Category Archives: Guerrilla Selling

Better to be Different than Better

Based in Edinburgh, Flow Languages provides translation and interpretation services all over Europe. While working together over SKYPE on his Guerrilla Marketing Calendar for 2014, the owner, James Canter, shared his plan to send Valentines Day Cards to all of their clients.

James had designed an elegant color postcard, featuring the company logo, toll-free number, and listing all the various languages and services they offer. He was planning to have them professionally printed, on glossy stock, and mailed in bulk to his whole list. Good thing I stopped him.

“No, no, no, no, NO!” I said. “That’s exactly what every other business does. They send out a glossy marketing piece that looks like a glossy marketing piece, and it goes straight in the bin.”

“So what do you recommend?” James asked.valentine

“Go to Sainsbury’s and buy several boxes of those cheap little valentines that kids pass around grammar school. Sign each card with the message, ‘We LOVE having you as a client!’ sign your name, and enclose a business card. Then hand address each envelope and apply a Royal Mail First Class stamp.”

“But what about quality? The message is that we offer high-quality accurate translation. Shouldn’t the mailing reflect that?”

“I understand your intention,” I said, “but quality is a given. Every translator does accurate translation or they’d be driving a truck. What matters is the relationship.

“When you try saying something to everyone, you risk saying nothing to anyone. Instead, say something specific to someone.” I told him, “Target the top 10 or 20% of your past clients, ranked by revenue, then add inactive clients who are likely to engage you again, and get busy.”

Like all good clients, James acted on the advice. He and his employees spent the next week preparing 500 little valentine cards, and addressing 500 tiny red envelopes.

Within a week, he received more than a dozen calls from people saying, “Oh, that was SO thoughtful!” and “I haven’t seen one of these since I was a kid!” By the end of March, he had booked 14 new translation projects directly from this mailing, worth more than £14,000, on an investment of about £200. More importantly, he re-activated 10 past clients who, for a combination of reasons, had been using a competitor.

Since starting his “Guerrilla Marketing Makeover” in January, James has grown Flow Languages from approximately £14,000 in monthly revenues, to more than £40,000. That’s 186% growth in less than three months. And he’s still growing. You can email him at to learn more.

His secret, “It’s better to be different, than to be better.”

First of all, it’s expensive to be better. Seven dollars for a fancy valentine for your sweetheart is one thing. Printing something original that’s greeting-card quality, plus the envelope, and postage to 2,000 clients, that’s exorbitant.

And it might actually be impossible to be better. Even if you care enough to send the very best, Hallmark has that market cornered.

Besides, EVERYONE claims to be better, so even if you ARE better, no one believes you. Advertising is considered the second least reliable source of information, after politicians.

So guerrilla marketers focus on doing something different. Postcards can be effective, but look at what everyone else in your category is doing, then don’t do that. A tiny red envelope, hand addressed, with a stamp? Yeah, that’s going to get opened.

While you’re at it, don’t waste valuable time talking about commonalities. Every speaker “works intimately with our clients to produce dramatic results.” Yawn! What unique skills or attributes do you bring to the relationship?

It helps if you can use the magic word “only.”

For example, while every ad agency in the world claims to offer “guerrilla marketing,” I’m the only speaker/trainer/coach/consultant/guru (pick one) who has written six books about it. The only guerrilla marketing speaker who has addressed audiences in 47 countries on six continents. The only guerrilla marketing expert voted one of the “Top 5 Sales/Marketing Speakers” in the world for the past 5 years straight. (Sorry if this is starting to sound self-serving, but if you don’t blow your own horn, there’s no music.)

So make a list of all the attributes that uniquely qualify you as an expert. What unusual training and experience do you have? What’s your specialty? What books, articles or blogs have you written? What out-of-the-way audiences have you spoken to? Claim your “only.”

Your WOW! Factor

Another way to approach this is to figure out your “WOW! Factor.” My friend Tom Peters wrote a marvelous book, The Pursuit of WOW!, and wow, get it, read it. Your WOW! Factor is something that you probably take for granted, that when you tell other people about it, their likely response will be, “WOW!”

For example, I am a “Certified Speaking Professional,” which means I can add the letters CSP after my name. This is not a big deal. But if you explain, “The CSP is the highest level of certification recognized worldwide by meeting planners,” your client might just think, “wow!” Or if you point out that there are fewer than 700 CSPs in the whole world, your client might think, “Wow!” Or if you told them that you are required to document more than 250 paid presentations, over a span of five years, and pass stringent client and peer reviews, they might just say, “WOW!” Now you have a competitive advantage.

The Test of Relevance

I might even add that on weekends, I lead a 20-piece Swing-Era jazz orchestra (I play drumset.) What does that have to do with Guerrilla Marketing? Nothing.

Your WOW! Factor is only effective if it’s relevant. Leave out everything that takes attention away from your primary expertise. Nobody cares if you’ve climbed Everest 11 times, unless you’re marketing yourself as a motivational speaker who shares what you’ve learned by climbing Everest.

If, like my friend Robin Hoffman, you’re a “Get Published Coach,” who “has helped multiple clients write award-winning and best-selling books,” that’s all you need to say. Now that’s a WOW! Factor.

The Test of Specificity

Specificity sells, so spell out the details. It’s one thing to say that you’re “An award-winning speaker.” It’s quite another to say you “received the Speaker of the Year Award from Meeting Professionals International in 2000.” Or that, “Guerrilla Marketing was ranked as ‘One of the 10 Most Influential Business Books of All Time’ in the February 4, 2013 edition of Inc. magazine.” The more specific you can be, the better. Which brings me to one more weapon in the speaker’s marketing arsenal:

The Capabilities Statement

This is a short story, starting with the words, “For example. . .,” that you tell to answer the question, “That sounds interesting, tell me more?” A Capabilities Statement is made up of three parts:

  1. a story about a recent project that shows us what it’s like to work with you,
  2. a tangible benefit or outcome for your client, and
  3. a reference.

