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Deep Evaluation Guarantees Results

One of your most powerful guerrilla marketing weapons

As an expert entrepreneur, you’re offering keynotes, lectures, seminars, workshops, webinars, coaching or online training as part of your practice. (If not, you should.)

And if you’re like me (and I know I am) you probably have delegates fill out some sort of evaluation form (and if not, you should). You might even compile them into a spreadsheet and run the averages, and maybe even graph how they trend over time.

You’re still missing one of the most powerful guerrilla marketing weapons available.

What is Deep Evaluation?

Guerrillas evaluate their work on 5 levels, and follow through to verify that their clients are receiving real value. It’s the secret of repeat and referral business, and the key to effective marketing.

Level 1 – Did they LIKE it?

These are the “smile sheets” you see at the end of most seminars. Typically delegates rate the trainer, the content, the venue, even the food, on a 1 to 5 scale, something like,

I thought the trainer (pick one)

  1. Really pissed me off
  2. Is a complete idiot
  3. Was OK I guess
  4. Was RILLY terrific
  5. I hope he marries my sister

News flash! This data is meaningless.

I know a professional speaker who’s been using the same feedback form, printed on 3×5 cards, for more than 20 years. He’s compiled statistics from more than 1,000 presentations, and rightfully claims a “4.8 out of 5” average rating.   Of course, naive meeting planners might find this number compelling. But if you dress nice and tell a few funny stories, you can make any audience LIKE you, at least for 45 minutes.

Besides, it doesn’t matter if they LIKE you. If you’re challenging their assumptions, pushing their buttons and making them deal with their shit, they may just hate your guts. That’s why the client brought in an outsider.

During a customer service audit for a Las Vegas casino, the VP of Sales walked out in a rage and resigned. The CEO (my client) had been trying to get rid of this guy for months, but couldn’t push it through HR.  HE was thrilled.

Level 2 – Did they REMEMBER it?

My dear friend Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, says, “Dharling, there’s no use going anywhere they didn’t remember you were there.”

Savvy trainers TEST their audience for comprehension and recall, with multiple quizzes right after, or even during the program. Online Learning Management software typically administers a quiz after every 15-minute module, and you can’t advance ’til you pass. In most live events, the speaker seldom bothers. A forced show-of-hands, asking, “As a child, how many of you had parents?” doesn’t count. (BTW, this question will typically produce a 75% response. Yes, I have tested it. )

People tend to remember the first point you make, the last thing they hear, and the most unusual story or example. Typically an audience will forget 40% of your content within 20 minutes, 55% after one hour, 62% after 9 hours, 70% after two days, and 73% after six days. After 30 days you’re lucky if they retain 15%. So make your content memorable with stories, examples, images, iconographics, mnemonics, and emotional stories.

Testing for retention has another advantage; it can be an effective review.   Email a quiz, or better still, use an online tool like Survey Monkey to insure that they REMEMBER the main points.

Level 3 – Did they USE it?

It’s wonderful when they LIKE you; even better when they REMEMBER your content. But it’s of no real value until they USE it. Your impact is measured by your ability to change behavior, and if nobody bothers to apply the “3 Traits of Top Leaders” then your keynote was just expensive entertainment. For the same fee they could have gotten Garth Brooks.

Contact your client within a week, or 30 days at the latest, and ask, “How did you apply the “6 Strategies of Effective Customer Service.” Did they actually change the outbound recording on their voice mail, as you recommended? Have they re-written the brochure to highlight benefits instead of features? Did they stop answering the phone, “Hello, what the hell do you want?” Build your program around specific, actionable items that they must complete, tied to a deadline.

Bundling a few weeks of Accountability Coaching into the package is a sure-fire way to guarantee that they will make the changes. A weekly phone call, or even a guilt-trip email, is usually enough to nudge them along. Otherwise, like nuns, they slip back into the same old habits.

Level 4 – Did it WORK?

OK, they really LIKED your engaging and entertaining program. You’ve helped them REMEMBER the content with quizzes and tests. And you’ve kept in touch to make sure they USE the new skills. But did it WORK? Just because you’ve given them what you believe is sound advice, it might not work at all. It might have been inappropriate for their industry. Structural obstacles, corporate culture, or even a rogue CEO can sabotage your solutions.

No matter who’s at fault, if it didn’t WORK, you need to know, and you need to know why. You may be peddling obsolete or ineffective advice.  Clients revere you as an expert, so you have a fiduciary obligation to make absolutely certain your council is sound.

Level 5 – What was it WORTH?

