The Value of No

When you’re out there in the market, trying to make sales for your product or service, it’s important to understand the value of no.

We’ve all experienced the slog of advancing a potential sale through the so-called ‘sales funnel’, investing time and effort as we go. While many prospects fall off along the way, through lack of effective and efficient communication or whatever, others progress nicely and seem worth the ever increasing commitment of resources. One of the more difficult skills of selling to master is the ability to recognise the difference between a prospect who has erected a barrier to buying and one who simply isn’t going to buy.

This is the value of ‘no’.

value of no

Listen to what prospects are saying to you. Are they saying that they’re not going to buy because, if they did, they would have to do ‘abc’ or ‘xyz’? That’s a long way removed from a straight ‘no’. Maybe, in fact, they would be perfectly happy to do ‘abc’ or ‘xyz’ and begin to use your product or service. Maybe they’re simply searching for a solution to their problem and maybe that solution might come from you. They might be looking for a ‘way out’ of some deal or contract they find themselves in currently. Indeed, they might be looking for a strong argument to bring back to the boss as to why they should invest in whatever it is that’s required.

Developing the sale to a point where you hear the word ‘no’ can actually be a deal maker as much as a deal breaker. It releases tension and brings the situation to a head. Even if there is no deal done afterwards, it is a resource liberator, allowing you to invest those scarce resources in the next target.

Think about it : that ‘no’ you’ve just heard could be a call for a solution. “No, I can’t use your solution because …” gives you, the vendor, the opportunity to nip that ‘because’ in the bud. Now that they have explained the ‘no’, you can offer your prospect a way out, an escape, a solution.

Either way, that is the value of ‘no’.

Selling is not easy, so be sure to have your antenna finely tuned, so as not to miss these type of situations, where a ‘no’ is often a cry for help.

5 Facebook Page Performance Stats

Given the ever-increasing kerfuffle about dwindling organic reach of Facebook Page posts, I decided to take a look at four Pages I have access to and check some numbers. Here are 5 Facebook Page performance stats I’ve produced, based on the 40 most recent posts from each of these Pages, averaged out *.


Facebook page performance

1. Reach

The average reach of the last 40 posts from each of the 4 Pages (i.e. 160 posts in total) was 36% (of the Page’s ‘likes’).

2. Boosts

When boosted posts were discounted, the average reach fell to 27%.

3. Shared

When posts by these Pages were not shared, the reach fell further, to 19%.

4. Links

For posts that contained a link leading away from Facebook, the number decreased to 12%.

5. Questions & Opinions

Among posts that were not shared, those posing questions or seeking opinions did not perform significantly better than simple image or video postings, at 23% v 19%.

The Pages analysed were chosen because they would be typical of small businesses, often with no more than 2 employees, where posting is rarely more often than once a day, but equally unlikely to be less frequent than 4 times per week.

These Pages would all have between 800 and 2,000 ‘likes’. While I haven’t gone into the frequency of likes and comments, it can be taken that most posts would have a number of comments or likes, but would be unlikely to generate tens of either terribly often.

* Notes on Facebook Page Performance

1. This research does not claim to be a thorough representation of what’s going on with Facebook Pages generally.
2. All 160 posts contained at least one image or video – none was text-only.
3. No post was guilty of “click baiting“.
4. I haven’t taken into account the time of posting.

Facebook Page Performance Resources

The internet is jammed with resources on how to optimise your Facebook Page performance and listing some is almost pointless. Nevertheless, here are just 3 I frequently check in on.

Jon Loomer

Mari Smith

Social Media Examiner


Product Pricing – 5 Methods

For any small business, product pricing decisions can be among the most difficult. There is often a tendency to price one’s product or service low, in the hope of gaining quick sales, or through fear of rejection by the target market. However, the danger here can be that one prices the product too low. It is very difficult to raise prices afterwards, when the promoter, perhaps, begins to notice that the item is too cheap.

Five ways of pricing a product are as follows.

