By Jeff Fortney
What commodity do we all tend to ignore? Here are some hints. No one knows how much we have. It's a finite asset, and when gone, it's gone. We can't set it aside for a rainy day, nor can we hoard it. You guessed it. The answer is time.
It's easy to forget the importance of this asset. We often define it in cliches like, "Time and tide wait for no man" and "Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." But few recognize basic truths about time and its immense value. We all invest our time whether we know it or not. We invest time to reinvigorate. We invest time in our friends and families. But these investments can't be made if we don't also invest time in our businesses.
Two statements are on my desk: "Shut up and listen" And "Stay on the right side of the pay line." The latter reminds me that time at work should be spent on efforts that increase revenue, not on areas that aren't revenue driven. In essence, we need to do selling activities during selling time.
The "right side of the payline" involves the time you set aside for selling activities. These activities vary by what your role is, what you are offering and what helps you grow your revenues. It isn't 100 percent of your work time, as non-selling activities are necessary to support your efforts, and your selling effectiveness wanes if you spend all your time selling. My research indicates that most salespeople devote six hours a day to right-side activities and two hours to activities that don't drive revenue.
We all set aside time to build our businesses, which means increasing merchant counts, volumes and revenues. Even so, we often let activities that do not drive revenue slip into our right-side time. Some may look like sales efforts, but when examined closely, are more time wasters than revenue drivers. Some can even cost money. The most egregious of these is the reason for my fifth basic tenet: Don't chase maybes.
Maybes are time eaters. They have been called comfort calls, dream chasing and wishful thinking calls. Merchant maybes rarely sign or buy anything. They don't say no; instead they give you just enough hope to visit again.For example, does this sound familiar? It's a first call on a merchant you've identified as a strong candidate. You're conversing, and the individual seems attentive and interested in what you're saying. Then you ask if they have questions, and they reply, "That sounds very interesting. Can you leave something for me to read and review? I need to get back to work."
Thanking the merchant, you hand over your printed flyer and say you'll be back Friday. You leave smiling, believing you have a solid prospect destined to sign on Friday. However, when you return, your prospect isn't available. You ask for another time and are told Tuesday might work. On Tuesday, you call ahead and are put off until the following Friday. On Friday you show up in person only to find it's the merchant's day off. Delays like this continue week after week. After a month, you set the prospect aside, and wonder what happened. The first call seemed successful. The deal was almost done, so you thought. And you invested significant time because you considered it a solid prospect.
This is the quintessential example of chasing a maybe. If you were to do an honest postmortem on the initial call, you'd see the red flags flapping when the merchant asked for a leave-behind to read. Your so-called prospect was really what I refer to as a suspect.
This type of scenario typically has specific attributes that foster an MLS's belief that someone is a strong prospect when, in fact, they aren't truly interested in the offerings. One is that the MLS does most of the talking. The second is that the merchant asks the MLS to leave something behind. The third is that the MLS does not establish a specific next step or schedule a firm appointment for follow up.
To avoid this, identify the key components that will turn a suspect into a prospect. This involves asking questions about the merchant, not just about how they accept payments.These questions should elicit information like how they sell (face to face, online, etc.); what key pain points are causing them to suffer today; and whether any of those pain points are associated with how they accept payments.
Remember, most merchants don't like to say no. Asking you for something to read indicates that they may be part of that majority. When this happens, give them permission to say no. In this situation I choose a direct approach, saying, "Sure, I can leave you material, but to be honest, in most cases when someone asks for something to read, they are really saying that I haven't given them a reason to continue our conversation. If that's the case here, I want you to know it's okay to tell me you're not interested. It will not hurt my feelings and will avoid me becoming a nuisance. We can part as friends."
If they say they are interested, make a firm appointment to continue your conversation. Confirm a time and day with no potential conflicts. Make it clear that you know how valuable their time is and show them you are adding it to your calendar. All these steps force the merchant to commit to another conversation or admit there is no interest. If they admit to having no interest, thank them for their honesty and ask one more question couched in this fashion, "Thank you for your honesty. For my information, can you tell me what I may have said or didn't say that led you to decide?"
By following these simple steps, you will quickly identify whether someone is a prospect and, if so, you'll have a firm next step. Even if it's a no, you'll avoid spending more time on something that won't generate revenue.
On your first call, every merchant is a suspect, not a prospect. A suspect is a product user who needs to offer electronic payment acceptance to collect payment for their offering. They remain a suspect until you have spoken with them, identified a fit and a need for your services, and they have shown an interest in taking the next steps.
By only accepting a yes, no, or a firm next step as the goal for all calls, the value of your time increases. You will sign more business, spend less time on the sales process and see an increase in sales. All by not chasing maybes.
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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