By Jeff Fortney
I was introduced to comic books when I was eight years old, and those popular culture mainstays created a bond between my friends and me throughout our elementary school days. We would avidly discuss recent editions - and even share them so we wouldn't each have to buy every issue that came out.
(The 50 cent price tag was more than a typical weekly allowance at the time, so this was an early lesson in the value of sharing.)
We were into Superman, Batman, Captain America (my favorite) and the like. We would pretend to be our favorite characters, and as such, would save the world. For preteens, that seemed like a reachable goal.
One constant in all superhero comic books was that each hero had a closely protected secret identity, which was in constant jeopardy. They each also had something that could weaken them or destroy them, like Superman's kryptonite.
As I grew older, the lure of comic book superheroes faded, but I retained insights about identity found in the comics of yore. Like superheroes, people are classified by the roles they play, not their true or "secret" identities. And while external identity is largely a matter of how one is perceived by others, it can be what a person chooses it to be.
As ISOs and merchant level salespeople, your external identity is crucial to your customers and prospects, and to succeed, you must be their superhero. Fortunately, this identity is something you can shape.
To do this, realize that your external identity is a role like any other you play in your day-to-day life. Don't let your successes or failures at work affect your secret identity. Protect your true self (your Clark Kent) while playing your superhero sales role.
You won't, of course, see through walls, but you can project strength, knowledge and other abilities that exceed those of your competition.
Projecting strength does not mean you can bend iron bars. In the sales world, strength is projected when someone demonstrates self-confidence. You must be confident in what you say and do.
Confidence is demonstrated by how you present yourself. The key to projecting the right level of self-confidence is respect. Treat all merchants you come into contact with as true equals. Be attentive and friendly.
(If you feel the only value you derive from merchant relationships is the signing of their accounts, your prospects will sense this. It could also cause you to project a desperate air.) So respect your prospects first, and you'll receive respect in return. Knowledge is not conveyed by spewing facts and figures. Nor is it demonstrated by showing you know more than a merchant knows.
Knowledge is demonstrated in two ways:
You must also address underlying questions merchants care deeply about but do not ask. To do that, listen closely so you can recognize the real issues.
Ability is not projected by words, but by deeds. It is demonstrated when you accept a merchant's application and explain the next steps to completion. It is demonstrated by being in constant contact with the merchant throughout the boarding process, as well as after the merchant has begun processing.
Ability is also shown by how you handle stumbling blocks that arise over the course of a relationship. The speed of your responses defines ability in this instance - often more so than the actual results.
You must also be able to recognize your kryptonite, meaning characteristics that can cause you to fail. All superheroes face some form of kryptonite. In the payments world, kryptonite comes in three flavors: arrogance, ignorance and indifference.
Ignorance: Ignorance is not a lack of knowledge. Ignorance is acting as if you know everything. Nobody truly knows everything, so don't pretend you do. To thrive you must have a basic knowledge of the industry. If you aren't taking time to learn something new regularly, now is the time to start.
Your processing partner should help you gain the knowledge you need, as well as help you learn more about any topics you're not as familiar with. If your partner isn't helping you learn and grow, find one who is.
Indifference: Indifference is often simply avoidance, and this projects a lack of skill. Simply put, returning calls in a timely manner, doing what you say you'll do, giving realistic expectations, moving quickly and showing merchants how important they are to you are what you must do.
Payment superheroes do exist. And they earn a very good living. They weren't born superheroes, though. They became the stuff of legend by taking the right steps professionally, protecting their inner selves and by avoiding their kryptonite.
You can do it, too.
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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