Following Up is a Key Function of Selling

Congratulations! You’ve presented your product or service, negotiated an agreement that’s a win-win for both parties and closed the sale. Now remember that following up is a key function of selling, not to be ignored.

The thrill of the sale is hard to beat when you run your own business – whatever its size or focus. I remember very well the day the first person told me that they’d employ my services. Thankfully, they’re still doing so. I’ve even got a copy in my office of the first cheque (remember them?) I ever received from a client.

But it’s important not to lose track of the next bit of business you need to win, rather than focusing solely on the job at hand (or, worse, reminiscing about past glories). One key element in achieving this is to ensure you’re following up on projects or deliveries completed.

Following up builds relationships with enterprises or individuals who may hire your service or purchase your product again in the future. It also encourages them to tell others about you and that’s got to be good, right?

Referrals – you can’t beat them.

following up is a key function of selling

Small Business Trends states that, according to Harvard Business Review, the biggest complaint that customers have when dealing with any business is poor follow-up.

When it comes to problems encountered by customers, 56% complain that they need to re-explain their issue when calling back, because the provider didn’t follow up. 62% report having to repeatedly contact the company to get their issues resolved, again because the provider didn’t revert. As a result, 65% are likely to speak poorly about the company and 48% of customers go on to tell 10 or more people about their bad experience.

Incorporate Following Up into your Systems

But, of course, that’s all about the scenario when something goes wrong.

Hopefully not much goes wrong for you, so why then would you still need to follow up? Because selling should not be about “them and us” or “buying and selling”. No, you’re building a relationship. You’re building trust.

Drop your client an email or, better still, pick up the phone, or even better again, go meet up with them. Following up with your customers shows them that :

  • you’re interested
  • you’re confident in your product / service
  • you want their feedback on customer experience

Following up is a key function of selling because, through demonstrating your interest in and commitment to the client, you are, in fact, generating goodwill and new orders. You’re also learning though listening, discovering market trends and, hopefully, spotting new opportunities.

And, if you’re really good, you might get a coveted testimonial.

Updated Sept 2021

6 Ways to Close that Sale

Often, when trying to improve our sales performance, our attention is concentrated on how to present and how to negotiate. As vital as these tasks are, we should not lose focus on the true job in hand : closing that sale. See if you can apply any of these 6 ways to close that sale.

After all, closing is ultimately what selling is all about.

So remember : do not be afraid to ask for the order, be clear and assertive, but do not interrupt your target or be too early asking.

It’s important to realise that, while you may lose a sale by not asking for it, you cannot make a sale simply by asking for it. Prospecting and information gathering remain vital elements of The Sales Process, leading you towards (hopefully) a sale.

6 ways to close that sale

Here are 6 ways to close that sale :

1. Just ask!

Sometimes we can forget to do this.

2. The concession close

“If you give me an order today, I can give you 2% off.”

3. The alternative close

“I can deliver the blue one today or the red one next Thursday. Which do you want?”

4. The objection close

“We can call two of my clients now, if you’d like to ask them about the service.”

5. The forcing close

“You do want to avail of this special offer, don’t you?”

6. The requirement close

“Well, tell me what I need to do to get an order right now?”

So, keep working on getting to know when it’s the right time to ask for a sale. Listen out for buying signals as you are having a discussion with your target. Nowadays, people like to have a human relationship with their supplier. It’s no longer a case of just turning up and trying to wrangle an order out of somebody, before quickly moving on to the next visit or phone call. Listening is more important than ever in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Build a relationship and learn to understand the target’s needs. After all, good marketing and selling is about satisfying your customer’s needs.

There’s 6 Ways to Close that Sale. Fine, but what about when they say “no”?

Often, when a target says “no” to your advances, it may not always actually mean “no”. They may just be appealing for help with something. They may, indeed, be looking for your help to assist them make a decision.

“No, we don’t want to integrate your software now, because it might mess with the systems we already have.” Is that a true “no”, or an appeal for reassurance?

Keep talking, but also keep listening, to close your sale.

Why I Hate Cynical Ads

Hate Cynical Ads? I Know I Do.

OK, before moving on to why I hate cynical ads, let’s start by saying that I generally enjoy listening to ads on the radio (I watch relatively little telly).

I particularly like really great radio ads, like the campaign run during 2017-2019 from Appliances Delivered. I mean, they were so well written and brilliantly delivered (excuse the pun) by the “voiceover guy”. How they managed to create humour from humdrum extractor fans was genius, but the best line of all was the one where the reader declares that he doesn’t know how Appliances Delivered make any money “what with my voiceover fees”. Brilliant! And no, I’m not on a commission.

