By Jeff Fortney
It's that time of year again when new commercials flood the airwaves for the holiday season. In one case, a lady sits down for the $1 hair styling, gets one clip, and is done. In another, someone buys a cheap mixer, and it blows up.
Those are just two examples of many merchants taking similar approaches. And all are just a twist of an old saying: you get what you pay for. These all imply that if you want quality you pay more, or if you want a service, it comes with a cost. But the cost isn't huge, and it's worth it.
As I watched the umpteenth commercial leveraging the same concept, I had a thought that maybe this same concept could be leveraged selling payment processing to merchants. And it would begin by adapting to today's merchants and their needs.
The times of "show me your statement and I will save you money" are quickly fading. Payment processing is no longer just a means to move money through the card brands' networks (although it's still a principal part of the process). The demand is growing for pay at the table, full functioning points of sale (now called points of interaction by some), kiosks, remote solutions, recurring billing, merchant invoicing and payment from the invoice, surcharge processing, and so on.
In addition, the days of truly free terminals are coming to an end. None of the needs I just outlined come free. They have costs, and someone pays for them. The more a merchant needs, the higher the costs, and the ability to offset these costs from processing revenue narrows rapidly.
So, as a new year is upon us, it's time to reexamine the "you get what you pay for" adage. That begins by making a commitment to adapt your sales approach, away from only a portion of the process to the full process. Now is the best time to examine how you do business today. Begin by answering these questions about your approach to merchants (be brutally honest):
Don't judge your answers; just list them. Then, set them aside and answer these questions about your knowledge base:
Once you have those answers, set them aside, too. Don't try to analyze anything until you complete the next step, which involves one more question:
This statement should be your overall marketing plan for the year. It is not a count of new merchants signed, but instead, it is a plan of action. Here are a couple of examples:
Your statement can be short. It can be general. But it must be a statement of intent – and something you can execute.
Now, compare your responses above to you mission statement. Identify areas that are contrary to your statement. Do you spend too little time probing? Is the first conversation about cost? Do you have sufficient information on POSs to allow you to offer solutions?
When you find a disconnect, stop and determine a solution. It's easy to say you won't talk cost until you understand a merchant's systems and needs, but it's another thing to actually do it. You must stop and develop an alternative approach.
If you have led with statement reviews, it will be difficult to lead with system improvement if you don't have a good, general understanding of various POSs, for example.
You will find that the disconnects are obvious, but the solutions are more difficult to identify. Reach out to your processing partner or trusted adviser. Seek out training. If your partners aren't offering anything of this type, consider examining those relationships to see if they fit your new approach.
Ultimately, it's up to you. Merchants today understand that they get what they pay for. The good ones are willing to spend to improve and grow. Are you prepared to meet their needs (which increases your profits) or chase statements?
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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