If they LIKE it and REMEMBER it and USE it and it WORKS, that’s just swell. You’ve lived up to your reputation as a guru. You can cash the check with a clear conscience. But you’re missing a tremendous opportunity. How much value did your training, coaching or consultation produce? Did they save a bundle by re-negotiating the supply chain? Did they see an increase in sales, or a big bump up in customer satisfaction? How much was that WORTH? Find out. If you’ve been following up, keeping them accountable and tracking results, this should be an easy calculation.

My friend Heather Lutze is an international speaker and expert on “Findability,” how to get your website found by customers who are ready to buy. She recently attended a 5-day seminar taught by Callan Rush on “Magnetize your Audience.” When she told me the registration fee was $10,000, I thought she was throwing her money away.

At the beginning of Callan’s seminar, she gave everyone $25 in singles. Then they had two minutes to pitch an offering to their group that they could buy using only these bills. Over the course of the five days, every participant was required to develop an offering, analyze the benefits, and write a script. They were organized into teams with a coach to refine it, then presented it to the rest of the attendees. Whoever sold the most was declared the winner. They repeated variations of this exercise several times. The finalists were given a half-hour to pitch a real offer using real order forms. Not only did Heather win the competition, but by the end of the workshop she had enrolled six people in her new Findability Profits Lab at $1,997 each, earning $11,982. She had earned a 120% return on her investment before she left for the airport. Callan Rush can sleep well knowing that her techniques are effective, and she’s genuinely helping other professionals grow their business.

$3.6 Million

Recently I got a call from Bob Purvis, CEO of Purvis Industries, a bearing services company based in Houston. They had invited me to conduct a half-day seminar on “How to Sell More at Higher Prices” for 200 Service Center Managers. We brought in a video crew and sent the edited DVD to all 600 employees.

Bob called to say, “We’ve just had our first $10 million dollar month since 2007, and we’ve increased our gross margin by 3%.” That may not sound like much, but 3% of $10 million over 12 months equals $3.6 million in new NET PROFIT. It was the difference that kept them out of bankruptcy, and saved more than 1,000 jobs.

Once you find out what it was WORTH, now you have a real-life success story to share. And when you can deliver value like that, they’ll never flinch at your fee.

Guerrilla Marketing When YOU are the Product

I answered the phone, “Good morning, this is Orvel Ray.”

There was a short silence. Then a woman’s voice, “I’m surprised you answered! It took me back for a moment.”

“Well, if you ever call here, and another man answers, please let me know.”

She chuckled, and then offered, “This is Linda from Washington Speakers Bureau. I’m trying to reach the office of The Guerrilla Marketing Group.”

“You got it. And it’s just me and Denise. Several years ago we built an addition on our house, closed our downtown office, and fired everyone. Now we both work from home, here in the mountains of Colorado.”

“Oh, that must be beautiful!”

“It is. You can come and stay. Now that the boys are grown we have a spare room, and at this altitude, we don’t get much company.”

“I was just shocked that you answered your own phone?”

“Well, who else’s phone would you have me answer?”

Your Identity as a Guerrilla Marketing Weapon

Many experts, consultants, and professionals worry WAY too much about their “professional” image. They think they need an expensive office and a perky receptionist or they won’t be taken seriously. It took years for me to realize that being able to run my business while avoiding the commute, the expense and the hassle of managing a staff, is also a huge credibility builder. It’s a lifestyle most envy.

Image vs. Identity

Guerrilla marketing professionals know that it’s more important for clients know you by your identity, who you really are, rather than to trying to project an image. An image, by definition, is a reflection, a facsimile, a fake. When YOU are the product, your clients want to know who you REALLY are; your quirks, your family, your faults, your hobbies and interests. And they want to know where you live, so if they’re ever dissatisfied they can come punch you in the nose.

Certainly you should dress up on client visits or conferences. But clients prefer a personal relationship, especially with their Trusted Advisers. The more they get to know the “real you” the more they trust your expertise and rely on your advice.

Put your picture on everything

Many years ago, we recommended to a small real estate brokerage that they should require all their agents to include their photo on their business cards. For some of you, this might not be such a good idea, but stick with me here. Today, they’re one of the largest real estate companies in the country. I can’t mention their name, but I believe they sell Moore real estate than any other Company I know.

Guerrilla MarketingThat’s because your brain has a  dedicated area for remembering faces (the Fusiform Face Area, part of the occipitotemporal gyrus). But the part that remembers names (the left hemispheric lingual gyrus) is built for processing language, so it has trouble recalling names.

That’s why, when you go to a networking event, everyone is wearing a NAME TAG. Scientists say it’s because we evolved from troops of social primates. Before the evolution of language, our ancestors relied on faces to discriminate between tribe (good) and outsiders (bad!). So put your picture on your business cards, your stationary, on all of your marketing materials, and most important, on your social media profiles. The more often they see your face, the more familiar (as in family) you become.

