By Tom Waters and Ben Abel
Bank Associates Merchant Services
In our world, every merchant we encounter can be classified into one of five stages. The stages define the merchant's relationship with you and your services. By properly mapping your pipeline and prospects through these categories, you will be more organized and better prepared to consistently win new business.
The concept of the stages may seem all too familiar; however, we have always encouraged our readers and sales teams to truly analyze each aspect of the sales process to grow and flourish. By establishing the infrastructure for each stage, you can create a turnkey environment. This will allow you to focus on automation where applicable, freeing up your time to capitalize on more profitable endeavors.
The stages are as follows: qualifying, closing, approving, activating, and support. Some stages are more involved than others, but all are equally important in maximizing your network, approvals and profits.
While each stage is independent of the others, if you think several steps ahead of the process, you can identify activities that waste time. During the development of the qualifying stage, a perfunctory assessment of all five stages as they apply to your merchant will help you move forward efficiently.
The qualifying stage includes segmenting your market and determining which companies and decision makers you must target. It is important to note that this stage is not simply grinding out the cold call. If you blind-call 100 merchants listed in the yellow pages, most of them will have zero need for merchant services or little volume if they do process cards. The qualifying stage is not just about trying to convince merchants you are a good fit for them; it is also about classifying whether they are a good fit for you. Research devoted to developing a quality call list will be essential in avoiding wasted time for you or your associates who make initial contact.
The closing stage is the next progression of the sale. You have now demonstrated value to a merchant and gathered their interest. This is the point where you ask hard lined questions to determine that you can actually help this company and whether your efforts will derive a worthy return on your investment. At this point you can establish whether you are actually engaging a decision-making person of interest. Questions about equipment, funding times, the current vendor relationship and conversion timelines will all be helpful in reinforcing your value and securing the fact that you are working with a signor.
The third stage, approving, should be kept in mind during the first two stages as well. For example, if you are calling on merchants who could never be approved by your processor or bank, you have wasted much of your time engaging them. Remember, the research you conduct in the qualifying stage will help you avoid those pitfalls.
Secondly, if your merchant "walks the line" on the risk associated with an approval, it's important to be upfront about any additional supporting documents that may be required to board them. Delaying a request for documents will frustrate your prospect and make the process of working with you appear to be very challenging. If you establish expectations upfront, you will maximize your potential of seeing the deal through.
Once the paperwork is in order and you have secured the approval, you will not see much revenue until you actually switch your new client over to your network. There are several new barriers in this stage of activating. If you have followed our advice and kept one foot in each stage when you qualified your merchant, this step will go smoothly. Your new merchant's equipment compatibility and the costs of converting them to your network should have all been factored into your proposal. The expectations of what the conversion process involves should be set forth clearly.
Finally, once you have secured your new client, the support stage will keep you earning their trust. Retaining an existing client is far less expensive than securing a new one. The most important piece of advice here is to always pick up your phone and keep in constant contact with your clients. Most of the time, especially if something goes wrong, clients simply want to know that they are not alone.
Through careful consideration of these stages, you can develop a very powerful system that will add real value through efficiency and clearly defined expectations. The finer details to cultivate better value from each encounter include establishing credibility, creating a sense of urgency, providing value and remaining persistent. Merchant sales can be complicated at times, but a solid foundation will help you rise above the rest.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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