Product Pricing
5 Ways to Price your Product

Cost plus Margin

Here, the promoter calculates the cost of materials, production, transportation, etc and simply adds a desired margin to arrive at the level of product pricing wanted.

Example :

Costs – € 6.00

Desired margin – 40%

Charge to customer – € 10.00

Add VAT @ 23% (if applicable) – € 12.30

What the Market will Bear

Here, the vendor carries out research into the market, pays attention to what other suppliers are paying and makes a decision based on what he or she believes the market may be willing to pay for the item.

Example :

As above, the item costs – € 6.00

Competitor A charges – € 17.99

Competitor B charges – € 19.99

Vendor decides to price his product slightly lower – € 16.99

The margin is much higher in this example.

Premium Pricing

Here, the vendor deems his product to be of a higher quality than those of the competitors and carries out research that confirms this impression in the marketplace. He seeks a market that is willing to pay extra for something special – one that will be attracted to his top quality item.

Example :

The item costs are higher, due to superior elements – € 9.00

As above, competitor A charges – € 17.99

As above, competitor B charges – € 19.99

Vendor decides to price his product higher – € 24.99

Introductory Pricing

Here, the vendor carries out all the research as above, but then decides to make a special price, perhaps for the first period of time the product is on the market, or for a specified quantity. This is clearly communicated to channel partners.

Example :

The item costs are – € 6.00

Competitor A charges – € 17.99

Competitor B charges – € 19.99

Vendor decides to price his product slightly lower – € 16.99

Vendor then offers introductory pricing of – € 12.99

The vendor communicates that this lower price will last for a certain period only, in order to generate quick orders and gain a foothold in the market.

Return on Investment Pricing

Where a large investment in equipment has been necessary and where this investment will need to be renewed periodically, there is a case for adding a little “re-investment” allowance to the price and for ring-fencing such monies.

Example :

The item costs are – € 6.00

Desired margin – 40%

Charge to customer – € 10.00

Add VAT @ 23% – € 12.30

Round to € 12.50 and retain the net-of-VAT element of the 20 cent extra (16.2 cent) for repayment of investment outlays.

Product Pricing in Context

In the real world, no promoter’s product pricing policy can exist in a vacuum. It needs to be related to the quality on offer, market trends and is, of course, subject to negotiations with channel partners. Indeed, the channel partners with which one works also reflect upon the appropriateness of the pricing. Product pricing needs to be backed up by accurate branding messages – messages that the product or service in question lives up to.

Distribution Agreements – What Are You Looking For?

You may have found a product you’d like to distribute into your market on behalf of its principal (manufacturer or developer). Indeed, you may have developed your own product for which you now need a distributor in new markets. Consider these points when setting out to secure distribution agreements.

1. Density of end-users

The higher the density of end-users, the more distributors you may need (or a small number of distributors, each with a significant sales team). The lower the density, the greater the area your partner may need to have “allocated” to him. But be very careful : geographic exclusivity is not permitted within the EU.

2. Length of purchase decision-making process

The longer the decision-making process, the more time consuming this may be for your distribution partners. If final purchasing is done online or via retail, then your partner can cover a larger area.

Distribution agreements
Distribution partnerships

3. B2B v B2C

Distribution of products direct to consumers is clearly much more time and energy consuming than through a channel. Selling B2B requires fewer accounts, with larger volumes per account.

4. Volume v margin

Too often, principals try to get away without rewarding their distributors sufficiently well. If your product is high-volume, then partner margins can be lower. Margins for lower volume sales, however, need to be higher.

5. Intra-distribution partner competition

If a principal is serious about supporting his distribution partners, then he will not undersell them. Nor will he try to bypass his “geographic” partner in order to sell direct to a large account in that partner’s area. It’s about respect.

6. Promotional support

I like to see principals who are dedicated to supporting their distribution partners, through pro-active marketing (often co-branded). On the flip side, I also like to see a distributor who does not demand that all marketing costs be borne by the principal. Willingness to spend + Willingness to share = Potential to succeed.