Interestingly, that company went to the wall during 2019.

hate cynical ads
Image © Nick Youngson at

But I really hate cynical ads. There’s one out at the moment from Love Irish Food pontificating about how its members must be producing in Ireland using Irish ingredients in order to earn the label. Yet, this is patently not always the case. There are Love Irish Food products on the market containing ingredients which are no more form Ireland than the man in the moon. Visit their website, dig a little bit and you’ll discover that, in fact, “the brand uses ingredients from Ireland where these are available”. Mmm, not quite the same thing as the radio ad declares.

But that’s nothing when compared to Bord na Móna’s “Naturally Driven” campaign.

Bringing cynical advertising to an all-time high (low?), one of the biggest environmental criminals in the history of the State now wants people to believe its spin that it is in some way ‘naturally driven’. Here is a company which has destroyed many thousands of hectares of our once beautiful boglands. Here is a company that currently imports palm tree kernels from the other side of the world to burn in one of its power stations claiming to be ‘naturally driven’. Give us a break.

A number of years ago, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority commissioned a report into UK citizens’ attitudes to advertising. While mostly positive, the report referred to a trend towards what the writer called ‘untruthful truthful advertising’, defined as being “assumed to be legally true, but economical with the truth”. I’m not aware of any similar research having been carried out in Ireland.

Why I hate cynical ads

Cynical ads that try to deceive consumers, or at least be sparing with the truth, give marketing a very bad reputation among the general public.

When I ask attendees at training courses I run what they think about marketing, quite often one response forthcoming is that “marketing equals false or misleading advertising”. Unfortunate, but true. I hate cynical ads because they lower the quality of an industry which, ultimately, is supposed to be trying to match goods and services with what the market wants. Mis- or disinformation is hardly achieving that.

Not to mention disrespecting the listener.

Advertising Authority for Ireland (ASAI)

Farcically, the ASAI is a “self-regulatory body set up by the advertising industry”. I mean, seriously …

Updated 2020.

How to Develop your Sales Funnel – Keep those Targets Moving Along

How to Develop your Sales Funnel – Lifeblood of your Small Business.

Listen, whatever marketing and promotional work you undertake, whether that be pressing the flesh, putting photos up on Instagram, email marketing or whatever, your focus needs to remain on moving people in your target market along and how to develop your sales funnel.

Remember : Nothing happens until something gets sold.

Traditionally, the sales funnel has been portrayed in images as a type of water funnel, with its big open end at the top and the narrow tube at the bottom. This representation seeks to convey the idea that, while large numbers of ‘cold’ prospects may be thrown in at the top, relatively few will come out the bottom and become actual paying customers.

But there’s a degree of laziness to this.

At the core of this image is the notion that prospects simply fall into your sales funnel, like rain into your gutter, and that the only work involved is moving them down along. Indeed, this even suggests that gravity will push some out the other end, irrespective of your input. It’s lazy.

I put it to you that a much better image to form in your head would be of an upturned funnel. Now, suddenly, you’ve got to lift your funnel up for the ‘cold’ prospect to get in there in the first place. There’s already work to be done. Moreover, now gravity cannot help you get them out the top. You’ve got to keep those targets moving onwards and upwards. More work involved. In fact, your poor old prospect has to want to get to the top. He ain’t passive no more. Huge difference.

how to develop your sales funnel

How to Develop your Sales Funnel

The first thing to understand and accept in wanting to develop your sales funnel is the need to develop your sales funnel.


By that I mean to draw your attention to the probability that you will lose 20 – 25% of your existing customers / clients over the next 12 months. That’s just life. Some retire, some close down, some begin to buy from their sister or best friend. Some just don’t need your product or service any longer. Maybe you haven’t progressed or innovated and you can no longer meet their ever-changing needs.

OK, so once we get into the frame of mind that we need new customers, what then?

Step one is research. In fact, it’s research, research, research. Get out and meet people, network, check out new businesses, get on the internet, get along to trade shows and conferences, etc. Find new prospects. They’ll be cold at first, but c’est la vie.

From there, it’s a question of developing a relationship, making enquiries about their needs, matching your product or service to those needs, getting into presentation mode, then negotiating and so on.

Now, I always advise people to put a system in place for seeking out new ‘cold’ prospects. Give yourself a manageable target every period of time. For you, that might be to meet 10 new people per week in their office or at networking events, or it might be to go visit 4 new trade shows per annum, where you’ll walk up to stands and see where you can offer a benefit to the exhibitor.

