As a payment professional, you've devoted significant time to perfecting your sales presentation. Most likely, you also update it as your knowledge grows and your products and services evolve. As part of your sales process, you probably also take stock after each presentation, whether or not you've made the sale, and note what went well, what didn't go well and why, and identify what you can do better next time.
When evaluating presentations, how thoroughly do you assess your skill at drawing merchants out and listening as merchants open up about their needs? How much time during your presentations are you saying nothing at all?
In Good Selling!TM: The Basics, Paul H. Green emphasized the importance of listening. "After you've had the opportunity to briefly outline your service, ask the merchant what he thinks so far, and then stop talking," he wrote. "Even if it gets a little awkward, just wait for the merchant to tell you his feelings about his business and your service. Don't settle for yes/no answers. Given the time, the prospect will talk."
According to Green, the practice of listening and asking open-ended questions will be a welcome surprise to merchants because so many salespeople overload them with sales jargon and hard-sell tactics. Additionally, Green wrote, "It will also prevent your answers and comments from sounding 'canned.'" Merchants will also feel that you actually care about them and their businesses, he noted.
But what do you do if you listen well; do your best to come up with relevant, open-ended questions; and you are met with silence? First, don't become alarmed. Emma Brudner wrote in "5 reasons awkward silences … are actually powerful sales tactics," posted Jan. 15, 2015, on the Read. Learn. Sell. blog, that an awkward silence might be the worst case scenario on a first date or in a job interview, but "in a sales context, awkward silences are actually good ‒ that is, if you know how to use them to your advantage. And the golden rule of using silence as a sales weapon? Embracing it."
Brudner further said that silence allows time for the prospect to comprehend your offer, communicates genuine interest, helps salespeople stand their ground, prompts buyers to reveal their true needs and concerns, and encourages the prospect to lead the conversation. Keeping this in mind when you experience these moments will go a long way toward relieving anxiety. If this isn't enough to help you relax, however, there are other things you can do.
First, is to return to Green's advice to listen. Forget about what you're going to say next. Even if the merchant is silent for a while, you can still put your attention on him or her and not on your own feelings and thoughts. Take a breath and remain calm. If you feel your shoulders tensing, let them drop. Don't fidget. Remind yourself you will not die from an uncomfortable pause in conversation.
If the merchant speaks first after an awkward pause, that's great. If not, try asking another meaningful question or even commenting on something in the environment that might be affecting the merchant's business. If the conversation continues to grind to a halt, don't blame yourself. Move on. Practice the art of listening on your next call, and over time, you are bound to progress.
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