By Dale S. Laszig
DSL Direct LLC
Have you ever driven by a car wash or luncheonette and said, "I'm going to give that place a try?" Then one day, the business is replaced by a For Sale sign. Have you ever thought you had a sale locked up, only to lose to a competitor? I've been thinking about how these scenarios relate to merchant services. Merchants would love to drive more traffic to their stores, and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) would love to close more sales. But inertia can hold us back. For Sale signs may catch us by surprise, but events leading to a business closure are usually not sudden at all. A small or midsize business may run out of working capital. A data breach or other catastrophe could end an entrepreneur's dream. Instead of succumbing to the coulda-woulda-shoulda trap, what can we learn from these scenarios? How can we do better?
Robert Heinrich, vice president of sales at Simpay, offered several tips. He pointed out that processing agreements can be tedious and intimidating for merchants: requested information is not always readily available, and terms of service are not always easy to understand. Fortunately, digital tools have made the merchant application process easier and more frictionless, he stated. Agents can email pre-approved electronic forms with room for dba and signature; in face-to-face meetings, they can hand the merchant a tablet to review and sign, he noted. "Underwriting loves online applications because you can't miss anything," he said. "They may be good at reading chicken scratch, but electronic apps are approved faster and rarely pended." It's also important to know your audience, he advised. For example, a 28-year-old merchant may expect a fully digital form; an older merchant may be okay with a short digital application but get fidgety with long-form versions.
Heinrich cautioned against taking shortcuts in the sales process and urged MLSs to research prospects. Failing to do so can impede success and waste everyone's time. "By not preparing for a meeting, you may end up presenting to a manager who is an influencer but not a decision-maker," he said. There are effective ways to create a sense of urgency and FOMO [fear of missing out], he added. "Merchants tend to see through expiration dates," he said. "It's better to show solutions that help them create stickiness or remind them of the financial impact of not changing. For example, you could say, 'you just paid that EMV non-compliance fee again.'"
He noted that people become busy with their personal and business lives, and staying in touch is key to closing more sales. "Every merchant app has a date of birth and date a company was founded," he said. "At the very least, send an email or deliver something in person. Remember their birthdays and business milestones."
Dale S. Laszig, senior staff writer at The Green Sheet and managing director at DSL Direct LLC, is a payments industry journalist and content development specialist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @DSLdirect.
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