By Jeff Fortney
When reviewing sales practices, I sometimes ask ISOs and agents the following: "Have you ever surprised a merchant?" None of them have an immediate answer. Once they think about it, they are likely to either reference pricing or say they haven't surprised a merchant. Most are afraid they will lose sales if they surprise merchants.
When I explain that the best and easiest sale is made when you surprise the merchant with something other than price savings, they look at me as if I were daft. Even those who have embraced the need to lead with technology solutions tend to argue that a surprise, any surprise, in the sales process is a bad thing.
When evaluating sales practices I look for two specific areas: selling actions and revenue return. Few disagree when I discuss the need to increase revenue. Objections begin when I recommend changes in sales actions.
In many cases, I recommend small tweaks they often know but haven't employed. They implement some right away to do better; others they know but don't execute. Instead, they revert to bad habits (like talking more than listening) when faced with a challenging sale.
In essence, they fear losing control. They see surprising a merchant as a loss of control. And controlling the sale is the most effective way to sign a merchant, right?
While controlling the sales process is critical, the challenge is that almost every rep in the payments world has learned the same process, the same words and the same way of handling objections. Merchants have heard them all before. And since they know what you are going to say, they control the sale, and whether you know it or not, they are directing the sale.
It becomes like a movie script. You say your line, and the merchant responds. This goes on until you ask to see the statement. The merchant says sure – if you save me money (or I am not interested). Yet some of the most successful movies have actors who have moved off script. Sure, a good script makes a movie, but the best movies are filled with moments when the actor left the script. Some of the most famous lines in movies were adlibbed.
All too often MLSs stick to the payments script. For example, you walk into a merchant and introduce yourself. Once you use the words "merchant services" or "credit card processing," you see the merchant's demeanor and facial expressions change. When you first walked in you were a potential customer; now, you are recognized as a salesperson, someone selling the same services the last three salespeople sold.
You try small talk to lighten the mood. You mention that a mutual acquaintance recommended you to the merchant. The mood doesn't change. You ask the usual questions and get rote answers. At this point, the odds of signing this merchant are less than 50 percent.
Here's what could happen if you threw away the script. Instead of introducing yourself, you spend a few minutes admiring the wares or just looking around. When approached, you ask if the individual is the manager. Once you speak with the manager or owner, compliment the person on the store, the inventory, the layout or anything else you find that is unique.
Ask questions about the store. What is working and what isn't working? (Notice, you have neither mentioned the magic words nor even explained why you are there.) In total, this may take five minutes, but you have already begun developing rapport. It is tempting at this time to introduce yourself and go back on script. Don't. Instead, try saying, "I always appreciate a well-run business. I deal with businesses every day, helping them improve functionality and control their costs. My name is (first name only), could I ask you a couple of questions?"
This may raise concern for the merchant, but remember, you are there to help improve functionality, which includes the collection of sales proceeds. Avoid the key words until absolutely necessary. You are there to improve the merchant's functions, not to sell solely payment processing. Price may be a component, but it will be the last component.
Should the merchant revert to the script and ask, "So, you are here to save me money?" Answer, "I have no idea whether we should do business together" or "Not sure I could do that or even if it's wise." In most cases, they won't know how to respond.
If you hear other script questions, don't answer them. Instead, surprise them with, "It sounds like others have come in and talked to you to about processing. Isn't it sad that all they had to talk about was your statement?" Again, surprise them.
Going off script will lead to other surprises, and it will get the prospect's attention. Once you have done so, the odds of success rise significantly. The merchant may even surprise you. I know the increased revenues will seem surprising, too.
Jeff Fortney is a Payments Professional with over 25 years in the payments world. He can be reached at 972-618-7340. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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