If you go back to the top of this article, you’ll see that the opening has all three of these elements: an example, an outcome, and a reference. I could have claimed, “We help entrepreneurs double their business in three months or less.” And while it’s true in this case, the claim, by itself, isn’t credible. Telling a story is much more effective because it doesn’t sound self-serving. Let the example speak for itself, and let your prospect decide if there is a fit. Script your Capabilities Statement carefully, and then practice telling it as a story, the shorter the better. Weave these stories into your program and you’ll be mobbed by people wanting to book you.

Of course you should have more than one Capabilities Statement, one for each of the major activities in your practice. For example, “I was recently in London, teaching a four-day Business Mastery seminar with Tony Robbins,…” but that’s another story.

If you’d like to arrange a free 30-minute marketing consultation over SKYPE, send an e-mail to

Voted one of the World’s TOP 5 Sales Speakers four years straight

Top 5 Speaker 2013Guerrilla Selling author Orvel Ray Wilson, CSP earns Prestigious Top5 Speaker award for the fourth consecutive year

Boulder, Colorado author Orvel Ray Wilson, CSP  has been awarded the prestigious “Top5 Speaker” designation in 2013 by Speakers Platform, one of the United States most prominent speakers bureaus.  Out of hundreds of nominees, Orvel Ray has risen to become one of the world’s most respected and compelling speakers in the areas of Sales, Marketing and Customer Service.

Each year, Speakers Platform recognizes five speakers, within ten popular topic areas, based on: expertise, professionalism, presentation skills, original contribution to the field and public votes cast at the Web site. More than 11,000 votes were cast from business leaders, educators, association members and others from around the world for the 2012 nominees.

Orvel Ray, who lives the mountains west of Boulder, is an international keynote speaker, sales trainer and best-selling author on sales, marketing and negotiation. His take-no-prisoners approach is unconventional, entertaining, and devastatingly effective.

A 30+ year veteran of the platform, he has addressed audiences large and small in more than 1,000 cities and 42 countries around the world. He’s a coauthor of the legendary Guerrilla Marketing series, with more than 22 million books sold worldwide in 67 languages, including Guerrilla Selling, Guerrilla Trade Show Selling, Guerrilla TeleSelling, Guerrilla Negotiating and Guerrilla Retailing.

In 2001, He was recognized as “Speaker of the Year” by Meeting Professionals International, San Diego. And he was voted one of the world’s TOP 5 SALES SPEAKERS for the past three years running.

Top5 Speaker honorees receive a distinctive crystal award, are highlighted at the Web site and are permitted to use the distinctive Top5 graphics and designation in their marketing. Best of all, most honorees also enjoy a boost in their event bookings.

If you’d like more information about the Top5 Speaker award and/or to schedule an interview with Orvel Ray Wilson, please call Denise at 800-247-9145 or email

The Easiest Way to Sell More in the New Year!

What's newSell New Products to Current Customers

Now that you’ve completed your sales plan for 2014, (usually by copying the numbers dictated by management) it’s time to think strategically about how you are going to execute to make those numbers.  Let’s assume that your goal is to earn the greatest possible profit for the company.

We all sell to basically two groups:  Current Customers and New Customers.  Likewise, you can divide your catalog of offerings into New Products and Old Products.

Many sales managers insist that you should go out and hustle up new customers.  Sounds like a good strategy, except that it takes as many as 27 touch points to develop enough confidence with a new customer that they will choose to business with you.  Longer if they’re already buying from a competitor.  You have to pay to market to new audiences.  Extensive prospecting and qualifying means a long sales cycle, and high cost-of-sales.  At the same time, mature products are more competitive and sell at reduced margins.  And while this may help make your revenue goal, after marketing and sales costs, there is simply no profit left in it.

A better strategy would be to sell Old Products to Currents Customers.  You’ve been doing this for a while. You know these customers, and you’ve earned their confidence.  All you have to do is beat the competitor’s price and take the order.  But even though your cost-of-sales is less than going after New Customers, your competition is entrenched as well, and they will meet your lower prices until there is little or no profit in the transaction.  You can increase sales revenue while driving the business into bankruptcy.

Or consider selling New Products to New Customers.  You’ll have to advertise extensively to tell the world about your new offering, and educate an audience of new prospects who don’t know about you.  This arena is also highly competitive, but new products typically sell at better margins, so there may be some profit in this approach.

The best strategy is to sell New Products to Current Customers.  These products command higher prices, and competitors have not yet caught up with the new technology.  Current Customers know you, they trust your judgment, and will often switch to the New Product on your recommendation alone.  The result is a short sales cycle, low cost-of-sales, and the best possible margins.  This is by far the most profitable way to grow your business.

So take another look at that sales plan, then look for New Products you can offer to your Current Customers in the new year.  Help them upgrade.  Start by asking about their strategic plan, and help them meet those goals.

–Orvel Ray

RETROactive Marketing for Guerrillas

Get New Business by Getting Personal
At The Guerrilla Group, we have to practice what we teach: low-cost and no-cost marketing tactics that work. And what works BEST is getting personal.plane ticket

This morning, I volunteered to fly to Houston for a meeting. We’ve done a lot of work for this company, and we have a full-day seminar scheduled on for a group of their customers. Instead of e-mailing the PowerPoint and trying to plan the session over the phone, I’m going to spend a day with the owner analyzing what their retailers REALLY need in order to be competitive in this market. I’m suggesting that we cut the planned full-day seminar to only two hours, and instead, follow it up with a continuity program that includes e-seminars, a long-term guerrilla action plan, coaching of individual stores, and accountability for results.

Take advantage of the knowledge-base that your clients already have. They can help you develop the next generation of your content.

This afternoon I spent an hour collaborating with a fellow speaker in Australia, using Skype, the no-cost VOIP service ( I’m helping her re-write the copy for her website, and she’s helping me prep for an upcoming assignment in Dubai.

Reach out to your colleagues and ask for help. There is always something that you can do to reciprocate. The international markets are hot right now. Get on the phone, and REALLY reach out and touch someone.

This evening, I got a call from an old college roommate who took a new job. He wants to contract me for a few hours to edit a couple of technical whitepapers. In lieu of the $75/hour he suggested, I asked him to go through his rolodex and introduce me to other hi-tech firms (one of our strongest niches) who need guerrilla sales training. I can earn more in an hour on the platform than I can in 100 hours of copywriting. He was delighted with the suggestion.

