By Jeff Fortney
At some point, most college students have to select classes that meet prerequisites but don't have any bearing on their majors. The class that stands out for me was Introduction to Psychology. I thought an "introduction" had to be less stressful than my other options. I was proven wrong. It's the only class for which I ever pulled an all-nighter before the final exam.
I vividly remember the preamble to one of the lectures. The professor said that, as a youth, he was an idealist. He believed his actions could change the world. Then life stepped in, like waves on a beach, and eroded his idealism. He became an optimist, believing his actions may not change the world, but he was optimistic the world would change for the better.
One day he shared an old story. A group of academics were studying the true effects of optimism and pessimism. They located two 10 year olds ‒ one was very optimistic, the other very pessimistic. They placed the pessimistic child in a room filled with the newest toys and told him to have fun. They placed the optimistic child in a shed half filled with horse manure. Saying nothing, they handed him a small bucket and a shovel.
An hour later, they returned to the pessimist's room to find toys tossed about and broken; the boy sat in the corner with his head down. When asked what he was doing, he said "There's nothing to do." They went to the shed and found the optimist moving the manure from one side of the shed to the other. When asked what he was doing, he said, "With all this horse manure there has to be a pony in here."
I thought about this recently after listening to salespeople discuss today's marketplace. Some comments were optimistic; others were negative. They ranged from "All this change is creating a lot of opportunity for me" and "I haven't had this much selling in years" to "We're on a race to the bottom" and "All people want is free, free, free."
It made me think about how outlook impacts success. Optimists are unafraid to shovel the proverbial manure, certain a pony is in that pile. They take any roadblock and face it head on because they know a reward is at the end.
Therein lies the challenge. Not everyone is an optimist, nor does the excitement generated by something new always last. How, then, does a merchant level salesperson stay motivated and positive when the day is filled with change and the word "no"?
Two motivational steps can help increase optimism. First, see change as an opportunity. Not all change is negative. Consider the advent of cloud-based POS solutions. They can help merchants do so much more than process transactions. For example, they can help merchants build a customer database, create more loyal customers and run their business more effectively.
More and more merchants are millennials who have an affinity and comfort with tablets and could-based solutions. By identifying multiple solutions and learning which ones are best for each merchant, you can gain a market advantage. And sales become less focused on price and more focused on addressing merchants' underlying needs.
Even negative developments can be opportunities. Be the first to communicate change to your merchants, even when the news isn't positive. Educating your merchants on a variety of subjects builds loyalty. It shows you're doing everything in your power to be upfront and honest, which is not the norm in the payments business.
The second step is to never stop learning and growing. Read trade publications like The Green Sheet. Ask your payment partner in-depth questions about the next evolution of payment processing. And if you don't have a trusted adviser, find one.
Above all, focus on the positive. There will be times when it's hard not to see only manure. But remember, a pony is there. You just have to dig.
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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