By Jeff Brodsly
In 2011, I wrote "Good talent is hard to find, which was published by The Green Sheet on Nov. 28 in issue 11:11:02. As we begin 2018, good talent is even harder to find, and the payment processing landscape has changed drastically. With that in mind, I decided it was time for a follow-up article on this topic.
While the payments industry has been forever changed by Square, PayPal, Stripe and similar entities, the need for good talent remains. And I look at these disruptors as opportunities, because a company with good talent will always win a sizeable deal over any form of fast boarding or automated technology. Why? You cannot replace the human experience of engaging with a person you trust.
Talented sales reps and support personnel are the key to success and growth; they are the face of your business; they convince people to do business with your company and support customers when they need assistance with anything from installation to chargeback representation, batch reconciliation or technical support.
There was a time when merchants desired to accept credit cards as a form of payment as a matter of convenience as well as a way to handle large transactions needing short term financing. Many people wrote checks or paid cash; only a handful of people used credit cards simply because they were short on cash between paydays. The cost of processing credit cards was a generally accepted, minimal business expense. Debit cards were not widely used. Today, we have evolved into an almost cashless society that relies on plastic payments or smart payments such as Apple Pay. This change has added a financial burden to merchants in both hardware investments as well as the cost of doing business with their customers.
Because of this, merchants have become more concerned about shopping for credit card processors and reducing the associated costs. They pay attention to the rates they pay and seek the best rates. They realize that buying a terminal rather than leasing one is smart business. They want their money from POS purchases right away. They want to be able to view their processing activity online and see what transactions have been paid. They want online capability for all things credit-card related.
These conditions increase the need for someone to convey what you have to offer and convince prospects your company is the best one to meet their unique needs. While most of us used to sell on rate, those that still sell on rate are behind the times. Good talent identifies the needs of merchants and provides cost-effective solutions that will help merchants grow their businesses.
While many small merchants may use Square for processing when they start in business, it doesn't take them long to realize that 2.75 to 3.5 percent of their money is gobbled up on nearly every transaction. In some cases, they don't realize what they are paying until someone calls on them to offer a comparison quote. They get sucked into the convenience of Square or PayPal. They purchase simple products to use POS systems that integrate with Square, or ecommerce sites that use Stripe, and they think everything is great. This is where good talent comes in: to dispel their misconceptions and convince them they need to jump ship.
Exceptional salespeople can easily find the dominant buying motive (DBM) and guide the sales process in a relatively short time. This is what I mean by "good talent." Many people in sales prospect like gamblers at slot machines. They lack focus. They pull the handle push a button and hope they land a jackpot. They will never reap the results of a focused salesperson who identifies and targets appropriate prospects.
The superior salesperson develops a relationship while learning what the true DBM is. It could be the cost of processing. It could be the method of processing such as integration with certain software or implementation of a shopping cart on their website. Perhaps a potential target has not even considered allowing customers to select and pay for merchandise on the company's website. Perhaps customers did not even know they could have a direct contact and not have to call an 800 number for support. Whatever the DBM is, either existing or created, good talent can convince the prospect to act on the DBM and move closer to closing the deal simply because the merchant wants to address the DBM with a solution.
Heightened awareness of credit card processing costs has increased the need for good talent. No, scratch that. What we need to succeed is great talent. However, before you hunt for great talent, you must first define what great talent is. In a perfect world, great talent would be someone who is impeccably dressed; speaks proper English; is a psychologist; and a mind reader with an outgoing personality, the gift of gab, and the ability to put people at ease and make them feel like a best friend in five minutes or less.
In reality, great salespeople put others at ease through conversational talent and engage them in a series of questions while listening to their answers intently to gain knowledge of the DBMs and make mental notes for future presentations. They don't make assumptions but rather probe deeper into conversations, picking up on possible buying signals and hot buttons as prospects state them.
By gaining a true understanding of DBMs as they are revealed, great salespeople can develop a polished presentation that accurately addresses the DBMs as well as potential objections that could arise. The sales process is developed rather than rushed. Relationships are built that entail more than simply landing new accounts.
Short-sighted salespeople might be able to land accounts, but when a competitor hits them up to switch, there is no loyalty established, which makes it easy for merchants to jump ship. Relationships that are nurtured from their inception are much more likely to result in merchants who call their current sales reps rather than defecting to other companies that roll in with tempting offers. Identifying merchants' DBMs and meeting those DBMs through managed relationship building will result in more sales with greater value to both parties.
Let's look at how the competition has changed since 2011. To begin with, more companies now offer huge sign-on bonuses. One of the pitfalls of this is if your talented new sales reps leave you soon after joining your ISO, there isn't much you can do but watch your money leave with them. You might have had them sign an agreement to pay back the bonus if they leave before a certain time but, honestly, the amount of money you would spend on court fees and attorney fees to enforce the agreement would not pencil out.
