that you started to watch and it starts out with this very interesting scene that got you stuck to it? That is holding attention. 

And to be frank, the best way of all to hold attention is with a story because we are programmed to like stories. 

Or you can use a piece of amazing information. 

In Gary Halbert’s 361 word letter, he starts with: 

Dear (name goes here), 

Did you know that your family name was recorded with a coat-of-arms in ancient heraldic archives more than seven centuries ago? 

My husband and I discovered this while doing some research for some friends of ours who have the same last name as you do. 

We’ve had an artist recreate the coat-of-arms exactly as described in the ancient records.   


(4) Then your sales copy MUST tackle all the potential objections to the sale.  

I learnt this part from Frank Kern in 2011.

When people have money to buy and still don’t buy what you are promoting, it is usually because of objections, fears, doubts in their minds.  

If you are going to write a life and death sales letter, you have to think about all the potential objections that might come up in the minds of the prospect and tackle them.  

Personally, I like to get people’s opinions.  

I will ask several people – if I try to sell ABC product to you, what are the reasons you might not buy if you have the money?  

I will now take whatever they tell me and come up with responses to them.  

E.g. Let’s say I am trying to sell a slimming tea and people keep telling me that their main concern is going to the toilet a lot because of the tea.  

That is an objection why many people will not buy.  

So, I will come up with a response for that.  

Let’s say I am selling a business opportunity product and one of the common objections is – Do I need to be a graduate to use it?  

We can present real life testimonials of young people especially people who haven’t had a tertiary education making use of it and succeeding.  

I hope you get the idea.  

For products that are lower priced, you won’t need to do much here because people don’t really mind trying out a product when the amount of money they are risking is not much.

Ideally, the higher in price a product is, the more objections there will be for you to tackle. And finally… 

(5) You want to add deadlines and scarcity to your offer. 


Human nature is funny. 

Even when we know something will help us and we can afford it, we still don’t go ahead and do that thing immediately unless there is a push. 

Adding deadlines or scarcity to your offer is a way of pushing them. 

E.g. In Gary Halbert’s 361-word sales letter, he added this line: “If you are interested, please let us know right away as our supply is pretty slim.” 

That is scarcity over there and it always works. It forces people to take action. 

Deadline can be a date when the offer expires. 

A date when the bonuses expire. 

Scarcity can be limited quantities of the main offer. 

Limited quantities of the bonuses attached. Etc 

By the time you piece all these 5 together, what you are going to have is a life and death sales letter. 

Here is a link to Gary Halbert’s 361-word sales letter. 

It looks so simple – like a normal letter. 

But don’t be deceived by its simplicity. 

Every word, every sentence in the letter is playing a role to get the reader to buy. 

I might do a proper breakdown of that 361 word letter another day. 


This is how you craft a life or death sales letter. 

If you have some sales letters that need to be improved, you can go and look at them right now and upgrade them. 

Or you can take this recipe and try it out on something else. 

Remember, the life and death mindset is the main koko here. 

That is the realm you have to put yourself in and operate from if this has to work. 

Here are the 6 key points in this writeup about crafting a “life or death” sales letter. 

– Start by putting yourself in a “life or death” mindset. 

– Put together an irresistible offer. Remember, you can’t multiply zeroes. 

– GET attention 

– HOLD attention 

– Tackle all the potential objections to the sale. 

– Use deadlines and scarcity to push people to respond. 

You might need to read this more than once. 

Finally, here is a link to a PDF containing my 2010 life or death sales copy that worked very well to make me N25k a day at the time. 

I had to find it using the way back machine. 

So, some of the images I used won’t display. I hope this has helped you. 


Show CommentsClose Comments

Leave a comment