The Green Sheet Online Edition
October 22, 2012 • Issue 12:10:02
Shifting to insight-selling
Emerging technology is not only changing our buying habits and the way we think about money; it is getting us to rethink the way we sell merchant services. In a Harvard Business Review article entitled "The End of Solution Sales" (July-August 2012, http://hbr.org/2012/07/the-end-of-solution-sales/ar/1), authors Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon and Nicholas Toman suggested that with easy access to big data, "the celebrated 'solution sales rep' can be more of an annoyance than an asset." In fact, many business owners research payment processing systems before they meet with sales reps.
This could be a blessing or a curse. The authors said that while the new business environment can be challenging for the traditional solution-selling crowd, a new breed of "insight selling" professionals is getting great results.
Here are a few of their strategies:
- High-probability prospecting. While conventional wisdom recommends targeting customers who are most likely to buy a product or service, prospects look very different than they did a few years ago. Today, traditional merchants are less likely to make a move than startup companies and firms in the middle of reorganization. By targeting prospects that are in a state of flux, merchant level salespeople (MLSs) don't lack for prospective accounts. Many retailers and restaurateurs are incorporating new models of consumer engagement and mobile payments into their marketing mix and are receptive to new ways to add value at the POS.
- Questions work better than explanations. Successful sales professionals "seek first to understand, then to be understood," Stephen Covey wrote in his 1989 book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This advice remains important today because being sincerely interested in a customer or prospect is a timeless strategy. If you care, you'll sound more like a human and less like a brochure. You'll ask questions, increasing your chances of coming up with a real solution instead of trying to sell a product disguised as a solution.
- Target undecided prospects. Seek skeptical change agents rather than friendly informants. Doesn't "skeptical change agents" aptly describe most merchants? MLSs increase their chances of engaging business owners when they discuss the changing payments landscape and how to leverage emerging technologies as extensions of merchants' businesses.
- Coach on how to buy. Just as consumers have to opt in to offers and mobile technologies, merchants also benefit from step-by-step explanations for selectively incorporating new technologies into their payment product mix.
Is solution selling really passé? Must we dismiss it entirely, or is this exercise designed to get us to look at a comfortable and familiar habit with fresh eyes? In her company blog post "Solution Selling Is Dead," Kelly Teal, Senior Editor of Channel Partners, suggested insight selling is not really a new concept and that effective sales professionals have been using variations of these techniques for years.
Periodically update your selling style
As Marc Beauchamp stated in How to Survive and Thrive in the Merchant Services Industry, the sales profession is always changing. "With the advent of the Internet, fierce competition, and the availability of information, merchants are much more sophisticated," Beauchamp wrote. "The extraordinary salesperson must have the ability to adapt and change strategy accordingly." In this new era, salespeople will work as a partners, consultants or counselors, Beauchamp noted, adding that partnership or consultative selling means salespeople must become actively engaged in their clients' businesses; in essence, they will work for their clients.
Keep it real
Authenticity is a core value of any successful sales professional. Not all successful MLSs are gregarious. In Good Selling!SM 2: Thirteen Weeks to Personal Success, Paul H. Green identified two types of successful sales professionals: "First, there are individuals who truly enjoy other people and have a natural ability to relate to other human beings on a one-on-one basis," he wrote. "Not all sales professionals can possess the same degree of common sense, tact, diplomacy, initiative, resourcefulness and other inborn qualities; and while those who do will make selling look more like 'art,' ... hard work also can lead to success.
"The second category is comprised of individuals who have no particular gift of gab but who are tenaciously set on learning all there is to know about their industry, their competition and their product or service." This knowledge and hard work can give this category an edge. While the demise of solution selling may be greatly exaggerated, it's a good idea to periodically review your methods for finding, selling and retaining merchant customers. Whatever approach you choose, be true to yourself. Your unique personality will always be your greatest asset.
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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