It’s time to work the Friends and Family plan. Ask everyone you know, and especially those closest to you, to help you find new opportunities.

Proactive marketing is fine, but RETROactive marketing, that is, reaching back into your files of past clients, prospects and contacts, is the best way to get your business back on the rails and moving forward.

Orvel Ray Wilson, CSP
Author of Guerrilla Selling

Guerrilla Selling – the Reward Step

In the last issue, we discussed The Transaction Step, and how to get the customer to close the sale for you.  The Reward is the sixth and final step of the “NaB & CaPTuRe” roadmap: Need, Budget, Conviction, Presentation, Transaction, Reward.

The Reward is last step in the Guerrilla Selling process, and the one most often overlooked by salespeople.  Rewarding customers simply requires keeping something extra in reserve, congratulating them on their purchase, and then delighting them by “throwing it in” after the sale.

We added a room to our home in Colorado, and as we were finishing the exterior, I made a trip to the lumber yard to buy the rough-cut cedar lumber needed for the trim.

“Eight-hundred dollars?!!” I said, followed by an expletive.   I knew this wood was going to be expensive, but this was crazy!  I had no choice.  It had to match the existing trim.

“Yeah,” said the clerk.  “The price of cedar has gone through the roof in recent years.   Nice stuff. Lasts forever.  But it’s expensive.

Carpenter's Pencil“Tell you what,” he says. “Here’s a carpenter’s pencil.  They’re normally $3.00, but I’m sure you can use one,” and he hands it to me with the receipt. Instantly, my whole attitude switched, from outrage over paying a king’s ransom for cedar lumber, to delight at getting a free pencil.

Recycled Paper

One of our clients runs a very successful office supply store, and he’s devoted to encouraging customers to use recycled products.  After writing up the order for a new copier, the clerk thumps his forehead and says, “Oh, I almost forgot!  You’re going to need paper.  Let me give you a case, that’s 10 reams, about 5,000 pages.  I’d like you to try this 100% recycled paper.  It’s a bit more expensive, but it has a smoother finish.”

Is the cost of the paper included in the price of the copier?  I’m sure it is.  But instead of saying, “This copier comes with a case of paper,” the salesperson saves it as a surprise.  Everyone likes getting something for nothing, especially when they don’t expect it.  It feels like winning the lottery.  The last thing your customer feels is surprise and conquest.

And because any behavior that is rewarded tends to be repeated, this customer will return again and again for paper, toner, and other supplies.

Continuity Programs

Airlines have built special lounges where they lavish frequent flyers with VIP check-in, comfy chairs, big-screen TV, computer workstations, conference rooms, high-speed Internet, soft drinks, coffee, snacks, and even a private bar.  Customers pay extra to belong to these clubs, and will endure long connections to rack up miles, just because they’re members of the Club.  Rewards win customers and keep them coming back.

The hotel industry has put the Reward tactic to work as well.  Now, even three-star hotels offer amenities like WiFi, assorted pillows, in-room coffee makers and mini-bars.  Frequent gusts are rewarded with newspapers, upgrades, breakfast, cocktails, even limo service.

Small businesses are discovering the marketing power of continuity programs as well.  It can be as simple as a “Buy-10-Get-One-Free” punch card.  Starbucks prints a coupon on their packaged coffee that says, “Bring this bag to one of our stores and receive a free Tall brewed coffee with purchase.”  People who buy their beans at the market are now encouraged to visit their brick-and-mortar coffee shops.

You don’t even have to give something away to make customers feel special.  My friend Don Jensen is a consultant who travels regularly to San Francisco.  Don likes to stay in the same hotel, because it’s close to his client’s office, but he also asks for a particular room.  When the front desk clerk asked him why, Don explained that it just made him feel more at home.   On his last trip, as he put his key into the lock, he noticed a new sign on the door, the “Don Jensen Suite.”

From a weekend at a resort to a free order of fries, guerrillas have learned the power of giving the customer something extra when they make the sale.  But make sure that the customer knows it’s a bonus. If it’s built into a bundle, it’s part of the product.  And if it has your company name or logo on it, it’s advertising, not a reward.


One of the most powerful ways to reward customers is simply to pay attention.  Even something as simple as a hand-written thank-you note can be a reward.  It’s an old-fashioned custom that’s seldom used today, but it differentiates you by showing care.

Guerrilla Photography

A guerrilla bundled in a day-glow green down coat stood at the top of the chairlift, dancing around excitedly with a camera around his neck and a clipboard in hand.  “Free photos today!” he shouts to the skiers as they come off the lift.  “No catch.”  He explained that he would send me one free eight-by-ten color glossy of me and my friends looking cool on the slopes, with Lake Tahoe in the background.  If we want more copies, they’re $9.00 each.  We bought three!

Free Shine

People will gladly pay and pay handsomely for exceptional treatment.  That means rendering service that never sends them away frustrated, service that surpasses the norm, service that surprises and delights.

One spring morning in Cincinnati, Ohio, I was walking from my hotel to the convention center to speak at a large convention, and there was a boy, maybe 12 or 13 years old, standing on the sidewalk counting and pointing, “Ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine . . ,” He points to me and says, “One hundred!  Congratulations mister!  Today’s my birthday, and every one-hundredth person walks past my stand gets a free shine!”

How can I refuse? This is my lucky day!  Then I realized it had to be a scam.  He’s going to hit ‘em a few times with a rag then hit me up for a tip.  But no.  This kid turns out to be a performance artist of shoe-shine.  He’s brushing and buffing and popping his rag and rapping in time to it all.  He looks up and says, “All dressed up like that, you mus’ be goin’ someplace important.”

“Well, yes,” I said.  “I’m giving the keynote speech today at the Convention Center.”

“Well, then!  An important man like you gotta’ look his best.  Where’s my beeswax? We’re gonna’ give you the FINE shine!”  He just upgraded me.

This kid works my wing-tips to a high gloss, and all he says is, “Thank you sir!  It’s a pleasure serving you. You have a great speech now!”

