By Jeff Fortney
Ask any salesperson, and he or she will likely tell you sales is among the toughest professions. However, it's one of the few that rewards you based on your efforts, thus making it a lucrative career for many. Because salespeople face many challenges, they are always on the lookout for the answer to this important question: How can I make my job easier? Often they turn to sales training to find an easier way to success.
Sales training comes in many forms and fashions, as evidenced by the 560 million hits I received when I googled the term. There are varied themes and approaches, from the ones offered by Jeffrey Gitomer in his book Little Red Book of Selling to advice from self-help pioneer Dale Carnegie.
You can learn to sell to VITO (Very Important Top Officer) or how to never cold call again. Some methods have been around since Ben Franklin's time; others just hit the scene this year. A select few appear specific to payment processing sales, but in most cases, a sale is a sale, and the techniques taught in other sales spheres translate well to our profession.
Choosing the right class can be tricky. That's why I know many sales professionals who have taken multiple courses, picking and choosing elements from each to help sharpen their skills.
Even with all of these available approaches, most sales training courses have one common module - handling objections. No matter what your technique or how you sell, the time will come when merchants will raise objections to your pitches. All training courses recognize that how you handle objections may make the difference between success and failure.
Some courses offer six ways to handle objections; others might offer eight. Some are titled "Overcoming Objections"; others are called "Eliminating Objections" or "Objections as Sales Opportunities." Even with all of this advice at our fingertips, none of it seems to address the industry-specific objections we all face.
If handling objections correctly has such a large influence on one's success, it is only prudent to examine the most common objections in the payment processing business. It's also essential to know which excuses presented by prospects are not true objections.
Merchants may give you many reasons that sound like rejections, but often they are not voicing true objections. The same is true for straightforward no answers. A yes is obviously not an objection, unless it's followed by the word "but"; then it's what comes after that one little word that you need to be concerned about.
Each sales trainer will provide the following steps for handling objections (dubbed LREA for the first letter of each step):
The steps are the same regardless of the objection. They also apply to the payments world. However, how you explore and answer the objections you face will vary greatly.
Objections fall into many categories. Understanding these categories is what helps salespeople respond effectively. Before examining common payment objections, I want to examine reactionary objections.
Once, after completing a seminar on the payment cycle to a roomful of merchants, I asked for questions. An older woman who reminded me of Granny from the Tweety Bird cartoons rose to ask the first question. She said, "I get 20 to 25 salespeople who come into my business every week. They all say, 'Show me your statement, and I'll save you money.' What should I tell them?"
Her question was one of those I was taught early on not to answer directly. It's like when you're asked, "Does this dress make me look fat?" So I responded with a question, "What would you like to tell them?"
Standing at all of five feet tall, she said, "I want to tell them to stick it up their behinds." The room erupted in laughter. I told her she had every right to tell them that. I then shared a few instances where letting a sales rep see her statement might help her.
Unlike other objections, a reactionary objection can be avoided, as long as you're conscious about what you say and do. Recognize what upsets merchants and avoid that situation. In essence, LREA occurs before you even make the call. Know what you're going to say before you say it. If you know the common statements that frustrate merchants, you won't have any objections to address.
I asked fellow members of the GS Online MLS Forum for input. Many offered examples of common objections they face.
JMATHIS shared the following, "The owner is not in," "My spouse handles that," "I don't have time to talk to you right now" and "Can you come back later?"
CARDPLAYER added a unique perspective to delaying tactics. "The best example is a nail salon where the clerk came out from behind the backroom curtain to advise the following: 'Owner say that owner not in.'"
In each case, the merchant is trying to get the MLS to leave, without even having to talk to the rep. You are then left with two choices: leave and return later, hoping the merchant will talk to you then, or address their objection right then and there.
Here's how you could use LREA in this situation:
This even works with CARDPLAYER's objection. You could say to the store employee, "Could you please go ask the owner when the owner will be back in?"
Delaying tactics are common in every industry. However, if you take control of the situation and make sure the merchant understands that your time is important, too, you'll be able to overcome these delays.
Often avoidance is followed by a delay. When you return at your scheduled time, some prospects look for a reason to avoid even talking. According to 1SLICK67, the most commonly heard delay is "We are happy with our current processor." Others along this same vein are "I process with my bank" and "We don't know how long we'll be in business and don't want to sign a contract."
When responding to an avoidance objection, the key component of LREA is E: explore. Ask questions, such as:
In every case your question prompts the merchant to answer, thereby helping you overcome the merchant's objections. Many merchants may not even know the name of their processors or their representatives.
They won't likely know that banks are not processors or that they outsource that portion of their business. In all cases, present yourself as an interested professional who can provide merchants with information they didn't have before.
The contrarians' objections often extol the virtues of their current service provider relationships, what a great price they have, and how it would be difficult and expensive to change. Others may have had such negative experiences with payment processors that they may have no desire to speak to you whatsoever.
Common objections focused on price include, "No one can beat my price" and "I'm only paying 1 percent." Your next step is to explore, but you should direct the exploration. Both of the objections just mentioned can be handled the same way.: "I do hear that occasionally, and sometimes it's true, but sometimes it's not. I would be thrilled to see if it's true, but often when we look at the pricing together we find something unique. Has anyone helped you confirm your price?"
BER concentrates on the POS world and has heard several objections related to expense, including, "Because of my POS provider, it will cost you $1,000 to switch me" and "I have a cash advance terminal that you can't switch."
In some cases, these truly are deal breakers, not objections. The only way to know is to explore the situation more deeply. Say something like, "I work with many POS providers/cash advance/loyalty companies. Who are you working with? Maybe we work together already, and I might be able to address any concerns you have with the product or support."
If you determine the rate actually is 1 percent or the POS system is truly proprietary, then you can honestly advise the merchant of the situation and thank the individual for his or her time. However, the majority of merchants are not paying 1 percent, and many available POS systems work on multiple platforms. Don't allow the merchant's skewed perception to be the reason your deal doesn't proceed.
You may also hear, "You're all crooks" or "You're no different than that last guy who lied to me." Handling these objections requires great skill and tact. Apologize for the merchant's previous experiences and speak honestly about the industry.
You can also add, "Sadly there are those in our industry who have little to no ethics. I am not one of them. Could you explain what happened to make you feel this way?" Sometimes all it takes is letting the merchant vent, and you'll be on your way to closing the sale.
You may also come across instances in which a personal reason is behind an objection. CCGUY offered two examples: "My processor is a relative" and "My brother/cousin/brother-in-law, etc. is my bank card agent." JMATHIS added: "My cousin's aunt's uncle's daughter Georgia set me up."
It is true that blood is thicker than water, and overcoming these objections can be very difficult. One option is to compare the level of service. For example, say, "That is very handy.
"However, I have found situations where merchants like you weren't 100 percent satisfied with the service they were receiving. Sometimes family relationships can be a major stumbling block. Could that be the case here?"
Another option is to ask, "Do you think they're looking for a job? Your loyalty tells me they may be very good at what they do." In both cases, listen closely to their responses; you may find an opening to discuss how you can better serve their needs if only their cousins/aunts/uncles weren't involved.
There are hundreds of objections that aren't mentioned here. The majority will either be delaying, avoidance or contrarian, and can be handled accordingly. If you remember to follow LREA, you can and will be able to address almost every objection.
Beyond LREA, remember that overcoming objections by making false claims or promising more than you can deliver is never wise. As BER added, "By far the most important sales tool we have is our integrity. You can't make a good deal with a bad guy. Don't live one way and sell another."
You will not sign every deal, but if you hold yourself to the highest ethical standard, you will succeed.
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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