Category Archives: Uncategorized

Is Technology Making us More or Less Efficient?

A day on the road without technology gave me the answer.

For the past 24 hours, I did not have text, email or internet access on my phone. My BlackBerry (yes, I know, it’s ancient!) did a recent software update which eliminated all of the “smart” out of my smartphone and left me with the sole capability of making and receiving phone calls. I couldn’t even see my call log, so if I missed a call and they didn’t leave a voicemail, I would have no clue anyone called me.

Normally while I’m on the road, I text and email clients and use the mobile hotspot on my account to access and input data from my CRM.  Today however was a very different story.  Even 13 years ago when I first started out in sales, I recall driving around “trolling for wifi” as I called it in order to check my emails and had offline access to my CRM which apparently doesn’t exist these days.  I would text my clients and coworkers throughout the day. Typically, I never could gain enough email access to accomplish my work tasks during the day and would have to attend to all of my emails before and after I hit the road and would average 15 hour days.

Today, I went back 20 years in time.  Initially, I thought that I would go and get a new phone ASAP before embarking on my calls, but instead I decided to take on the day as a sort of “experiment” and see how I could manage.

I committed to doing all of my calls and had an amazing experience!

This is what happened:

  1. I realized that I reach to check my phone almost every 2-5 minutes.

This sounds ridiculous but I’m certain I am not alone.  How bad is that? How neurotic is that making me? How is this impacting my overall stress level? Is this really making me a better salesperson?

 

 

2. I conducted a personal record number of cold calls (in person).

Without any means to access background info (aside from what I printed out the night before in advance to prep for the day), or input data into my CRM, or dick around on the internet, I was completely unhinged.  My only task at hand was to call on as many clinics as possible in my target area to invite them to a corporate event and/or book an official meeting with them and I achieved it.  I called on 31 clinics in 8 hours.  Mind you I really didn’t take any breaks at all and I meticulously planned out my route in advance with the help of old fashioned maps.

3. I was living in real life and interacting 100% with real human beings

I spent more time interacting with human beings face-to-face than I have in a really long time (aside from tradeshows that is).

 

 

 

4. My clients were concerned about me.

I received calls from my clients who were concerned that I didn’t answer their emails and text messages and decided to call me to see if I was OK.  I thought that was really sweet but I also look at that and note that I must be so neurotic and obsessive about responding to emails and texts that if I don’t within a matter of minutes or hours, that is a concern. I have always been focused on providing the best possible customer service that I can, but this set me back a little and made me think that perhaps I am being a little too overzealous in my approach.  Do I need to chill out a little or do I need to keep up my game in order to remain competitive?

So what were my stats?

At the end of the day, I got valuable face-to-face time with 31 clients with a maximum of 1 hour “homework” to log those calls. Surely I didn’t get to spend all the time in the world with each of those clients, but look at these stats:

3/31- Turned into a timely lead.  The clients were looking for a solution that I provided right at the time I walked in.

5/31- Reserved a space to a dinner meeting I invited them to (one of the purposes of my visit).

20/31- Booked a follow-up face-to-face meeting to discuss my products in more depth.

4/31-Got to see the decision maker and do a regular sales call.

If I would have spread out all of these meetings to log my calls in a “timely” manner (immediately after) versus logging them later, I’m certain I would have run out of time given that regular business hours are between 8-6pm. On the other hand, if I would have done these calls by phone, I most certainly wouldn’t have had the same level of penetration that I did in person. Meeting and talking to people face-to-face is far more impressionable than a strange voice over the phone.

So, back to my initial question: Technology has always been key to being functional as a sales rep on the road, much like it is to pretty much any other profession, but is it making us more or less effective?

Not necessarily. In the old days when we would have to do our homework pre and post calls, it lengthened our days. Now we can do emails, texts and calls while en route.   It all depends on the individual and how prone one is to distraction.  If you commit do only doing work during business hours and restricting social contact to outside of business hours, then yes, you will be more effective.  If not, then you will be working (and socializing and killing time on the internet) from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep and in that case, you are not more effective.

If you are in outside sales,  would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Please share.

 

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How Poor CEO Decisions Impact Sales Reps: The VW Recall

An Interview with Aaron Hansen, Sales Manager at Cambridge Volkswagen.