And while I’m on this particular soapbox, use a professional headshot. Done in a studio. There’s a reason they call it FACEbook. A picture’s worth 1,000 words, so let’s be very careful what your picture says about you. Business attire, neutral background, cropped close; not some selfie you shot slamming shots with your sister (yes, I have seen it).

Especially on LinkedIn. I will connect with anyone on LinkedIn, UNLESS they put up a picture of their cat; or worse, that scary grey silhouette.

Meet for coffee over SKYPE

If you work with clients remotely, SKYPE is a great way to create a powerful personal connection. And it’s free (Guerrilla Marketing’s favorite word). They see your face, your desk, the junk on your bookshelf. You can share documents, presentations, or your three-year-old daughter singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” (Yes, I actually have seen it). It really is the next best thing to being there. And for gawd’s sake look at that thumbnail. How are you framed? How is the light? Makes me crazy when a client SKYPEs me while sitting in front of the windows, curtains drawn wide, and all I see is a skyline and a scary silhouette.

While you’re at it, invest in a high-quality webcam. I use the Logitech BCC950 ConferenceCam (about $250 bucks. Google it). Not because I’m a tech geek, but because a client in Saudi Arabia gave it to me as a gift. You see, when they put our conversation up on the 40-inch plasma in the boardroom, the camera in my MacBook Pro made my face look like a pizza.

Another tip learned the hard way: remember to look directly into the camera. I made the mistake of looking down at my PowerPoint and the client felt like I was staring at her, uhmmm, let’s just say, “jewelry.”

Tell the truth

This big white envelope arrived in the mail. Big red letters on the outside said, “THIS IS NOT A BILL.” Inside, the letter explained, “That was the envelope. THIS is the bill.” So I paid it.

People appreciate when you tell the truth, especially about the little things. I’ve had clients call from Australia at 3:00 AM and ask, “Did I wake you?”

“Well, no. Not yet.”

And yes, I’m writing this in my underwear.

Separate the personal from the professional

Social media is the exception that proves the rule. A teacher who worked at a small Christian college in Texas was traveling in London, standing as a bridesmaid for a friend. The bride posted an iCam shot of the girls sitting around a booth (at the bachelorette party, I presume) with a glass of wine in the foreground. When she returned to Texas, the teacher was fired for “Inappropriate Public Conduct,” a violation of her contract. No she wasn’t DRINKING the wine, or even HOLDING the wine. It wasn’t even her wine. Fortunately Facebook now gives you the option to delete content posted by others that you might not want others to see.

Burj Al Arab Hotel

Gratuitous Burj Al Arab Hotel

The things you DO post should pass the test of professional relevance. If you’re leading an executive seminar in Dubai, then by all means, comment and Facebook and Tweet about it, including gratuitous pictures of the Burj Al Arab Hotel.  Knowing you’re a globetrotter gives you credibility along with frequent-flyer miles.

Better still, put your client in front of a video camera telling us how great the seminar was, and upload it to YouTube. Save the vacation slides for torturing your neighbors when you get home.

You may not know this, but in addition to my speaking and consulting practice, I lead a Batman-like double life, as a drummer in a professional 20-piece swing-era big band. Being a jazz musician doesn’t exactly enhance my credibility as a marketing guru. That’s why I keep them separate. They have their own social media pages and their own YouTube channel, and all my musician friends have to call me “Sticks”… but that’s another story.

Your Elevator Pitch Gets Them on the Train

Do you struggle to find new clients? The problem may be your Elevator Pitch.

Ask, “What sort of work do you do?” and most people will respond with one word.

“Accountant.”  “Engineer.”  “Consultant.”

The Secret is to Get Them on the Train

Just this afternoon, our local NPR station was running a fundraiser. Your contribution earns a chance to win an Australian vacation.  The announcers droned on and on about how this was “a trip of a lifetime,” and “worth $8,000,” and “you’ll see penguins and kolas,” while repeating the phone number incessantly. Yawn.

But then they played a segment from the travel agent as he described the train ride to Adelaide.elevator pitch “Leaving Melbourne at 8:00, you’ll be in the Premier Red seats, so you’ll have a really comfy seat, and great big picture windows that gaze out at the countryside. You’ll pass through Eucalyptus forests, rolling green farmland, and expansive desert plains. You’ll arrive in Adelaide around 6:00.” In great detail, he described the route of this amazing adventure. Instead of dreading a 10 hour trip, I could almost see the kangaroos bouncing across the far horizon as I drove. And the studio phones started ringing.

The lesson for guerrilla marketers is that it’s not enough to parrot your profession. It’s not even enough to promise a benefit.   You have to show them where they’re going, and what they’ve left behind.

Imagine, standing on the platform, and this train is about to embark on a wonderful journey. You shout, “Hey, there’s lots of open seats. It’ll be great! All you have to do is step aboard.   We’ll have you home by supper!”

