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August 22, 2011 • Issue 11:08:02

Working your P-L-A-N

By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.

What is a common trait of top-producing merchant level salespeople? They plan their work and work their plan. Paul Green describes planning as essential for success - not only for sales, but for every aspect of life.

"Before you pick up the phone or get in your car, set a goal for your meeting and plan how you will achieve that goal," Green said in Good Selling!SM "Know ahead of time the major points you want to emphasize during your meeting."

It helps to know as much as possible about the company and attendees of an upcoming meeting, as well as their reasons for meeting with you. What are the attendees' names and respective roles in the organization? Who among them would be most and least receptive to your services, and why?

For best results, focus on these four areas when planning your next sales call:

Problem solving

Problems exist to be solved, and that's exactly what effective sales professionals set out to do. Identifying a central issue and its contributing factors requires due diligence. But it's worth the effort because it separates sales professionals from garden variety order-takers.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins calls the cumulative impact of solving one problem after another the "flywheel effect."

"The good-to-great companies understood a simple truth: tremendous power exists in the fact of continued improvement and the delivery of results," Collins wrote. "Point to tangible accomplishments - however incremental at first - and show how these steps fit into the context of an overall concept that will work. When you do this in such a way that people see and feel the buildup of momentum, they will line up with enthusiasm."

Sales pros are not afraid to jump in and figure out problems. They enjoy playing detective and are not too proud to call for backup when the going gets too technical. They're committed to continuous innovation by employing the latest technology and stellar, ongoing support.

Listening for crucial details

There's a reason we're constantly reminded of the importance of listening. It's too easy to make assumptions about our customers. In fact, the longer you know a customer, the more likely you are to assume you know everything about the individual's likes, dislikes and business requirements. People change, businesses change, and it's important to stay current with industry trends, consumer behavior and evolving business environments.

Pay attention to your prospects and existing customers, and show them that you care. You're not out to make a quick sale, and you're not out to just solve a problem. You're out to become a partner and "go-to" trusted resource for all aspects of card processing.

"When initiating a sales dialogue with a prospective client or current client, you must understand the importance of listening;" Stephen Giglio wrote in Beating the Deal Killers. "It gives you insight into the hidden needs and wants of the client - that iceberg below the surface.

"There are times when a client will utter a seemingly innocuous word or phrase that is critical to your sale. Your job is to pick up that innocuous phrase and turn it into a specific gap in the needs and wants of your client."

Active listening skills include paying close attention to tone, body language and behavior. It also involves rephrasing what you hear to confirm your understanding of the content, context and intention of the speaker.

The habit of asking

Experienced sales professionals build up to a close with a series of smaller but highly important qualifying questions. For best results, Giglio suggests bringing a written list of questions to a meeting, itemizing everything you need to know about a customer before you engage in any recommendations or trial closes.

"A carpenter's punch list is a list of unfinished matters that require attention," he wrote. "Similarly, your list should itemize all issues (things you must know about before you can proceed) that require your attention."

Getting into the habit of asking is the master secret of closing sales, according to Charles Roth and Roy Alexander in their classic Secrets of Closing Sales. "Each time you call, try to close," they wrote. "A social call and chitchat may be pleasant. But it's not a sales call.

"You are only selling when you're trying to close. In between calls, maintain contact with your prospects and customers - a letter, a telephone call, anything that keeps you in touch. These contacts build confidence - the priceless ingredient in making sales."

Needs assessment

Asking the right questions and actively listening to clients can frequently lead to an aha! moment when a sales professional uncovers a customer's unspoken, yet very critical needs. A potential buyer's resistance to a proposal can also be very revealing, according to Barbara Pletcher, author of Saleswoman: A Guide to Career Success.

"Objections are important because they provide clues to the buyer's needs and motives," she wrote. "A successful sales call is based on understanding the customer's needs. Active techniques to overcoming objections are really additional selling efforts in the areas in which the customer is not yet convinced of the wisdom of making this purchase."

When done right, needs assessment is more than a means to an end. It's being endlessly fascinated by other people's needs, motivations and what makes them tick. Being genuinely interested in your customers will manifest itself in everything you do and motivate you to find bona fide solutions to problems.


As Pletcher stated, "Planning the sales presentation so that you deliver the right message requires extensive knowledge of the customer, the competition, your products and your firm. In selling and almost all other human endeavors, preparation pays off."

Remind your customer that "problem solved" is just the first step; you and your company are committed to being there for the long ride, continually improving your technology, services and partnership with the merchant.

Whether you're a serial signer specializing in one-call closes or a business-to-business specialist who deals with longer closing cycles, planning your work and working your plan are a sure way to increase your confidence, sales and income. end of article

Dale S. Laszig is Senior Vice President of Sales in the United States for Castles Technology Co. Ltd., a manufacturer and global provider of smart card, contactless and POS solutions. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or dale_laszig@castech.com.tw.

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