By Jeff Fortney
I started my first sales job in 1978, working for a mortgage company. Because my compensation was 100 percent commission, I was very motivated. And since I had no experience selling mortgages, the company promised to train me. Like many sales training classes, the training left much to be desired. It consisted of three basic instructions.
I took these tips to heart and made a significant number of calls per day to the various real estate offices across town. I even developed routes to make sure I didn't miss any of them.
My goal wasn't to sell them on a mortgage, but rather to sell them on me being the advocate for their buyers. Along with making a lot of calls, I always had a stack of flyers to leave on desks, as well as hand to those in the office.
My efforts were energetic and consistent, but in hindsight, I can see that my success rate compared with the number of calls I made was not that good.
I thought I was successful because I made so many calls and was persistent. Even so, a low success rate resulted in long hours and a heavy toll on both my energy and morale. After a year, I knew that those who were the top producers had to have a better way. When I asked one, all he would tell me was that I needed to "work smarter."
This left me in a quandary. How could I work smarter? Should I seek outside sales training? How could I increase my success rate without spending 90 hours a week selling?
To answer those questions, I identified what I learned that first year. One lesson was that realtors who are always in the office and willing to talk aren't selling any homes. You can build the best relationships with them, but that won't generate business. Another example was that I had to ask for business - all the time.
I learned something else that was contrary to common practice: leave behinds are a waste of money. My boss at the time thought I was crazy when I said to him, "I don't want any more flyers. They generate no business, are not looked at unless I physically hand them to someone, and they do nothing to build a relationship."
He had used flyers throughout his career and truly believed they were tied to his success. He responded by saying that I had to have them with me. To avoid an argument, I would take a stack with me each day, but I had no intention of using them.
I found greater success without the leave behinds. I spent less time walking through realtors' offices and more time talking and listening. I listened better, identified producers, and reached out to them personally rather than leaving a flyer on their desk and hoping they would call. As my sales numbers grew, I slowly stopped taking the flyers. Since that time, I have not used leave behinds or flyers, nor have I advised anyone to use them.
In today's payments world, though, leave behinds are prevalent. Along with flyers, we also have one more item that could be defined as a leave behind: the statement analysis. But are flyers and statement analyses necessary for success? The answer can be found by examining both pieces and the roles they play in our industry.
The leave behind in the payments business is different than with other industries. The general consensus I've heard from those in payments is that most are more specific than leave behinds used as sales aids in other industries.
Fellow GS Online MLS Forum member 3 IN 1 shared his approach, stating, "As for leave behinds, I never leave a statement analysis or proposal, but I do leave information about our free equipment, free gift card program, or other services that I feel would be beneficial in building the merchant's business."
BER added, "I've used quite a few leave behinds in the credit card processing industry, but with limited success. With POS, it's a little different. However, I do make some pretty bold claims on my leave behinds/mailers for POS like 'Financing Guaranteed' and some other secret sauce I can't reveal."
Both of these approaches avoid one of the key reasons for leave-behind failure: nothing in the material grabs the attention of the reader. However, when asked, few could measure their success rate with leave behinds, as this is truly difficult to measure.
This is why I decided to see if I could find some quantitative evidence about the use of leave behinds during the sales process. I conducted research online and found success rates ranging from zero to 1 percent.
One example was from an affiliate business that discussed walking door-to-door, delivering flyers to merchants. The salesperson was assured by regional management that flyers would make him tremendously successful. After four months of delivering thousands of flyers, the subject had only generated four new relationships. He also noticed that when he had to return to a merchant for other reasons, he often found the flyer in the garbage.
I ran across examples like this often. Even those who physically handed flyers to merchants often returned a week or two later to find the flyers exactly where the merchants had put them right after accepting them.
And this raises the same question I had in the 1970s, "Are flyers or leave behinds an asset to selling?"
There are those who leave nothing other than a business card. I spoke with a number of them, and their reasoning was the same. They saw no success with the flyer approach.
Some merchant level salespeople (MLSs) have encountered merchants who would see the flyer in hand and ask to see it immediately, hoping the MLS would then leave. Others found the flyer started to become a crutch they would resort to quickly instead of continuing their sales efforts.
Using a flyer is ultimately the salesperson's call. Newer salespeople will ask for flyers, as they see them as door openers. Others who choose to have flyers use them selectively. As with any sales effort, though, the value must be weighed against the cost.
Deciding not to use a flyer may require that you change your sales approach. Do the math, and don't forget to factor in the average success rates.
When I am asked for a flyer I say, "You must be a very good person. You see, when I hear someone ask for a flyer, what I hear is that I have given them no reason to consider signing with me.
They are just too nice to say no. The result is I keep calling on you and you find yourself trying to avoid me. If this is the case, it's OK to say no; it won't hurt my feelings. However, if it isn't the case, let's talk further or schedule another time to finish our conversation."
This simple, honest approach shows that you respect the merchant. It will save you a lot of time, as you won't spend your day chasing maybes. It also helps move the sale along.
A constant concern heard in the payments world is that we are in "a race to the bottom." That race is often fueled by statement comparisons, proposals and other documents provided to merchants that support the age-old sales approach, "I can save you money."
Proposals are not all about cost savings. Many proposals don't even mention savings and are instead focused on meeting real needs and issues that the merchant faces with his or her current provider.
This type of proposal is not the kind required by large merchants, commonly known as a Request for Proposal or RFP. I'm talking about proposals and other related documents that are often used for small merchants.
3 IN 1 does proposals for every client. "I almost always do a proposal or statement analysis for merchants I'm trying to sign," 3 IN 1 wrote. "I want them to understand exactly what they are getting when it comes to my services. I believe being totally transparent births trust when doing business.
"I would prefer to have a happy merchant, willing to refer me to others, than try to hide something and end up with an angry merchant who feels like he has been taken advantage of." Many MLSs have the same approach; others simplify proposals into a simple statement analysis. Some leave them with the merchant; others do not.
Unless a proposal is offering the same price, one of its components identifies cost savings. In these cases, the MLS is setting himself or herself up for two negative situations.
In both scenarios, the result could be that you end up losing the merchant to the next salesperson who offers a lower price. Now, statement analysis has its place. It can show merchants exactly what they are paying and can be helpful in pointing out unique - or unfair - fees. It also builds your relationships with merchants by helping them better understand their costs.
Sometimes statement analysis helps merchants see the value in their current programs. However, keep in mind that you can do this simply by visiting the merchant. You don't have to do a formal written proposal.
The value of leave behinds and proposals is up to you to define. Just make sure you fully analyze their value and consider all of the positives and negatives.
Remember, you don't have to use them because that's what you were taught to do. You can adapt your sales process to what works best for you and your market, and this may be different for each MLS.
Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.
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