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The Green Sheet Online Edition

September 26, 2011 • Issue 11:09:02


Your merchant ground control unit

Every businessperson experiences downturns in sales cycles. It's a natural part of doing business. But how you deal with slower sales periods can be a key determinant in whether you achieve your long-term vision. The next time you find yourself wedged in a sales rut, you might want to try this pragmatic approach for breaking through to renewed business vitality.

First, recognize that a problem exists and then identify the source. Ask yourself what caused the recent dip in sales and residuals. Is it the loss of a major account or perhaps several accounts? Have sales leads slowed to a trickle, or are they just not generating the desired outcome? Maybe you simply feel less motivated than you'd like to be.

Now that you've underscored the problem, here's an underutilized resource you can draw upon to help you get back on track.

Ground control

Before deciding upon any remedial steps, consult with your "ground control" unit - your loyal merchant base - to gauge current market conditions and foresee any changes on the horizon. Your satisfied merchant customers can provide invaluable insights into the retail picture, scoping it from all angles.

Ask this core group to describe their individual situations. Ask them what seems to be working and what obstacles might be impacting their profitability. Find out what you're doing that is particularly helpful to them and what they'd like to see you do better. Scratch below the surface to unearth any technical, compliance or processing issues in need of resolution. Ask them what they have heard from others pertaining to current and future market conditions. And by all means, ask for referrals from each member of this group to help jump-start your sales efforts.

Applied strategy

The inside intelligence gleaned from your core merchants will help in structuring an action plan. Analyze the information you've gathered, and apply what you've learned to future sales calls. Periodically check with your ground control merchants until you've regained footing and are positioned to stay on course in the future. And remember to thank them for their time and support, offering rewards to those whose ideas are most likely to translate into tangible results.

When revamping your sales strategy, it's important to not over-correct areas that are working properly. For example, if your sales pitch has succeeded with countless merchants in the past, it probably only needs a minor adjustment.

With renewed vigor and clarity gained from ground control, you are now ready to entice prospects with relevant products and services connected to emerging trends. Lay out the benefits based on discussions you've had with your loyal merchant base. Provide plenty of specific examples of how prospects can benefit from what you have to offer. Before you know it, the excitement in your voice will begin to reap rewards.

As you continue to refine the sales process, continuously analyze all the variables to identify further strengths and weaknesses you can either exploit or correct. Have you targeted the right merchant types? Has your new approach positively impacted the size of the deal? How is your bottom line looking this month? What are your income projections for the next three to six months? The answers to these questions will help guide you to renewed profitability.

Selling is an evolutionary process that requires vigilant monitoring and feedback. When you engage loyal merchants, you're one step closer to finding another perfect merchant match. end of article

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