I admired his work, reached into my pocket, and pulled out the first bill I touched.  That was the first time I ever paid $20 for a shoeshine.  But what the heck, it was his birthday.  Right?

And as I continued on my way that day, I heard him counting again, “Ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine…”

In future installments of this series, we’ll explore the world of Guerrilla Selling, with more unconventional weapons and tactics that will double or even quadruple your sales.

Guerrilla Selling – the Transaction Step

In the last issue, we discussed The Presentation Step, and how to create excitement and motivation to buy.  The Transaction is the fifth step of the “NaB & CaPTuRe” roadmap: Need, Budget, Conviction, Presentation, Transaction, Reward.

The Transaction is that exciting moment when the customer signs the paperwork, writes a check, or hands over their credit card. Traditionally called the “Close,” guerrillas know that this is really the beginning of what we hope will be a long relationship.

“Are You Sure?”

As you finish your Presentation, prospects sometimes stiffen. They’re thinking, “UH-oh, here comes the contract.”  Many customers dread this moment even if they really need the product, because they feel they’re losing control,  Understanding this, guerrillas end the Presentation Stage, with something like:

“Well, that about sums it up.  Do you have any questions?”  The prospect now feels a little more relaxed.

“No, not really.”

“What do you see as the next step?”

“Well, don’t you have to write up an order?”

“Do you want me to write up the order?

“Yes.  Let’s do this.”

You know you’ve done everything right when the customer asks you to write up the order.   With that, the guerrilla fills out the order form, writes up a contract or prepares the financial paperwork.  Now the guerrilla hands the form to his new customer for his or her “approval.”

The Turnback

As the new customer is about to sign, the guerrilla gently interrupts:

“You know, something’s still bothering me. Remember when you said you wanted mahogany?  Are you sure walnut is going to be okay?”

What the guerrilla wants to hear is something like:  “Yes, in fact, walnut is really going to be much better.  It will be cheaper and probably fit in better with our decor.”

“You’re sure?”


In the Transaction Stage, a guerrilla will recall at least one problem or objection, from earlier in the conversation, express genuine concern, and ask again if the concern is going to be a problem.  In so doing, not only are you turning control back to your customer, but you’re pre-empting buyer’s remorse. By capping the issue now, the guerrilla pre-empts buyer’s remorse.

When to Close

The best time to close is all the time.  Recognize that you have an opportunity to close any time the prospect makes choices, challenges, or changes.

Close any time there is a choice or small decision to be made, and that’s more often than you might think.  Close early and often, especially on little things.  Because people hate making big decisions, close on the small ones.

Always try to close after answering a challenge or objection.  If they accept your response, they will be psychologically receptive to making a commitment.  Guerrilla salespeople automatically finish their Presentation with a closing question, like, “Did I answer your question adequately?” or “Is that clear now?”

Also close any time there are changes in your prospects’ body language or changes in their criteria that could be interpreted as buying signals.

Five Types of Closes:

There are five basic closes and infinite variations.  They all have the same objective: to give the prospect an opportunity to say, “Yes.”

1. The Rx CloseRx Close

In the Prescription Close, you carefully probe, ask questions, summarize the problem, and then prescribe the solution.  “Based on what you’ve told me, I would recommend . . ..  Here’s what you’re going to need.”  This tactic is effective if the prospect trusts your expertise.

2. The Action Close

Pull out your pen and you start filling out the form, or phone the installer to set an appointment.  Or you might say, “Let me see if we’ve got that in stock. I’ll be right back,” and disappear into to the stockroom.

Return with the box in your arms and ask, “Okay, where are you parked?”  You know the deal is done when the prospect holds the door for you.

3. The Choice Close

Give them a minor decision that carries the major decision along with it.  This can be useful when breaking down a large decision into smaller, increments.  You’ve been looking at a $30,000 automobile and the guerrilla salesman says, “Would you like to put the stereo in the dash, or would you rather conceal it under the seat?”  Now, you have a small decision to make.

“Well, it would be more convenient in the dash.”  Not only have you bought the stereo, but of course, the car as well.

4. The Question Close

In the Question Close, you ask a question, which, when answered, gives you permission to proceed.  You might ask, with pen in hand, “What’s today’s date?”  When prospect answers, they’ve given you permission to proceed.  Or you might ask, “Excuse me, how do you spell your last name?”  When they provide the missing information, they’re saying, indirectly, “Yes, I’m ready.  Let’s go ahead with this.”  You’ve avoided putting them on the spot by asking, “Well, do you want me to write this up or not?”

5. The Add-on Close

The key phrase of the Add-on Close is, “Now you’ll also need. . .,” proposing some low-cost option or accessory.  “You’ll also need one of these to keep your blade nice and sharp.  They’re only ten dollars.”  When they agree to the blade sharpener, they’ve bought the lawn mower.  Guerrillas repeat the Add-on close until they get a “no.”  That’s when they know they have reached the limits of the prospect’s budget.

Close Early and Often

People do not want to be pressured.  They want to make their own decisions, and they resent being pushed too hard.  The goal is to make them feel that buying today is the most natural, intelligent decision that they could make.  Closing repeatedly will not only increase your sales, but also help prospects make good choices, and increase their respect for you.  So don’t stop until you have used at least three guerrilla closes.

When selling a new stereo system, a guerrilla we know combines the Question, Action and Add-on Close at the very beginning of his presentation by asking, “How far from the amplifier will you be putting the loudspeakers?”  Based on the prospect’s answer, he goes to the service counter, measures off the necessary length of wire, cuts it, ties it in a bundle and hands it to the prospect.  Now he’s setting through the Presentation, already holding the first component of his new stereo.

Silence is Golden

People are less suspicious than many salespeople believe, but they are also more sophisticated.  The public is as smart as your mother, and you know she’s no dummy.  People know when you’re asking them to take some action, and if they’re not ready, they’ll let you know.  Top salespeople will confirm that the simple, direct, unsophisticated closes can be very effective, but only if you use them.

In future installments of this series, we’ll explore each of the steps of “NaB & CaPTuRe” in more detail, and perhaps double or even quadruple your sales.

