By Jeff Fortney
I was a latchkey child before that term was coined, and I spent many daytime hours with my grandma. She was in her 70s when I was born and had lived a full life. We talked about everything. She was a great listener and had a simple saying to answer questions or just comment on conversations.
When I was eight or nine, I was talking about what I wanted to do with presents I expected to receive. She nodded and commented, "Well, don't count your chickens before they're hatched." I was confused. I hadn't asked for chickens, and I said so. She laughed and said, "That's just an old saying meaning don't count your gifts until you get them." Later on, I gained a better understanding of that saying: never assume a result.
Once, when an older cousin didn't show up to help her on a project, Grandma told me, "That boy just don't hunt." Later, I understood it to mean he was lazy. Another time, a different cousin (I had many) did a poor job of painting a fence. She looked at it, shook her head, and said, "He isn't the brightest bulb in the lamp."
She rarely showed anger or frustration; she used sayings to reflect on experiences. Many of her sayings are now part of my vocabulary. I've also found others that I use to help me be better at what I do. One that is particularly applicable to our profession is, "Stay on the right side of the pay line."
I've used it in many conversations with merchant level salespeople when discussing how to increase sales. Initially, they don't understand the meaning. Simply put, it means sell during sales time; don't do activities that can distract from selling during those key times.
Anyone who has worked in sales understands how easy it is to be on the wrong side of the pay line. That's why the saying is so important to remember, especially as we begin a new year. I usually plan my year's efforts in January. I already set goals and identified industry or target types during the last two months of the previous year. The purpose of this planning is to define execution: how do I stay on the right side of the pay line?
The first step is to identify selling time for each day. This doesn't mean setting specific hours for any given day, that is, set aside a specific number of hours daily as selling time to be on the right side of the pay line. The saying "always be selling" does not mean every minute of a day is prime selling time. For example, calling on a restaurant during lunch hour isn't wise. Nor can a salesperson be effective for eight or nine hours a day. The pressures of selling can be taxing, and, when reps are tired, success rates drop.
Planning on an average maximum selling time of six hours a day is a common and effective time structure. Some believe that isn't enough; others feel it's too much time. The exact time allotted is purely based on each individual. But it must be dedicated to selling, and it must be consistent.
The next step is to identify what activities are not pay line, so you can avoid them during selling periods. Obvious examples are completing reports, merchant support issues and others that do not drive sales. They may be important (especially merchant support issues) but unless they are emergencies, these should be done outside of designated selling time.
After identifying the primary non-pay line activities, make a list of valid sales activities. These include direct and indirect sales activities. Include face-to-face calling and calling that isn't in person. Also include researching potential opportunities, email campaigns, building a referral network and any activity that has a direct relationship to selling success.
Lastly, to help delineate appropriate sales times, consider your marketing targets. If you are calling on retail, for example, it may be best to work with those clients shortly after they open or during their slower times, which will vary by the merchant's offerings.
If you are targeting multiple merchant types, factor in the best times for each. Doctors, for example, usually see their pharmaceutical reps in the morning right after opening. This would seem a good time to see you, too.
Once you've completed these steps, commit to honoring your pay line – and keep it. As the year progresses, the specific times of day may vary, but if you commit to staying on the right side of the pay line, success is sure to follow. Or as my Grandma would say, "You will be smiling and drinking lemonade."
Jeff Fortney is senior vice president of business development and partnerships for TouchSuite LLC, a fintech company providing POS systems, payment processing, SEO solutions, working capital and marketing services to small and midsize businesses. A long-time payments industry professional and mentor, Jeff focuses on strengthening and developing corporate partnerships and evaluating new business to drive strategic growth. He can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.
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