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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 09, 2016 • Issue 16:05:01


Applying the five W's to merchant services

Journalists, researchers and detectives learn early on the importance of addressing the five W's – who, what, when, where and why – in the course of their work. The specifics of the questions and answers can vary greatly, depending on the circumstances at hand. Addressing them fully typically results in more satisfying stories, thorough studies and solved crimes. Asking these questions can be an effective tool for people in other professions, too, including those in the payments industry.

Journalist Lori Soard, Ph.D., provided examples of how a writer might expand these questions in a September 2014 article posted on the Web Hosting Secret Revealed website:

  • Who: Who is this story about? Who is the target reader?
  • What: What is the main idea of the story? What is going on? What actions did the person defined above take?
  • Where: Where is the story located? Where is the person from? Where did the event occur? Where can the information be used?
  • When: When did this all take place? When can this information be used? When will the event occur or did it occur?
  • Why: Why are you writing about this topic? Why should the reader care?

Applying the W's to merchant services

How might a merchant level salesperson (MLS) expand them? In Good Selling!SM: The Basics, Paul H. Green interpreted the "what" to be the products and services the MLS is selling, which is something the salesperson already knows.

He further suggested that "why" can pertain to the reason a business owner is buying merchant services. "Knowing what motivates the prospect will help you position your service so that you make the sale," he wrote.

In Green's interpretation of the W's, "where" pertains to where the decision power lies. He said it's important to ask the person you're meeting with whether the decision-making responsibility is shared, and if so, with how many people.

For Green, "who" pertains to finding out who is competing for your prospect's business, and "when" is associated with when you should go in for the close. "If you go in too soon, the prospect may feel threatened, and you'll lose the sale; too late, and the prospect may go somewhere else," he wrote.

Asking the right questions

To uncover the answers to all of these, it's important to ask open-ended questions that probe for the insights you seek. Do not ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.

There are, of course, other ways to interpret the five W's. "Who" could pertain to who your most likely prospects are, "why" could be why they need your offerings more than those of another rep, "what" could be the problems they need to solve, and "when" could be when they'll be able to upgrade their POS equipment.

Many pros also ask an H question: how? In merchant services, for example, it's important to know how you are going to implement your solutions flexibly to meet the needs of each merchant environment. The point is that asking and answering all of these questions can lead to more thorough meeting preparation, more productive meetings and better sales results overall. end of article

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