By Daniel Wadleigh
There are two kinds of leads: "they called you" and "you called them." Close rates for the former historically average from 25% to 65%, depending upon price, added value, marketing and selling skills.
The close rate for the latter type of lead is just one out of 20 to 25 calls (4% to 5%) for almost any industry. At least it's predictable - as long as you don't exhaust your market universe too soon (thank goodness for start-ups).
While "they called you" close rates are significantly higher, unless you have a cost-effective way to consistently generate leads that sell, you need to do proactive marketing.
None of this information, so far, is a big surprise, but I am setting the stage for the elements that maximize leads and sales.
In the payment processing industry, acquirers offer similar services and buy rates, and the market is saturated with merchant level salespeople (MLSs).
So, using a fresh approach to generate leads and close sales is crucial. (Merchants are tired of hearing, I can save you money on your discount rate; give me your last three statements.)
In over 30 years of cold calling, I have noticed that too many MLSs can't get past the gatekeepers to reach decision makers.
I've heard very accomplished sales trainers in this industry teach their people to be somewhat dismissive of gatekeepers and ask right away to see business owners. Wrong approach.
In a competitive industry, service and added value are king, in that order. If gatekeepers or decision makers judge that you are too pushy, they will also conclude you are too aggressive to be service oriented. And they will not want to do business with you.
Two attributes drive decisions: impact and credibility. But you must first get the chance to tell your story and offer added value - including service.
Carrier Corp. did a study to identify the contributing factors to decision making. Twenty-five percent of respondents said price was primary; 17% asked for any added value like warranties and service.
But 58% went either way, depending on how an offer was presented, by price or value. Seventy-five percent of the market is available if you offer added value, and service is what merchants want most. Do you always buy the cheapest price?
Of course not, because some companies are easier to deal with or add the little things like personality and attitude. So, here's a three-part technique for getting past gatekeepers:
Service is the No. 1 impact issue, particularly in an industry where service is too often missing in action. This means taking care of problems and providing regular, sincere attention (not just offering something extra to buy every time they see you). Added value is the secondary impact issue.
Credibility means you have bothered to verify all of your claims. Any form of exaggeration will be found out, and the first opportunity a misled merchant has to switch will be your demise.
Emotion inspires; logic justifies. Merchants may want to save money by switching to you, but if there is a risk of emotional damage (otherwise known as hassles and surprises) they will not pull the trigger.
Testimonials are gold if done right. Keep them short, addressing the two impact and credibility issues: the positive benefits of doing business with you and your over-the-line service.
Daniel Wadleigh is a veteran marketing consultant in the payments industry. He offers an educational program that is available on a PowerPoint presentation and designed to help ISOs elevate themselves above the competition. E-mail Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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