Guerrilla Selling – the COMMITMENT Step

In the last issue, we discussed how to determine your customer’s budget as the second step of our “NaB & CaPTuRe” roadmap: Need, Budget, Conviction, Presentation, Transaction, Reward.

The Commitment Step

In this critical step, you actually close the sale before making a presentation, by aligning your product or service with those criteria to which your customer is already committed. In the automobile industry it’s said that only 50% of the cars are sold. The other half are bought.

As often as not, your prospects have already decided to buy, before you get to talk to them. Car buyers are much more likely to be influenced by experience, friends, or media than by a salesperson.

A couple looking at a potential venue for their wedding reception has already committed to marrying each other. If they’ve also set the date and decided how many guests they will have, then you know they are ready to buy. Ask about other elements of their plans.

“Who have you arranged to do the catering?”

“Where will you hold the formal ceremony?”

“What transportation will you use from the church to the reception?”

“Will you want help with the decorating?”

The more complete their picture, the deeper their commitment.  So, for example, if the ceremony is being conducted at the church just up the street, you can emphasize the advantage of your location. “This will give your family a short, easy trip from the church.” If you know they’ve ordered an elaborate, expensive cake, you can emphasize the posh surrounding of your hotel. “Everyone will be impressed when you invite them into our lovely gardens.”

Criteria Words

The prospect will also have a set of physical specifications that the product or service must meet, in order to be satisfied. As in “it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” or “I’m looking for a dress in a size seven.” The guerrilla listens for these criteria words and notes them throughout the interview. Ask:

“What are you using now?”

“What do you like most about it?”

“What do you like least about it?”

These answers tell you what they want to keep, and what they want to change. Concentrate on those issues, and safely ignore everything else, because people do things for their reasons, not yours. You may have a hundred good reasons why they should buy this particular mountain home; price, location, good roads, rapid appreciation, close to schools, shops, recreation, and you know what? They couldn’t care less. No matter how good your reasons may be, ultimately, their reasons will prevail.

Other criteria may be introduced as the conversation continues, but the guerrilla concentrates only on those priority words and criteria words isolated by the prospect.

Buying Roadmap

It’s also useful to isolate the mental and physical steps your prospect follows when making a decision. People have a mental roadmap that they follow when making decisions. This strategy is unique to each prospect, but they tend to use the same strategy whenever they make a buying decision. The question that you can use to elicit their roadmap is to ask, “How did you decide . . .?” For example, a real estate agent might ask, “How did you decide to buy the house where you live now?” then listen carefully to their explanation.

“First we narrowed the search to a particular neighborhood where we wanted to live, then we checked all the listings, marking each address on a map. Then we looked at each house until we found the one that felt right.”

This answer reveals not only the criteria, but the roadmap of their house-buying strategy. If you lead them through the same progression, it makes it easy for them to buy from you. Start by “narrowing down” to the particular neighborhoods they liked best, then pull out a map, and start “marking.” Like a familiar chair, following their roadmap puts you in the selling “groove”. Besides, they’re going to buy the house their way, anyway. If not from you, then from someone who makes them feel more comfortable. So you might as well match their strategy. Listen for the sequence of the process they follow when making a similar decision, and then systematically structure your case using the same progression.

Is That Clear?

Sometimes the customer doesn’t really know what they want. Let’s take the case of a copier salesperson. If you ask the question, “What do you want in a copier?” and the response you get is something like, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure,” there are additional things you can do to get to their criteria. You can ask, “What are you using now? What do you like most about that?” or “What’s the exact problem you’re trying to solve?”

“What are you using now?”

“We are using an HP LaserJet.”

“What do you like most about your LaserJet?” he asked, repeating the prospect’s criteria words.

“It’s inexpensive to operate, and the copies are crisp and clear.”

“What do you like least about your LaserJet?”

“It’s too slow, and it wasn’t able to print collated and stapled documents.”

Now we’re getting criteria language: inexpensive, crisp, clear, (visual cues, you’ll notice) as well as the functional need for automatic collating and stapling. If you can show her that your copier will do it more quickly, collate and staple documents, and still reduce their operating cost, she’s going to lease the copier. And she really doesn’t care how many pixels of resolution it has, or how many reams of paper the bins will store, or what its internal drum speed is, so long as they get “collated, stapled copies that are crisp and clear.” This decision will hinge primarily on these five factors. You can ignore the rest, (at least for now) because. These five words are the keys to unlocking their sub-conscious mind.

Remember, priorities, criteria words and roadmaps are often unique to the context in which they’re used. The way your prospect makes decisions about buying office supplies may be very different from what they look for when shopping for a car.

Some additional questions for isolating criteria include:

“What is your main objective?”

“What are you doing to deal with that situation?”

“What are your plans for the future?”

“How do you plan to get it done?”

“Can you tell me more about that?”

“Is there a deadline?”

The answers to these questions will provide the performance specifications for your proposal. Whatever else this product may have going for it, must satisfy these physical criteria. Now present your product using the same criteria words, and follow their roadmap directly to the sale.

In future installments of this series, we’ll explore each of the steps of “NaB & CaPTuRe” in more detail, and perhaps double or even quadruple your sales.   This article was originally published in Marketing Africa magazine.

Guerrilla Selling – the BUDGET Step

In the last issue, we discussed how to determine what the customer really needs as the first step of our “NaB & CaPTuRe” roadmap: Need, Budget, Conviction, Presentation, Transaction, Reward.

The Budget Step

The second, and most often skipped step in the selling process  is the BUDGET.  As soon as the customer realizes that they have a NEED, they start worrying on how much the solution will cost.  And yet, they hesitate to breach this topic because people are reluctant to talk about money.

In the Guerrilla Selling Seminar, I ask a volunteer:

Orvel Ray:  “Bob. How much money did you earn last year?”

Bob:  “Well, let’s see, if you mean after taxes, then it would be somewhere in the range of, oh, I don’t know exactly, but,. . . uhmmm … something like. . .”

Orvel Ray:  “That’s OK Bob. What kind of underwear are you wearing right now?  Boxers or briefs?”Men's briefs

Bob: “Briefs.”

