By Jeff Fortney
At least once per week, a merchant level salesperson (MLS) will ask me, "But what if they ask …" Endings vary, but the question structure does not. There's nothing wrong with seeking knowledge. "Knowledge is power" remains a true statement.
This question, however, isn't about gaining knowledge; it's about fear. Specifically, fear of:
In response to this type of question, I ask whether the merchant has actually posed the question. The answer is almost always no; the MLS just wants to be prepared. I then ask whether the merchant would even know to ask the question.
The challenge in these situations is that the MLSs are thinking about questions they would ask, not questions merchants would ask. Thus, they are sabotaging sales before they even start. You can avoid sabotaging yourself by remembering some simple steps.
A friend of mine is a sales consultant who helps companies determine why they aren't reaching the level of success they desire. Instead of examining the sales staff's actions on the job, he first examines each salesperson's purchasing philosophy. He asks:
Some describe purchasing a car or major appliance; occasionally the purchase is a house. Many talk about doing research, visiting multiple stores and ultimately purchasing the item that fit them best. The average time spent on this is less than a month.
Recently, a sales representative whose production was slightly below average said his most recent large purchase was an engagement ring. He visited every major jewelry stores in his vicinity and entered each option on a spreadsheet. He included karat size, style, cost, color and overall durability. He rated each ring using his own system and narrowed the list to three options. Then he asked for his fiancée's input, and she made the final call. The process took nine months.
My friend asked the rep, "When you talk to customers and they want to think about it, I bet you usually say that's fine." The rep agreed. My friend then said, "What's holding back your production is how you buy. Just because you do a lot of research doesn't mean that everyone else does so. You can't wait nine months for someone to buy. You have to become a salesperson, not a purchaser."
Realizing he wasn't cut out for sales, the rep ultimately returned to school and became an accountant. He couldn't separate his role as a buyer from his role as a salesperson. To be successful in sales you must remember that your role is to sell the product. If you let your purchasing habits dictate how you sell, your sales will suffer.
Practice handling objections often, but don't let fear of objections hamper your sales. Even if you grasp every nuance of today's payments industry, you cannot be prepared for every potential objection. Payment processing is ever evolving. It's impossible to know the answer to every question; more importantly, no one expects you to know all the answers. Sometimes the best answer is, "I don't know, but I will find out."
A working knowledge of the industry is essential, so read and stay informed. But keep in mind that attempting to preempt all potential questions can paralyze sales efforts; if you strive to know everything before you start selling, you will never sell; and even though knowledge is power, the time you spend seeking knowledge is the time others will use to sell.
Remember your role and use your time wisely. Don't let the fear of a question paralyze you. And don't inject how you buy into the sales process. These steps will increase your success rate. Isn't that what we all want?
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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