The Green Sheet Online Edition
March 27, 2017 • Issue 17:03:02
The very point of sale:
Merchant first, service second
Every selling day has pros and cons. Business owners may be more relaxed on Fridays, but they're often also signing checks and trying to make payroll. They may be more business-minded on Mondays, but their thoughts are typically focused on the week ahead. Sales pros have learned to navigate distractions and direct the focus to opportunities.
Merchant level salespeople (MLSs) have a small window to make a big impression. Connected technologies create workplace distractions, making it difficult to get a customer's undivided attention. Merchants rarely ignore calls, texts and tweets while they're in meetings. Their businesses are their lifelines; it's difficult to look away, even for a few minutes. That's why MLSs need to zero in on merchants first, merchant services second.
Selling is stigmatized. People delay or cancel meetings if they sense a sales pitch coming on. Seasoned MLSs take this in stride, exuding confidence and warmth when a prospect is ready to see them. I remember riding with an MLS on a day of cold calling years ago. When a prospect asked what he was selling, he replied, "Nothing. I'm giving things away today. Let me begin with my cards." Forty minutes later, he signed the account and went on to sign the merchant next door.
He opened new accounts that day with charm, wit and fascination in his prospects. He was knowledgeable about his own offerings, but he put that out of mind when he walked through the door. "I let it all go," he confided. "I purposely erase everything from my mind when I walk into a store so I can absorb as much as I can as quickly as I can."
Retail is changing
These days MLSs still focus on customers, despite how much their jobs have changed. The days of selling pure POS solutions are gone. MLSs and other business development specialists in the payments industry are selling complex, customizable solutions designed to be seamlessly embedded in a merchant's business and brand.
"A long-standing sales axiom is to know your client and know the industry," wrote Paul H. Green in Good Selling!SM: Thirteen Weeks to Personal Success. "This was easy in the old economy, back in the days when shoes, cars and sportswear were the heart of retail, and Internet retailers were not part of the business landscape."
When the book was published in 2004, Green noticed a shift in shopping patterns. The industry veteran and founder of The Green Sheet predicted that multilayered digital technologies would change the way people shop and buy. "You can't look under the hood, and you no longer can depend on an elegant showroom to display your product or service," he wrote. "Instead, you must rely on the look and feel of your product's display on a screen."
More than a decade later, ecommerce and mobile commerce are taking market share from stores and shopping malls. Merchants have outgrown one-size-fits-all credit card terminals. They are working with ISOs, value-added resellers and independent software vendors to create POS systems that reflect their unique identities and brands.
Removing barriers, optimizing checkout
Merchants are also removing barriers between in-store and online commerce to create a continuous shopping experience. They recognize that ecommerce has fundamentally changed the way people shop. Whether they are online, in stores or at kiosks, consumers enjoy browsing more than they enjoy paying. Following are examples of how merchants are addressing this by creating frictionless checkouts:
- Buy online, pick up in store: Consumers who purchase items online can pick them up at a nearby store, sometimes on the same day. This fast, simple ordering method gives shoppers more control of the delivery process while saving shipping fees. Retailers love it because consumers who come into their stores are more likely to purchase additional items.
- Line-busting: Retail sales associates freely roam retail stores and showrooms, and use tablets and connected devices to take orders, process checkouts and check inventory on behalf of guests.
- Mobile checkouts: Mobile apps, such as Sam's Club Scan & Go, are designed to bypass checkout lanes. Consumers can scan items as they add them to their shopping carts, then check out and pay with the app. They show a receipt on their phones to an exit greeter on their way out of the store.
- Pay at the table: Long popular in Europe tableside payments are finally catching on in the United States. Restaurateurs use the service to improve efficiencies by speeding up table turn and shortening wait times.
- Curbside pay: Curbside pickup enables customers to pull into a service bay and pay for goods and services without leaving a vehicle. These solutions are a popular choice at dry cleaners, auto repair facilities, restaurants and a variety of retail establishments.
When Verizon Communications Inc. decided to rebrand, it was a wake-up call for all service providers. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal's Ryan Knutson in February 2017, Diego Scotti, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Verizon, said it was time for a change. The company logo "was just looking tired," so Scotti refreshed it by adding a check mark to signify reliability. Then he led development of a new platform called go90 that streamed mobile-first content. The go90 brand doesn't carry the Verizon logo; Scotti wants it to stand on its own.
"What go90 is trying to do is to be a distribution platform for amazing mobile-first content," he said. "And that's something that doesn't really exist in the marketplace." His vision is to appeal to a new generation of always-on, always-connected consumers by showcasing short, bite-sized content that millennials consume on YouTube.
From simple rails to platforms
Verizon Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam hired Scotti, whose background in retail marketing has helped the 100-year-old company transform its image from that of a simple communications carrier to an innovative technology platform. McAdam, who wants to create an emotional bond with current and future customers, looked outside the commoditized telco industry for talent who could help make that happen.
Merchant services is also transforming from providing simple payment rails to offering innovative technology platforms. Commoditization will continue, but so will opportunities for salespeople who understand their customers and help them use technology to grow and scale their businesses.
Dale S. Laszig, Staff Writer at The Green Sheet and Managing Director at DSL Direct LLC, is a payments industry journalist and content provider. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @DSLdirect.
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