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The Green Sheet Online Edition

June 10, 2019 • Issue 19:06:01

Don't copy the competition

By Jeff Fortney
TouchSuite LLC

Growing up, the best advice I received was conveyed through sayings. Many were old standbys; others I heard only once or twice. It was just easier for my elders to make a point stick if they said it in one pithy line.

For example, as my mom doctored a skinned knee or an elbow she would say, "If you friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?" Or when a teacher reminded us that our term paper was due in two weeks, she would say, "Remember, you can't build a house in a day." Not surprisingly, those old sayings stuck more than lectures. I repeated them to my children and dropped them into conversations. I also found that sayings helped me remember material better when I was learning something new. As a result, I found it fitting when training to use an appropriate saying to make a point.

Clear but misunderstood

Those sayings evolved over time to reflect a change in my sales philosophy. I realized sayings such as "Stay on the right side of the payline" or "You can't make anyone say yes, but you can get them to say no. Other than a yes, a no is the next best thing" can be summed up in one statement: "If your competition is doing something, you stop doing it."

Although the statement is clear, many tend to misunderstand it. They think I am saying that if the competition is selling, you stop selling. Others think I am saying that the competition is doing everything wrong. Both are far from true. Some argue that when competitors are successful, you should mirror their actions so you can duplicate their success. Again, this misses the point.

If you sell like everyone else, or exactly like your competition, why would merchants sign with you? Why would they find you a better option than their current providers? Absent other factors, the answer lands on price. Selling on price used to be a slippery slope; now it's a cliff. Price is a component of a sale, but it can't be the component of the sale.

A proactive plan

Deciding to stop mimicking your completion is just the first step. You must now decide what you are going to do. Here are a few steps to consider.

  • Begin with questions. A successful sale doesn't begin with selling. It begins with you identifying the merchant's needs. Ask questions, and when you feel you have the information you need, ask one more. Don't rush to sell.
  • Find the pain. Payment processing is a service. If you are giving merchants only what they have, and not determining what they need, you're being your competition. Don't forget, what merchants believe they need may be symptomatic of a greater pain. Your questions should drill down into the symptoms to find the real pain, and thus the real need.
  • Interrupt their pattern. Don't ask for a statement. If you are offered one, decline to look at it, and say, "You don't want to show me that now. You don't know me, and I am not sure we even fit yet."
  • If they don't fit, don't force it. Sometimes the most successful sale is one you don't sign. There are many reasons to pass on a customer. The number one reason is the merchant doesn't fit you. A good fit leads to a long-term relationship. The best fit is reciprocal: you address the merchant's pain; in turn, the merchant pays you a fair price.
  • Be consistent. There will be times when you don't see results. The successful ISOs and merchant level salespeople recognize it's important to stick to their plan. It will be too easy to fall back into old routines. If you commit to an approach, you may need to tweak what you say occasionally, but you must be consistent in your actions and efforts.

Those who stop mirroring their competition's actions tend to be surprised by the results. Potential merchant customers who have been pitched by myriad others take note of the different approach, and are more inclined to consider switching service providers.

One ISO mentioned talking with a merchant, and when asked his price he said, "I don't know. I am not yet sure we should be doing business together." The merchant looked shocked, and then spent the next several minutes trying to prove he and the ISO were a good fit (and the merchant signed shortly thereafter for no cost savings).

And it doesn't stop with the signing. Merchants feel better about relationships that begin this way, and it shows. They turn to their payments professionals when issues arise – or when their ISOs' competitors come knocking. All it takes is the first step: If your competition is doing something, you stop doing it. end of article

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 atjfortney@touchsuite.com.

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