However you choose to do it, be sure to keep working on how to develop your sales funnel. After all, it’s the lifeblood of your business.

Profiteering UK Retailers in Ireland exposed by Exchange Rates

Profiteering UK retailers in Ireland have been a problem for years.

In recent months, however, this has been particularly clearly demonstrated by the post-Brexit exchange rate between the Euro and Sterling.

I was down in Galway recently and rambled into Debenhams, where I picked up a coat and took a notion to pull off the Euro price tag to reveal the Sterling beneath. I was interested to see if, and to what extent, the retailer was “doing” its Irish customers.

Even though I fully expected to see something unfair and unjustified, in fact I was shocked by the extent of the blatant profiteering. With an average exchange rate of below 1.20 over the last 5 months or so, I might have expected the Stg£ 125 price to equate to somewhere around € 150 – 155 maximum. In fact, the price was € 190, a total unadulterated rip-off.

profiteering uk retailers ireland
Coat in Debenhams Galway

Recently, my ‘other half’ purchased a pair of jeans for me (bless her) in Next. Upon receipt, I did the same thing and removed the Euro price tag to reveal the Sterling “equivalent”. In this case, the Stg£ 35 item should have been priced at around € 42 –  44. As you can see, it was € 48.

profiteering uk retailers ireland
Denim at Next Castlebar

Perhaps the most telling aspect of profiteering by UK retailers in Ireland is the appearance over recent years of a new type of price label they have created for Irish stores. More difficult to remove and with a type of extra black skin underneath,  it has become difficult to reveal the Sterling price. This new departure is a clear and blatant attempt to cynically hide the outrageous exchange rate often applied to pricing in Irish stores.

Directly related to this issue of pricing in Irish bricks-and-mortar shops is the phenomenon known as “geo-blocking“, an online practice that prevents shoppers in some countries from being able to buy products and services for cheaper prices in other countries. Incredibly, this is not yet illegal within the EU.

Come across profiteering UK retailers in Ireland? Go elsewhere

Ultimately, of course, we have to question why Irish-based retailers do not take greater advantage of this appalling behaviour by UK brands. There is the argument of marketing power, on the one hand, whereby “Barry Murphy Menswear” cannot possibly compete with the advertising budget of the larger chains. On the other, there is the fact that most Irish clothing retailers source their stock in the UK anyway and lack the purchasing power to drive a hard bargain on that front. Thirdly, Irish brands simply don’t have the market clout, don’t sell the same huge volumes and couldn’t get away with it anyway. I’d like to think they wouldn’t try.

But why do we let profiteering UK retailers in Ireland get away with it? Go shop elsewhere, I say.

Irish Craft Beer Symbols Launched

Irish Craft Beer Symbols.

This year has seen the launching of two separate Irish craft beer symbols, in an apparent attempt to stave off ‘pretenders’ from the world of Irish craft beer production.

There has been a phenomenal growth in production of Irish craft beer over the last few years, to such an extent that the well-known community website, Beoir, now lists an incredible 86 micro-breweries in Ireland.

Faced with the challenge of dodgy market entrants, either from the large multinational breweries or independent pretend-breweries, we have recently been treated to the introduction of two types of quality-of-origin labels. As the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland (ICBI) puts it on their won website, “Unfortunately, some other companies are jumping in on this [market growth] and releasing products into the market which they are misrepresenting as craft beer and being vague about origin to suggest a provenance of craft beer from an independent Irish brewery.”

First off the mark was Beer Ireland. According to Beoir, the criteria for carrying the Beer Ireland symbol are as follows :

  • The beers have been produced in a brewery on the island of Ireland.
  • The brewery is legally and economically independent of any other brewery.
  • The brewery meets the legal definition of micro brewery.
  • The brewery owners are professional members of Beer Ireland.

irish craft beer symbols

Meanwhile, the ICBI symbol requires that :

  • The brewery the beer came from is independently owned, small scale and a registered microbrewery as recognised by Revenue.
  • The brewer has complete ownership of the brand.

irish craft beer symbols

Although Irish craft beer symbols such as these are desirable, one concern would be for the capacity of these umbrella organisations to police their usage and validity in every case. Shelves are already awash with so-called craft beers that are questionable in the origin of their production.

But there’s another marketing issue here. Does the consumer really care that much about the origin of the beer s/he is drinking? While those of us who love great-tasting craft beer might not touch them, the reality is that the ‘imposters’ couldn’t be eating into the market if consumers didn’t welcome them. Might it be that there is a large section of the beer-drinking market that simply wants ‘new’, as opposed to ‘craft’? Is that why we now have our Hop House 13, Cute Hoor, Smithwick’s Pale Ale and so on?