Here are some critical subjects about which a potential distribution partner needs to convince a principal :

  • product and market knowledge
  • visibility and being known in the marketplace
  • commitment
  • finances, ability to pay and handle cash flow
  • customer list
  • that he will not “bury” the product *
  • ability to promote
  • ambitious (but realistic) targets
  • branding
  • team – especially sales!
  • most importantly, trust

* Sometimes, a distributor will seek to take on a product from a principal, simply in order to bury it, i.e. stop or stall its entry onto and impact upon the market. Trust me, this happens.

Among micro- and small enterprise in Ireland, distribution is one of the Four Ps of the Marketing Mix that often gets ignored. As the old adage goes, you should seek to have others “selling your product while you sleep”.

Distribution Agreements – Resources

Read this Enterprise Ireland article on market entry and distribution.

Read this NI Business Info article on agents and distributors.

6 Essential Elements of a Sales Letter

6 Essential Elements of a Sales Letter

A sales letter (or email) is just one of many promotional actions you will take and, recalling that no single action will suffice, it is first important to be clear on the strategy behind it and its place among your many marketing actions. Have you clearly identified your target market; how does your sales letter fit into your overall strategy for growth; what other marketing actions are being undertaken to support it?

So let’s assume you have a clear strategy and a series of marketing actions in place or planned to help achieve your goals. Here are 6 essential elements your sales letter * should consist of.

1. Recipient > Should be a real person, rather than “The Manager”. Don’t be lazy, put the work in first. Plus you’ll need it for element 6, later.

2. First paragraph > This should state the issue, challenge or problem that the letter’s recipient may be encountering.

3. Second paragraph > State the general, generic solution to the issue described.

4. Third paragraph > Why us? Now you are selling. Explain why your particular in-house solution might be best for the recipient.

Sales Letter

Now, when I say ‘paragraph’, I mean maximum 2 to 3 short, punchy lines. Your letter should be no more than 8 or 9 lines in total, well spaced. Insert a clear image, for example of yourself or your product, to add variety to the text.

5. Signature + contact details > Where practical, always sign your letters by hand. Just like the to-be-avoided “Dear Manager” opening, nobody wants to receive an unsigned letter. It’s just not personal.

6. The bit that’s not in the letter > Always follow up a sales letter with a phone call, perhaps 3 or 4 working days after the letter was posted. During the phone call stage, remember that your aim is to get that meeting!

Try designing more than one style of letter, send both out and compare results. Do this with e-mails and newsletters also. Live and learn.

But most of all, make that call.

* Now, when I use the term “sales letter”, it includes postcards, emails and the like.

Your Sales Letter as part of The Sales Process

Read this post about the over-arching sales process.

The Hive, Technology Enterprise Centre at Carrick on Shannon

Leitrim County Enterprise Fund has been busy working away on its all-new technology enterprise centre for months. The Hive, as it has been named, is just about ready to accept tenants from the local knowledge-based business community.

Joe Lowe, CEO of Leitrim County Enterprise Board (Update 2014 : Now Leitrim Local Enterprise Office), says “The Hive, a new concept in business centre for the region, will be open for business in early September 2013. Accommodation solutions range from a single desk with high speed fibre broadband access, to fully furnished and serviced office suites with fixed cost flexible leases and optional packages including phone systems, print solutions and secretarial support.”

“Please look out for our launch date in the local press and on social media and if interested parties have any questions on this exciting new development, please feel free to contact Colm Keane, Business Development Manager, on  071 9616275 or

Local businesses will be aware that The Hive will occupy the much redeveloped building (newly expanded) as the County Enterprise Board on the Dublin Road in Carrick on Shannon, directly across from the new Aldi store.

