By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.
Managing change comes easily to most payment professionals. Our industry was built on change, from the fluidity of our technology to the dynamics of the international business community in which we compete.
Change has been a core value and engine of our growth, dating back to the early days of converting merchants from paper to electronic transactions, and onward through dial to Internet protocol, countertop to mobile, offline to online, and brick and mortar to cloud.
The Association for Change Management Professionals offers a certification program in human resources, project management and organizational development for change practitioners who help individuals and companies deal with the complexities of the shifting business landscape. But when it comes to helping merchants navigate the choppy waters of security, technology, social media and interchange, nobody does it better than merchant level salespeople (MLSs).
MLSs understand merchants' love-hate relationship with change. Most merchants view changes as unwelcome disruptions of their businesses, even when they need to upgrade in response to compliance issues, hardware obsolescence and changing consumer behavior. How can we help them cross the chasm from analog devices to more secure and profitable digital processing technology? Following are some strategies to help merchants embrace such changes.
Many salespeople feel called to the profession and are passionate about what they do. They know they can make a positive difference in people's lives and businesses. Sometimes this can blind them to what customers really want.
"Each of us carries around a crippling disadvantage - we know and probably cherish our product," Tom Peters wrote in Thriving on Chaos. "After all, we live with it day in and day out. But that blinds us to why the customer may hate it - or love it. Our customers see the product through an entirely different set of lenses."
We've all been trained on various listening techniques. Yet Stephen R. Covey's technique of empathic listening, described in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, takes customer engagement to a whole new level.
"When I say empathic listening, I am not referring to the techniques of 'active' listening or 'reflective' listening, which basically involve mimicking what another person says," Covey wrote.
"When I say empathic listening, I mean listening with intent to understand. I mean seeking first to understand, to really understand."
Covey noted that empathetic listening is related to empathy and "gets inside another person's frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel."
When exploring opportunities with merchants, MLSs who focus only on existing processing systems are limiting their view; payment processing is just a small part of an overall operation. It's better to take a holistic approach by learning everything you can about a business.
This holistic, big-picture view is the path to innovation. Knowledge is power, especially today when merchants don't have to settle for plain vanilla processing.
Understanding the business requirements helps acquirers and processors deliver the right kind of solutions that reflect the business models and values of individual merchants. And understanding these requirements helps acquirers strengthen their identities and brands.
"Engineers and research scientists have long assumed that salespeople offering up customers' ideas are simply providing dream lists that would make their (the salespeople's) life easier," Peters wrote. "Senior management must intervene directly to ensure that ideas from the field are given a thorough hearing."
Whether you are trying to convince your manager that a startup, e-commerce merchant will go viral or trying to convince your merchant to upgrade to a better processing system, it's best to put your emotions aside and arm yourself with data. Prepare for your meetings with recent examples of similar successes and calculations that demonstrate return on investment.
We call our technical people for backup and try to wow our prospects with live demonstrations of leading-edge technology. But bosses may not always say the right thing, and technology is only as good as its underlying purpose and ability to solve problems.
When faced with the most intransigent merchants, it sometimes pays to offer them a free trial. This strategy is sometimes referred to as the puppy dog close, because when you take a puppy home for the night, there's a good chance you'll keep it. Credit card terminals may not be as cute as warm puppies. But if they live up to your hype and offer the right kind of programs for a merchant, there's a good chance you won't be getting them back.
Change is good. If it is the one thing we can count on, then change is also the ultimate commodity, and something that payment professionals have been successfully packaging and selling for more than 20 years.
When you see someone accepting a payment on a smart phone or tapping a contactless turnstile in a crowded subway station, take a moment to reflect on how you helped make that happen - just by taking the time to show merchants something new.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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