By Barry Davis
The landscape is changing rapidly and dramatically for merchant level salespeople (MLSs). Local businesses are facing an evolving set of challenges and opportunities, and merchant acquirers must respond by learning how to cross-sell value-added products.
In this article, I'll outline some concrete things every MLS can do to acquire and retain more merchant accounts and make more money. My insights come from my experience in selling software and data products to small businesses in all 50 states.
Here's a five-step process for selling value-added products to local merchants:
If your only focus is selling credit card processing, the sales pitch is pretty simple: merchants have to take card payments and want to save money on transaction fees. Things get more complicated when you sell a full portfolio of products and services. You need a broader understanding of the pain points for local merchants.
My colleagues and I have collected a boatload of empirical and anecdotal data over the years about merchants' biggest challenges. Using that data, we created what we call an "anxiety index" that ranks the top worries of thousands of merchants around the country.
We also found some common themes such as threats from tax increases, competition from Amazon or changing consumer tastes. But these are just symptoms of the root problems. You can boil down merchants' top concerns to three things:
Everything you cross-sell should be framed through the lens of these pain points.
Just because merchants share common pain doesn't mean their experiences are the same. The challenges of attracting customers, for example, will be totally different for a local retailer compared to an independent restaurant owner. If you take your pitch out of a box, you'll miss important nuances and leave sales opportunities on the table.
The key is to know how to be consultative without taking too much of the merchant's time. That starts with getting a deep understanding of the products in your portfolio and how they address specific, everyday business problems. You can't sell what you don't understand.
You also need to get very good at asking the right questions and then intentionally listening. For example, have you ever asked a merchant, "If you could have one problem taken off your plate, what would it be?" If not, give it a try. This can be a powerful starting point to a true consultation, and it allows you to frame your products as solutions rather than just stuff to buy (that is, costs). Get good at asking questions and knowing how your solution set addresses specific needs.
The previous two tips are prerequisites for this one: you simply must be brief. If there's one refrain we hear over and over from merchants, it's that they just don't have time. Ironically, many of the solutions you're cross-selling can save them time if they'll only take a few minutes to listen.
This is why you have to understand merchants' pain, learn their top challenges in a question or two, and then respond with a credible solution without added fluff. The best closers know how to get to the point when it's their turn to talk. If you find yourself getting long-winded, consider this quote often attributed to Albert Einstein: "If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself." The price for being brief is doing your homework ahead of time.
Ask good questions. Listen. Respond with an airtight pitch that addresses the merchant's specific challenges. Do these things, and you'll be surprised by how receptive merchants are to purchasing new products and services from you.
Think about the most memorable presentations you've ever seen. Chances are they stick in your mind because the presenter told a compelling story or threw out a stat that surprised you.
When cross-selling, you have to be able to put the product into the context of everyday business problems. The best way to do that is to use data and case studies in the sales process. Merchants want validation and social proof. Case studies show that other successful businesses are using the product and getting results. Data adds objective backing to an otherwise subjective sales pitch.
Ask your product and service partners to arm you with sales enablement materials such as case studies. Once you've identified a merchant's problem and proposed a solution, you can really give them something to think about by providing evidence that what you're saying has worked for others. Leave merchants with collateral so they continue to think about your presentation after you're gone.
Buying on speculation might work in some cases, but not when you're selling new products and services to skeptical and cost-sensitive merchants. Allow them to try before they buy.
Every product you sell should have a free trial or money-back guarantee. Remember, the cost hurdle is especially high for merchants. They need a risk-free window of time to explore the product. Once merchants see value, they'll see your product as an asset instead of another cost. And they'll trust you more the next time you suggest a product or service for their business.
There's never been a better time to sell merchant services. While the challenges are acute, the interests of merchant acquirers, software companies and Main Street businesses are aligning as never before. As a result, MLSs have unprecedented opportunities to make more money if they can take a truly consultative approach to sales.
Barry Davis is Vice President of Business Development at Womply, a software-as-a-service company that partners with the payments industry to provide a technology and data platform to small business merchants in more than 400 industry verticals across the United States. For more tips or resources, reach out to us at email@example.com.
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