By Jeff Fortney
Professional athletes know exactly what muscle memory is and the purpose it serves. After all, muscle memory is central to athletic success. Yet it can be difficult to explain. Webster's defines it as: "The physiological adaptation of the body to repetition of a specific physical activity, resulting in increased neuromuscular control when performing that activity again." In essence, the more you repeat an action the easier it becomes.
Successful athletes practice specific motions and actions over and over to build that memory. The difficulty for the amateur athlete is that muscle memory doesn't differentiate between correct and incorrect movements. Thus, doing something incorrectly repeatedly can result in muscle memory, too, which ultimately impedes success. This often creates frustration. It can also make the difference between success and failure.
You could say a form of muscle memory exists in the sales profession as well. It doesn't necessarily involve a group of muscles. I would define it as how we sell. It can also be called "the pitch" or "the sales pitch."
A new merchant level salesperson (MLS) is encouraged to practice his or her sales pitch until it becomes as comfortable as a conversation. This probably sounds like the right thing to do, but what if the pitch is flawed? What if the MLS is bound by a pitch that sells cost savings alone with no alternatives?
Consider this example. The difference between a weekend golfer with a flaw in his swing and a payment professional with a flaw in her sales pitch is profound. The golfer can get frustrated, but rarely gives up the game. A payment professional with a flawed sales pitch can ultimately leave the business because the individual isn't making enough money to thrive.
Now, the sales pitch isn't always the reason behind a lost sale. Not all merchant prospects will sign, regardless of how good the sales pitch is. But a flawed sales pitch will result in fewer opportunities.
Before you retrain your sales muscle memory, identify any flaws. To do that, critically examine your pitch by asking the following questions:
It can be difficult to identify problems by yourself. It's best to have your approach critiqued. It should be a professional you trust and who understands the payments industry well. Your mentor and ISO partner are both good possibilities.
Before you start, explain what message you want to convey in your sales pitch. After you have given your pitch, ask your evaluator the questions I've provided. Also ask about any other areas that could be adjusted. Determine whether your message was clear or whether it was vague or too specific.
The most important aspect of any sales pitch is flexibility. The best pitches are not limited to one offering; they allow for adaptation to fit the merchant's needs as they are identified. The key to a good sales pitch is that it starts a conversation instead of finishing it.
If you find your pitch is too specific, too rigid or gives the wrong impression, consider creating an entirely new sales pitch. In many cases, you'll find that the muscle memory learned from your current pitch is too difficult to modify. Few people want to start over, but sometimes regrouping is the only option.
Whether you are tweaking your current pitch or creating a new one, the key to success is still practice. Remember, it must be conversational and address your major points. Practice until you are comfortable. Then, test the revised (or new) pitch with your mentor or ISO partner, and get feedback again.
Your goal is to gain the proper muscle memory. That doesn't mean you will have completely lost the flawed muscle memory. There may be times when you resort to old habits. These include when you aren't seeing the success you want and when you're tired or frustrated. Fight urges to default to what you did in the past. Remember, if the pitch had generated the success you wanted, you wouldn't have changed it.
Great professional athletes have trainers or coaches. They are constantly on the lookout for bad habits that can lead to bad muscle memory. You, too, need a trainer or coach. Again, your mentor or ISO partner is the best source of this support.
Muscle memory can and should be a positive factor for all professionals, including payment professionals. Don't let flaws interfere with your success. Once corrected, your muscle memory will drive more sales and greater success.
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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