A common opinion regarding competition in the payments business is that ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) going after the same merchant verticals are adversaries who must strive to best one another at every opportunity.
Numerous articles address how to adopt the right mindset, do the right kind of research, devise the right strategies and take the right actions to have an edge that will enable you to soar far beyond the competition. These articles are all useful resources, but it's important to remember that your competitors aren't your enemies, and you can learn a lot from them.
Back in 2004, Paul H. Green made the case that your competitors help verify there is a need for your service, motivate you to learn more and add spice to your sales efforts. "First, if a prospect chooses a competitor's service, a big part of your job is already completed – the need for your service has already been established," he wrote in Good Selling!SM: The Basics. "Now all you must do is find out what made that prospect choose the other salesperson and how to get him/her to switch to you."
In a Nov. 9, 2015, Street SmartsSM article titled "When networking, think ROT," Jeffrey I. Shavitz devoted a section to why it makes sense to embrace your competitors. "Some payment professionals fear they might share too much information with their competition on the exhibit floors or at after-hours parties," he wrote. "It's important to keep in mind that networking with competitors doesn't mean sharing confidential information. What it can mean is making friends with people who respect you and fully understand the unique challenges and opportunities you face. It can mean having a group of peers with whom you can converse candidly, exchange 'war' stories and share advice."
Green didn't suggest offering lower pricing to convince a merchant to switch. He recommended the time-honored art of listening. He pointed out that a merchant is the best source of information on how to improve your work and might provide hints about your competitor's weaknesses, too. It could be the competing MLS's approval process was too cumbersome, or maybe customer service after the merchant signed proved inadequate. "Don't knock the competition just let the merchant talk," Green wrote. "In that way, your competitor has continued to aid you by providing exposure to fresh information and ideas."
It will always be gratifying when you win an account your competitors have tried hard to gain. It's just that those competitors aren't the enemy; they can be a source of inspiration, new ideas, motivation and, yes, friendship. As Shavitz said, "Two of my best friends are my direct competitors. We would never attempt to steal accounts from each other. We gain far too much from our interactions and support to do that.
"As far as other competitors go, with a market of approximately 20 million merchants, if I lose an account to a competitor occasionally, it doesn't bother me if I've done the best I can with the merchant. There are plenty of customers to go around for all of us."
So, research, prepare and find out what's truly unique about you ‒ and teach your competitors and let them teach you.
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