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The Green Sheet Online Edition

August 11, 2014 • Issue 14:08:01

Tune up your tone, MLSs

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

When I was 10 years old, my friend Danny and I came across a burning car. School had ended for the day, and we were playing in the pasture adjacent to his house. There were no cattle grazing that year, and the burning car was off of a dirt road. We ran to Danny's house and burst in the door. He yelled for his mom and began to tell her about the car.

Danny was a fast talker; he spoke even faster when excited. In this case, his words blurred together. His mother stopped him and said, "Daniel, slow down, and watch your tone." He took a deep breath and explained the situation. After she understood what was going on, she promptly called the fire department.

I didn't understand the use of the word "tone" back then, but later I came to understand what she meant. You've probably heard the old adage, "It's not what you say but how you say it." We all know a person's tone can, and does, influence the reaction to what that person says.

You face this challenge daily in the payments industry. You say all the right things to prospects, meet all of their conditions and needs, and they still say no. All you can think is that it doesn't make sense. Why would they pass on the opportunity? The answer eludes you – until you examine your tone.

Remember, people hear subjectively. What you say accounts for 40 to 60 percent of what they hear. How you say something and your overall demeanor account for the remainder. Indeed, your tone has almost the same impact on your efforts as what you actually say.

I'm not a professional linguist, but it's easy to identify the tones that can have a negative impact on sales.

  • Condescension: A few tones immediately set me off, and this is the biggest offender. This tone is demeaning, as the speaker is indirectly saying, "Obviously I know more than you."

    When this happens in merchant sales, merchants perceive that what they say doesn't matter. Most will think you aren't listening to them, so why should they listen to you?
  • Arrogance: This tone is also demeaning. The challenge is that people confuse arrogance with confidence. Yes, we need to be confident in what we say, but there is a fine line between sounding confident in your comments and being arrogant.

    A confident tone gives a merchant faith in your comments. It builds trust and loyalty. However, if arrogance leaks in, it implies that you do not respect the merchant, so in turn the merchant won't respect you.
  • Perkiness: Being perky is normally not a bad thing. Perky people are usually happy. We all want to be around happy people, right? Not necessarily. Several movies have provided examples of instances when perkiness is inappropriate.

    For example, in the movie "Office Space" the receptionist is perky. Finally, a man who isn't feeling as happy as she is tells her to stop. Her response, "It sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays." That angers him more.

The biggest challenge with this tone is that it creates an emotional response. As a result, merchants often find they aren't listening to what is said, but instead reacting to the tone. The tone becomes 100 percent of what they hear. As a result, they respond in a negative way.

One way to ensure that your tone is appropriate and conducive to successful conversations is an art that all great salespeople have mastered. It is the ability to adapt your tone to your prospect.

This starts by reading the merchant and adapting to the individual's tone. This can only be accomplished if you start with a question presented in a professional tone. For example, you could say, "I am impressed by your business. Could you please tell me more about what you sell?"

Listen carefully to the response. You aren't necessarily listening for the answer (although it may be informative) but rather how the merchant responds. Is the response professional? Does the merchant's tone convey a particular mood? Is the merchant looking at you directly or looking around, which implies that he or she is attempting to multitask and could see you as a nuisance. What words does the merchant use? Is the prospect using industry speak or general terms?

Once the merchant stops speaking, no matter what you say at this time, match your response as closely as possible to that of the merchant. Use similar words. Try to pause as the prospect paused. You will find the merchant will become more interested and begin to actually hear what you are saying. This is because you are saying it in a fashion that the individual is most comfortable with.

Your tone has the ability to cost sales, as well as to increase them. All it takes is realizing the only correct tone is the one you tailor to each individual merchant. end of article

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 jeff@clearent.com 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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