By Jeff Fortney
The most difficult thing to do as a salesperson is to set time aside to gain knowledge. Time costs money, and time taken away from selling is very expensive. Yet the complexity of the payments world creates a Catch-22: there is much to learn, but the cost of your time spent learning can seem too great.
The question then is how does a successful merchant level salesperson (MLS) balance the need to sell and the need to learn? To become a successful MLS, you must understand what you need to learn and the true value of the training.
Knowledge is not always king. Indeed, some knowledge can be truly dangerous, as in cases where information is adapted to address a specific question or need for which it was not intended. As a result, the adapted information often worsens the situation, rather than resolving it. It's like trying to put a round peg into a square hole.
Before scheduling any training, ask these questions:
Benefits come in many forms. It can be a direct benefit, like a new product that will add to your sales toolbox. This new product may open more doors. It may also create a direct benefit if it adds to your knowledge of the key component of your sales approach.
For example, you may want to lead with gift cards in your presentation. Learning the specifics about how gift card customers tend to be loyal customers can add to that lead-in.
Training may create an indirect benefit. One such indirect benefit is gaining knowledge in an area that affects all merchants in your merchant base. For example, learning the basics behind interchange qualifications can help your merchants avoid unnecessary downgrades or surcharges.
Many training classes sound general in nature and seem beneficial, but turn out to be nothing more than concealed sales pitches.
Instead of learning something new, you are being taught how to sell the sponsoring company's specific product. You may go into the training hoping to learn about multiple terminals but soon discover you are only being taught about one terminal and how it is better than others.
Other times, training may only be on how a processor does something, and not training on the topic as a whole.
A prime example is Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) compliance. The processor may be training you on how to explain what it does, not the details on why merchants should care and what they can do to become PCI compliant.
Make sure you fully understand the topics to be covered - and exactly how they will be covered - before committing your time to any training session.
There is much to learn in the industry, but much of that knowledge is used only in certain situations. Instead of benefiting you globally, it may only benefit you in a specific situation.
If something is not used, often it is quickly lost. You may want to know about the topic, but you may not really need to know it. Unless you can justify the loss of sales time for the knowledge gained, it's best to wait until it is truly needed. Must I master this topic or do I have a resource to refer to when and if the need arises?
Everyone must obtain a basic level of knowledge to be successful. However, everyone does not need to become expert in all aspects of his or her chosen sphere. For example, a general practice physician will seek a specialist for certain needs.
The same applies to you, as ISOs and MLSs: seek specialists when needed. Know and have the ability to discuss the basics of payment processing. But also have a partner or mentor who can answer the questions you don't need to know on a daily basis - the ones that may arise only on occasion.
This is one of the most important questions that should be answered before scheduling any training on the topic.
We all know people who have been professional students, people who never seem to graduate. Instead, they are constantly attending another class or chasing another degree.
They may have a lot of knowledge, but they never put it to use. Additionally, the cost of obtaining that knowledge is never recovered.
The same applies to training opportunities. Hundreds of opportunities are available, and many may seem of value. But remember, it's possible to spend all your time learning and little time putting that knowledge to use.
Now, even if you have just answered all the primary questions in a positive way, you must justify the expense of the training and the cost of your time spent.
Time is often difficult to measure in terms of value, especially in the sales world. You can measure your time by the number of calls you could make during that time frame or by the number of sales generated by those calls. Even this approach can be difficult because every minute truly has a different value.
The simplest way to justify the time is to schedule your training during times when you cannot makes sales to your customer base. For example, if you target restaurants, you would want to schedule your training during their lunch rush, a time when they are typically least receptive to sales calls. If your portfolio includes retail stores, you would want to schedule your training before 10:30 a.m.
You could have used the recent holiday season - a very busy time for most retailers - to best advantage by scheduling a relevant and valuable training session that would benefit you in 2011. But again, when considering any training, make sure it's knowledge you actually need and will use frequently.
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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