However, you must be creative to attract top talent. You could use a vehicle allowance, a sign-on bonus, paid vacations, a tiered commission structure, quarterly bonuses or many other perks based on your financial ability and the generally accepted compensation in your area. I like to breed a salesperson who wants to earn "forever" money by building residuals. The power of residuals, through which so many have become multimillionaires in this business, is real. We get to earn money every time a client makes a sale, and if we can learn how to passively grow this while keeping our clients happy, the sky is the limit. Those with great talent understand this, and they develop 12-, 24- and 36-month projections and then hit their goals.
The millennial salesperson, in particular, might be quite different than you once were as a young sales rep. They are motivated by fancy cars, casual offices, and the ability to set their own work schedule and work from a home-based office at least part of the time. They love the use of electronics, apps and other technology to help them succeed. One thing to keep in mind: great salespeople will offset the expense of providing things that make them happy through the revenue they produce. Don't think of this as an expense but rather an investment in your super-star sales reps. If you motivate them correctly, they will motivate you to be even more successful.
Getting creative and rejecting an off-the-shelf, take-it-or-leave-it program for your agents is key to success. Just like merchants, good agents might have different DBMs, and the ISO that can correctly identify how to help agents reach their own DBMs via customized compensation plans is the ISO that will win.
Once you have brought super-star salespeople on board, you must motivate and inspire them. Good leaders are also good teachers, teachers of ethics and techniques that are proven to work within their own ISOs. Good leaders instill confidence in their people. They never place blame on someone or the team but provide corrective action and guidance to learn lessons from mistakes made. Good leaders are interested in hearing from their people and aren't all about "my way or the highway." They know we all are engaged in a continual learning process. Successful leaders are eager to learn new information that can be shared with an entire team. Good leaders listen well. They're interested in hearing about techniques used in closing deals, as well as reasons why some deals could not be reached.
Good leaders instill ethics, honesty and integrity in their teams so that their companies receive positive attention and never end up with egg on their faces due to lies or dishonest selling practices. The reputation of an ISO is very important. In this age of social media and more specifically social media reviews, dishonest acts can end up on the Internet for the entire world to see forever. Remember, your sales force is the backbone of your success, and the individuals comprising your team should be treated as such. Lead by example. Good ISOs nurture their agents to always do the right thing and sell based on value.
Because I am firmly against unethical and dishonest sales tactics, I maintain a primary focus of setting myself and my company apart by working hard to be the best at what we say we do. It's about making sure promises made are promises kept. It's about being accessible 24/7 with technical support. It's about learning the ins and outs of the industries we serve by attending association meetings, helping with lobbying efforts and breaking bread with members of the industry to learn their lingo and understand the pressures and challenges they face. It's about gaining that prized independent software vendor relationship and about using strong sales and marketing efforts to convert merchants as opposed to passively sitting back and waiting for referrals. By teaching your entire team the strategy of setting yourself apart, your sales will soar because you'll have a better understanding of what matters to prospects. Not everyone is looking for the lowest rates. Did you know the Toyota Avalon is the same model vehicle as a Lexus GS330 model? Yet, even though the parts are completely interchangeable, some people insist on paying for the Lexus name. Those of us in the payments space all do the same thing. We are Toyota versus Lexus.
To be successful, you need that Lexus image; you need price to be of minor importance compared with the quality you provide. Your entire team must reinforce this image as they build their book of business and, in turn, build your ISO. Consider this: would you rather stay at a Motel 6 or a Ritz-Carlton? At a Motel 6 you know the fixed price, you know you're getting a clean bed, and that's about it. You may get a 16-year-old kid who gives you the wrong key at the front desk, or you may get the room next to an all-night trucker that is keeping you up. But you pay a slim price.
At a Ritz-Carlton you pay much more. However, from the moment you walk into that lobby and representatives great you by name and hand you freshly made cucumber water to when you lie down in the plush bed and see your name on the TV, it's a whole experience you are buying. Ritz-Carlton is not for everyone, but it is for those who want more than just a bed.
If you could get the Ritz experience in card processing at the price of a Marriott, would you want it? If you offer a fair price for top quality, high-end products and services and find and nurture salespeople of great talent, they'll know exactly how to pitch it. And you, your sales team and your customers will all come out ahead
Jeff Brodsly is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Chosen Payments, a company created with the industry's agents in mind. Through his multilayered experience as an agent for a top ISO as well as a partner/owner under a top ISO, Jeff developed an organization that remains true to its agents. He can be reached at 805-910-1445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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