By Jeff Fortney
I recently had the opportunity to take batting practice on our local minor league baseball team's field. I wasn't individually picked out; the opportunity was offered to all season ticketholders. As I walked onto the field, I recalled when my interest in baseball was sparked. Fifty-one years ago, my love of baseball was born. It was 1963, and the World Series had just ended with a Dodgers sweep of the Yankees. Sandy Koufax had pitched a complete game for the last win.
None of this information was the seed that germinated my interest (although Sandy Koufax still remains my all-time favorite baseball player). It began while I was riding somewhere with my dad.
It seems he had won the World Series pool at work. The winnings were $100, all in silver dollars. The coins were sitting in a bag next to me, and I asked where they had come from. After explaining how he won them, he told me to take one. The thought of winning a fortune (for a little kid of the 1960s that was a fortune) over baseball made me wonder about the game. Six months or so later, I was at my first baseball team practice.
Since then, the leathery smell of a baseball glove, the "crack" of a bat as it hits a ball, the sound of a well thrown ball hitting a catcher's mitt, and the chatter of coaches and players have been a positive part of my life.
Baseball fans often see only the game. For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of the sport was practice. I didn't have a natural gift; I had to practice harder than others if I wanted to play. As I got older and started coaching, practice took on an even more important role. Baseball is a difficult sport. A batter who fails seven out of ten times is considered a success. If, by practicing, a person can improve the odds of reaching that level, it is well worth it.
Those who practice well, play well – not just in baseball, but in any profession.
Like baseball, selling payment processing and ancillary services isn't easy. Yet we, as payments professionals, rarely practice. We all know merchant level salespeople (MLSs) who were told that the only way to succeed is to just hit the streets and start talking to merchants.
The results (measured not solely by signing merchants, but also by retaining them) were usually poor. Sure, MLSs may have received basic training, but the lack of practice usually resulted in lost deals, as well as frustration. Ultimately, MLSs with potential to be very good choose to leave the profession. Instead of working on their skills at practice, they are just thrown into the game.
Unfortunately, the art of practice is not understood. In fact, most have no idea how to practice, and what to practice. The first step is to find a good coach. When seeking a coach (or mentor) start with your ISO partner. Is there someone there who can guide you in developing a practice plan? If not, find a relationship that will provide you with that coaching. It's that important.
Establish a goal for each practice. For example, you may want to improve your 30-second commercial presentation. Or you may want to work on your questioning skills. But don't try and work on every aspect of merchant sales at each practice. Set a practice time. This time should be calendared and protected. It shouldn't interfere with your normal sales time, but it needs to be treated as just as valuable.
Once you have a plan and a set time, provide both to your coach. Your coach may or may not be available for each practice, but he or she can provide you with techniques and criteria to consider. However, before practicing or changing your current technique, set a time for your coach to critique what you are doing now.
You and your coach may determine you don't need to change your 30-second commercial or your questioning skills. It may be your listening skills need work. (This doesn't mean you should remove these items from scheduled practices; instead, spend less time on them. Even if you do something well, it's always wise to practice all skills so they do not erode.)
Next, obtain the tools necessary to have a successful practice. You can't have batting practice without a bat and a ball. The same is true with sales practice. You need one key tool, a mirror.
Practice your 30-second commercial in front of a mirror. Watch your facial expressions. Do you look interested? Do you seem robotic or relaxed? Have the mirror handy when practicing your telephone skills, too. Remember, your prospects can hear a smile or even a frown in your voice. Practice will not guarantee your success, but it will improve your odds. Don't ignore this critical step to 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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