By Jeff Fortney
Every few months I'm reminded of a disturbing trend that is akin to an autoimmune disease causing patients to become their own worst enemies. It occurs in all sales professions, and begins when the marketplace tightens, resulting in slower sales. That's when it becomes ever so tempting to start questioning your sales efforts.
Over the past few weeks, when discussing prospective merchant's statements, all too often a merchant level salesperson (MLS) has asked, "What if the merchant asks X?" or "What if the merchant says that isn't enough?"
In each case, I say, "Has any merchant asked you this specific question yet?" Invariably, the answer is no. The MLSs just want to be prepared if merchants do ask. One agent even said he just wanted to be prepared for any eventuality. I told him that even with all of my years in this business, I still can't say I'm prepared for every eventuality.
Don't get me wrong. I strongly believe that knowledge is power. There are many ways to learn how to handle objections. However, this question is driven primarily by fear rather than a quest for knowledge.
This is when "what if" becomes a form of paralysis, and some MLSs start to doubt their abilities. It may be because they recently lost sales but feel they could have closed them if they'd been able to address all the merchants' concerns. Or perhaps it's because sales opportunities have been few and far between recently, and the MLSs have started to believe they can't afford to lose even one sale.
If you are sabotaging your sales efforts with these types of "what if" questions, here are some steps to take immediately to help prevent lost sales and lost revenue. They can help you stop being your own worst enemy and get you back on track. These steps can be summed up by three words: recognize, react, adapt.
Becoming your own worst enemy doesn't happen overnight. It's pervasive and usually starts when your signings taper off or you lose a sale you were confident you would sign – and, of course, the deal you lost was one that would have generated significant revenue.
In these situations, it's easy to turn inward and question your own efforts. There's nothing wrong with analyzing your sales efforts to see if there was something you could have done differently, or if you did what you intended. However, when your analysis goes past your individual sales effort and you start questioning your capabilities, you're at risk.
When you find yourself doubting your capabilities, you must react immediately. Your actions should be based on these basic truths:
Take a moment to mourn the loss of a deal, but keep it brief. Successful salespeople know when to cut their losses. They learn what they can from lost deals and then move on.
You can learn from the deals you don't sign. After reacting, analyze what, if anything, you could have done differently on your recent calls. Try not to analyze the merchant's response. Instead, focus on what you can control, meaning, what you said and did.
Think about these calls and whether the merchants' reactions to you and your offering changed. Did you say or do anything that changed the tone of the call? If so, what was it?
The answer to this question will be revealing. It may be as simple as you didn't stop talking long enough to understand a particular merchant's pain points or perhaps you may have given another merchant a reason to sign with someone else. Whatever the answers are, learn from them so you don't make the same mistakes again.
Lessons can be learned during slow times. A good example to consider is how many merchants were willing to have a conversation, versus those that wouldn't even allow you to finish your introduction. What did you say differently to those who were open to you? What was the time of day relative to their busy times? Were the merchants you approached busy when you were there?
Based on this information, think about how you can adapt your sales process to improve your results. You may need to change when you call upon certain types of merchants. Or you might need to change your introduction or listen more.
Being your own worst enemy is not a rare condition. Most people inadvertently become their own worst enemies at some point in their careers. Recognize when you do this quickly, react to the situation and adapt so you can get back on track and grow your business.
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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