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The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 13, 2017 • Issue 17:03:01

The give and take of referral success

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

Lately, I've asked payments salespeople with various levels of experience this question to name the one thing they cannot do without and be successful. Some responded that they need solid support. Others said they need a sound industry-knowledge foundation. A few said a good mentor or trusted advisor is paramount. Others mentioned fair pricing and equipment or POS solutions.

But the most experienced salespeople invariably offered one simple answer: leads. They emphasized that no matter how great your toolbox, if you have no one to sell to, it's worthless.

This brought to mind a meeting I attended long ago where several merchant level salespeople (MLSs) whined about lack of leads. Their manager asked if they would like a listing of merchants by industry, along with phone numbers and addresses. They all thought that would be great, so he reached into a drawer and pulled out the phone book.

Thankfully, we have evolved since then. In fact, I believe the ability to get quality leads is at its zenith in 2017. A phone book and a prayer are no longer the only resources.

Not just any lead

A quality lead is not a pre-closed deal. A quality lead, as defined here, is when you have sufficient information about a merchant so you can speak intelligently. This information includes:

  • Name of owner or contact
  • The individual's need or current payment-acceptance usage
  • Verification that the merchant type fits your partner's policy
  • Simple understanding of what the business sells and how

With today's Internet access through smartphones and tablets, this information is typically readily available. However, MLSs still ask where they can get leads. When an inexperienced MLS asks me, I offer the most common sources as a starting point and then explain the characteristics of a quality lead.

When experienced ISOs and MLSs ask me where to get leads, this is usually due to frustration. They know the common sources, but the quality or even quantity seems to be lacking. Instead of answering the question, I ask: Where have you gotten them in the past?

They will list the sources we all know, such as canvassing shopping centers, lead lists from third parties or their ISO partners, Internet searches, and others. However, the one area that may be the best source is often an afterthought and is rarely used. That source is the sales pro's existing merchant base.

Sure, when I mention this they say they ask for referrals; some even say they send newsletters. Most mention that they offer financial incentives. But they all claim to get very few leads from their merchants.

A motivated merchant base

Although these steps are good and needed for retention, influencing merchants to provide leads requires understanding what motivates them. Typically, it's not a small financial incentive, but rather a quid pro quo. This necessitates a change in how you approach merchants for leads. At the time of equipment installation, most MLSs say they like doing business with people who do business with them, or something similar. It's encouraging and is a positive way of building rapport. What's missing is the second half of this statement. A simple statement that will start the referral process, such as, "I also like to encourage others to use my partners. Do you have any flyers, business cards, or menus you would like me to share?"

Almost all merchants have something they can provide you, and would be pleased to do so. In turn, you need to plant the seed for leads. Once merchants provide you with their information, bring out your business cards and say, "I hope you feel the same way I do. Here are some of my business cards. If you know anyone who currently accepts credit cards, or needs to, please feel free to give them my card." Encourage merchants to write their names on cards they hand out so you can thank them.

Before you leave a merchant, ask for nearby businesses contacts. You are planting a seed, so don't expect many referrals at this point. But when you do get one, make sure you obtain permission to use the referrer's name.

Staple your business cards to promotional materials you receive from your customers before sharing them with your other merchants. Consider sharing these with potential clients, too. It demonstrates your commitment to your merchants and may encourage prospects to become customers.

Remember to stay in touch with your merchants regularly and ask if they've talked with anyone that might need your help. Sharing referrals provides a compelling rationale for visiting them and shows your ongoing commitment. Ask if they have new neighbors or friends who could benefit from your services. Always end with, "I have been sharing your services with others. I hope it has helped. I like doing business with people who do business with me."

When done correctly, referrals can fill your lead pipeline. All it takes is offering to share with others if they share with you. end of article

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 jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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