The Hive

Connectivity and convenience are the main focus of this new centre to serve the knowledge-based business community of the North West. Accommodation solutions ranging from a single desk, with high speed fibre broadband access, to fully furnished and serviced office suites with fixed cost flexible leases and optional packages including phone systems, print solutions and secretarial support are available.

There is an on site coffee dock and high tech meeting rooms and training suites, which make it the ideal location for your next training or conferencing event, with its high profile location on a national primary route (N4). The Hive is also an ideal location for off-site interviews or meetings with short and long-term flexible availability, in a high quality business focused environment.

Read the Enterprise Board’s Hive PDF

Visit The Hive’s website.

Selling is about Telling

Selling can be tough going. No question. In a world of ever shorter attention spans, it has never been more important to keep reminding potential customers, current customers and lost customers about your business. I love that old adage that “nobody gives a damn about your business but yourself”.

[By the way, did you notice I mentioned lost customers? Yes, just because you’ve lost some does not mean you can never get them back.]

Selling is about telling. Traditional methods, like putting a sales letter or postcard in the snail mail can be a great way of getting your name in front of people that matter. It goes against the grain of banging off an email, even more so a circular email that’s not targeted at any one person or business in particular. Plus, you’ll find that you put greater care into that postcard. And more personalisation.

In a world where Facebook posts and tweets have a very short lifespan – often just minutes – do try to get your message across via different means. Use a postcard to ask for a meeting. Get on the phone to ask for a meeting. Remember the Sales Process – it’s all about getting the meeting, so you can ask questions, as well as answer any that are put to you.

All the while, back this up through social media, videos, photographs and testimonials. Depending on whether, for example, you are in the B2B or B2C game, get on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, as appropriate. Prospects will check you out online – now you know that’s true.

One issue I commonly come across is what used to be called “production-orientation”, whereby a small business owner is more concerned with how beautiful his product is, or where he’s buying his raw materials, or how neat his office is, than he is with selling the finished item. Trust me, this is quite common. So as I’ve said – selling is about telling.

You’ve simply got to get out there and meet potential customers. Press the flesh. Share a coffee. As one guy said to me only the other day, “learn to like coffee with strangers”. Do whatever you’ve got to do to keep your business fresh in the minds of people that matter.

Social Media Training – Goals, Strategy, Actions

Too often, social media training consists of simply what actions one can take on Facebook or other platforms.

This is to miss the point and to overstate the importance of social media, as if it were the one and only issue facing a business. Social media training needs to include the all-important question of “Why ?”, not just “How ?”. This is about one’s goals, target markets and the strategies to be employed to build an audience and, ultimately, market products to the target markets identified.

Social media training should, therefore, be first and foremost about ‘what to do’ goals, strategy and, only then, ‘how to do’ actions.

The social media goals of a business might include :

  • to build a brand
  • to increase customer satisfaction and buy-in
  • to drive recommendations
  • to achieve PR
  • to generate leads
  • to develop new product / service ideas
  • to develop traffic to one’s main website
  • to make sales
  • etc.

The strategy to achieve these goals includes the “Seven Cs” :

  • Categorising audiences
  • Comprehending them
  • Conversing with them
  • Contributing to them
  • building a Community
  • introducing Calls to action
  • Converting

Only after working through these areas and the understanding of one’s target markets and on which social media platforms they ‘hang out’ should social media training get in to the nitty-gritty of how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube, etc.

Training can then discuss behaviour on social media platforms, like being interactive, inviting opinion, comment and sharing ideas. The importance of some humour and light-heartedness can be discussed, alongside posing questions, sharing video and photo content, etc.

Visitors to social media sites are looking for connection, information, entertainment and they seek authenticity from Pages. Social media training looks at how to behave, the question of etiquette and what fab content to provide to bring those viewers back, ultimately making of them an army of advocates.

Please do get in touch, if you feel your business could benefit from social media training that puts these promotional tools into their strategic context and helps you with real-world actions to achieve your digital and over-arching business goals.