Orvel Ray:  “Well Bob, would you agree that we have just effectively demonstrated that you would rather discuss your underwear in public than to talk about money.”

This game ALWAYS produces the same response.

While more pronounced in some cultures, this resistance to discussing money is universal.  And salespeople are not immune.  If you ask, point blank, “What’s the price?” most will stutter, stall, and stumble rather than say it out loud.  Guerrillas inoculate this resistance by bringing up the topic of price, and establishing a budget based on the potential value of investing in their product or service.

Once you’ve identified their NEED, you can ask, “How much would it be worth if we could solve this problem?” and, “How much will it cost if things remain the same?”  It’s important to ask both of these questions, because about half your customers will be motivated Toward some future outcome or reward, while others are motivated Away From the threat of some cost or loss.  (People who are Toward motivated buy lottery tickets.  People who are Away From motivated buy life insurance.)  Guerrillas are adept at selling both ways.

Generally people are more motivated to keep what they have than to acquire something new, so another very useful question to determine their budget is, “What have you used in the past?”

Budget Rangefinder

It may be easier to start out by establishing a range, and then narrowing down the budget.

Guerrilla: “What kind of budget do you have in mind for this project, in round numbers?”

Customer: “Somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000.”

Guerrilla: “Closer to $1,000 or closer to $2,000?”

Customer: “Closer to two.”

Guerrilla: “How close?”

Once you have gotten a specific amount, it will be easy to position your product as a good investment, compared to the alternatives, and then focus on benefits.

It’s also useful to ask, “What alternatives have you considered?”  Don’t be naive.  They are talking to your competitors, and if you know their pricing (and you should) then you will know how competitive your offering may be.  Remember that doing nothing may be an attractive option.

Verify their ability to pay by asking, “How do you plan to finance it?” If they say, “I’ll pay cash,” that’s a very strong buying signal.  If you can accept installments, or arrange financing for them, you’ve gained an advantage.

Be prepared to offer strong rationales for the price you charge.  Is it made from more expensive materials?  Is it built to tighter tolerances?  Does it have a longer useful life-span?  Is it labor-intensive?  Does it require special handling?  Is it more environmentally friendly, organic, or Fair Trade?  Does it require less maintenance, or have a higher salvage or re-sale value?

Cost of the Alternative

Recently, I did some sales training for a bearing services company in Houston, and as part of my research, visited one of their customers, a factory that makes cake mix.  This factory is nearly fully automated.  Tanker trucks loaded with flour pull up at one end of the building. Hoses and blowers move the flour into storage hoppers.  Augers measure and feed it, together with all the other ingredients, into big mixing bins.  Huge mixers churn it into the final product. At the other end of the building, machines fold and glue boxes and send them along a conveyer.  In the middle, the product is measured into a plastic liner, sealed, trimmed, slipped into a box, closed, glued, stacked in cartons and then piled on pallets, ready to ship.

This machinery is made up of dozens of motors and servos and thousands of bearings.  And if just one bearing fails, the whole line grinds to a halt.  It costs this manufacturer $90,000.00 (ninety thousand dollars) an hour to shut down, so Mean Time Between Failures is much more important than price. To buy a cheap replacement, or save a few cents on lubricant, simply isn’t economical.  In fact, they want to buy the most expensive, highest quality bearings and lubricants available, and they want them backed up by a technician who is available 24 hours a day!

By focusing on the value rather than selling on price, the guerrilla changes the arena of competition, and virtually eliminates cheaper vendors from the running.  This actually makes it easier to sell at higher prices.

Most salespeople, when challenged about their price, will simply cave.  And nearly two thirds of salespeople will volunteer to cut their price, without being asked, because they do not believe in the value of their product or service.  That’s just stupid.

A simple way to gain confidence when quoting prices is to double your price, whatever it is, then practice roll-playing with a colleague as you justify why they should pay that much.  Then, when you roll the price back for a real customer, it will feel like a bargain.

Stop Waving a White Flag 

As soon as you say, “Our normal price is . . .”, or “Our list price is . . .” then you have already surrendered to the negotiation.  Quote your price in the same tone as if you were telling the time.

“What time is it?”

Two twenty-five.”

What’s your price?”

Two twenty-five.”  No hesitation.  No qualifiers.  No equivocating.

One exception: if you put the word “only” in front of any amount, it sounds like a better deal.  “I bet you could buy the Nairobi Hilton Hotel for only $300 million.”

The About Face

The customer may balk, and say, “Your price is too high.”  Don’t fall into this trap.

Recognize that you do not know what this customer means.  It could mean that he has a cheaper quote from a competitor, or it could mean he can’t afford it, or perhaps he’s just testing to see if the price is negotiable. You don’t know, so don’t guess.   Before you go any farther, ask, “Too high? (pause) When you say ‘too high’, what do you mean; too high relative to what?”

One of my favorite responses is, “We have no argument with those who sell for less.  They know best what their products and service are worth.”

In future installments of this series, we’ll explore each of the steps of “NaB & CaPTuRe” in more detail, and perhaps double or even quadruple your sales.

(This article is part of a series published by Marketing Africa magazine.)


Guerrilla Selling – NaB & CaPTuRe

Sell what they Need

In the last issue, we discussed how Guerrilla Selling maps the steps customers take when making a purchase decision. In the next six installments, we’ll use the consonants in the words “NaB & CaPTuRe” to help you remember those steps: Need, Budget, Conviction, Presentation, Transaction, Reward.

By understanding the psychology of this process, then matching your strategy to each customer, you can make your offering practically irresistible.

The NEED Step

The first, and most often overlooked, is the Need Step. Find people who need your product and they’ll be easy to sell. Selling something they don’t need is much harder. So understanding each prospect’s individual needs is the most critical step.

Instead of selling features-and-benefits, position your offering as the solution to a problem. It’s easier to sell the solution to a problem than it is to sell an advantage or a benefit. You can discover new sales opportunities by asking, “What PROBLEM does my offering solve?” Write a simple elevator pitch by completing the sentence, “We solve the problem of _______.” For example, at The Guerrilla Group, “we solve the problem of selling against low-priced competition.”