The train, of course, is you and the wonderful work you do with your clients. Their computers are humming, they have a new resume headshot, or they’ve settled a tax problem. You help clients get from “here” (they have a problem to solve) to “there” (you’ve helped them solve it.) Now take them on that journey. Let them experience what it’s like to work with you.

Blow the Guerrilla Marketing Whistle

One of the most awesome weapons in your Guerrilla Marketing Arsenal is your Elevator Pitch. That’s the script you use when someone asks, “So, what do you do?” If you had only 20 or 30 seconds to engage them, what would you say to get their attention, not counting, “Sorry, but I believe your pants are on fire”?

Your Guerrilla Elevator Pitch consists of three parts: 1) what you do, 2) who you do it for, and 3) two ways they benefit.

“At the Guerrilla Group, we help small business use low-cost marketing to increase sales and build profits.”

That’s like blowing the whistle on the train. You’ve gotten their attention, or not.

If not, that’s a good thing, because this trip is not for everyone. People will either say, “That’s nice!” (translation: I could care less now buzz-off) or, “Hummm. . . that’s interesting,” (tell me more).

Instead of, “I’m a tax accountant,” how about, “I help honest small-business owners take every legal deduction, and save them thousands of dollars in taxes.”

Instead of “environmental engineering,” try, “We help small cities recover quickly after severe storms or floods, and help minimize damage in the future.”

Instead of “SEO consultant,” what if you said, “I help companies get found on the Internet, and attract their best prospects, right when they’re most motivated to buy.”

You get the idea.  Notice the structure. What. Who. And two benefits.

How long? Like a mini-skirt; short enough to be interesting and just long enough to cover the essentials.

“But what if I have more than one area of expertise?” Maybe you’re like my good friend Debi. She’s a very fine jazz pianist, but she also teaches piano, tutors elementary math and English, and teaches Japanese to professionals.

That’s simple. You need a value proposition for each offering, and each audience. So Debi might say, “I help elementary grade children to excel at math.” OR she might say, “I teach executives who travel abroad essential Japanese; at least enough to really impress their clients.”

It depends on who’s in the elevator. Smart guerrilla marketers will write several, edit them to the nub, and memorize them verbatim.

Why two benefits?

That’s because some people are motivated toward some positive outcome, or away from some problem or pain. People who are toward-motivated buy lottery tickets. People who are away-from buy flight insurance. So your value proposition is going to be most effective if it includes one of each. Where is the train going to go, and what are we leaving behind.

Use Powerful Language in your Elevator Pitch

There are many variations on this list. One myth is that Yale University researchers some how discovered the 12 most persuasive words in English. The truth is even more interesting. On August 14, 1961, an add appeared in the New York Times, with the headline, “The New Sell.”

“Most persuasive selling words, according to recent researches: You, Easy, Money, Save, Love, New, Discovery, Results, Proven, Health, Guarantee.” — Marketing Magazine

The research may be a myth, but the words are indeed persuasive. In 1963, David Ogilvy, in his seminal book, Confessions of an Advertising Man, published his own list of the 20 most persuasive words in advertising:

  1. suddenly
  2. now
  3. announcing
  4. introducing
  5. improvement
  6. amazing
  7. sensational
  8. remarkable
  9. revolutionary
  10. startling
  11. miracle
  12. magic
  13. offer
  14. quick
  15. easy
  16. wanted
  17. challenge
  18. compare
  19. bargain
  20. hurry

Ogilvy became the most famous copywriter in the world, and built the tenth biggest agency in the world. So hurry, and get on the train. These words work like magic. You’ll see amazing improvement. The results are remarkable.

Now you can tell a story

You’re ready to deploy your Capabilities Statement, (which we discussed in the May issue).   This is where you describe the journey, step-by-step. That gets them gazing out the window.

A consultant might say, “I’ve been working with an electrical testing company in the UK. We meet every week over SKYPE to discuss whatever challenges the owner happens to be facing that week. This client — I’ll call him James, because, that’s his name — wanted to grow the business by advertising for new customers. I advised that we begin by recording and analyzing the inbound telephone calls they were already receiving. A team of three salespeople were taking 20 to 30 inquires a day, but only closing 50%.

“I listened to the recordings and found two important flaws. They weren’t building rapport and they weren’t closing. The owner changed the script, and a month later, they’re closing 75%. Now, tell me about your business?”

See, NOW they’re on the train, ready to join you on a journey of their own. –Orvel Ray Wilson

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.

Guerrilla Selling: Attracting the Right Sales Staff

Help WantedIn any business, people are your most important asset.  A great location, great name, great merchandise, a great display and great promotion can all be undone by less-than-great people. Your staff is the most expensive item in your budget and the most important business investment you’ll make, so take time to choose them wisely.