Innovation & Creativity Seminars, Leitrim

On Tuesday next, in conjunction with Leitrim County Enterprise Board and its Innovation & Enterprise Programme, two free seminars take place in the Landmark Hotel.

From 11.00 to 13.00, the theme is “Sparking Innovation and Creativity”. This short seminar will introduce attendees to four innovative local businesses, in the areas of software development, tourism, brewing and fashion. Spanning quite different sectors, each speaker will tell their story of innovation.

Innovation can be a quite daunting concept for small and micro-enterprises. But it need not be so. Don’t forget : innovation is not always a case of designing a new product. It can span each of the seven Ps of marketing – product, yes, but also price, physical evidence, promotion, people, processes and place/distribution. Perhaps you can deliver your service in an innovative new way. Perhaps you can help customers achieve their goal through new processes; new ways of looking at their problem. Maybe you can offer a new pricing structure to help your potential customers make that buying decision. Could you reshape or redesign your premises so that it more accurately reflects the service or products you offer within ?

So come along to the Landmark, Carrick on Shannon and listen to the story of these inspiring local business owners. Book your place at this seminar via Leitrim County Enterprise Board.

This first session will be followed between 14.00 and 16.00 by a talk on “One Eye on the Environment; One Hand in the Pocket” – how to save money on water, waste and energy management, while being friendly to our shared environment. Creativity is not just in the production and marketing side of business, but can also be applied to business inputs and costs.

This session will look at how savings can be made, even by micro-enterprises. Book for this session via Leitrim CEB’s site and see if you can cut everyday costs in your business.

Next Tuesday’s seminars will then be further complimented by a session on social media one week later. But more on that anon.

Facebook Adverts – Anatomy of a Performance

People often ask me about their Facebook advert performance. It’s a little like asking how a retail shop should perform, but, of course, we know what they mean.

Facebook adverts

What people generally mean when they pose this question is this. How many clicks should I expect to get for my Euro 50 / 100 / 500 investment – whatever their spend figure might be. We’ll get to whether or not that’s the right question to be asking in a minute. But for now, let’s just take it on board. A browse of the internet will find blogger experts generally stating that a ‘successful’ Facebook advert can hope to generate around 0.1% CTR (click-through-rate). That equates to 1 click for every 1,000 times the advert was displayed (so-called ‘impressions’). More commonly, I would suggest, that figure is lower – often towards 0.02 – 0.05%.

CTR depends on many factors, but what is nice about Facebook advertising is that it allows you to provide good information on who you are targetting with your ad. So it’s there you should begin. Inform FB about age, gender, geography, etc. By doing so, you’re increasing your chances of a more ‘successful’ campaign, as only ‘relevant’ people will even see the advert.

However, CTR is not an end in itself. Counting CTR is like counting the number of people who cross the threshold into your shop. Clearly, it’s good that they’re there, but it doesn’t mean they make a purchase. The real rate that matters is the number of enquiries and the number of conversions – actual real-world, paid-for sales !

Here’s an example of a recent, well-targetted Facebook Adverts campaign I’m aware of. The investment was modest, at Euro 50 over 14 days.

Impressions – 445,000

Clicks – 225

CTR – 0.05% (i.e. 5 clicks for every 10,000 times the advert was shown)

Verdict ? Pretty good on CTR. A decent number of folks went ahead and “visited the shop”, so to speak.

Enquiries – 8 (i.e. number of those 225 people who clicked through the advert that went on to pick up the phone, or send an email)

Sales – 0 (So, of the 225 people who walked into the shop, just 8 asked a question of the sales assistant. Of those, none made a purchase)

Verdict ? Not great.

So be sure to ask yourself the right question. Remember that FB is only the vehicle for placing your advert in front of the correct audience. Just because it’s online and more ‘hip’ than your traditional ad in the local paper, does not mean the question is any different. The metric that matters remains the same. How many sales did you make ?

[Clearly, this assumes you’re trying to sell something through your Facebook adverts]