Volkswagen-TDI

If you are a sales representative, sales manager, or other front-line staff, there is nothing worse than finding out the head of your company made a huge mistake that reflects poorly on your company.  In some cases, you may have a head’s up of the bad news and have time to prepare, be proactive and inform your clients directly before they find out from a 3rd party, however this is not always the case.

As most of you are aware, Martin Winterkorn, the recently resigned CEO of Volkswagen, had approved the decision to install software on over 480,000 “clean” diesel vehicles in the US between 2009-2015. This software only activated the cars’ pollution controls during emissions testing (while on a hoist) which has now prompted a world-wide recall of nearly 11 million vehicles. This was obviously a fraudulent means to pass the rigorous EPA standards in the US and will end up costing VW up to $18 billion.

Most certainly, this is not the first scandal of its time, especially in automobile history.  In my opinion, the majority of large corporations are guilty of some sort of fraudulent activity, just not all of them get caught.

Where I feel pain, is for the sales people.  They had no say in the executive decision whatsoever yet have to deal with the wrath of chaos the CEO’s have created for them. No matter how bad the news, the sales reps have to suck it up, put on a happy face, keep smiling and continue selling.  I have been there and it’s not easy.  For those of you who are in this situation, I would recommend reading my previous article on The Rumor Mill: How to Grind it to a Halt Before it Hurts your Business.

In this article, I have interviewed Aaron Hanson the Sales Manager at Cambridge Volkswagen here in Canada to get his take on the incident and how he and his sales force are handling the matter.

TSW:How did you find out? Did you have any advanced notice or time to prepare?”

AH: “No head’s up at all.  I saw it on the news the morning before I came into work.”

 

TSW: “How did you and your team react to the news?”

AH: “We were all stressed initially but the fact of the matter is, we sell the cars, we don’t build them. This is not the first or the last time this has happened to a car company. Regardless of what it is in the news, VW is still a great brand that we all have faith in.  We have always and will continue to focus on great customer service. It is a small upset so we just persevere, with smile!”

 

TSW: “How do you stay positive?”

AH: “Easy, we are still alive! It is what it is.  Only 30% of our sales were TDI models and the rest were gasoline powered.”

 

TSW: “How do you feel this news will impact sales now and in the future?”

AH: “Unknown. It is only 5 days in, so it is too early to tell.”

 

TSW: “What sort of message have you been relaying to new and existing customers?”

AH:  “All our TDI customers (whose contact info we have in our database) were contacted immediately. We sent everyone a message informing them of the news, if their vehicle was affected and encouraged them to call us with any questions and concerns.”

 

TSW: “What kind of responses have you been getting?”

AH: “99% Positive. Almost everyone took the time to reply and say thank you for the follow-up. They were really appreciative of the proactive approach that we took.”

 

TSW: “What have you been saying to new potential customers who come into your dealership?”

AH: “We are completely upfront with them from the get-go.  So far, none of them are really concerned. They all still want to buy! The primary reason people buy our diesel vehicles is because of the fuel economy and they buy from us because of our excellent customer service.”

 

TSW: “Since your reps are 100% commission based and have specific monthly quotas for different vehicle types (diesel, gasoline, used), will you still be upholding those targets or adjusting them?”

AH: “Right now, it is unknown how this news will impact sales because it is too early to tell.  That being said, we are being flexible and seeing how and if sales will change.”

Based on my interview with Aaron, I think he is doing the best a sales manager or representative could do when faced with this particular situation. If you find yourself in this situation, I recommend you follow this example.

Aaron has been my sales rep at Volkswagen for the past 10 years.  I have purchased 3 cars from him, 2 of which were TDI’s, so am I concerned about my TDI vehicle or the VW Brand?

No.  I am a trusted and true VW fan and as I said previously, most major corporations lie and engage in some sort of fraudulent activity and so did VW. So what? What else is new?  I still love my car and I still stand by the fact that I think the VW Passat TDI is the #1 Vehicle for Sales Reps.

I did not buy my car for “green status” which it was never eligible for here in Canada anyway.

I did not buy my car so that I can drink water out of the exhaust.