The most universal complaint I hear from business owners is, “We just can’t find good people.”  Well, let me encourage you. They’re out there, and your mission is to track them down and then persuade them to join your team.

Guerrillas know that their team is the glue that holds their business together – from their sales associates to their cashiers, bookkeepers and delivery drivers. So you have to put the same effort into recruiting a stock clerk as you would when hiring a merchandising manager. Although the specific example we’ll illustrate here refers to sales guerrillas, these techniques will work to help you hire the cream of the crop for any position.

Because the best predictor of future sales behavior is current sales behavior, guerrillas are always on the hunt for good people. You’ll find them serving you in restaurants, shops, hotels, spas, museums and cafes. Whenever someone really impresses you with their sales or customer service skills, ask for their name and number. Let them know that, while you may not have an opening right now, you’re always looking for good people, and you’d like to have permission to call them if something opens up. This way, you’ll always have a backlog of qualified candidates.

This is also a good reason to regularly shop your competitors. We know it sounds a bit mercenary, but you would be appalled at how poorly some companies treat their best people! And when you hire away one of their best, you win twice – you gain a skilled employee at your competitor’s expense.

When screening sales applicants you need to give them an opportunity to showcase their sales skills before putting them in front of customers. By seeing how well they sell themselves to you, you can predict with remarkable accuracy how effective they will be at selling others.

Here’s a simple system that can streamline the screening and ensure that you are getting the best of the best.  Set up a voicemail box on a DDE (direct-dial extension that only goes to voice mail; ask your phone company).  Then run your classified ad outlining the basic qualifications for the job, but do not mention the name of your business. Instead, in the last sentence of the ad use the phrase, “To schedule an interview call (the DDE phone number).”

The outbound recording should say, “Because of the overwhelming response to or ad, we’ve had to automate our screening process.  At the tone, please leave your name, a number where you can be reached, and a brief summary of your qualifications.  If your background matches our requirements, we may invite you for an interview.” BEEEEP.  Let it run for a day or two to accumulate messages.

When playing the messages back, be prepared with a pad and pen.  You’ll want to take notes.  Start by really listening to the voice. Is it warm, friendly and intelligent? Is this the voice of someone who you would feel comfortable representing your firm? If not, delete it and move on.
Then listen to the message a second time, and check:

• Did the candidate follow directions?

• Did they in fact leave their name, an after-hours number (or better still, several)

• Did they leave a summary of their qualifications, and in that order?

This will predict how easy (or difficult) they will be to manage.  Did they just rattle off their resume, or did they couch their experience in terms of skills? “I’m very good with computers,” or “I’d do a great job because I love working with customers.”

And finally, did this candidate close with some sort of call to action, “asking for the order” (or in this case the interview).  If they pass all four of these tests, then call back and interview them initially by phone.  You don’t want their physical appearance to bias your choice prematurely.

This process will give you a better idea of each candidate’s strengths before you waste time brining in people who are not a good fit. Implementing some sort of system to streamline the screening will help weed out the lazy and unqualified. This strategy will help you build the best possible retail team that will only improve your team morale and your business as a whole.

“Sculpting” Transends Langage, Race and Culture in Nairobi

Orvel Ray presenting in Nairobi, Kenya

Orvel Ray presenting diplomas in Nairobi, Kenya

In September, speaker and consultant Scott “Q” Marcus did a program and workshop for NSA Colorado on an advanced audience-interaction technique called “Sculpting,” in which participants collaborate to build a living model of a problem or situation, then work to solve it. It was outstanding in every respect, and we all left the day eager to give it a try.

The opportunity arose in the opening hour of a two-day Advanced Guerrilla Selling Seminar that I was teaching last week in Nairobi, Kenya. After the opening story and overview, the room was just flat. At first I just chalked it up to my America accent; after all, their first language was Swahili. Or maybe it was a bit of a cultural thing (here’s another White man telling us what to do) but it just wasn’t connecting. Here were 90 Sales VPs and Managers, from three countries, representing the biggest companies in East Africa, sitting quietly and looking skeptical. I was in trouble and I knew it.

So I did a sculpt, based on the “Get through the Day” theme that Scott had demonstrated. I called for a volunteer to represent the role of the Salesman. Mark, who sells big transformers to electrical utilities, stepped forward, and we positioned him far stage left, and gave him the goal of getting across to the far end of the 20-foot stage, which would represent his goal of making the sale.

Then I asked the audience to shout out possible obstacles that could get in the way.

