By Bill Pirtle
C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc.
There are many sales tools available to ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs). On the GS Online MLS Forum, usually one or two posts a month are devoted to the best _________ available, where the best _________ can be anything from an ISO, to a prospecting method, to a gateway. In other words, people are always on the lookout for the best sales tools.
The catch is that there is no one best sales tool. MLSs need to explore a variety of tools to find the ones that work best for them. In this article, I share tools that I have found useful. If you like a particular tool, research it further to see if it would be a good fit for you.
In a forum topic called "Current Customers - Referrals, Additional Sales and Attrition," BLUESTAR said, "I personally think the most overlooked and underutilized resource in most sales peoples' tool boxes is their current customer list.
"When managed properly, existing customers have the ability to provide high quality referrals for new business, additional sales of other products and services with significantly lower marketing expenses, and tremendous revenue loss when they leave you for another vendor."
CLEARENT added that the challenge is when the sales rep receives the majority of his commission up front. "This tends to lessen retention efforts on the part of the agent, and likewise the opportunity to bond with existing merchants," he said. "Simply put, your largest source of referrals should be your existing merchant base.
"They are sending people to you because they trust you and, as a result, the person they refer will likely be more open to listening." In asking the forum about sales tools, BLUESTAR's hope was "to encourage dialogue on the techniques or strategies proven to work or that were tried but didn't work. I understand people don't want to lose their competitive edge, but this thread would be truly helpful for people trying to grow their businesses.
"One recommendation I share here is hiring a person to just call on existing customers, ensuring they are touched at least once a quarter. This person could say, 'Hi, this is _________ from _________, the company that provides your _________ services. I just wanted to touch base and make sure everything is going okay with your service.
"I also wanted to make sure your email address is correct and you are receiving our monthly newsletters with information about our other products and services. Do you have any questions about any of those products? Do you need to re-order paper, supplies, gift cards, etc.? Lastly, I want to remind you about our referral program. Here are the details. Is there anyone you would like to refer to us?'
"I have to believe paying a person like this $500 per week would generate a great ROI."
LADERA BUSINESS SOLUTIONS has a group dedicated to making follow-up calls. "We turn the account over to them after the merchant has received two statements," LADERA BUSINESS SOLUTIONS said. "They call and ask for referrals, pitch other products, etc.
"You have to be ready for the 'Can you lower my rates?' request, but other than that, the program is very successful for us. I actually have considered increasing the program."
Referrals are an excellent tool for use in sales. But not everyone agrees that current clients are the best source of referrals. Author and referral expert Tim R. Green believes happy clients only comprise a small portion of referrals (for more information, see "Referrals: Do you play the numbers game?" by Bill Pirtle, The Green Sheet, Feb. 28, 2011, issue 11:02:02).
Other articles I penned in issues 11:07:01, 11:07:02 and 11:08:01 focused on other referral ideas from Business Networking International BNI founder Ivan Misner and Local Business Network founder Chuck Gifford. A satisfied client might lead you to similar clients, but an accountant or other contact might get you into a chain.
In response to BLUESTAR's post, NCRUM offered, "I have been very successful in retaining my accounts. One of many things I do is use SendOutCards. You can build a campaign and automatically send strategic messages throughout the year. Email or PM me and I will be happy to show you what I do and discuss other items."
JDECKARD suggested caution, saying, "SendOutCards is a MLM [multilevel marketing] online service. I've used it for years, and it's an effective way to do a mailer, but the quality leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to that 'personal' touch.
"It's a great way to send a holiday card to 1,000 prospects, but runs the chance of looking cheap when marketing to clients. If you take the time to make a personalized card for each client, it can be a nice touch. But if you're going to invest that much time, why not just call or stop by and see them in person?
"The real deal is about MLM and selling SendOutCards to other people. This aside, I've been involved for about six years, have done several promotions and have made my money back many times over."
GMARTIN uses SendOutCards daily. "I am a distributor, but I've never marketed it," GMARTIN said. "It's a great product to give a little personal touch. But as John says, you have to personalize the cards. I've gotten many 'thank you' notes from my customers stating that I was the only person who sent them a birthday card."
While writing Navigating Through the Risks of Credit Card Processing, I invited Kathy Koze, a senior manager with SendOutCards, to write a chapter on using the cards for client retention. If you would like to view her chapter on customer retention using SendOutCards, email me and I will forward you the chapter in PDF.
The prices at SendOutCards have come down in recent years. You can sign up as a customer, an independent distributor or a marketing distributor. While technically an MLM company, business professionals can sign up as distributors - with no intention of ever selling the program - just to use the system to the fullest. While I know of many distributors, Niles is the only one I know of in our industry who promotes it. He can show you how he uses it to sign and retain clients.
Check out Sales Genie
One popular topic on the forum is sales leads and products like Sales Genie from InfoUSA.com Inc. On this topic, CLEARENT stated, "Sales Genie, when you use all parts of it, is like a CRM sales module measuring the lead, etc. It also lets you pull down a list of leads sorted in various fashions. Remember, a lead from these is just information - it's up to you to use it wisely."
For large ISOs, Sales Genie can be a great tool for pulling business leads. For smaller ISOs and one-man offices, it is not as attractive. One sales agent from Sales Genie I spoke with turned me off of the program when he proudly mentioned that several large processors used his company.
I knew better than to expect that the leads would be exclusive, but paying $1,000 a year for the same leads that larger competitors were getting seemed excessive. To get the jump on the lead companies, have you considered buying new dba (doing business as) lists from the county you are targeting? Or have you tried accessing the new corporate listings filed with the state?
Chambers of commerce can be good sources as well, provided you try to build relationships and not just hand out business cards and expect results.
Agents should also consider offering other products. Most jump to check, gift, loyalty, ATMs and phone cards, but others are mentioned in issue 11:06:01 ("Become the go-to expert on merchant services," by Bill Pirtle, The Green Sheet, June 13, 2011). If you see a topic of interest, come to the forum and ask the experts. BLUESTAR (Marc Brown) can help with loyalty programs, TEXASCOMMERCE with gift card programs and CARDPLAYER (Don Apgar) is considered top notch with Payment Alliance International's ATM program.
One issue that has always plagued me is spending time in the office versus being in the field. As a writer and publisher, and needing to be available for book collaborators, I recently purchased a smart phone with a data plan. I now have the ability to access important email in the field without lugging my 17-inch laptop everywhere I go.
I also have the ability to expand the screen image to make most text easily readable. I picked up the Apple Inc. iPhone 4S, and I love it, but there are great Android phones as well. Thousands of apps (applications) that can be downloaded to make you more productive. Many apps free for phones that operate on Google Inc.'s Android operating system have a cost associated with the iPhone - due mostly to the fee to the app developer.
If you offer eProcessing Network LLC, USAePay or other gateways, you should be able to find a free app for both phone types; these are good not only because they enable you to accept credit cards in the field for terminal purchases, but you can also use them to show potential clients how easy it is to accept electronic payments.
I hope you found the insights shared here useful and that you take the time to find which work best for you. But there is no magic bullet. Different tips and techniques will work differently for every agent. It is up to you to find the ones that work best for you.
What you do today, determines your tomorrow.
Bill Pirtle is the President of C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc., a joint venture with Theodore Svoronos of Merchant University. Created to establish a comprehensive training program for ISOs and merchant level salespeople, C3ET is working with industry experts to produce a training guide to be published in early 2012. Bill's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes all connections on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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