By Jeff Fortney
Early in my career I attended meetings each fall called "10,000 foot" meetings. Normally, these meetings lasted several days and were broken into three parts: 1. Review of year-over-year sales numbers; 2. Goal-setting for the following year; and 3. Analysis of existing efforts from 10,000 feet above.
The first two topics are common in companies where sales is central to success. Indeed, as we approach the end of the year, many merchant level salespeople (MLSs) go through review and goal-setting exercises.
Meetings on the third topic lasted longer than the others, and the premise was simple. Because our immediate circumstances can – and do – impact our actions, we tend to operate at ground level. However, by looking down from 10,000 feet, we can see many things not readily visible from ground level. This can enable us to address actions that could negatively impact our future success.
At the end of each meeting, participants were encouraged to ask ourselves when tempted to do something that seemed even remotely counterintuitive to the overall plan: If I do this, how will it look at 10,000 feet?
These meetings continue to influence much of what I do today. Due to the positive results, each year I hold my own 10,000-foot meeting. The template remains the same from that first meeting many years ago. First, identify what the meeting is not:
From 10,000 feet, it's easy to see where you've been. It's also easy to see the roads you could have taken that would have put you where you are today, only faster and easier. But this practice is not about hindsight. The goal for any 10,000-foot meeting is to ultimately gain a form of foresight.
In meetings I attended, we examined various scenarios, two of which I have reworded to fit the payments world. The purpose is to explain each choice, why you would or wouldn't choose that option, and what would be the likely consequence of that choice. Each option could be the right choice. However, at 10,000 feet, there may be a consequence to a particular choice that could lead you in a direction you don't want to go.
You just completed a presentation to a prospective merchant who has value both in terms of revenue and prestige. This account would bring others to the table. After the presentation, the merchant says:
You have three choices:
You can only choose one answer. Explain the reason behind your choice and why you didn't choose the other two options.
You have identified a major merchant opportunity. However, the merchant insists you complete a Request for Proposal (RFP). You review the questions and estimate how much time it would take to complete the document. To do it right would require a serious time commitment; you're not sure you have enough time to complete it before the tight deadline. You also see areas in the RFP that will be challenging to meet or for which you don't offer some services the merchant needs.
Your choices are:
Consider the possible responses and identify which would be your ultimate choice.
As you think about responding to each scenario, look at each opportunity from all angles, including the most important one, which is directly above ‒ from 10,000 feet.
In Scenario 1, will the revenue be sufficient if you drop the price? If not, would the known benefits of signing this premier client offset insufficient revenue? How long would it take to generate additional revenue to make up for this deal? Will this merchant impact your ability to properly service your other clients?
For Scenario 2, are there too many stumbling blocks that make the opportunity not worth your time? Will your earnings justify the hours you'll spend completing the RFP? If so, what can you do to ensure you'll get the deal? Would your time be more wisely spent on another deal that can generate higher revenue?
By looking at opportunities from 10,000 feet you may find the action you want to take may not be the best option in the near term, or even in the long term. Indeed, it might be time to walk away from some tempting opportunities.
However, there is always a chance you will find a hidden gem that others would miss because the perceived value is too low. If that's the case, your competition probably isn't looking at the opportunity from 10,000 feet. And, when you think about it, stepping back and examining an opportunity from all angles is really what will give you the best view from the top, which is also known as success.
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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