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The Green Sheet Online Edition

January 11, 2010 • Issue 10:01:01


Courting curmudgeons

Let's say one of your resolutions for 2010 is to always be positive and persistent when calling on merchants - no matter what. You arrive on time for your first appointment of the day, but after you introduce yourself and hold out your hand in greeting, the merchant blows cigar smoke in your face, sneezes, covers his mouth with his hand and immediately extends the same hand to you.

What if the next merchant on your rounds escorts you to her office door at the hour appointed for your meeting, asks you to wait in the hall while she goes to her desk and makes a phone call, then another and another, and the minutes slip by for more than half an hour before she calls you in?

You can't stand either of these individuals. What do you do? Sure, you could walk away from these sales, but a sale is a sale, and this type of merchant's money is just as good as everyone else's.

So even if the thought of pitching to certain prospects feels like nails on a chalkboard, steel your resolve, and pursue them anyway.

Look behind the behavior

Some people get a kick out of yanking other people's chains, especially during long, monotonous work days. And certain clients look forward to watching you jump every time they voice an objection or request a change. When you're in a situation like this, remind yourself that the rude behavior isn't a personal attack. It's just a flaw in the merchant's character.

Sometimes behavior that seems deliberately exasperating is due to a need for reassurance. You might find it tedious to answer the same questions over and over or to explain aspects of the industry that don't even apply to a particular merchant's processing needs.

But certain prospects need to have every last base covered in excruciating detail before they can begin to contemplate signing a contract.

These types of merchants aren't trying to frustrate you; that's simply how they are.

Make the sale

So, when dealing with annoying prospects, try the following:

  • Embrace the challenge: While your competitors might flee from ornery business owners, stand your ground. Other service providers' discomfort is your opportunity to snare these merchant accounts - with fewer competing offers to deflect.

  • Maintain control: Being ill mannered is the way certain people win negotiations. Their behavior is designed to intimidate and confuse so they can manipulate situations in their favor. Stay focused on your presentation; ignore efforts to derail you.

  • Call them on it: When clients make uncouth or disrespectful comments, repeat the words back to them, and ask if that's what they actually meant to say. If they hear their words coming out of your mouth, they might understand why you consider them to be offensive.

  • Feed their egos: Being rude is pure theater for some merchants. Their role is to get you to give them what they want. Acknowledge how good they are at what they do and what tough bargainers they are. Be flexible (but not too flexible) so they have the satisfaction of feeling they "won" as you get their signed agreements.

  • End the game: Some bothersome folks merely like the thrill of the chase. If you notice a prospect is no longer asking relevant questions or is getting off topic, ask for the sale earlier in the process.

Remember, you will deal with far more congenial than curmudgeonly individuals during your career. Treat the cranky ones as you would any other prospect. Besides, the Eeyores and Scrooges of the merchant world aren't going anywhere; you might as well get their business. end of article

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