By Jeff Fortney
Even as a young child I had an appreciation of art. I enjoyed going to museums and was particularly drawn to the way landscapes could pull you into a scene in a fashion not possible with photographs. This appreciation did not come from my ability to draw or paint. When it came to the arts, my only ability was in the music arena. In visual art, I was a pure stick figure person. Or so I thought.
In 2015, my wife felt I needed an avocation and (knowing how I enjoy paintings) suggested I take a painting course. She had found classes that were once a month on Saturday and required no long-term commitment. I thought trying one class would be a convenient way to prove to all I was not destined to paint.
At the end of that class, I walked away with a snowy landscape that wasn't too bad. Even people who weren't related to me said it was pretty good. I returned the next month. Flash forward five years, and I have beach scenes, mountain groves, lakes and even florals. I still can't paint faces, but I found they aren't necessary for a painting to look good.
During this learning curve, I started to recognize how I've been using these same techniques in my vocation. I've always said that the sales process is more artistic than analytical, but I had no way to convey that belief. Those painting lessons provided the proof and gave me techniques to use to win sales. I'll discuss three of them in the sections that follow.
Depth in a painting draws the eyes forward. It makes a two-dimensional painting appear to be three dimensional. It's important to paint this depth first, even if you ultimately paint most of it over as you move forward.
In sales, we must do the same thing. Signing a merchant is good, but the ultimate goal is a long-term relationship. This can be obtained over time, but that timeline can be shortened by first drawing the merchant into the opportunity. You must paint the background so that you develop rapport and nurture the early stages of forming a bond with the merchant. Even if the background gets lost as the conversation moves forward, the initial benefit remains. The key benefit to this approach is that it will make cost the last component of the sale, not the component.
When standing inches from a canvas, the perception that the tree exists and is complete is hard to grasp. You see brush strokes, but not the tree. As a result you are never satisfied. Step back often to avoid over painting, as well as to identify anything that may be missing. By doing this, you see the tree, and can realize when it truly is finished.
In addition, if you step away and look at the whole painting, you can identify gaps in the picture. You may see that a shrub is needed or a space is too symmetrical (nature is not symmetrical). This gives you the opportunity to address areas that would draw the viewer to missing elements, not the complete picture.
In business, as you proceed through a sale, rather than push it forward, step back. Pause your conversation by asking the merchant, "What questions do you have?" This will enable you to step back and listen to the questions, which will help you determine if the "tree" is actually done.
If a prospect has no questions, this indicates there is a gap you need to address. Ask open-ended questions. Look for comments or answers that indicate the individual either doesn't grasp a concept or may have misunderstood something you said. Take time to fill in that gap, and correct any misunderstandings.
It is a fact that colors can generate emotions. It's also a fact that a painting can evoke memories. With landscapes, those memories are primarily of quiet, relaxing times. I've always said that people buy for personal, compelling and emotional reasons. They rationalize their purchases with plausible explanations. This is particularly true with merchants.
We tend to sell to merchants' objective understanding instead of selling to their emotions. This ultimately costs us money and likely leads to short-term relationships. Just like painters, we should leverage the emotions merchants are feeling and address their pain. Structure your offering as you would a painting, and provide those positive emotions.
Remember, even the best painters create paintings that aren't stellar. That doesn't stop them from painting the next canvas and learning from their clunkers. We should do the same. Not all merchants sign, but all merchants can provide lessons learned. Adapt your approach for the next opportunity. And keep on painting.
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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