I purchased my VW Passat TDI because of the fuel economy, handling, comfort and because of the excellent service I have always received from Aaron and staff at Cambridge Volkswagen.

A great sales rep can go a long way, and in most cases can be more important to the consumer than the company they represent.

I would love to hear from other sales reps about how you have dealt with a similar situation where your company has received some negative press and what you and your team did to overcome that.

Happy sales my friends.  Remember, even when times get tough, keep persisting and keep positive no matter how hard it may be.

Cheers,

TSW

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New Driving Laws Coming into Effect in Ontario September 1st 2015

judge hammer

Attention all of you road warriors here in Ontario, Canada!

Effective September 1st, 2015 the Ontario Government will begin to enforce new legislation and stiffer penalties for existing driving laws.

Why am I writing about this?

Because for reasons unbeknownst to me, our government does not directly notify anyone with a driver’s license directly whenever they change the law.  I mean, they obviously have our current mailing address which is reflected on our driver’s license. Could this be due to the expense of sending out a mailer? Or is it a sneaky way for them to earn more revenue from penalizing individuals who are not aware of the new laws?

Regardless, let’s get to the facts! If you’re driving in Ontario, here is what you need to know:

According to the Ministry of Transportation Bulletin  issued June 2nd 2015, there will be:

  1. Increased Penalties for Distracted Driving. Fines will be increased from an average of $300 to up to $1000 in addition to 3 demerit points upon conviction. The Ontario Government estimates that by 2016 the number of fatalities from distracted driving may exceed those from drinking and driving.  Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t already!
  1. Require drivers to wait until pedestrians have completed crossing the road at all crosswalks before proceeding. It’s great to see that Ontario finally got on board with this because this is the only place where I’ve driven where drivers have such a blatant disregard for pedestrians! Perhaps this is why pedestrians represent almost 20% of the motor vehicle-related fatalities on our roads.
  1. Increased Penalties (fines and demerits) for drivers who “door” cyclists. Any driver who blatantly opens a door or moves their vehicle for that matter without looking should be penalized for such carelessness.
  1. Require drivers maintain a minimum of 1 metre distance when passing cyclists. This is good but all too often I see cyclists riding side-by-side, hogging entire lanes of the road! I have no patience for those people. We are supposed to share the road, not hog it regardless of whether you are on a bicycle or in a motor vehicle!
  1. Denial of driver’s license plate renewal if the driver has any outstanding Provincial Offences Act fines. I thought that this was already a law but apparently I have been misinformed!
  1. Allow a broader range of qualified medical professionals to identify and report medically unfit drivers. I’m not sure exactly what this means.  I can see (pun intended) if an optometrist may deem an individual legally blind and therefore unfit to drive.  However to what extent would this apply to other medical professionals? Could a nurse, a naturopath, a chiropractor…etc deem someone unfit to drive? Where does the government draw the line?
  1. Application of existing alcohol-impaired penalties to drug-impaired drivers. I’m not sure exactly they intend to quantify the degree of impairment for drug users since there is currently no simple roadside test synonymous to a breathalyzer. They also didn’t specify as to whether or not this refers to just illegal drugs or if it also applies to prescription drugs.  Recent statistics in Ontario show that over 45% of drivers killed in a fatal car crash had alcohol and/or drugs in their system.  What does that say for the other 55% of drivers???

For the most part, I agree with all of these new penalties because I believe it will make our roads safer.  Where I am uncertain, is where the laws seem “too broad” and open to interpretation.

Furthermore, what is quite frightening is that the Ontario Government is also considering implementing an online monetary penalty system which would replace in-court procedures for resolving disputes.  What that means is that if you get a traffic ticket, it will no longer have any written details from the issuing officer, just a penalty notice indicating the amount of money due and the number of demerits that will be applied. It also means that you will lose your right to contest the decision of the issuing officer in a court of law, therefore losing the right to a “fair process”.

How do you feel about the implementation of these new laws?

How do these laws compare to the laws in your home province or state?

I would love to hear your feedback fellow road warriors.

In the meantime, safe travels.

Cheers,

TSW

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Pack Your Carry-on Luggage Appropriately or Risk Not Flying at All

If you’re travelling for business and your briefcase containing all of your portable electronic devices doesn’t conform to your airline’s carry-on standards, you can forget that business trip!

