By Steve Norell
US Merchant Services Inc.
Editor's Note: With this article, Steve Norell takes the mantle as the new author of Street SmartsSM. He has been a long-time supporter of The Green Sheet, as well as valued member of our online MLS Forum. He has also contributed several articles to our magazine over the years. Along with this inaugural Street SmartsSM article, we're providing an excerpt from the first submission he sent to us: "Believe in what you offer, watch your sales soar," by Steve Norell, published in The Green Sheet Sept. 12, 2011, issue 11:09:01.We are delighted to have Steve penning the column. It's bound to be a lively, informative year ahead.
This is my first article for the Street SmartsSM column. After many requests to do this, I finally succumbed. Trying to follow in the footsteps of all the previous Street SmartsSM authors will be challenging and daunting but hopefully a lot of fun.
For most of you that know me, I doubt that you need to know anymore than you already do. But for those of you that don't, I am happy to give you a bit of insight as to who I am, as well as how I do things.
I got into the payments industry by sheer accident by answering an ad for a CardService International office in West Palm Beach, Fla. I had been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for 20 years, where I worked in the foodservice industry selling to foodservice distributors and restaurants. The CardService opportunity looked a lot easier. Sell a merchant, get paid, and when they have a problem tell them to call an 800 number. What could be better?
Well, it did not take long, four months to be exact, to think that I could run a sales office better myself even though I knew very little about the industry at the time. Truth be told, it was a lot easier to fake your way to success back in 1995 than it is today. Skip ahead to 2018, with numerous learning stops along the way, and as they used to say on the Beverly Hillbillies, "Next thing you know Ole Jed's a millionaire."
P.S. I put most of the money I made back into the business.
With the Street SmartsSM column, I hope to not just continue to make it educational, but also to put a bit of a twist on it. Some of the ideas are to ask questions that will cause more input, as well as thought, when answered ‒ not to mention real bantering from all sides.
So I will leave you at the end of this introduction with the same thing I started with. For those that know me, get ready for a little something educational, entertaining, polarizing and hopefully thought provoking. For those that don't know me, the same thing.
If there is a topic that you would like covered, please email me so we can share ideas. I look forward to your comments in the MLS Forum, and will also appreciate emails from anyone who wants to comment on my column personally. I'm too old to get offended; nothing bothers me anymore.
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Believe in what you offer, watch your sales soar
By Steve Norell
Many of you know that in a past life, I was in the food service industry working in Northern California for several food service manufacturers.
The first was Carnation Co. (now a brand of Nestle USA) when I was only 24 years old. The company sold many different food service products of which the most successful was the Chef Mate line of entrees. The top seller in that line was chili with beans.
Once I was hired, the company sent me on six weeks of training in big cities like Denver and Los Angeles, as well as smaller communities such as Oakland and Stockton in California. After awhile, I could not tell one hotel from the other.
Once the training was over, I met with my district manager, who sat me down and explained to me that the Chef Mate line was the most expensive in the market, and if I was going to sell on price and just be lower than the competition, I might as well quit. Well, I was not going to argue with him since I needed the job. He went on to say that the reason they could get the price for their product was because of a patented process known as Cooked Before Canning, and no one else had it. He said that because of this process, the product was a lot better than the competition and, to tell you the truth, it was.
So once I hit my territory, which was Fresno, Calif., the only words that came out of my mouth were "Cooked Before Canning." And guess what? Because I believed the product was of the highest quality and was certain I was providing a better value, the merchants believed it, too.
I am here to tell you that I sold a lot of Chef Mate, not to mention chili with beans in No. 10 cans. I also ate a lot of that product since I was young, it was my first real job and I was broke.
The 'Cooked Before Canning' factor
What does this have to do with our industry? It is really very simple. Every day I hear and read that the average merchant level salesperson attempts to sell merchants on price - not quality or value, but price. Sure they mention service, but that is a false promise. Service is only as good as the last time you provided it. And how are you going to prove to a prospective merchant that your service is so good until you either sign him or it is time to provide it?
We all need to figure out what our patented process should be. In other words, what is your Cooked Before Canning? I have found with my agents that if you tell them exactly what their goal is with the merchant and why we are better than the other guy, you will be more successful.
We have a monthly minimum profit based on the merchant's monthly dollar volume. It is not outlandish and is extremely fair. That is their goal.
My company's Cooked Before Canning consists of several things: we are locally based, our pricing is transparent and we are a well established company. But most of all, if our customers have problems, they can drive directly to our office and voice their concerns in person to the management.
Because I am a minor owner in a local business down the street from the office, I process the transactions at interchange pass through without any markup. I'm sure not going to charge myself.
Day in and day out, I am called to that business to meet with competitors who want to sell us processing services.
Most reps don't know who I am since they are relatively new to the industry, so when they see a statement they have no clue how to read it; they just go into how much they are going to reduce the fees and how much they are going to save me even though there is no way they could save me a dime.
It is extremely entertaining. However, not one of them, with the exception of Heartland Payment Systems Inc., has tried to sell on value or quality. The Heartland rep talked about the Merchant Bill of Rights, the company's new end-to-end encryption terminal, etc. I have no doubt that if you can offer something of value, you can get more money for your product.
The demotion of price
Before I entered the payments sphere, I knew a dairy products distributor in San Francisco who told me he tells all his customers they can have their choice of quality, price and service.
The only issue is that they get to pick only two. He also told me that all of his competitors who offered all three went out of business.
So what the heck does all this mean? Simple. Stop selling on price and start offering value and quality. Service starts after the sale and will determine how good you really are when the time comes.
Once you figure out what your Cooked Before Canning is and absolutely believe in it, success will come in waves, and price will never be an issue.
In most cases, price will be the last thing mentioned, and by that time the merchant will be ready to sign regardless of the price.
So I hope my first article has helped you. I promise future articles will just get better as I start to get the hang of this.
Steve Norell is Director of Sales at US Merchant Services Inc. Based in Port St. Lucie, Fla., he oversees the USMS sales force and maintains the company's bank and processor relationships. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 772-220-7515.
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