West of Ireland Craft Breweries

Whatever about Irish craft beer symbols, if it’s West of Ireland craft beers you’re looking for, go try out these guys :

West Mayo Brewery

Reel Deel Brewery

Black Donkey Brewery

Mescan Brewery


Email Marketing for Customer Retention

Email Marketing for Customer Retention

Gathering email addresses (with permission), with the aim of incorporating email marketing for customer retention into your overall marketing strategy, is a great way to go and worthy of special attention.

You can do this with online list building services like Sumo, or paper versions of the same thing stuck on your counter top beside your till. Try Facebook contests (get entrants to send email by message, not in public comments) or have people put their email address in a goldfish bowl to enter an in-store competition. Don’t ignore the opportunities at trade and consumer shows. Same for networking events and as part and parcel of your ongoing interaction and communication with your existing customers. Stick an invite to join your mailing list in your auto-signature.

Note that, even in its free version, Sumo offers very nice pop-up and slider email capture forms, including the type that appears only as your website visitor is about to leave.

When a person gives you their email address in the full knowledge that you will market to them, there is a clear indication that they are happy for this to happen. There is a commitment; a sign that they think you are ok. They’re offering you the chance to develop them into loyal ‘fans’.

Now, don’t forget that, like all other elements of your varied pro-active communication with your audiences, whatever you write about in your email marketing must be of interest to your customers and prospects. It’s up to you to provide them with opportunities to gain value.

There’s little point in constructing a lovely email about stuff they simply aren’t interested in. Vary the content of your emails and keep track of their success. Learn to know what works and what not so much. Come up with different articles for your different audiences.

email marketing for customer retention

Is Email Marketing Worthwhile?

Sure, it can be contended that the success rate of email marketing might be low, in terms of click-throughs to your website and purchases (where relevant).

But it can equally be argued that the investment is pretty low too. Especially if you’re disciplined enough to be noting down what it is you want to say in your next email as you go about your daily tasks. Where this form of marketing can indeed be slow and time-consuming is if you find yourself sitting down to write your next email without having put any thought into it previously. That’s a sure-fire way of ending up wasting time staring at a computer screen or looking up videos of cuddly cats on YouTube.

DO NOT click on that link!

Jot down your ideas as you go. Have a focal point for each email. That might be the pure selling of one particular product or other this month, or simply providing useful non-salesy information for your customers next time. Think about what your customers want and remember that this is, at a minimum, brand reinforcement you are engaging in.

Email Marketing for Customer Retention – Tools

There are several well-known email marketing platforms that dominate this market. I use Mailchimp, which is free for those who have fewer than 2,000 email addresses on their list. Indeed, automation services (for example, where you want to automatically send an email to a person who has read a certain blogpost on your website) no longer incur a cost.

Mailchimp (and other services) also offer landing page options, so you can have a stand-alone URL that comprises of nothing other than a sign-up form. Wonderful for requesting sign-ups at outdoor events, trade shows and the like.

Sample Landing Page Email Signup Form

People as part of the Services Marketing Mix

People as part of the Services Marketing Mix

When we think of the Marketing Mix, we’ve all heard about the famous “Four Ps”, made up of product, price, place (distribution) and promotion. However, the importance of people as part of the services marketing mix might just pass us by.

You see, potential customers will make purchasing decisions based not only on your marketing communications, service quality and reasonableness of your pricing, but on your full services marketing mix – and that includes most especially your people.

Here in the West of Ireland, there’s this great seafood restaurant along the coastline, serving up fabulous local oysters, mussels, fish and more. The view from the dining room is to die for, with ocean, islands and spectacular cliffs outside its big windows. Pricing is perfectly reasonable. It’s great. But the staff leaves a lot to be desired – especially the owner/manager. I’m not sure if they realise it or not, but their manner is very poor, leading to a big ‘fail’ in this critically important P – people as part of the services marketing mix.

Meanwhile, inland, there’s this run of the mill (in terms of location, decor and seating) café diner that opens up for lunch each day.  Now, don’t get me wrong, they do really very nice food indeed, especially their great and varied home-made soups. But the thing here is that the owner/manager is fantastic, always wears a smile and is truly friendly. I return regularly.

I recently read a motivational sign inviting us to smile, because it might confuse people. Unfortunately, this is very often the case. But if you can invest in really great people and add them in to your marketing mix, you’re onto a winner.

people as part of the services marketing mix

Anyway, the ‘people’ in your marketing mix involves two key functions : procedures and personality. Procedures is about doing the necessary in an organised and efficient manner. Personality is about delivering that functionality with a nice and friendly manner.

