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The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 14, 2014 • Issue 14:07:01

Street SmartsSM

Are you selling or telling? - Part 1: How will you know if you don't ask?

By Tom Waters and Ben Abel
Bank Associates Merchant Services

A famous bodybuilder once stated that true fitness didn't require fancy equipment, the latest resistance machines or even free weights. All that was required was discipline and knowledge. With those in hand, the scrawniest man could walk into an empty room and, given enough time, come out with a chiseled physique even Hercules would be proud of.

This story struck us because in sales, we rely on a host of tools – slick product demos, eye-catching proposals and elegant marketing material, for example – to assist in closing our sales. But what would happen if, like a room lacking any fitness equipment, a merchant level salesperson (MLS) were stripped of all that?

Without crutches, MLSs would have to turn to the most basic tool: conversation. Over the course of this multi-article series, we'll discuss verbal skills you can sharpen to assist in closing sales. Question forms will be your push-ups. Frame control will be your crunches. Humor and rapport will be your squats and lunges. And as we go through these mental exercises, you'll develop your conversational fitness so you can sit down with a stranger and walk away with a client.

Why should I bother?

The value of questions cannot be overstated for three primary reasons. First, they make it just that – a conversation. Without questions, it is simply a lecture. No one is interested in listening to someone drone on about anything. By asking questions, you make the process active instead of passive. The prospect is engaged and must think about how to respond.

Second, to answer your questions, merchants must internalize the information you present. It becomes truth in the merchants' minds. When you tell them they need something, they doubt it. When they tell you they need it, it's true. When prospects answer your questions and feed you information or affirmations, they build acceptance of your offer and reveal their points of interest.

Third, using questions allows you to dictate the course of the conversation. You can move from topic to topic and point to point, conducting the exchange as if it were the New York Philharmonic.

Qualifying through questions

GS Online MLS Fourm member mbruno stated, "[In my opinion] asking the right questions is the most important technique in sales. … After the initial chit chat/feel good stuff, I'll start by asking a lot of questions – often the same question in a few ways – to ensure I understand what, if any, opportunities there are."

Mbruno made an excellent point that questions can qualify prospects and ensure you're selling from the right angle. By proposing the wrong service or product, you could give the impression that you either do not understand a prospect's model and would be the wrong person to do business with, or you do not provide the solutions the individual needs. The newest, flashiest IP terminal available is of no use to someone with only analog lines.

Another effective practice Mbruno mentioned is asking the same question in a variety of ways. Merchants are just people, and people aren't always honest. Sometimes they aren't even honest with themselves, especially when the truth might impact their egos. Several psychological tests track consistency by reframing the same question several ways throughout the test so the answer can be compared. The higher the similarity in responses, the more likely the statement is true. By peppering questions about the value of one of your benefits in various ways you'll be more likely to find out if there is a need for it.

Going for the close

In addition to sharing Mbruno's insights into opening the sale, we'd like to lay out some tools for reaching a successful close. Following are four question forms you can use to build valuable questions that will assist with signing a deal.

  1. Tie downs: A tie down is when you make a statement sound like a question by adding things like "right?" or "wouldn't it?" at the end for the purpose of getting someone to give you an affirmation. So it's not really a question; it just sounds like one, doesn't it? Researchers Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser demonstrated that once you get someone to say yes to you, it becomes easier for the individual to do it again and again, thus building what is called a "yes ladder."
  2. Alternative choice: This is used to get a commitment from the prospect while not giving the person a chance to say no. This form stands in contrast to close-ended questions, which can be answered with a simple yes or no. With an alternative choice, you ask the person to select option A or B. Instead of asking, "Would you like to ..." ask, "Do you want this to be stationary, or do you want it to swivel?"
  3. Active questions: The purpose of this question form is to force the prospect to take mental ownership of the product. You do this by having the person answer the kind of question he or she would have to ask after the sale is completed. Consider a real estate agent taking you into a room and saying, "This would make a great living room. Where do you think you'd put the TV?" By answering that question, you're forced to picture how you would arrange the room and imagine yourself already living there.
  4. Decisional question: This is designed to force a commitment from the prospect if you can do something specific for the prospect. It is more direct than any of the previous examples and can be used to either springboard off of a product benefit or a package concession. The basic construction is "If I can X, will you Y?" Imagine a home security salesman trying to close the deal who says, "If I can get the cost of installation waived, will you move forward with the monitoring plan today?"

Just scratching the surface

Try writing examples of each of these types of questions to call upon when you're with prospects. As you become comfortable using them, you will be able to incorporate them into conversations without thinking, like muscle memory guides a boxer as he bobs and weaves. These four question forms are not all-encompassing; we recommend doing additional research. You can also reach out to us for a training document that explores this area in more depth.

In the next installment, we'll discuss additional verbal techniques to use for getting sales. After enjoying this article so much, we're sure you just can't wait for it, right? end of article

Tom Waters has been dedicated to the merchant service sales profession since 2001. As Sales Director of Bank Associates Merchant Services (www.bams.com), he has contributed to the success of thousands of agents, affiliates and clients. He can be reached via email through t.waters@bams.com or via phone at 347-651-1065.

Ben Abel is Regional Director at Bank Associates Merchant Services. He is a dedicated, pioneering trainer whose methods have helped many agents expand their portfolios in terms of processing volume, deal count and profitability. He can be contacted at 347-866-9571 or ben@bams.com.

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