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The Green Sheet Online Edition

February 12, 2018 • Issue 18:02:01

Street SmartsSM

Easy ways to care for your 'besties'

By Steven Feldshuh
Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions East

All of us who have been in the business for a while have at least 10 "besties." In this context, the term refers to the 10 accounts we cannot afford to lose. Maybe the number for you is 20, or even more, but you get the idea.

Every account that brings in a residual payment is important, but there are always those special businesses you don't want to ever lose. Some may give you great referrals or allow you to try out new technologies at their locations. Some may have become more than acquaintances or are among your favorite shopping destinations. Some may make you a significant amount of money or just be an influential member of a business association or community organization that is important to you.

When you sign new accounts, you don't really know how these businesses will do. It is hard to predict the future, but you do know that taking care of them is of the utmost importance. You start off by either placing with or selling each merchant a new terminal or POS system.

3h2Gold in your hands

Then, once you realize you have gold in your hands with some of these accounts, you start to think, how can I insure I can keep them for a long time? The first thing I do is invest in a back-up processing system. If a merchant is using a countertop terminal, I want to be sure the business has a back-up unit in case the terminal goes down. It is expensive to do this, but I have found a lot of merchants have left their processors because they had a problem processing and lost business as a result.

If a merchant has a POS system, with software, you need to do two things: give the business a back-up terminal, since POS systems do go down, and make friends with the POS company's representatives to make sure they don't play games and switch out the processing to another company the POS provider works with.

What does that mean? Send the contact person for the POS company a small gift with a thank-you card. Have any of you ever done that? Do you realize merchants using POS systems typically stay on board a lot longer than those using only terminals? Doesn't it make sense to make a friend at the POS company? There are good reasons to do this: potential referrals, and most important, if something goes wrong, the POS company won't be that quick to blame you, the processor, for causing the issue.

Personalized outreach

OK, lets' get back to our besties. Let's say you have a limited budget but want to be remembered by your besties, so you visit these businesses every couple of months. Would it be fair to invest $100 total each quarter back into these top 10 customers? I will leave it up to you to decide, but this is what I do, and I suggest you start to do this immediately.

The first thing I would do is set up an email program that will enable you to send out messages not only to your besties, but also to all your clients. The messages can be updates pertaining to new products, pricing, cash advance products, or just tips and other resources that will help the businesses you serve succeed. Personalize the messages so you can build rapport with these merchants.

If you have the time and want to turn the email updates into short newsletters that contain stories of importance, do that. I advise against getting political, because our current political climate even has family members at odds with one another like never before. I have probably pushed away some sales agents because of political comments I have made, so don't make the same mistake. Stay away from politics.

Small gifts, big results

Here are suggestions for gifts you can send to your besties quarterly. Keep in mind that I am only spending $100 per quarter total on my besties, or $400 a year.

  • Calendars: Crazy as it seems, having a fun calendar with your contact information on it goes a long way. Business owners still hang calendars on their walls even though they use their cell phones for keeping track of their daily activities. Many online companies will customize calendars for less than $10 a piece. (Note: Stay away from swimsuit calendars.)
  • Gift cards: Walking in and giving your merchant a $10 gift card to Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks or any neighborhood coffee shop is something the merchant will remember and appreciate. Another potential gift item in this price range could be a movie ticket to a local theater.
  • Joke novelty items: Novelty items such as hard candy in a jar labeled "Chill Pills" are usually well received. I know I said to avoid getting political, but gag gifts involving elected officials can be a source of mirth for both those who support them and those who do not. An added bonus: this type of gift will often go home with the business owner as a conversation piece.
  • Staplers, bottle openers or letter openers: These types of useful items tend to remain within reach, often on your clients' desks, for a long time. Put your name on them, and your customers will be reminded of you each time they use them.
  • Coffee mugs: This is one of my favorite giveaways, since you can get a logo and contact information on them, and you can be creative with a design. Again, you should be able to get these for less than $10 apiece.
  • Greeting cards: You can also consider mailing out physical greeting cards on your merchants' birthdays. Maybe include that $10 coffee gift card in it. There are services that automate this.
  • Consumable items: Another two great items to give to your besties are a bottle of wine and a pound of bakery cookies. They won't last long, but the next time you walk in, your merchants will be drooling. This may lead to an expectation that you'll always deliver something delectable when you stop in, but there's nothing wrong with that. The next rep who walks in won't likely get the same eager reaction from merchants.
  • Live plants: Another item that usually remains in place is a plant. Who doesn't like a nice houseplant. Along with your name and contact information, you can include a message, for example: As this plant shall grow, so shall our relationship.

If you have additional ideas to either augment this list or otherwise reinforce positive relationships with your besties, let me know, and I will do a follow-up article. end of article

Steven Feldshuh, President of Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions East, has 18 years' experience in sales and ISO development. Directly prior to joining MCPSE in 2012, he was President of Payment Partners. In his current position, Steven devotes the bulk of his time to assisting agents in building their portfolios. Contact him by email at stevenf@mcpseast.com or by phone at 212-392-9202.

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