By Jeff Fortney
January is the traditional time for making New Year's resolutions. Whether they're for personal goals, tackling a certain project or changing a habit, we make resolutions to help us accomplish something important in the coming year.
Keeping resolutions can be challenging, but the practice can have a tremendous impact on our lives. In the payments world, we too should make resolutions because they can help us grow our businesses and our bottom lines.
For those of you who are already tossing around some ideas for New Year's resolutions, I'd like to suggest that you add one about honesty to your list, such as "I hereby resolve to be fully honest in my sales efforts in 2012."
You might wonder why I've chosen such a topic, or even be a little put out by it, but let me explain. The majority of independent sales agents and merchant level salespeople will tell you, when you ask them point blank, that they're completely honest.
However, even the most honest people in our industry have moments where they walk the fine line between truth and deception.
Chances are we've all been in this gray area at one time or another when we speak a partial truth or tell a white lie, as some call it. Many times this lie is unintentional, but it still happens.
The primary areas that tarnish honesty revolve around fear, misconceptions and access to information. If we look closely, I bet we can each find instances like this in our recent past. Therefore, it only makes sense that honesty should be a 2012 resolution.
The next step is to make sure that this resolution, like others we've set before, is not too vague or too broad. Otherwise, the result will be like resolutions we set long ago, but have since forgotten.
Many memory tricks can help us remember important information. One is association. So, without further adieu, I'd like to share three television quotes to help drive this point home.
When faced with a question on the three Cabinet agencies he would close if elected, Perry specified two he deems unnecessary and then stammered for a while, checking his notes and staring at the camera while being unable to remember the third.
His fellow candidates even made suggestions, which made matters worse. The only thing he could think of to say was, "Oops."
Instead of simply saying that he had forgotten, his choice of words and actions made the situation much worse, causing him to become a punch line for many late-night TV hosts.
Don't be afraid to admit that you've forgotten. We all forget things from time to time. After all, we're only human.
When it happens, don't try to cover it up. Be honest and admit that you've forgotten, apologizing when appropriate. Your honesty will go a long way with a merchant. Learn from your mistake and move on.
In an effort to hold a turkey giveaway for Thanksgiving, sitcom character Mr. Carlson decided to give away the birds by pushing them out of a helicopter from 500 feet.
Obviously, he hadn't done his research, because the turkeys began "hitting the ground like bags of wet cement," according to the character of newsman and eyewitness Les Nessman. Carlson's assumption that all game birds can fly led to a fateful result.
The lesson here is that when we're confronted with a question or a situation, we shouldn't take our limited knowledge and expand it to fit that situation.
Even if you think you know the answer, it's better to admit honestly that you may know the answer but want to confirm it first. That helps you ensure you're giving customers the right information.
After doing your research, you may find you were correct. Or you may find you were taking an answer that fit a different set of facts and twisting it to fit the situation at hand.
Ultimately, this can make the situation worse because you may give the merchant inaccurate information. Just make sure you don't wait too long to research your answer. Providing your customers with quick, accurate answers will help build trust.
At times, merchants asks us questions that tempt us to respond much the way Al Bundy does. Merchants may describe situations that happened to them. Yet instead of examining the situation more closely, we say, "That will never happen with us."
In essence, you're implying - without fully understanding the situation - that the other processor did something wrong. It's just easier to blame the competition and hope that it never happens with you.
In such cases, it is better to ask a few clarifying questions so that you can provide the merchant with an honest answer. If it's something like a chargeback or fraud, you may not have been able to do anything differently. But if you don't offer an honest answer, your reputation could be damaged forever.
It's better to lose a deal than not be completely honest. Merchants will accept a lack of knowledge if you tell them you'll quickly track down the answer.
However, they'll be suspicious of a misleading answer or one that is said out of fear. These situations do serious damage to your claim of expertise, are a poor approach to sales and give our industry a bad name.
When you keep your resolution to be honest, you'll find your merchants are more cooperative and more likely to send you future business. And best of all, your honesty may result in referrals from merchants who did not sign with you. Keep in mind that honesty really is the best policy.
Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.
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