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The Green Sheet Online Edition

October 27, 2008 • Issue 08:10:02

Street SmartsSM

Tough times pass, tough agents last

By Jason Felts
Advanced Merchant Services

Whatever your own circumstance or however you feel about the current economic condition of the United States, I think we can all agree we've seen many market corrections, and we've already lived through a significant slowdown in our economy. More than likely, you've felt it in your own community or family.

During tough times, salespeople need to stay motivated and - more than ever - increase their determination, dedication and productivity. Why? I believe each of us was born with the God-given potential to be, do or have anything we want in life.

Zig Ziglar, author, salesperson and motivational speaker, said, "In order to be the winner you were born to be, you must plan to win and prepare to win. Then, and only then, can you legitimately expect to win."

More than talent

Research shows that the talent or lack of natural talent that we were born with is irrelevant to great success. Numerous studies have concluded that nobody is great without practice, experience and hard work. Planning and preparation are the foundation for any level of achievement.

Michael Jordan, one of the greatest players in National Basketball Association history, practiced intensively long after team practices were over.

Tiger Woods began honing his golf skills when he was 18 months old. He became the youngest player ever to win a U.S. Amateur Championship at age 18, and he has never stopped trying to improve his game. He still devotes many hours a day to conditioning and focused practice.

The planning and preparing-to-win strategy works the same for sales, sports or any aspect of business. However, if you want to win at sales, how do you practice?

Sales elements such as presenting, negotiating, evaluating, gaining product knowledge, increasing education and modeling others' successes can be studied and perfected.

Learning more qualifying questions and interview questions, attaining greater understanding of the bankcard industry, and mastering more closing techniques and ways to ask for an order are all things you can practice.

On many occasions, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods likely became "tired" prior to ending their practice. Do you think they quit early? How many times have you been selling or prospecting and called it an early day because it was too hot, too cold, too rainy or you just felt like knocking off early?

The difference between success and failure almost always lies within the little decisions made every day magnified over many years. Are those little decisions going to lead you to significant success, mediocrity or failure?

The truth is you can have any of the three. Are you tough enough to do what it takes to get what you really want?

When salespeople see evidence of success, they always love it and want to experience it. They want to ride in the yacht, cruise in the sports car, fly in the private jet, take the nice vacations, eat at the finest restaurants, and give to needy individuals or charities.

Despite this, the majority will not make the right everyday decisions required to attain their own success. Therefore, unless they are tough enough to make the extra calls, visit the required number of merchants or invest in their own training, they will only experience success vicariously.

The good news is you can be the positive statistic. You can be the next Michael Jordon or Tiger Woods in bank card sales. You can break the records, achieve your goals and change your life for the better.

You have the opportunity; you live in the most amazing, capitalist society on the planet; it still offers more opportunity for astounding success than anywhere else in the world.

Success is not easy. But remember, tough times will never last for tough salespeople. As the cream rises to the top, so do diligent salespeople. The key is putting in the extra effort and making the right decisions every day in the face of pulling desires that can distract you.

Beneficial feedback

While you can practice your performance, practice alone doesn't guarantee success. Many people work hard for years without achieving significant winning results. So what's missing? Inspection with feedback. Feedback means you analyze your performance and then have others analyze your performance.

You also compare your results to others in your profession, and you measure your own results against projected expectations.

Most salespeople don't seek feedback; they wait around, hoping to avoid it. But without feedback, you don't know how good you really are. If you don't know how good you are, how can you become better?

Perhaps your only problem is that you aren't asking for the close properly or more than once. Maybe you are building relationships but not writing deals.

Invite a fellow merchant level salesperson (MLS) in your company to ride with you. Ask the MLS's opinion of what you did right and wrong. Putting yourself on the spot to be inspected is a "tough" thing to do, but isn't that what you are - tough?

Once you receive feedback, start practicing on improving key areas that will enhance your performance. Maybe you are failing to build rapport in the beginning of your presentations and just jumping right into business. Maybe you are talking way too much and not listening enough. Perhaps you are pushing your prospects as opposed to leading them.

Whatever it is, inspection with a hunger for feedback will make you stronger. Remember, it's making the right decisions that leads to success. Some MLSs have told me they wouldn't be comfortable having someone watch them. Remember, you will never find success in your comfort zone.

I'd rather press through discomfort than be broke. Get tough. Let someone critique you, and then return the favor. Just make sure you are compassionate, but very honest, when you diagnose your colleagues.

Diligent preparation

The final step is to prepare yourself mentally. This means rehearsing your performance from A to Z in your mind. Your mind doesn't know the difference between something you visualize and something you actually do in reality.

When I began my sales career I was young, inexperienced and flat broke. I quickly realized if I wanted to compete with the top producers and earn the big bucks, I had to improve my selling skills. So I set specific targets, and I focused on improving my sales techniques. Failure was not an option.

I practiced my presentation and closes over and over and over again. I'd wake my wife up, closing in my sleep. It was ridiculous but I was not going to fail. I painfully listened to myself on audios and watched myself on videos. I studied the techniques of the very best in the sales field. I went to any and every sales training class offered.

My car was a selling university on wheels. I would listen to tapes and CDs every day, all day and kept my head pumped with education and positive affirmations, realizing the marketplace was going to dump negatives on me. Then, I applied those skills in real life and in front of real prospects. I would analyze the results and make slight adjustments.

Kelley, my wife of over 15 years, has been actively involved in Advanced Merchant Services from the very beginning and has truly been a wonderful teammate. Together, we visualized the results we desired. Even when we were flat broke, we saw ourselves as successful.

We made the decision to be successful before we ever experienced it. We had success in our journals in the form of goals with a subsequent plan of action before we had anything in our bank account. We understood our purpose for achieving success and could literally reach out and feel it before it was ever a reality.

Because of these things, coupled with tireless determination, we've had to rewrite our early goals, increasing them dramatically many times.

Commitment in practice

This leads us to the biggest question about winning in sales. If we can mold ourselves into champions, why don't more people achieve winning results?

Most people don't win because hard work, commitment, discipline and focused practice are not easy. It's the smallest of improvements - those you can't even see -that separate superstars from average performers. Remember, the horse race is often won by a nose, not a full head.

Most people constantly look for a magic bullet that will lead to success. When people fail, they refuse to look in the mirror. They want to blame outside circumstances instead of looking inward.

They don't want to admit they could have succeeded if they had just worked a little harder and a little smarter. A wise man once told me, "You can either make a boatload of money or excuses ... but it is impossible to make both."

So, as we enter the final quarter of 2008 with high hopes, great expectancy and a burning desire to succeed, take time to identify specific areas of your life and business you want to improve, set definitive targets and take massive action.

Don't focus heavily on the economy around you and buy into the doom and gloom. Sure, it's painful for many, but this tough time will surely pass; better days are on the horizon. Will you do what it takes to be one of the tough salespeople who make it through, or will you quit in the middle?

When you determine to be tough regardless of what your circumstances, the marketplace or the competition throws at you, you will indeed succeed. Many think success is a destination; I think success is a decision followed by determination. end of article

Jason A. Felts is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida-based Advanced Merchant Services Inc., a registered ISO/MSP with HSBC Bank. From its onset, AMS has placed top priority on supporting and servicing its sales partners. The company launched ISOPro Motion, its private-label training program, to provide state-of-the-art sales tools and actively promote the success and long-term development of its partners. For more information, visit www.amspartner.com, call 888-355-VISA (8472), ext. 211, or e-mail Felts at jasonf@gotoams.com.

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