By Jeff Fortney
The primary challenge within any sales environment is identifying potential clients. Seminars are held on how to qualify a possible customer and even how to cold call for leads. Even so, some excellent closers find they have difficulty developing leads.
Many ISOs have even started paying for warm leads. A cottage industry has developed from this need alone, one that earns revenue for lead generators when warm leads are produced. The need for leads is that strong because without leads, there are no sales.
However, with all the concern and energy spent in finding leads, the best sources for leads are often ignored and overlooked. Among them is the easiest source, and one that costs nothing - your existing merchant base.
Yes, everyone has heard of the value of generating referrals from merchants in your own portfolio. It can be said the value of leads generated in this way exceeds those that arise from any other source. Best of all, these leads are earned by your direct actions and actually breed further leads. Yet, few ISOs and merchant level salespeople actively tap this source of business. Those that do find it to be a goldmine.
The stumbling block to proper mining is often the mentality of the sale. If you have ever said something like, I know my merchants are happy - they never call me, you will likely have tremendous difficulty mining your merchant base.
You must have the mindset that as long as a merchant is processing through you, the sales process with that merchant is ongoing. To maintain this mindset there are basic do's and don'ts that will help you successfully mine your portfolio.
In the 1980s, the real estate community discovered this basic principal and began leveraging it. As the purchaser signed closing papers, the agent would have one paper for completion that asked for 15 names and phone numbers of people whom the buyer knew.
It wasn't asked whether potential clients might be interested in the closer's business. The explanation for the question went as follows: Everyone has a desire to own a home someday. All I want to do is help them meet that goal or even help them improve their current situation.
So, along with the terminal training, use the time it takes to download the terminal software to have merchants complete a similar questionnaire, one that asks for the names of three to five merchants they know. Again, the approach is simple - all merchants should accept credit cards, and if they already do, you may be able to better their situation.
Not only will this help increase merchant retention, but it will build rapport and trust. Your customers will be more likely to trust you with their referrals if they are comfortable with you. As your merchant base grows, contacting every merchant quarterly becomes harder to do, but it is a must.
For example, if a merchant calls you with a question or concern that requires your involvement, first address the concern, ask if the individual is satisfied with the resolution and request a name of someone who could benefit from comparable service. You will be surprised at how many times you will receive a positive response.
Such contacts can potentially result in more leads.Remember, your goal is to get leads that result in new merchant contracts - directly or indirectly.
Remember, one difference between a warm and cold lead is the likely willingness of the lead to talk with you at the initial contact. Merchants who are called because someone they know and trust gave the caller their name are more likely to open up to you, creating immediate rapport.
Special care also means that you tell the referral when you can't help them. Keep in mind that what you say to a referral will likely get back to the referring merchant.
It can be a box of chocolates or even a gift card to one of your other merchants' restaurants. The size of the gift doesn't matter. Just make sure that when you drop it off you ask for more referrals.
Those who mine their merchant base often find they make fewer cold calls and spend less time chasing after cold leads. Referrals generated from your own stable of merchants make for easier sales and usually become lead sources themselves.
No matter the size of your merchant base today, start mining. You'll be surprised how fast that base grows.
Jeff Fortney is Director of Business Development with Clearent LLC. He has more than 12 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-618-7340.
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