“Competition!”
“Traffic” (Nairobi is notoriously gridlocked)
“Infrastructure” (temperamental at best, or lacking altogether)
“Technology”
“Dead mobile”
“Corruption”
“Time”
“Price”
and so on.
As each participant spoke up, we brought them in turn up onto the stage, asked them to pose in a way that would show us what their obstacle might “look like,” and “where in the day” it should go. After arranging themselves across the stage, we set the sculpt in motion. “OK, Mark, time to go to work.”

It looked like a Rugby scrum as Mark struggled to push his way over, around, under and through one challenger after another. It was hysterical. When he finally made it to far stage right, the room exploded into applause and cheers.

“So, is this what it feels like to do business in Africa?” I asked.

A resounding, “YES!”

“Ok, then. Over the next two days, this seminar is going to teach you strategies and tactics to help overcome all of these obstacles, and more.”

It was as if someone had waved a magic wand. What they got from the sculpt was that, first of all, this was going to be a fun, collaborative, participative environment, rather than a formal stuffy lecture. (Kenya was a British Protectorate, and that culture still lingers. It’s subtle, but Kenyans are resentful of white authority figures). It also set their expectations that the content would be practical and street-wise. They could see that, “this guy gets it.” I think it gave them permission to relax, speak out and play along. And it humanized me in a way that bonded me to the group. From that moment on, they were fully engaged, relaxed, chatty and eager to speak out and participate.

Imagine my shock and surprise when this same group gave the program a standing ovation at the end of the second day. Absolutely unheard of for a long seminar; certainly a first in my career.

The sculpt set the stage for a successful learning experience that transcended language, race and culture. Scott, I can’t thank you enough for teaching us this very powerful technique, and I look forward to using it again in my next seminar.

Guerrilla Selling – How Performance-based Compensation Drives Sales Through the Roof

How to Manage and Motivate Your Sales Team

Any behavior which gets rewarded will tend to be repeated. So we advocate paying close attention to how employees are rewarded for performing (or not performing) the various aspects of their jobs.

Performance-based compensation is nothing new. Commission plans for salespeople are common because their productivity is so easy to measure. But small business tends to eschew these compensation plans thinking that “we’re just a mom & pop store. We’re different.” In the competitive environment you’re faced with today, you have no choice. You must use every management tool available to maximize your marketing firepower.

Guerrillas are not only intolerant of non-performers, they lavishly reward their stars, setting ever-higher standards for the whole organization. The problem is how to reward your people appropriately, particularly if they’re not directly responsible for easy-to-measure activities like sales revenue. Some simple guidelines can put this powerful management tool to work for you.

The foundation of an effective performance-based compensation plan is a set of clear and specific goals for your organization as a whole, for each functional department, and for each individual employee. These goals must be objective and quantifiable. For example, “Increase walk-in traffic by ten percent, or to 650 shoppers per month, by the end of the year” or “achieve an average rating of 4.5 of 5 on monthly customer satisfaction surveys.” Subjective factors, like attitude or good work habits might be included in review criteria, but if you can’t measure them statistically, you can’t use them as a standard for performance-based compensation. Then devise methods for gathering data to measure progress (or lack of it) toward these goals. What you measure is what you get, so inspect what you expect.

Salary
The advantage is that it’s easy to calculate: punch in, punch out, so much per hour. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t motivate.

Commission
Commissions can be computed on the gross sale price (good), or the gross profit margin (better). One important factor to consider when designing a compensation plan is that it must be simple. Paying commissions on straight gross sales is easy, and if you put the table below up on the wall in the break room, everyone can quickly estimate what they’re earning if they know the overall gross margin of the store.

Do not pay commission on any gross margins below 13%. If they’re selling at less than 13% margin, they’re giving away the stock and putting you out of business.

Generally, the lower the gross margin, the easier the product is to sell. So guerrillas recommend paying commissions based on gross margin, to reward your sales people for working harder to maintain higher profits, not just sales.

Commission Based on Gross Sales:

Overall Gross Margin % of Gross Sales
on Sales for the Month Paid as Commission

All above 27%…………………………………………… 2.8%
26.0 – 26.99……………………………………………… 2.6
25.0 – 25.99……………………………………………… 2.4
24.0 – 24.99……………………………………………… 2.2
23.0 – 23.99……………………………………………… 2.0
22.0 – 22.99……………………………………………… 1.9
21.0 – 21.99……………………………………………… 1.8
20.0 – 20.99……………………………………………… 1.7
19.0 – 19.99……………………………………………… 1.6
18.0 – 18.99……………………………………………… 1.5
17.0 – 17.99……………………………………………… 1.4
16.0 – 16.99……………………………………………… 1.3
15.0 – 15.99……………………………………………… 1.2
14.0 – 14.99……………………………………………… 1.1
13.0 – 13.99……………………………………………… 1.0
Less than 13.0%………………………………………… none

Basing commissions on gross margin rather than gross sales is harder to track, but it motivates salespeople to sell higher-priced and higher-profit items, accessories and extended service contracts, as well as to follow up with prospects and customers for referrals.

