By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.
Ask any sales professional and you'll probably find that most of us don't like paperwork. We accept it as part of the job and appreciate time-saving digital formats for merchant applications, expense reports and sales forecasts. Yet we still seem to spend so much time filling out forms and preparing proposals, don't we?
I recently began a thread about merchant proposals on GS Online's MLS Forum. Following are excerpts from the discussion that ensued.
BER wrote, "I often need to send proposals to new merchants, usually referred in by CPAs and payroll reps. I send them a formal proposal document with an illustration of how interchange plus pricing works, an example of the effective rates (adding in my markup), a link to the Visa/MasterCard interchange charts online, and two pages of testimonials with contact numbers they can call to reference.
"Sometimes I do for existing merchants; sometimes I don't. [It] depends on the situation. When POS is involved, I'll try to get it at my rates. ... But if I get pushback, I'll offer to match (so I'll need statements).
"There are rare occasions I'll need to use credit card processing savings as a way to offset some of the finance payment of the POS, so I'll need to show a savings on a proposal. Then there are the referrals I get from CPAs that are just about saving $$$. ... Those get proposals, too."
While proposals vary in style and format, they're primarily used for those special occasions when you want to pull out all the stops, such as winning a major account or salvaging an existing merchant relationship.
CLEARENT wrote, "I don't believe any average size merchant should get a proposal. Proposals should be reserved for the bigger merchants - those with longer sales cycles and multiple decision makers.
"I don't think any proposal to an average merchant helps with the sale. I think it hinders it. It becomes all about the price, and commonly is taken back to the existing processor to negotiate a better price."
ADAMVETTER concurred, stating, "I actually agree with the idea of not providing a formal proposal per se, unless the merchant in question is large enough to warrant a full request for proposal with deployment plans, return on investment on initial costs, etc.
"I usually advise our agents ... to go in essentially fresh and feel the merchant out. Then, if there is previous processing, to take a statement on their way out and use the cost proposal as the presentation on their second visit to the merchant.
"I've heard of agents doing it much differently, to varying degrees of success, but I feel that using the merchant's cost comparison as a presentation sends the correct message that the proposal has been generated specifically for the merchant and conveys the sense of personal service that we tend to go for."
MARINESTEBAN cut right to the chase with, "My name and phone number."
Certainly contact details are crucial. How many times have you worked so diligently on a presentation that you forgot the most important piece: providing your contact information so your prospects can call you when they're ready to say yes?
Additionally, MARINESTEBAN noted that having a value statement can take the emphasis off of price and spotlight factors that differentiate our products and services.
"I think that you need to include a value proposition, and you need to combine transparency with simplicity," he wrote. "Also, I like to include options (i.e., option A includes a lease; option B a purchase; option C gift-cards).
"One more thing that I found is to present the same information in at least two different ways (such as a detailed proposal and a summary proposal)."
There seems to be some concern about leaving proposals behind, potentially enabling merchants to share them with incumbent processors to leverage existing services and rates.
1SLICK67 wrote, "When working with a merchant and doing a cost analysis with a written proposal, the most important thing to remember is to never leave it with the merchant."
Digital presentations can help us transition from proposal to close. Showing merchants your iPad or a PowerPoint presentation on a screen can be smoother and easier than trying to show and then take back a piece of paper.
We all know that when a merchant says, "Why don't you leave this so I can think about it," it's usually a stall.
In "Are leave behinds integral to the sales process?" The Green Sheet, March 11, 2013, issue 13:03:01, author Jeff Fortney agreed, stating, "When I am asked for a flyer I say, 'You must be a very good person.
"You see, when I hear someone ask for a flyer, what I hear is that I have given them no reason to consider signing with me.
"They are just too nice to say no. The result is I keep calling on you and you find yourself trying to avoid me. If this is the case, it's OK to say no; it won't hurt my feelings.'"
In addition to the key elements of a presentation, it's important to tailor the style and format to the unique sensibilities and requirements of a prospective client.
In his book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs - How to be insanely great in front of any audience, Carmine Gallo wrote, "[Y]ou should use words that authentically represent your service, brand, or product. ... Don't be afraid of using simple words and descriptive adjectives.
"If you genuinely find a product 'amazing,' go ahead and say so. After all, if you're not excited about it, how do you expect the rest of us to be?"
As we continue to explore this weighty topic, I look forward to your ideas and insights on how presentations and proposals can help us differentiate ourselves and win more business.
If you haven't yet registered in the MLS Forum, log in and join us at www.greensheet.com/forums. See you online!
Dale Laszig is a writer and payments industry executive specializing in business development and sales performance improvement. She manages channel sales at Castles Technology and sales effectiveness programs through IMPAX Corp. and C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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