By Jeff Fortney
When I was s a child, my parents and I would go on a road trip each year. One trip still stands out, not because of where we went, but because of one specific incident that I still remember very clearly.
I was 15, and like every teenager, I lived in constant fear my parents would say or do something to embarrass me. Basically everything they said or did embarrassed me, so I was on constant alert.
On this particular trip, we stopped at a small truck stop. There was a gift shop inside, and my mom convinced me that it might be fun to check it out. As we looked at the local knickknacks, a toddler ran around the end of the aisle, right into me. The mom was only a few steps behind.
No one was hurt. After seeing that the child was OK, my mother said, "I love her dark curly hair. She is sure cute." The mom looked aghast and responded, "He's a boy."
My mother then said, "He is cute anyway." As we walked back to the car, she mumbled, "He would be cute as a girl, too." From that point forward, she never attempted to define a child's sex by appearance alone. I, too, learned to do the same, consciously avoiding gender-specific terms. We both learned a valuable lesson from her faux pas.
These types of statements have many names. I believe that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, coined the term best: "Dentopedalogy is the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it. I've been practicing it for years."
The sales profession is not immune to dentopedalogy. When it happens, it can have a serious impact on sales. One innocent but badly timed statement can cause an opportunity to vaporize instantly.
These situations can cause very expensive lessons. However, if merchant level salespeople (MLSs) prepare for them ahead of time, and follow these simple steps, they can reduce the likelihood of them happening.
As sales calls progress and agents bond with merchants and build rapport, there is a risk that MLSs will forget they are on stage, playing the role of salesperson. Once I was making a presentation to the board of directors of a very large merchant. This was the final meeting before they decided who would handle the company's payment processing, so my stress level was very high.
As the presentation progressed, it was obvious they were pleased with the offering, and the room seemed to relax. As the room relaxed, so did I. From a formal presentation, it evolved into a time of banter and shared laughter.
The CEO, who was laughing along with everyone else, said, "I have a dumb question." I gave my normal reply, "There are no dumb questions." He asked his question, and I jokingly responded, "Except for that one." Everyone laughed, including the CEO, and I then answered his question.
As I shook each of their hands, I knew it was a done deal. That is until I returned to my office and checked my email. In it was a message from my contact explaining that they would not be signing with us because, "The CEO does not like to be laughed at."
That day I had forgotten that I was there as a salesperson. By relaxing and joining in the revelry instead of performing my role, I lost a $100 million merchant account.
In the following post, GS Online MLS Forum member RBELCHER showed you can also forget your role when the sale is all but closed: "As he was leaving a merchant, he added one last line, 'And congratulations.' 'For what?' she asked. 'The new baby coming!' [he] said. As it turns out, she was not pregnant and never took my calls after that."
In an effort to better bond with the customer, the MLS forgot an important rule. Never volunteer comments to merchants unless they are based on something the merchants have told you directly. In this case, he forgot his role as a salesperson and lost the opportunity.
Now consider the time between the merchant's verbal commitment and when a contract is signed. Do you proceed with the paperwork or try to sell additional products?
JMATHIS provided a clear example of the oversell. As the merchant was signing the contract, he added just one sentence, "Have you thought about gift cards?"
That little addition complicated the deal, as the merchant had not settled on branding. "I never did get the deal," JMATHIS said. "The application was already signed but they told us to hold off until they decided about the gift cards."
I am not saying you should sign the merchant and run. However, if you have successfully identified the merchant's needs prior to the signing, then there's no need to try to sell other products.
Even a proper post-close can cost you a sale if the merchant thinks you're being pushy. This happened to one of JMATHIS' reps, who lost a sale even though he was just trying to complete the application.
Instead of looking at the terminal, he asked what he thought was a simple question, "Is your terminal IP or dial?" The merchant responded, "What do you mean?"
The rep said, "Well, an older terminal will typically use a phone line and newer ones can use the Internet and are much faster." The merchant, starting to act concerned and said, "Well I have a dial terminal, so now are you trying to sell me something?"
