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The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 24, 2008 • Issue 08:03:02


Hitting the campaign trail

Editor's Note:

Unless a product becomes outmoded, a great campaign will not wear itself out.
Rosser Reeves

An election year is once again upon us. Cries for change and chants of stay the course abound. We are inundated with talking heads on television. Candidates crisscross the country in an effort to garner votes.

The strategies and techniques required to run a successful campaign are analogous to those of the merchant level salesperson (MLS) canvassing merchants for endorsements. And, regardless of your political preference, you can learn a few things from an election that can help build your business.

For ISOs and MLSs, signed contracts are like votes: Each one counts - but how do you get more bang for your campaign buck?

Focus on the larger existing and prospective clients, multilocation retailers, industry and community leaders, and those who can not only generate new accounts, but can also exert influence on other potential customers. Win their allegiance and other, smaller merchants will follow.

Merchants can be capricious as well

Some voters consider every issue, listen to every speech and read everything written about a candidate before deciding on whom to support.

Others have neither the time nor the inclination to follow a presidential aspirant and cast their ballot based on word of mouth from friends or co-workers; some even base decisions on who appears to be the most genuine at the time.

Merchants are no different. Some examine every fee, read every line of fine print and insist on numerous meetings before making a decision; others take a more cavalier approach and believe a recommendation from an industry associate is good enough.

In this regard, MLSs trying to close deals with super clients are not unlike political stumpers trying to secure the votes of the super delegates.

In any election, the field is narrowed as the race progresses and voters decide on the most viable contender. In any sale, the field of MLSs is narrowed as merchants gravitate toward agents who offer more personal attention and give them hope for a more efficient and cost-effective processing future.

Survive the attrition

Though a candidate may have supporters, it becomes evident during every campaign that, for some, the numbers aren't adding up and the only option is to drop out. But what of the super delegates committed to that entrant? They need to find another candidate to support.

Similarly, merchants who have lost service providers due to bankruptcy, acquisition or personnel changes need someone else to fill their processing needs. As an MLS, what are you doing to identify these merchants, court them and convince them you are now the front runner for their nomination?

First, read industry publications as well as national and local business sections of newspapers for clues as to which ISOs are leaving your region and what local businesses they serviced.

Keep an eye out for new businesses and changes in fees or policies. Talk to current clients and inquire about new developments. See what the buzz is.

Second, talk to merchants who have recently lost or are unhappy with their current providers. Ask them what they disliked - and liked - about their previous ISO or MLS.

Show them what you have to offer, and see if your philosophies and preferences about running a business align with theirs. Then convince them you should be their nominee.

Keep it clean

Every candidate promises to run a clean campaign and steer clear of character defamation and jingoism. And while the intent may initially be honorable, invariably mud does get tossed onto the windshield of the opponent's campaign bus. Some MLSs have equally malicious sales techniques.

But the true winners are the MLSs who take the high road and focus on their sales skills and value added services rather than their competitor's flaws.

They point out what they do better than anyone else and why the services they offer are ideally suited to their prospective clients.

Simultaneously, be ready to diffuse negative issues that may arise in your own camp. You may have an ex-client with an axe to grind. Maybe a relationship with a previous employee or employer didn't end well - there may be some dirty laundry aired as a result.

As a sales "candidate" you are bound to lose some votes, but dealing with problems in an ethical and honest manner may sway others who were previously on the fence about your methods or abilities.

Our season never ends

In the political arena, party affiliation alone can prevent progress. A worthy bill or quality piece of legislation may be stalled or crushed due to political maneuvering rather than from lack of merit or infeasibility.

In the financial services sector we are, fortunately, unencumbered by a commitment to a party. Merchants can therefore be served in a way that best meets their needs. And in the end, by tailoring your presentations for individual clients, your interests - and portfolio - are best served.

A presidential election comes along every four years, but for ISOs and MLSs, election season never ends. Every day is full of opportunities to win votes, secure endorsements and rally supporters around you.

So, hit the trail, and start tallying up those clients. end of article

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