By Jeff Fortney
Several years ago, I was at a New Year's Eve party with friends. At one point, I joined three physicians who were talking shop. Most of their exchange was analytical. They discussed recent advancements in their specialties, new equipment that made them more efficient and their plans for the coming year.
For me, much of the conversation on equipment sounded like kids discussing new toys. Their faces lit up as they talked about advances in X-ray reviews and new devices used to treat specific injuries or illnesses. During the conversation, the banker in me had to ask, "Doesn't all of this equipment come with a healthy cost?"
Talk about a conversation stopper. They just looked at each other and said nothing for what felt like five minutes but was closer to 30 seconds. Finally someone said, "We don't think that way. The best treatment comes with a cost. This includes the cost of proper equipment and support." They then returned to their shoptalk, and I wisely moved on to another conversation.
Fast forward to when I recently found myself in a doctor's office. I was shocked by the advancements. Instead of film X-rays, everything was digital, on DVD. MRI results were available immediately for review. No more having to wait a few days for a specialist to receive and review tests.
However, despite with all of the advancements on the clinical side, sitting on the receptionist's desk was a Tranz 380 terminal with a P250 printer. As I paid my co-pay and watched the desk shake while the receipt printed, I asked why the office still used something as old as this, considering how technically advanced the practice was in other areas. She said the current payment system worked for their needs. I was dumbfounded.
The office manager overheard the conversation and said people come to the office every day to talk "cost savings with their credit card processing." She also said that she and the medical practitioners in the office didn't have time to discuss savings on something that works for them, and the savings would amount to just pennies anyway.
So I asked her a simple question: "Why are you willing to scrimp on something that decreases time spent on patient care and increases time spent on bookkeeping?" She acknowledged that was indeed what was happening.
I left the office with her direct contact information in hand and shared it with an ISO partner who was just down the road, with one caveat. If the rep mentioned cost savings, the office wouldn't sign. My partner ended up signing the medical office by improving the payment system while matching the current price.
Today, conversations about price compression are common. People say the pie is getting smaller, and thus there isn't much profit to be made. But the truth is the fault for this compression is our sales approach, not the marketplace.
Consider this question: When was the last time you tried selling without using the words "save you money"?
There have been numerous discussions, articles and even classes on how to improve sales and "stop chasing the bottom." Still, the temptation exists, and it's hard to quiet an inner voice that keeps saying, "If you save them money, they will sign." It's time to put that voice to rest.
To do this you have to stop selling payment processing and start selling business solutions. I am not saying you should stop signing merchants and supporting their payment processing. Instead, I am saying you should identify the merchant's needs and then propose a solution that will address those needs. With this approach, payment processing will follow as a sub-set of those needs, rather than as the primary focus.
For example, in the restaurant community, the number of POS systems available has grown rapidly over the past five years, and the cost has gone down as well. Yet many restaurants still use terminals. There isn't anything wrong with using a terminal, but if a restaurant is also using an electronic cash register, there may be an opportunity to combine payment processing with the system in place. This is why you should ask restaurateurs about their cash registers instead of only focusing on their processing statements.
The same approach applies to almost every industry. The terminal will always have its place, but the demand for tablet, mobile and cloud-based POS solutions is there if you look for it.
However, before changing your sales approach, educate yourself on the solutions that work best for your processing partner, and more importantly, for your merchant base. There is no such thing as one size fits all. You need multiple options and a partner who understands the varied needs of your market.
Don't get trapped into offering one solution only or talked into selling a solution that has the appearance of free, yet has many underlying costs that will ultimately undermine your relationships with your merchant customers.
To make this change, you must be willing to change the conversation. You must change your 30-second commercial to one that uses a solutions-focused approach. Ask more questions about the merchant's overall business and fewer questions on how merchants swipe their cards. Talk more about top-line revenue growth and less about savings.
And, above all, begin your pitch with the mindset that you are willing to walk away if the conversation is centered on cost savings. This may be the hardest change to make. Until you truly believe that walking away is a positive option, you may drift back into leading with cost savings as a technique.
Merchants are hungry to hear about something other than EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) and cost savings. They're weary of sales reps who prey on their fears. Be the one to take conversations to a new level, one that focuses on their business growth, and you will make more money. More importantly, in addition to increasing your revenue, you will also foster more loyal relationships with your merchants, which will help drive your long-term 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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