By Jeff Fortney
During my high school and college years, I received a lot of grief over my music selections. It was the 1970s, and my collection was, at best, what one would call eclectic.
My favorite possession was a compilation of the complete works of Nat "King" Cole and my favorite songs were Nature Boy, Route 66 and Puppy Love. But my collection didn't end there. When friends would get in my car they would often ask, "So, what are we going to hear today – Perry Como, Alice Cooper or Chicago?" The depth of music I remember the first time someone asked me why I liked the old stuff. I told my friend the truth, that it made me feel good. Some music evoked slower times, when life seemed to move at a slower pace.
I'm sure you've experienced first hand how music evokes emotion, both good and bad. Indeed, that has to be one of the most interesting qualities about music, that it can trigger a particular memory. For example, I changed my first flat tire while Alone Again (Naturally) played on the eight-track. Today when I hear that song I clearly remember that day.
It's no different today. I may be listening to satellite radio, but I'm hearing Sinatra and others from the past. The soundtrack of our lives generates an emotional response, and this principle can be applied to sales.
We all want to talk about products and services; however, we typically tend to drift toward cost savings. Yet when a sale fails, even though we are saving the merchant money and providing a better product, we don't seem to understand why we didn't succeed. You see, the real answer lies in the emotion behind the merchant's past experiences. This is why it's so critical that you tap into the merchant's "soundtrack" during the sales cycle.
People buy for personal, compelling and emotional reasons – with an emphasis on emotional. They buy subjectively, but justify their choices objectively. We, as ISOs and merchant level salespeople, are no different. Who hasn't gone to purchase a big-ticket item, like a car, found the perfect one, but chose not to buy it because either the salesperson or the offering just didn't seem right. We may have attributed this to our gut instincts, but more likely it was an emotional response.
Leveraging this emotional response leads to more sales. The key is to identify what individual merchants are most emotional about regarding our industry and their current processors. Doing so requires less selling and more questioning. It also requires patience.
As your conversations with prospects begin, always start with the positive. Ask, "So what do you like about your current processor?" This may seem counterintuitive, but it is absolutely important that merchants have the opportunity to address this first. It will eliminate any defensiveness that could arise when you follow this with the second question, "What don't you like about your current processor?"
In both cases, listen and do not respond with anything other than a simple, "That's good" or "That sounds bad." Remember, you're not there to judge or provide solutions at this point. Your sole goal is to identify the merchant's pain and tap into the emotion.
Once merchants have identified what they dislike, try to garner more information with a simple statement like, "Tell me more about that," or "I see, can you give me an example?"
Let prospects go into as much or as little detail as needed, and listen closely. What they may be seeing as a pain point could be just a symptom of a bigger problem, so try not to get too wrapped up in the issue. Then follow up with another question, "How long has this been a problem?" The answer may be short, but telling.
At this point, your goal is to make it more emotional, so ask something like, "What have you tried to do about it?" and follow up with, "Did it work?" You can then ask this key question, "How does that make you feel?"
Notice that at no time in this conversation is price a consideration. And at no time have you asked for a statement. However, if merchants say something along the lines of "They're too expensive" or "They just raised my rates," it would be easy to say that you are cheaper, but then you would be making it all about price and removing emotion from the equation.
It's essential that you not get caught in that trap. When merchants say their current provider is too expensive always ask for examples. It may be that they have no knowledge of how to control expenses, or perhaps their statements are so confusing they can't identify their costs at all.
To home in on what merchants are truly feeling, use words that evoke emotion, such as frustrated, upset and concerned – all of which generate emotional responses. If merchants mention a recent rate increase, try responding with, "I bet that was very upsetting. I know it would frustrate me." Showing empathy can go a long way.
At this point, move sales forward with a comment about how you think you can help merchants with their pain. Offer proven alternatives, and share success stories that have worked before by saying, "You know, I once came across a similar situation, and we did __________. It worked extremely well, and the merchant is very happy now."
Remember that by identifying merchants' pain and tapping into their unique soundtracks, you can elicit emotional responses that will make the entire sales process much easier. Plus your extra efforts to understand how your merchant prospects truly feel will go a long way toward building trust and, ultimately, loyalty. This process will also help you quickly identify merchants who are not a good fit so you can move on to more appropriate targets. You just have to know how to use emotion to your advantage.
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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