Commission based on gross profit discourages discounting. It can also produce competitive rivalries between salespeople, (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

Commission based on Gross Margin:

Overall Gross Margin % of Gross Profit
on Sales for the Month Paid as Commission

All above 27%…………………………………………… 15.5%
26.0 – 26.99……………………………………………… 15.0
25.0 – 25.99……………………………………………… 14.5
24.0 – 24.99……………………………………………… 14.0
23.0 – 23.99……………………………………………… 13.5
22.0 – 22.99……………………………………………… 13.0
21.0 – 21.99……………………………………………… 12.5
20.0 – 20.99……………………………………………… 12.0
19.0 – 19.99……………………………………………… 11.5
18.0 – 18.99……………………………………………… 11.0
17.0 – 17.99……………………………………………… 10.5
16.0 – 16.99……………………………………………… 10.0
Less than 16.0%…………………………………………… none

Of course, you have to adjust these percentages to your business and your market.

Bonus
Bonuses can be paid on a monthly sales quota, or on reaching a target profit margin. The whole sales team can qualify for a bonus for reaching a collective goal. Managers often receive a bonus for exceeding key performance targets. Some retailers offer year-end bonuses, but these are not really very motivating. Bonuses are more effective if they cover shorter cycles. People need to be able to envision their progress, either on a regular report, a reader board, or a United-Way-style thermometer.

Spiffs
An acronym for “sales promotional incentive funds,” spiffs are paid for specific sales events. Some spiffs are funded by manufacturers to move specific SKUs. Or they can be paid by the store for selling an unwanted, obsolete or damaged item.

Guerrillas never allow the manufacturer to pay spiffs directly to their salespeople because you want the credit for paying the reward. Also, you don’t want the manufacturers to control what products sell on your floor. You need to manage that mix based on your niche, your identity and your business model.

Sales Contests
It’s important to include all the support people, the back office, the warehouse, cashiers and delivery.

You can run a sales contest on any number of metrics. First Sale of the day, Biggest Ticket of the day, Most Line Items in an order, Most Orders written in a day, Order with Highest Gross Margin.

You can also run contests on product knowledge. Devise a simple test and give a certain sum for every question they get right.

The best sales contests combine performance with an element of chance. For example, every qualifying sale wins a ticket dropped into the hat, then a weekly drawing determines the winner of a cash prize, a merchandise prize, or the trip for two to Hawaii. The more you sell, the better your odds of winning.

An effective variation is every qualifying sale gets to draw a playing card from a deck. The best poker hand at the end of the contest wins all.

Wiltshire TV, in Thousand Oaks, California, has developed an unusual variant of Bingo. Each month, each square on the bingo is assigned a different product. Instead of letters and numbers, their Bingo card is laid out with brands across the top and model numbers down the side. Sell a qualifying product and you mark that square on the card. Sell any five qualifying items in a row, and BINGO!

LOTS more Guerrilla Retailing strategies in our book, Guerrilla Retailing – How to Make Big Profits from your Retail Business. Order it today on Amazon.


Hyper Customization and Guerilla Marketing

Grand Hyatt Launches New Weapon in the Amenity Arms Race

Rapid Repair, a little company In Kalamazoo, Michigan, will install a 240 GB hard drive upgrade in your iPod. I can’t make this stuff up, folks. For about the price of a NEW iPod, you can expand your old iPod to 240 GIGS! For cryin’ out loud, the IBM laptop I’m using here only has 40 gigs. Two-Hundred-Forty GIGABYTES is enough disk space for 20 hours of MP3 video or 60,000 songs! What on EARTH would anyone DO with THAT much content? Whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. That’s what.

In advance of Team Summit, I was doing Guerrilla sales training for DISH Network’s National Sales Meeting at the Grand Hyatt. A video billboard just outside the ballroom promoted the hotel’s newest room amenity. They have replaced the typical (and SO last millennium) bedside clock radio with a HI-FI iPod docking station. (And I’m old enough to remember when having a coffeemaker in the room was a big deal!) What do you do with a HI-FI iPod docking station? Well, you listen to your 60,000 songs. That’s what.

So now, you can take exactly the music you want, listen to it whenever you want, wherever you want And when you’re a guest at the Denver Grand Hyatt, you can play it right in your suite, and even wake up in the morning to your favorite (is this beginning to sound a lot like SLING?). No more annoying all-country stations to sift through. No more of those poor people at NPR of nagging you to donate a car. Hyatt has found yet another weapon to deploy in the room-amenities arms race.

