By Jeff Fortney
All independent salespeople have some entrepreneur in them. Although they are always selling, they are also consistently looking for opportunities to grow: grow their revenues, grow their assets and grow personally.
That being said, even the most successful salespeople tend to act more conservatively than true entrepreneurs. They aren't leading the way because they understand what they would be putting at risk. Instead, they are in the next wave, close to the cutting edge but not close enough to risk sacrificing everything. They are willing to risk, but they measure risks carefully.
They recognize that to grow their revenues, assets and self they must research each opportunity, weigh the risks and costs, and ultimately decide whether to pursue it.
For merchant level salespeople (MLSs), the ever-evolving world of payment processing presents many perceived opportunities. Some can even appear to be old school, but when managed correctly, can and do increase revenues. Those who have the most success in our profession know the basic questions to ask before pursuing opportunities.
Being entrepreneurial does not make sales easier. It can make it harder. If you are looking for a way to make selling easier, you do not want to become more entrepreneurial. If you do, however, want to embrace the entrepreneur in yourself, make sure to ask the four questions presented in this article each time a new opportunity presents itself.
Not everything that is new to you is new to the market. Sometimes an opportunity is a different twist on an old approach. This isn't necessarily bad, but if it is a repackaging, it's important to understand how the market responded before and learn from it.
It's also important to recognize that many things that were introduced were too far ahead of the market. Even though they failed, if the market has moved forward sufficiently, there is now a place and a need. Be wary, however. If it's just a new package, but there is still market resistance or no perceived need, you may want to take a pass.
Before considering any opportunity, first determine the cost to you and whether you are willing to make the investment. Any change requires sacrifice. It may be a time commitment that takes away from time spent on money-making activities, such as signing new merchants; or it may require a financial commitment. So, if you can't afford it, or are unwilling to accept these sacrifices, there is no reason to pursue it.
This question can't be answered until the first two questions are considered. When asking this question, many will try to quantify an answer. But the simple fact is that the only acceptable answer can be given in two words: increased revenue.
You cannot quantify this because increased revenue can be defined in many ways. The obvious way is in more sales at a higher return. Other ways include reduced attrition, merchant stickiness (out of need for what you offer over what others are offering), higher revenue from existing merchants, and a higher return on the time invested. If you can't say with certainty that revenue will increase, it's probably wise to pass.
The fact that you're considering an opportunity indicates you're optimistic about it. But don't decide alone. Get someone else's opinion. An objective opinion. The key is who you ask.
The first choice should be your trusted adviser. If you have no such adviser, find someone you trust who understands the business. Ask the person how he or she would answer the three prior questions from your business perspective. Encourage the individual to provide all applicable negative feedback. The latter can seem counterintuitive, but it's essential. Your adviser must be willing to be negative, so you can make an informed decision. He or she may know something about the opportunity that you haven't considered, or even about a previous version of the opportunity that failed.
Reasons to not proceed are as important as reasons to proceed. If you have properly researched and have reached this point, you already know "why." The "why not" needs to be the last thing considered.
These basic questions work on all decisions that cause a change in your selling efforts. They are not restricted to entrepreneurial opportunities. An example that many MLSs face is the decision to move from being a sole sales agent to starting a sales office ‒ or even changing from one terminal type to another, more robust terminal offering.
Remember, even a change in what you offer could be considered entrepreneurial. A change in an ISO partner can have a similar effect and should be measured, as well.
It's been said that the most successful salesperson is the one who is different ‒ who stands out from the crowd. Being a conservative entrepreneur helps you do just that.
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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