The Green Sheet Online Edition
September 24, 2012 • Issue 12:09:02
New era, same old game for MLSs
Disruption is nothing new for payments industry professionals. We've been shaking things up for more than 20 years. We may be entering a new era of relationship marketing. But merchant level salespeople (MLSs) have been in the relationship business for a long time, and that gives us a definite edge on the consumer engagement playing field.
The fact that we have new players in our midst should be taken as a compliment. We've built a solid, profitable business that's attracting giants like Apple Inc., Amazon.com, PayPal Inc. and Google Inc. Even consumer product brands are getting into our game, jumping over merchants and forging direct relationships with consumers, to the tremendous consternation of merchants everywhere.
Customers sidestepping traditional merchants
What happens to merchants when consumers opt in to special brand offers and use their laptops, tablets and smart phones to order products directly from master distributors? Brick-and-mortar stores and even e-commerce retailers can be marginalized by this process, becoming Internet showrooms and neglected outposts in the new commerce chain.
When merchants question us about emerging trends in payment technology, what they're really asking is how they can remain relevant, retain existing customers and attract new ones.
We can help them win the day by focusing on four core essentials.
- Show, don't tell: Demos are back in vogue for a reason. We've reached another crossroads in payment processing where new technology can intimidate merchants. The emergence of payment solutions on tablets, smart phones, integrated POS systems, mobile, and contact and contactless smart card technologies is every bit as earth-shattering as our original exodus from paper to electronic transactions.
Equipment demos have the dual advantage of making technology accessible while taking the focus off price. Physical interaction demonstrates how products work and how they complement a merchant's business. Showing also takes less time than explaining. We've always advised merchants to accept all forms of payments to avoid the risk of losing a sale. Demonstrate the ease of accepting contact and contactless smart card payments to help merchants stay top-of-mind with their customers, who are increasingly adopting these new payment methods.
- Sell value, not price: Sales professionals are trained to sell on value rather than price, but saying it and doing it can be two different things. Sales management trainer Kevin Davis recommends going beyond a one-size-fits-all value proposition and creating something that uniquely and specifically addresses the needs of each client.
"The value of what you sell is determined by each customer and their business needs, not by your company's sales person. So, your value will change from one customer to the next - depending on the perceived significance of the need(s) by the customer," Davis posted on CustomerThink.com. "Value not understood by the customer is not paid for.
"A salesperson's job, through effective questioning skills, is to identify and develop customer needs - so as to create greater value inside the customer's head." When customers do not appreciate the value your products or services provide, they logically default to price. "Or worse, they will just go away," Davis stated.
- Sell multiple applications: Remember the early versions of multi-application terminals? These counter-top models had multiple partitions to enable gift card, identity verification, insurance eligibility and a whole slew of programs that coexist with a payments application on a single device.
When first introduced, not everyone understood the far-reaching benefits of this payment architecture. In today's environment, enabling multiple applications is a necessity, not a luxury. If you have any doubt about this, consider how many apps are being downloaded onto smart phones, tablets and game consoles. Also consider the mass exodus of consumers away from single-use devices. Credit card machines and major appliances of all kinds are becoming more sophisticated, connected and accessible from anywhere.
"What else is your credit card system doing for you?" is a fair question to ask today's merchants. Integrated POS systems combine inventory and cash management with credit card processing. Counter-top terminals seamlessly toggle among loyalty, gift, electronic benefit transfer and credit transactions. Mobile devices accommodate voice and data, short message service marketing, and Internet access. Multitasking is not just for humans anymore.
- Sell mobile payments: The Mobile Payments and NFC Landscape: A U.S. Perspective, a white paper published by the Smart Card Alliance in September 2011, explores predominant forms of mobile payment domestically and the convergence of e-commerce and mobile technologies, which has led to new hybrid forms of payment.
"The communication and commerce industries and their supporting technologies have evolved over the past century, changing most dramatically in the last 40 years," the white paper stated.
"Combining the most recent technologies from both industries - mobile phones and e-commerce - results in a product that provides new capabilities and the freedom to conduct commerce in ways that would otherwise not be possible. This product is known as mobile payments. Technology changes rapidly, and how it is ultimately applied is not always predictable."
The white paper was intended to provide a holistic view of mobile payments and the ecosystem then supporting near field communication (NFC) mobile contactless payments. The SCA published the paper to help players in the industries directly involved, as well as observers and participants in secondary markets, to understand the mobile payments landscape, anticipate how mobile payments are likely to change and appreciate the opportunities mobile payments present.
Help your merchants navigate the transition
White papers, trade magazines and industry blogs are excellent resources for MLSs who recognize the need to stay current on payments industry trends so they can provide timely and accurate advice to merchants. The best part about this new wave of emerging technologies is the renaissance of creativity that's affecting all forms of payment. As new methodologies proliferate, the real winners will be those who own the merchant relationships.
It makes sense for merchants to continue to reach out to trusted MLS professionals for guidance on payment technology. Their questions are bona fide selling opportunities that can lead to upgrades, referrals and new services - or at minimum the chance to hold on to a customer.
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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