By Jeff Fortney
When did you last talk with your merchants—all of your merchants? I ask this question often, not just now, when we are all, in some form, sheltering in place. We all know that the best conversations take place face to face. Next best are telephone conversations. The last option is email or text message.
Today, option one is likely out. This brings us to option two, the phone call. And there is no better time to talk to your merchants. Many have had to close their doors temporarily. Others (like restaurants) are surviving on takeout and delivery—something many of them didn't do in the past. Merchants are afraid of the present and the future and, like numerous other people at this time, they feel all alone. Yes, it's a good time to call them.
However, you can't just pick up the phone and start calling. You must organize your database, identify top priority merchants to call first, and create a brief outline for the call.
If you have a database in some format you are ahead of the majority of your competitors. The larger offices may have a fully functioning CRM platform, but the majority of merchant level salespeople have only copies of applications. If this is your situation, it's important to take the first step in creating this database. I recommend using something as simple as Excel.
Column one would be for merchant name; column two, the contact name; three, the contact's phone number; and column four would be for the email address. If you wish, add fifth a column listing the merchant type (restaurant, retail, ecommerce, etc.). The last column is not required, but the other four should be filled in. After you complete this list, you are ready to move to the next step.
It is important that you talk to the merchants who are the most vital you to your revenue. They aren't necessarily the highest volume. Instead, they are the ones that make you the most money. This is the most important step.
Remember, the residuals you receive this month are from the preceding month's business. All that happens this month will have an effect on your income next month. Speaking to those who are your highest earners this month will accomplish two things. You will give them support, which benefits them, and you will understand what impact their situation will have on revenues next month. It's better to know now and plan ahead.
Outlining a call doesn't mean creating a script. You are creating bullets to be covered in the call. I recommend these three:
Make it conversational and watch your tone of voice. You must sound empathetic and not like a salesperson. Subsequent calls can cover options to help them regroup, but this call is to just check in, be visible and be their partner in this situation.
Now it's time to start making your calls. Just remember, don't expect to talk to all of them in one day. But set aside a minimum of two hours a day to do this.
Let me emphasize: this is a critical activity in today's situation. Although it's the right thing to do, it will also pay off when restrictions due to COVID-19 are relaxed. You were there at the worst times; you are their partner at the best times.
Stay tuned. I will next discuss email and its uses. And, if you have time, give me a call. Let me know how your calls are going, and let's just talk about business. I stand ready to help.
Jeff Fortney is vice president ISO relations for Signature Payments. A long-time payments industry executive and mentor, Jeff is focused on strengthening and developing partnerships and evaluating new business opportunities. He can be reached at 214-458-1379.
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