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The Green Sheet Online Edition

December 13, 2010 • Issue 10:12:01

Stay tuned to your needs when selling

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

For many of us, the radio is a constant companion. In the car, we preset our favorite channels; on road trips, we seek stations that play the format we most like to hear.

Our tastes range from pop to talk, country to smooth jazz. Many car radios even have a scan function so you can get a snippet of a station and decide if it's a keeper.

Just as we have favorites, we have formats we don't like. Often, we'll switch from a station simply because we have such strong feelings about the song being played.

If you've ever been on a road trip with teenagers, you know how selecting the radio station to play can cause constant arguments. When my wife was young, her father eliminated that issue by purchasing a car with no radio.

However, even though we all have different tastes, there is one station everyone listens to, everyone recognizes and everyone seeks. It's WII-FM, also known by its full name, What's In It For Me.

Yes, everyone listens to this station, even the most philanthropic of us. What is in it for someone may be a warm feeling of helping someone, but it's still a consideration.

Losing your signal

Unfortunately, in the payments world, merchant level salespeople (MLSs) often lose the WII-FM signal. For example, you have an appointment with a retail store - not a large store, but one doing a sufficient amount of volume to make it a good prospect.

You have mentally prepared for the meeting and have set your expectations. You have even set your "walk away" price, the rate you won't drop below. You are confident both in your presentation and what you have to offer.

Upon entering the store, you start with admirable aplomb, but as the conversation progresses, you slowly lose control of the meeting. In fact, the prospective merchant customer is now in full control. The merchant tells you what he wants in service, equipment and even price.

You know the merchant's service expectations can be met, but there is a catch on the reporting needs. And even though you are familiar with the merchant's preferred terminal, you aren't sure it will do what the merchant wants it to do. And last but not least, the price is below your minimum.

Then you stray from your plan. You want the deal so badly that you answer yes to all of the prospect's requirements even though you know most of them are iffy at best.

The merchant signs a contract, and you walk away happy - or so you think - until you discover you can't meet the stated reporting needs, and the terminal won't do what you promised. You spend days trying to find a work-around, and it doesn't work to the merchant's satisfaction.

Instead of listening to WII-FM, you forgot that retailers listen to their versions of the same channel, and your prospect's signal was stronger than yours.

You became desperate, and in so doing you created serious problems. You also cut off future business from merchants this unhappy customer could have referred to you.

Even if you find a way to fix the reporting and the terminal issues, you are still making less than you intended. And you live with this until the merchant leaves your portfolio, which won't be soon since you are below the market price.

Staying tuned

This example is all too common, yet scenarios like this can be avoided by following these three simple rules:

  1. Keep in mind that your prospects' agendas are different than yours. Merchants aren't looking out for you; they are looking out for themselves.

    No matter what they say, you are more of an expert in payment processing than they claim they are. Look out for yourself; no one else will.

  2. Stick to your plan no matter how painful. If you are forced to drop below your profit floor, walk away. Don't let the excitement of the sale determine its value.

    You set your bottom price for a reason, and that reason should be grounded in your business plan. If you move off that floor, it will move your goals farther away.

  3. Remember that honesty is always best. A successful MLS doesn't lie or deceive to make a sale. Our industry is built on residual income. If a relationship begins with a lie, the long-term income it can provide is immediately at risk.

    If a merchant asks for something you are unsure you can deliver, fess up, and say you will find out what is possible. And do this before you sign the agreement.

Merchants will tell you everything they want, not necessarily what they need. It's your job to identify what they need, and if you deliver it, they will be satisfied.

Meanwhile, WII-FM should be your "station" of choice, running all the time. Listen to it during every sales call, and you will avoid those "what did I just do?" moments. end of article

Jeff Fortney is Director of Business Development with Clearent LLC. He has more than 12 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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