In this post I will provide some general airline travel tips and provide suggestions on what types of baggage you should travel with and the contents each baggage type should contain.

How many times have you packed for a trip only to end up using half if not less of what you packed?  We have all done it at some point.  As we become more seasoned travellers, we learn how to pack more wisely.  In the US, more and more people are travelling (see infographic from Hudson News below), and most of whom (I say from experience), do not know how to pack appropriately.  Now, airlines are beginning to crack down on these passengers and you need to be prepared for it the next time you fly.

BusinessTravelInfographic

Last week Air Canada announced that they will begin strictly enforcing their carry-on allowance at Pearson International Airport (YYZ) in Toronto effective this past Monday and they will begin doing so in other international airports across the country over the coming months.  This means that at all check-in and security check points, Air Canada will be checking passengers’ carry-on baggage to ensure that it meets their specifications.  If it does, each bag will be tagged with a “Carry-on Approved” tag.  If the bag does not meet the airline’s specifications, passengers will be required to check their bags before proceeding through security.

approved carryon bag tag

When I heard this news, I thought “This is great news! It’s about friggin’ time!!!”.  For those of you who read my article “The Top 10 Worst Airline Passengers I’ve Encountered”, you will recall me mentioning my frustration with the “Carry-on Cow”. You know, those passengers that have multiple and/or oversized bags and who naturally board the aircraft before you and then there is no room for your appropriately sized carry-on.  Or those who deliberately try to sneak on baggage that they know is oversized so that they can avoid the baggage check fees.  When this happens, the flight attendants then have to make arrangements to check their baggage and do that at no additional fee.  My neighbor who is a baggage handler for Air Canada informed me that this is the reason for 95% of flight delays.  That’s insane!!!  So I’m extremely relieved that Air Canada is taking the lead in doing this, especially because that is the airline I most frequently fly on.  I presume other airlines will follow suit shortly.

If you’re guilty of being one of those Carry-On Cows or just uncertain about the size of your carry-on bag, here are some helpful hints:

1. Research your airline’s baggage allowance policy BEFORE you PACK and plan what you will bring accordingly. You may have to buy new luggage.

TIP: Many companies sell bags with labels describing the bag as “carry-on size” when that is not the case at all.  Bring a measuring tape with you and measure the luggage dimensions before you buy!

2. Wear you bulkiest items (largest shoes/boots, coats etc) on the plane.

3. Leisure Travellers: As long as you have your PHOTO ID and CREDIT CARD EVERYTHING ELSE CAN BE REPLACED. If you try to pack everything as carry-on because you are afraid of the airline losing your luggage, you won’t be able to get away with this anymore. Either pack less or just commit to packing a checked bag and don’t put any real unreplaceable items in it.

4. Portable Electronic Devices Can NOT be CHECKED. This is because most of these devices (laptop, chargers, batteries, GPS, mobile power inverter, etc) contain lithium ion batteries which are classified as dangerous goods. Their improper storage on an aircraft may result in an explosion, fire or short circuit, all of which will not only destroy the device but may pose a flight hazard.

This can pose a dilemma for business travelers who usually must carry several if not all of these devices.  They take up half of my briefcase and they are items I cannot do my business trip without.   So if you don’t pack them appropriately in your carry-on, you won’t be able to check them and therefore won’t be able to board the aircraft for that important business trip.  Try explaining that to your boss!

To help you decide how to pack appropriately for your next trip, I have laid out my packing suggestions in the table below:

BaggageTable

What’s in my baggage?

Small Purse:

WhatsInMyPurse

  • Photo ID/Passport (You can’t board without it!)
  • Wallet (Relax– you can always buy whatever you forgot!)
  • Pens (Yes pens –If you are travelling internationally you will have to fill out customs immigration forms)
  • Cell Phone and charger
  • Travel documents (Yes I still keep paper copies of everything. After all you never know when your phone or tablet will die
  • iPad and charger
  • Personal articles such as liquids and gels (-moisturizer, hand sanitizer, lipstick, lighter), hair brush, gum, kleenex.