I remember reading the late great Feargal Quinn’s legendary book about quality customer care entitled “Crowning the Customer” and a passage inside where he mentioned that, at the time when he was still involved in recruitment for his business, that if a candidate didn’t smile during the interview he didn’t get the job. You can buy that book from the publisher here.

Just remember that there’s no point in having the finest automobile, bought at an excellent price and running on the straightest road, if the person behind the wheel doesn’t know how to drive! In service businesses, be sure your people are the right people.

Updated 2019.

Winking at a good-looking Girl in the Dark

Avoid Winking at a Good-looking Girl in the Dark

As the old adage goes, “Running a business without advertising is like winking at a good-looking girl (or guy) in the dark. You know what you’re doing, but nobody else does”.

winking at a good-looking girl

Now, for “advertising”, you can substitute “promoting”, thereby allowing yourself to concentrate on social media, for example, or getting out and meeting people. You may not have a budget for pure advertising, in the sense of spending money on media. However, if you’re short of cash, mister *, you might still be able to time-manage yourself to a sufficient degree to allow yourself dedicate some time to social media work, on Facebook, Twitter or other. Or get along to some networking opportunities. Or try to generate some favourable and free press coverage through PR work.

Essentially, you’ve got to be telling people (your target markets) about what you’re doing and what’s good about your product or service. Another adage states that “If you’re not telling, you’re not selling”. There’s no arguing with that.

As the summer winds up over the next few weeks, many of us self-employed small business owners who have perhaps been on autopilot for the previous two months will begin to turn our thoughts back to the job at hand. I regularly say that micro-business owners often have two beginnings to their year. The first, of course, is in January. But there’s a second one in September, once the holidays are over and the kids have gone back to school. Let me suggest that you develop some rigorous system to urge yourself to communicate with your audiences into the future.

  • Develop a social media marketing plan and schedule that makes use of the platform(s) your audience is active on.
  • Get networking offline, regularly.
  • Build relationships with journalists, bloggers and other influencers who can give you some coverage gratos.
  • Ask for testimonials from satisfied customers and put them up on your website. Even better, shoot some video testimonials.
  • Employ some free content marketing amplifiers, like Missinglettr. I like it very much.

Winking at a good-looking Girl

So, the next time you’re considering it, switch on the light first …

*  Stolen from an old U2 track, “Bullet the Blue Sky”.

5 Great Irish Advertising Slogans

5 Great Irish Advertising Slogans over the Years

I was listening to the radio the other day, Joe probably, when my mind drifted to some of the great Irish advertising slogans that have adorned the airwaves over the years. It must have been something he said.

Wondering why these slogans were (are) particularly excellent, I realised that one characteristic they all share is a small number of words. One of them is so short, it contains just two! But, of course, that in itself is not enough. The slogan also needs to speak in some way about the brand and its market – the “feelings” of its consumers, if you will.

1. “My goodness, my Guinness”

While recalled somewhat less frequently than its more famous cousin, “Guinness is good for you”, the amazing thing about this classic from the 1930s is that people still say it on the street, every single day, without even noticing.

great irish advertising slogans

2. Brennan’s, “Today’s bread, today”

The grand old character from Brennan’s Bakery who’s been uttering these immortal words for decades is a legend in himself. The bakery’s advert sketches, played out between “Old Mr. Brennan” and one of his side-kicks are fantastic and the tagline is simple, but brilliant. Two words, one repeated. One of the truly great Irish advertising slogans.

great irish advertising slogans - brennans

3. Centra, “For the way we live today”

Centra’s memorable tagline makes great use of a nice little musical ditty, so that we not only recall it fondly, but sing it.

great irish advertising slogans centra

4. “Look up, it’s Aer Lingus”

It’s a long time since our skies were filled with more or less just Aer Lingus, British Airways or Aeroflot. This ancient slogan still makes those of us of a certain age mutter it to ourselves whenever we see or fly the “national carrier”.

great irish advertising slogans - aer lingus

5. Homestead, “Brings value home”

Used, among others, in the ad that won the award for Irish Radio Ad of the 20th Century, this was all about warmth, comfort, homeliness and reasonable prices in the recession-hit Ireland of the 1980s.

great irish advertising slogans homestead

Great Irish Advertising Slogans

There are other greats, of course. But another of the characteristics of these taglines is that they make us smile. Like this superb old Guinness TV classic, “Tá siad ag teacht”. Brilliant.