By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.
We sell in a crowded field. Many of our products and services look the same. The questions we ask prospects tend to be the same. How do you separate yourself from the competition? What is your edge, your differentiator? Following are perspectives from members of GS Online's MLS Forum and insights from other professionals.
Commonly associated with the environmental movement, the phrase "Think globally, act locally" can apply to business. Forbes journalist Sarah Endline cited small, socially responsible companies endeavoring to make a difference in the world, one community at a time. "Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the lifeblood of today's economy," she wrote. "They have the power to make an impact and be nimble without all the red tape and bureaucracy that can bog down larger companies.
"Many of the most popular and forward-thinking companies are concerned not just with creating innovative products, but also with influencing society for the better. … Among the most visible leaders of this movement are Ben and Jerry's and The Body Shop along with newer entrants like Toms and Warby Parker."
Merchant level salespeople (MLSs) who think globally and act locally can follow global business trends while becoming known as trusted resources in their respective communities. They can pull from knowledge and selectively implement best-of-breed solutions for local merchants.
Forum member Klinckphilip said he uses "local guy" branding to promote an array of products and services in his area, including "POS, loans, investors, gift cards," and various discount offers. He said you have to "hit them with everything these days," adding that you can't be just a one-trick pony.
In his book Good Selling! The Basics, Paul H. Green compared building a sales practice to planting a garden. "As a sales professional, you need to nurture your garden of sales knowledge in order to harvest positive sales results (ongoing residuals)," he wrote.
NBDC_Leads said he does educational outreach in his community, showing merchants how to improve profitability by understanding current credit card industry regulations and trends. He wrote, "Our approach is that, yes, the merchant will save money as a result of one of our referral partners reviewing their current statement because with all the new laws and guidelines over the past few years, there is no possible way they are being passed on the proper charges for their type of biz, because the laws do not require their current bank or processor to notify them of the changes.
"We then call them back, ask numerous questions that we enter into our CRM, then we transfer the live call to our referral partner for credit card processing and email the info we obtained during the call to them at the same time. It's very effective with high closing ratios, and we only get paid if the deal gets closed."
CSandifer leverages his payments industry expertise to deliver targeted results to merchants. "I always sold from a consultative approach," he wrote. "I find products and services that eliminate the merchant's pain points, and price them to be both affordable for the merchant and profitable for the company. If all the merchant wants is a lower rate, I'd usually just move on. If you can't add real value to a merchant, that merchant will turn over to the next yahoo who walks in and sells on price."
CardPlayer said it's important to remember the "old saw, 'The deals you win on price will be the deals you lose on price.'"
As Green stated in Good Selling! Thirteen Weeks to Personal Success, over-promising is among the worst mistakes sales professionals make. He wrote that if "you aren't certain, don't make the promise or guarantee. It takes only one disappointed customer or one unmet expectation to ruin a deal. Take special care in situations in which you must rely on others. For instance, if you want to promise next-day delivery of leased equipment, make sure that when you make that promise, the prospect understands that you can't control UPS, FedEx, or the weather.
"Second, be sure to promise only attainable goals. A small increase in sales is certainly possible, but a 50 percent increase might be a bit steep. While you might be tempted, don't guarantee such grand results unless you have done the research and legwork necessary to back it up."
Consistently delivering on your promises and providing outstanding service will earn you the three R's: respect, renewals and referrals.
"If you don't present yourself as someone there to help and then follow up after signing them with continued help, you will find you either have a poor reputation or none at all," Clearent noted. "However, if you follow through, you will have built a solid referral network."
Maketelinc added, "I am transparent and honest, although I don't control those above me, I do reveal what I know about them."
Jim Camp, author of Start with No, challenges popular assumptions about the win-win paradigm of selling and negotiating. "Win-win is often win-lose because it is emotion-based, not decision-based, and because it plays to the heart, not the head," Camp wrote.
He also said many negotiators are expert at recognizing neediness in salespeople and will frequently paint rosy, exaggerated pictures of mega-orders and once-in-a-lifetime deals to captivate their prey, only to introduce last-minute demands for concessions and deeper discounts before they sign a deal.
Clearent advocates pushing back when faced with this type of manipulative negotiation tactic. He wrote that if you have "the willingness to walk away [from] a bad deal rather than sign at all costs, you will find that your margins increase, as does your closing rate. If they push, and you hold firm and have identified a need for them to change, you will still sign them."
Dee Malik added, "Frankly, I don't want to close every deal. I hope I am knowledgeable enough to figure out which prospect to spend an extra second on and which to not. … We have an offer. My offer does not work for everyone."
Becoming a local payments industry thought leader, specializing in a vertical market and cultivating a reputation for excellent service, are a just a few examples of how MLSs can become outstanding in a crowded playing field.
As MBruno stated, the "basic mechanical points of processing – the costs, the systems, the platform, etc. – are so widely available they cannot set anyone apart from anyone else. It's only individual tolerances for margin and how often you go above and beyond to support your merchant that can really set any one person apart from another."
What difference do you make in today's competitive merchant services environment? If you can answer that question, you'll be way ahead of the pack.
Dale S. 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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