By Tom Waters and Ben Abel
Bank Associates Merchant Services
Editor's Note: While Tom Waters and Ben Abel are joint authors of Street SmartsSM this year, Waters is the sole author of this article.
The typical day of a merchant service agent is filled with thousands of tiny decisions that influence the progress of his or her career. A good portion of those choices are reflexive and instinctive, ushered along quickly and confidently without much consideration.
As sales professionals, we often shift into auto-pilot, influenced by our customer relationship management systems, calendars and approval counts. We depend on our technology, as well as our internal response systems, to navigate the day fluidly. While this reliance is essential to the workplace, it can become a hindrance if used excessively.
Our skilled presentations and poignant rebuttals come to us like second-nature when we are in auto-pilot. Without auto-pilot, the tone of a pitch will not sound conversational and we might come across as inexperienced or insincere. Much of our hard work rehearsing and practicing our delivery is to ensure that we can get "in the zone" with our prospects and effectively communicate the benefits of working with us.
What we say and how we say it are essential components of our workday. Decisions to focus on one subject before another or, speed up or slow down, all have consequences, whether positive or negative.
Sales managers must consider the compelling forces behind everyday decisions. Successful agents learn the traits that make a client tick; successful managers learn the characteristics that drive their teams.
Behavioral analytics does not come easy, especially when there are always urgent matters to attend to: matters with tangible losses or gains that impact your reputation, your bottom line or your office culture. Routinely deconstructing the choices of others while in a public space is a great start toward understanding the underlying motivational forces of your team.
Attempting to understand the complexities of human behavior is no small feat. The bright side is that you do not need to analyze global societal norms; your office will suffice. Over time, as the relationships with your team mature, you will have a better grasp on the things they really care about and what helps motivate them to improve.
Most people accept their choices as the best options available at the time. Why else would anyone move forward with any particular decision? Using that assumption, we can work backward to assess the thought process and motivations that led someone to a particular judgment.
If you have ever entertained small children for a weekend or longer, you've been able to observe their basic decision-making processes. One would expect, for example, that to learn which shoe goes on which foot should be a straightforward process. However, time and time again, youngsters will slip the right foot into the left shoe and vice versa, because tots know shoes go on feet, but other details seem unnecessary and impede on their playtime. This is an excellent example of an ineffective auto-pilot system, but once the child understands the consequences of having a shoe on the wrong foot, the auto-pilot process is improved.
Another example of this behavior is when children make use of fake tea sets or decide to "play house." They act out what Mom and Dad do to prepare breakfast, fill up a gas tank, or do other household chores. They do not yet understand why those acts are performed, or to what benefit.
Unfortunately, this behavior does not disappear when children become adults. We mimic our colleagues and perform in a manner consistent with what we anticipate is expected of us. The only way to transcend habitual behavior is to reflect upon it. Only by understanding what makes us move better, faster or stronger, can we then improve upon our performance.
I often ask agents, "What is the most productive thing you have done today?" Typical replies are "I made 250 outbound calls" or "I sent 35 emails" or "I had a stubborn merchant on the phone that finally understood why I was calling."
If I follow up with a question about what they learned, how they improved or what they will avoid in the future, I am typically met with a blank stare. Quantifiable acts of productivity are essential to a sales office; however, it is the culture of learning that will take a team to the next level. The follow-up is no good without understanding the goal of each individual call. A successful agent will understand the nuances of detail in every follow up. Everyone else is just playing house.
Included Side Bar:
The following comments from members of GS Online's MLS Forum are from "A day in the life of a successful MLS," by prior Street SmartsSM author Jason Felts, The Green Sheet, Oct. 13, 2008, issue 08:10:01. He asked them to share their wisdom on how to spend time to maximize sales.
Put your CEO hat on every morning, and set expectations for your performance. Then put your rep hat on and go do the work to meet those expectations. At the end of the day, put the CEO hat back on, and assess your success or lack thereof. Decide what to do the next day, and make a plan. Set a goal and a reward for achieving it. … You are the carrot holder and the mule following it.
Based on my conversations with sales representatives and MLSs in the last 10 years, most successful ones would emphasize having the following in their daily routine:
Tom Waters has been dedicated to the merchant service sales profession since 2001. Currently, he is responsible for cultivating relationships with entrepreneurs in information technology, accounting, sales and marketing in his role as Sales Director of Bank Associates Merchant Services (www.bams.com). Using fresh and matter-of-fact training methods, Tom has contributed to the success of thousands of agents, affiliates and clients. He can be reached via email through firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 347-651-1065.
Ben Abel is Regional Director at Bank Associates Merchant Services. Since joining the team in 2006, he has risen through company ranks with a paradigm that his success was measured by the success of those around him. Ben is a dedicated, pioneering trainer whose methods of merchant services consultation have helped many agents expand their portfolios in terms of processing volume, deal count and profitability. He can be contacted at 347-866-9571 or email@example.com.
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