Look for prospects who are likely to experience that problem. When a stranger who asks, “What do you do?” you can answer, “We solve the problem of:

  •  “. . .giving your products a lift to market,” (air freight), or
  •  “. . .employees who call in sick (temporary help services), or
  •  ” . . .tire-busting potholes (off-road tires designed specifically for matatus).

Anyone who says, “That’s interesting, tell me more?” is a hot prospect.

Things Every Customer Needs

Sometimes the problem you can solve has nothing to do with your product. Think about some of the basic things that every buyer needs from their supply chain:

  • Two or more vendors. Offer to be their second choice. Even if you’re more expensive, when their primary supplier can’t deliver, you can step in.
  • Technical and engineering help. Offer advice on how they can improve. Do on-site training for end-users on how to get the most benefit from your offering.
  •  On-time delivery. Manufacturers want vendors to reduce stocking and inventory costs by delivering just-in-time.
  • Minimize downtime. Shutting down a single machine can cost thousands of dollars an hour. If your offering helps them keep their systems up and running, you have an edge.
  • Reduce service and repair costs. Can you offer longer product life-cycles, faster, easier repairs, or place a stock of replacement parts on-site.
  • Avoid over-engineering the solution. Sometimes a less-expensive, lower-quality product is actually a better option.
  • Buy what they’ve been told to buy. If engineering has specified a particular component or part number, ask them to certify yours as an equivalent.
  • Timely and accurate billing. Nobody wants to argue with accounting.
  • Predictability and consistency. Even minor variations can wreak havoc in their assembly line, computer systems, or testing equipment.
  • Responsive, courteous and timely action by vendors when they have questions or problems. Give them your personal mobile number. Gain a competitive edge by being available, 24/7.
  • They need to look good to their boss. Help your customers document the savings, the increase in productivity, the boost in their sales, or other metrics that they can brag about.

Ask, “What have you used in the past?” and, “What problems have you experienced with that?” Then look for ways to solve those problems.

Criteria Words

Another very powerful weapon for determining customer needs is Criteria Words. Your customer is going to base their decision on a specific set of criteria, and if you can determine what those criteria are, and then match those to your offering, they will buy from you every time.

The difficulty is this; I’m sure you have 100 good reasons why they should buy from you, but your customer’s decision will be based on the three or four factors that they feel are most important. If you get three of them right, but miss just one, it will kill the deal. Making this even more difficult, the decision criteria will vary from one account to another.

The good news is that the customer will always tell you exactly which criteria are most important, if you ask the right questions, listen carefully to the answers, and then use those exact words in your presentation.

Effective questions include:

  • “What are you using now?”
  • “What do you like most about it?” and
  • “What do you like least about it?”

Listen carefully, and write down their answers, verbatim. Then adjust your presentation to cover those particular criteria. If you can deliver the things they liked most, while fixing the things they liked least, then it’s easy for your prospect to switch vendors.

To use criteria words with even greater precision and impact, ask the question, “What are you looking for in a _________?” or “What do you want ________ to do for you?”

For example, a customer  shopping for paint might say, “I need an exterior paint that is easy to apply, has vibrant color, and won’t fade.”

They’ve given you three criteria words: “easy,” “vibrant color” and “fade.” The guerrilla strategy is to use those same words when describing your product.
You might say, “We can make this really easy for you. Crown-Berger makes the most vibrant line of paints that you can buy. And while any color will eventually fade over time, our exterior formulation contains special UV filters, so those colors will stay vibrant for years, even under intense African sun.

Notice that I did NOT talk about “long-lasting” or “weather proof” or even mention that “Crown-Berger is Africa’s leading paint manufacturer.” These may all be important features, but not for this customer. On the other hand, if you simply address their criteria, and ignore everything else, you’ve made it much easier for the customer to accept, understand, and buy your proposition. (BTW, you can also incorporate these keywords into your web site to improve your findability on the Internet.)

But beware! If you use your own words to describe your product, the customer may, or may not, equate those words with their criteria. Notice that I said “any color will eventually fade,” not “any paint will eventually fade.” When your customer hears their exact criteria words, they automatically attach their intended meaning. So while it’s not important how you incorporate them into your presentation, it is important that you use their exact words.

Also notice that we didn’t promise the color would last forever. That would be unethical. But by including this customer’s criteria word, we’ve per-empted this potential objection by promising that the color will remain vibrant.

The beauty of using criteria words is that, no matter how the motivations may vary from customer to customer, you can always adapt easily and instantly to give them exactly what they NEED from you.

In future installments of this series, we’ll explore each of these steps in more detail, and perhaps double or even quadruple your sales.

(This article is part of a series published by Marketing Africa magazine.)


Guerrilla Selling – How is it Different?

The ad in the comic book said, “Win a Bicycle.”  I thought it was a sweepstakes, so I filled in the form and mailed it away.

That was early spring of 1963. We lived in a little stick house in the burbs, between the oil refinery and the stockyards.  I was eldest of three children of a single mother who worked nights in a rubber factory.  And I had long since given up believing that Santa would ever bring a bicycle.

seed packetSoon a box arrived from The American Seed Company, full of little packets of garden seeds.  The instructions said I was to go door-to-door and sell them for 25¢ cents a pack (even though you could by the same seeds at the corner store for 10¢).  But I was 9 years old. What did I know?

There were all these rules:  ALWAYS walk on the sidewalk; NEVER walk on the grass.  ALWAYS step back after you ring the doorbell.  ALWAYS say, “Yes ma’am,” “No ma’am,” “Thank you, ma’am.”  I rang every single doorbell in our neighborhood.  Then I crossed that busy street that mother told me not to cross, and visited every house over there, and by 2:00 in the afternoon it was obvious I had no future in sales.  I hadn’t sold a single pack of seeds.

Of course it’s easy it is to give up when you’re discouraged, tired and hungry.  I was taking a shortcut across a vacant lot, and there was this woman in her back yard working the dirt with a spade, putting in her garden.

I yelled at her across the field, “Hey lady!  You don’t need no seed for that garden, do ya?”

She stopped her work, leaned on her shovel and shouted back, “I don’t know; whadaya got?”

