By Jeff Fortney
The conversation began like any other conversation. The merchant level salesperson (MLS) was asking for help reviewing a complicated statement. As we were finishing up, the agent asked a straightforward question that is asked quite often by those in the payments world: "How are others like me doing today? It seems as if I'm struggling to close deals."
I told him that results vary and asked him why he thought he was struggling. His response spoke volumes. "I just don't have the confidence I think I need," he said. "I don't know the answers to all their questions, so I'm afraid to push too hard. I'm doing all the right things, but I just don't see the results."
This MLS is like many others in this profession. They take the opportunity to be trained on all the sales skills and try to execute all the right behaviors, yet they present an air of uncertainty during presentations to merchants.
We often forget that body language communicates as powerfully as our words. If our posture or mannerisms project insecurity, the merchant may not trust that we can deliver on the services we are offering. That doubt leads to concern, and that concern leads to lost sales.
The most successful MLSs follow this basic principle: Confidence isn't knowing all the answers. It's knowing when you don't have all the answers and need to seek assistance from other resources.
This business is ever evolving. As such, it's almost impossible to have all the answers. The key is to have someone available to ask when a situation arises in which you need further information. Having access to that assistance is what drives confidence.
As an MLS, it's important to understand the traps that can sabotage your success.
When reviewing a statement, the confident MLS knows where to look and what items merit the most attention. The hesitant MLS spends time poring over and analyzing every line, needing to know what each item represents so as not to miss something important.
Meanwhile, the confident MLS has already discussed the opportunity and likely signed the merchant, while the uncertain MLS is still analyzing.
It's not wrong to ask questions, but if you allow yourself to get caught up in the minutia, the merchant will become impatient with your overzealousness and your opportunity will be gone. Don't overthink. Ask your ISO partner, mentor or your trusted adviser for assistance. Ask this individual to show you how he or she does it, not tell you the results.
The most dangerous word in the English language for salespeople is "assume." Never assume. If you find yourself thinking, "They won't sign with me if I offer them this program," or "I know they won't be happy if I save them only this amount," you're assuming a response before it happens. Every time you do this you build a mental hurdle blocking your sales success. Second-guessing yourself just creates indecision.
Remember, people buy for their reasons, not yours. If you make assumptions about a response, your assumptions are most likely based on your objections or your reasons. Your merchant doesn't need to tell you no - you're doing it for him or her.
Eliminate all negative opinions from your thoughts and your approaches. Eliminate assumptions. Once you accomplish this, your confidence will rise.
Merchants don't expect you to be perfect or to know everything. They respect those who have the answers and those who will admit they don't - equally. Some of the best salespeople aren't necessarily good at thinking on their feet. And they know they aren't, so they become good at saying, "Good question; let me make a quick call."
Yet many less skilled MLSs will take information learned during a specific situation and "translate" that knowledge to fit the question. As a result, the answer is at best wrong and at worst costs them the deal because the merchant feels misled. If you're not sure, say so.
Selling can be scary. We have all thought this at one time or another. It isn't always comfortable to walk into a merchant's store asking for business. Some of them respond angrily or in a demeaning fashion. If you sell merchant services long enough you will literally get thrown out of a merchant's store at some point for no fault of your own.
Yes, fear is a factor. It will be there, but how you control it will define its impact on your confidence. Remember, should an uncomfortable situation arise and a prospect shows anger or another negative response, it may be temporarily directed toward you, but the emotion is about the situation, not you.
So use that fear. You can say, "I certainly hear your concern, and in fact, it's a concern of mine as well. Could you tell me what has caused this?" Be on the merchant's side. Sympathize, or even better, empathize. Find common ground. Don't let the response put you on the defensive.
When you are selling, you are on stage. You are playing a role, that of a salesperson. Anything that is said or done that might damage your confidence is not being said or done against you; it's against your role.
Remember, no one can be a better you than you. Your confidence is found in who you are, not by the role you play. That confidence permeates from role to role, from salesperson to parent, from child to spouse. All these are roles we play. All you can do is your best, knowing that, as an individual, you are unique and irreplaceable.
Like any growing garden, confidence must be tended, and that tending is best done with an experienced gardener. You must have a trusted adviser willing to answer your questions when they arise. That adviser must also offer help and training. In turn, you must take advantage of such opportunities. No, you don't need to know everything, but you must develop a firm base.
Confidence is the final differentiator between the successful MLS and the unsuccessful MLS. Be confident in your actions, and your sales will grow.
Jeff Fortney is Director of Business Development with Clearent LLC. He has more than 12 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at email@example.com or 972-618-7340.
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