TIP: The best way to relieve pressure in your ears due to altitude changes is to blow your nose

Large Purse or Laptop Case (same dimensions):

  • Same as above except my laptop instead of iPAD (that’s just a toy!)
  • Small detail binder including literature

Small Carry-on:

IMG_1082

  • Chargers, adaptors
  • Camera
  • Clothes – only enough for my trip. It is OK to wear something more than once!
  • Toiletries (that are less than 100mL each and total no more than 1L) in a TSA-approved bag

Briefcase:

TIP: Be sure to use a hardside briefcase to prevent yourself from over-stuffing it and making it oversized!

samsonite

  • Laptop and charger
  • GPS, cable and mount
  • Phone charger (for wall and car)
  • iPod and aux cable
  • Power cord (most hotel rooms NEVER have enough outlets!)
  • Detail Binder
  • Literature (sell sheets)
  • Schedule/ Calendar for all of my appointments – Yes I’m old school! I prefer a paper back-up
  • Sales Reports (paper copies for handy reference)

Yes, believe it or not I squeeze all of this into my little briefcase!

TIP:  If it gets full, I either put some literature in my checked baggage or arrange to have it shipped to me at my destination.

Checked Baggage:

  • You can put anything in here, except something that you cannot replace (i.e. family heirloom etc) or that is very heavy as most airlines will charge you an additional $100 or more if your back is over 50lbs.

I hope you find some of these tips helpful for when you are preparing for your next trip be it for business or pleasure.  If you would like any more specific advice, please feel free to contact me at thetravellingsaleswoman@gmail.com or provide your questions in the comment field below.

Safe travels my friends, and just as a reminder, don’t be that Cary-on Cow. You won’t get away with it for much longer and certainly not if you fly with Air Canada.

Cheers,

 

TSW

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Why B2B Sales is Really B2B2C: A Two Phase Sales Process

“Sell a man a product, and you’ve made a sale.  Teach a man how to sell your product to his customer and you have a business partner.”-TSW 

Man Holding Childs Hand

In my industry, which is the medical field, I often come across clients who have purchased products that they simply do not use (not mine of course!).  When I ask them about it, I get responses ranging from “Oh, I forgot about that!” to “Yeah, that machine cost me $100,000 and I can’t figure out how to use it.”

What a terrible position to be in!

So, how did they get there?

Surely, they must have thought that those products were wonderful at the time of purchase so what happened afterwards?

The problem is that all too often in Business to Business (B2B) sales, a representative sells a product or service to a business and then they move on to the next customer.  Sure, the representative has done his or her job of completing the B2B transaction, but just that alone.  When the rep stops here, they have ended the sales process prematurely.   You might argue, “But they made the sale?” And yes, you are correct, but only that.

By leaving the business to fend for themselves to figure out how to complete the Business-to-Consumer (B2C) sale and if that business does not have the knowledge and tools they require to sell that product to the consumer, the representative has failed.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Well that’s not my problem! I have a quota to make and I don’t get paid to be a hand holder”.  Well actually you do, or rather you should. At absolute minimum, offer your assistance post-sale, otherwise you might as well be selling snake oil.

If you want continued business and a good reputation, you’d better be sure that your client is capable of relaying the features and benefits of your product or service to their customer.  Otherwise, that fancy piece of equipment or innovative new product will simply just sit on their shelf collecting dust and one day you’ll receive a phone call from them inquiring about your return policy.

Of course, not all clients are created equal and certainly not all of them require hand holding.  However, when you are making the sale, keep in mind that after the sale you should always do some sort of follow up, the degree of which will vary depending on your client.  For this reason, I believe that making a business to business sale, is a two phase process as follows:

Phase 1: B2B Sale

“Sell a Man a Product and You Have a Sale.”

This is the traditional sales process as everyone knows it.  Prospect, qualify, ask for the order and close the deal.  I will not elaborate on this phase in this article.

Phase 2: Imparting the Knowledge for the B2C Sale

“Teach a Man How to Sell Your Product to His Customer and You Have a Business Partner.”

After you make the sale, both you and your client are excited; You about making the sale and your client about receiving that fabulous new product.

You, the sales rep mistakenly assumes that your client remembers your entire sales pitch and is just as eager and capable as you to impart this knowledge onto their customer.