The rep, in an effort to save the deal, responded, "No, we can work with the older terminal you are currently using." The merchant then replied, "Get out."
Although this didn't look or sound like an attempt to continue selling, the comment about the older terminal and its slower speed resulted in the merchant thinking it was an effort to sell him a new terminal. This is a good reminder that perception is often reality.
Or as BILLPIRTLE said, "It did not cost me the sale, but once I had a friend from a networking group tell me, 'I want the program. You can shut up and show me what we need to do.' This is exactly why sales agents need to listen more and not oversell."
Ann Landers once said, "The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven't thought of yet."
When I get excited about a certain topic, my rhythm speeds up. I tend to speak often, which means I may end up dominating the conversation. In sales, this is a bad thing. Yet some of the most successful salespeople are those who can speak quickly. They address the needs of the merchant, show they are the right person to fulfill the need and move the sale along.
However, in speaking quickly, they are sometimes unaware of what they are saying or the impact it will have on the merchant. The best salespeople listen to identify the merchant's needs and then provide clear solutions. They may speak quickly, but they use an effective technique to keep the merchant talking. They follow the merchant's comments with one simple word: and.
That word said during a pause in the conversation encourages merchants to keep talking so sellers can continue learning without jumping to conclusions about merchant needs.
SDSORENSEN once jumped to conclusions about a prospective merchant's needs by saying, "In this area, you generally spend more money guaranteeing the checks than you would if you just ate a bad check every once in a while." Of course, the only reason the merchant wanted to talk to him was because she wanted check conversion/guarantee.
"After my statement, she began to think twice about check services," SDSORENSEN wrote. "I never got the merchant account or the check services. Open mouth, insert foot."
Thomas Edison said, "You will have many opportunities in life to keep your mouth shut. You should take advantage of every one of them." The more we listen, the easier the sale. All it takes is you encouraging the merchant to talk, even when you want to jump in.
In years past, it wasn't uncommon for a salesperson to get the merchant's signature, then get out of there before the merchant had second thoughts.
Today, this is no longer the definition of a successful sale. Some will argue that success is after the merchant's first true batch, while others will say success only occurs after the first statement.
However, as I mentioned above, a critical phase of the sale is the post-close, the time after the signature when the next steps in the process are discussed.
The post-close varies little from merchant to merchant. You explain what happens next, along with the timeline for reprogramming the terminal. It is literally a script that can be followed each time.
However, more sales are lost during the post-close than at any other time in the process. The primary reason is we go off-script. LADERABUSINESSSOLUTIONS offered a clear example of what can happen when we do.
"Early in my sales career I was sitting across a desk from a prospective client and noticed a picture of him and his mother on the desk.
I was about to say something stupid like, nice picture of you and your mom, but luckily I did not. I later found out the woman in the picture was his wife."
Straying from the script has consequences. Actors may be able to do so, but in many cases, those ad libs we hear are well rehearsed. Comedian Joey Adams said, "Of course, it's very easy to be witty tomorrow, after you get a chance to do some research and rehearse your ad libs."
Rehearse your post-close, and stick to the script no matter how relaxed you are with the merchant. That's the best way to prevent yourself from opening your mouth and inserting your foot.
No matter how skillfully you play your role, listen well, and stay on script, difficult situations can and do crop up. They may even be out of your control.
At 15, my daughter was asked to baby-sit two younger children, a boy and a girl. She had not met them before, so when she arrived they were in the back room playing as she received her instructions. She was told, "Megan goes to bed at 8, and Sam at 9."
After the parents left, she went into the back room and was somewhat shocked to see that they were wearing the same outfits, and had similar hair styles. Instead of getting their names straight, she just played with both of them at the same time. But when 8 p.m. came, she realized she would have to ask who was who.
Remembering my story from my teenage years, she chose a different approach. She encouraged them to head to their rooms for bed time, and when one said, "I get to stay up longer then her," she had found Sam.
When similar difficulties occur on sales calls, learn from this situation. And when you navigate the dilemma successfully, pass along your experience to others.
My daughter was glad I did.
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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