Alvin Toffler predicted this kind of made-my-way-on-demand economy way back in 1970. Today’s consumers have more choices than ever, and they still demand more and more options. Ragu now offers 36 flavors of spaghetti sauce in 6 varieties. (Watch Malcom Gladwell’s short video on TED about this phenomenon!)

What this means is that guerrillas can create a competitive advantage by offering their customers hyper-customized versions of their product or service. These same customers will pay more, and they are more loyal.

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Guerilla Retailing – Where Everyone is Above Average

How to Get Above Average Performance from Everyone

by Guerrilla Selling Speaker Orvel Ray Wilson, CSP

How would you like to see a 10% sales lift on a $10 investment? Start by making individual production public.

Go to the office supply and buy a white dry-erase marker board, a set of colored markers, and a couple of rolls of black border tape (that skinny, vinyl tape used for making lines on your whiteboard).

Use the border tape to divide the whiteboard into 9 columns.

The first column is NAME, then a column for each of the seven days of the week, and a column on the right for TOTAL. Now create a line for each salesperson.

Hang it on the wall in the warehouse, break-room or back office where everyone (except customers) will see it.

Each day, require each of your sales associates to write their sales figures for the day in the appropriate box before they go home. A blank indicates that they were not in the store that day. You may have to enforce the rule at first; if they skip (or just forget) fine them a dollar for the coffee kitty. But soon, everyone will be eager to play the game.

This works on several levels. First, your stars will set the pace for the rest of team, because salespeople are genetically competitive. That alone will increase their overall sales performance by the promised ten percent. Great sales trainers and coaches capitalize on that trait to help team members improve their skills.

It will also make everyone more consistent, because no one wants to post a zero for the day. And nobody wants to be consistently in last place, so they will work to improve their product knowledge and sales skills. And that one person you have on your team who you wish you hadn’t hired? After a few weeks he’ll get the message and leave on his own.

Raising the Bar

You can produce even more dramatic results by tracking all of the associates’ performance on three key performance indicators. At end of the month, calculate their total sales volume, their average ticket amount and their gross margin, then compute the overall averages for each variable across the store, and compare each associate’s performance to the average.

Post the results, or print them in a spreadsheet to hand out, for example:

Associate
Total Sales Volume
Number of Transactions
Gross Margin %
Jeannie
$16,550.00
25
31.1%
Ted
$20,196.00
26
30.2%
Aaron
$24,952.00
30
29.3%
Chris
$19,252.00
32
32.1%
Pat
$22,532.00
31
34.9%
Michelle
$21,036.00
25
26.0%
Ryan
$26,382.00
19
31.0%
Average
$21,557.14
26.9
30.7%

Table 1

Congratulate those who beat the norm, then meet individually with each associate to discuss his or her individual performance. “You’re doing a good job over all, and I noticed that last month, you were above average on (parameters) while your (parameter) was just a little bit below the average. Why do you think that was? How could we work together to help get you up to the average (on this parameter)?”

This is a highly motivating combination. Nobody wants to perform “below average,” but suggesting that you just expect them to work up to the norm will always be perceived as reasonable and achievable. It should be easy enough. After all, you’re not asking a low performer to shatter any records, just to improve in one specific area enough to make the middle ground.

In the example above, the average sales volume per associate for the month was $21,557.14. So you might take Ted aside and ask him to suggest ways that he might sell an additional $1,300 this month. After all, he only needs $1,300 to get up to the average.

You’d have the same conversation with Jeannie, Chris and Michelle, and suggest ways that they could increase their overall sales. Maybe they just need to put in more hours, or take a Sunday shift or two. Perhaps they need to pay closer attention to customers when they’re in the store, or be more proactive about suggesting companion products or accessories. Perhaps you can coach them on effectively handling more than one customer at a time.

In the same example, the average number of sales per associate was 26.9, but Jeannie, Ted, Michelle and Ryan all fell below that average. You can talk to them about qualifying customers more carefully, or help them improve their closing skills. They only need to close a few more sales next month to move into “above average” territory.

Similarly, while the average gross margin was 30.7%, Ryan, Pat, Chris and Jeannie made above-average profits, while Ted, Aaron, Linda and Ryan were below the bar. Perhaps they’re over-emphasizing sale merchandise. You might coach them on up-selling to full-feature products, or adding high-margin accessories. Or show the best first. After all, they only need to cross-sell or up-sell every now and then to be above the average.

From time to time, you can change the parameters to help associates improve in other areas such as closing ratios, total accessories sold or extended warranty penetration.

Very quickly, you’ll find that the averages start to climb, as each associate gets exactly the coaching they need from month to month to improve their most critical skills.

To learn how we can help you built a top-performing guerrilla sales team, or to order your own copy of Guerrilla Retailing, call us toll-free 800-247-9145.

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