Before you get too carried away with excitement, consider the following:

  • Your client is a business owner or decision maker, not a sales representative
  • Time may elapse between when the sale is made and when the customer receives their product. It’s only human nature to forget. After all, we aren’t all information sponges!
  • The reasons WHY your client bought the product- Did they have an existing need or did you create a need for them? Will that “need” dissipate after you walk out the door?

What should you do to avoid buyer’s remorse?

Two words: FOLLOW UP!

  1. At the Time of the Sale: Even though you should know the answer, ASK your client how they plan on selling your product to their customer or rather how they will incorporate your product into their business model. This will give you an opportunity to listen to their version of your sales pitch.  What did they pick up on? What was most important to them? What did they forget?  Make sure to fill in all the gaps before you walk out that door and ensure that they know how to get in touch with you or your company’s customer service department should they require further assistance.
  1. When the Order is Received: Whether you personally deliver the product or if it was delivered by a courier, touch base with your client to ensure that the product was received in proper condition and ask them if they have any questions. If the product is complicated, they and their staff may require training not only on the use of the product itself, but also what they should say to their customer when recommending the product.
  1. Two to Four Weeks Post Delivery: Touch base with your client. I would recommend a follow up visit to make sure that your client has all of the information and tools they require. Some team members may need additional assistance or training. Or perhaps they may have lost or gained a key staff member who requires training.  Your client may  also have many additional questions about the product as they use it or simply need a refresher.  If all is going well, they might even be in a position to reorder or want to discuss what other products you might happen to have in your portfolio which is all the more reason for you to be there.
  1. Regular Visit: Back to the Sales Cycle: If you customer was pleased with their buying process, they will want to see you again and continue to do business with you.  They may even want to act as a referral!

If you want to maintain a successful career in sales, you never want to make your customer feel sold and abandoned.  It is your job as a sales rep not only to sell your product but to work with your customer in a mutually beneficial working relationship where both of you grow your business together.

Never forget to follow up!

Happy Sales!

TSW

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How to Handle Clients who Want More than What You’re Selling

 

Salespeople are expected to always conduct business in a most professional manner.  So what happens when you are faced with a client who acts unprofessionally and say, starts to flirt with you?

Whether you are a man or a woman, if you are in sales, surely this exact scenario has happened to you at least once if not several times in your career.  So what do you do?

Although it is quite well established that “sex sells”, the last thing any salesperson should ever do in a sales call is use “sex” to sell, even if your client is flirting with you. You might be thinking “Why? That is so easy?”  Well, here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t:

  1. Your client will not respect you. You are “pulling the wool over their eyes” and they will see through this.
  2. You will not likely get repeat orders. Sure, using your sex appeal may help you close that deal.  Who cares about your product anyway right? But after they receive their order, they will have second thoughts.  Just like a one night stand; you think it’s all great and fun at the time and then you wake up to what you thought was a super-hot person next to you and now that  the beer goggles are off, they look more like a dishevelled dog, who’s name you don’t even know. Don’t be surprised if they return your order.
  3. Forget about that product/service reference. So you flirted your way to close a big deal with an important client who wasn’t buying from you. Time to celebrate right? Wrong.  If another client asks them why they purchased your product, they certainly aren’t going to tell them how wonderful your product is.  Why did they buy? Do you really want your clients discussing this amongst one another?  I most certainly would not.
  4. It shows you suck at selling. But you closed that deal right? So you must be good at sales? You obviously weren’t able to effectively communicate the value of the product or service you are selling, so you had to resort to other means.  It is one thing to sell yourself as a resource to your client, but another entirely to just flirt your way through sale.  What should you do then?  Take a sales course.  Improve those sales skills and don’t stoop to that level. If that doesn’t work, perhaps it’s time to consider another career.

Fortunately, I have not been faced with this scenario very often. In the past 10 years that I have been on the road, there have only been a handful of clients who have been overly flirtatious with me.

If you ever find yourself in this type of situation, just keep in mind exactly what it is you want to accomplish.  We all want to make that sale, but if you want repeat orders, your clients will likely only do so if you have more to bring to the table.   So, whether it is your amazing product or service or your resourcefulness, make sure to sell yourself and the company you are representing the right way, a way that earns you respect so you can keep those orders coming in.

Happy Sales!

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