“Everything from asparagus to zucchini; what do you want?”

And her next question, of course, was, “How much?”

“Twenty-five cents.”

“Twenty-five cents!!?  Why should I pay twenty-five cents when I can buy them at the corner store for a dime?”

That’s when I started to cry.

“Because I’m trying to win a bicycle, that’s why!”

She bought $9.00 worth.

And what I learned from that one transaction was,  crying works.

The more important lesson was that people who buy seeds, buy seeds.  People who don’t buy seeds, don’t buy seeds.  That’s just the way it works.

And if you want to sell enough seeds to win a bicycle, you have to find all those people.  You look for that hump of dirt in the back yard where they had LAST year’s garden, and if they don’t answer the door, you go back again and again and again, because there are only so many of those opportunities in the neighborhood.

Not only did I sell enough seeds to win the bicycle, (it was a red Huffy, with 20 inch wheels, a banana seat and high-rise handle bars with streamers) but by the end of Spring Break, I had $100 in the bank.  My mother didn’t have $100 dollars in the bank.  And that, for me, was the beginning of what has been a lifetime career in sales and marketing.

Many of those early lessons have served me well.  One day I was showing my box of seeds to a woman and she asked, “How many for a dollar?”

Well, I was only 9 years old, but I could do the math.  “That would be FOUR for a dollar.”

She said, “Okay, I’ll buy a dollar’s worth.”

So at the next door, instead of 25¢, I said, “four-fer-a-dollar.”  And almost everyone bought at least a dollar’s worth.  That simple change doubled my sales.  And I learned that changing one tiny thing can multiply your success.

The next big lesson came when an elderly neighbor asked, “Well, son, what’s this for?”

“They’re seeds for your garden?”

“No, no. I mean, are you raising money for Boy Scouts, or maybe summer camp, or. . .”

“I’m trying to win a bicycle.”

“Okay. Here’s $5.00.”

“But I didn’t get to tell you about the seeds.”

“Oh, that’s alright. I’m too old to keep a garden.  But I’m happy to help an enterprising young man like you.”  (WOW! She called me a “young MAN!”)

So, at the next door I said, “Hi, my name is Orvel Ray Wilson and I need your help.  I’m trying to win a bicycle.”  And sales doubled again.  What that taught me was it wasn’t about the product, or even the price.  It’s all about the customer.

In 1989, I was a touring speaker for CareerTrack, one of the world’s most successful seminar companies, teaching Sales and Customer Service in the US and Europe.  I was approached by Michael Larsen, a literary agent representing Jay Conrad Levinson.  He explained that, in 1984, Jay had written a book called Guerrilla Marketing, and the publisher wanted to do a sequel and call it Guerrilla Selling.  Michael asked if I would be interested in ghost-writing this book.

“Sorry,” I said, “I don’t want to be anyone’s ghost. I want my name on the cover.”

“Jay will never agree to that.”

“How do you know?”

“I’m his agent.  It’s my job to know.”

One of the principles I taught was to never take “no” for an answer unless you’re talking to the real decision-maker.  That’s not always the person who can say “yes.”  It’s the person who can say “no” and make it stick. I said, “Give me Mr.  Levinson’s number and let me hear it from him.”

Guerrilla Selling Ebook - Unconventional Weapons & Tactics for Increasing Your SalesOf course Jay agreed immediately, and Guerrilla Selling became an instant best-seller, and one of the most successful books in the series.  Jay and I went on to collaborate on six more books, and many other projects.  I’ve made a career of making Guerrilla Marketing the most successful marketing series of all time.


Marketing and Selling are often confused, but Sales is really a subset of Marketing.  We define Guerrilla Marketing as everything that represents you in the market:  your name, your logo, your reputation, even how you answer your phone.  It’s ALL part of your marketing.

Guerrilla Selling maps the steps customers take when making a purchase decision.  By understanding the psychology of this process, then matching your strategy to your customer, you can make your offering irresistible.

People always go through a six-step process whenever they buy:

  1. Need
  2. Budget
  3. Commitment
  4. Presentation
  5. Transaction
  6. Reward

First, they recognize a Need.  For example, there might be several reasons for buying a new car.  The old car is broken down and not worth fixing. Or they have a baby and need more room. Or they need to transport clients and need something posh. Or they have to travel long distances on rough roads and need a reliable car that won’t leave them stranded.

Many salespeople make the mistake of focusing on the product (the car) while ignoring what the underlying need (basic transportation, more space, more comfort, more reliability). Guerrilla Selling teaches you how to ask just the right questions to reveal their real motivation.

Next, the customer considers the Budget.  How much can they afford?  What’s the payback?  Many salespeople make the mistake of delaying the discussion  about price to the end, while their prospect is worrying on, “How much is this going to cost?”  Guerrilla Selling shows how to deal with prices right up front, then build value for the investment.

Eventually the customer makes a Commitment.   They decide to definitely buy a car from someoneGuerrilla Selling shows you how to discover the commitments that your customers have already made, and align your offering so that you win the sale.

Next, the Presentation step. The customer makes comparisons, reads ads, visits dealers, takes test drives.  This is often the first time they interact with a salesperson.  Guerrilla Selling teaches you how to recognize where your prospect is at in their decision-making process, and give them just the information they need to move forward.

The Transaction is usually thought of as “closing the sale,” but Guerrilla Selling recognizes that this is only the beginning. Guerrillas follow up meticulously to build a long-term relationship with a customer who will buy from them again and again.

Finally, the customer experiences the Reward (more space, more comfort, more safety).  Guerrilla Selling recognizes that this is the real reason people buy, and it’s different for every prospect.  Guerrillas constantly ask, “How did you benefit from this purchase?”  The answers may surprise you, just as I was surprised by my elderly neighbor, who just wanted the satisfaction of seeing “an enterprising young man” achieve his goal.

You can achieve YOUR goal by remembering NaB & CaPTuRe.  The consonants in these two words will help you remember: Need, Budget, Conviction, Presentation, Transaction, Reward.

In future installments of this series, we’ll explore each of these steps in detail, and perhaps double or even quadruple your sales.