By Steven Feldshuh
Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions East
Imagine the consternation our parents must have experienced when that day came when their middle school-aged children entered the music room, saw all the instruments lined up against the wall and were told to choose one.
Knowing I didn't want to carry a tuba or a bass to school – and certainly not a drum set – I decided it made sense to choose a violin. I am not sure who was more disturbed by this choice: my family, my cat or me. Though the instrument is small and looks like a miniature guitar, it sure sounds painful when you are practicing. Since I wasn't a prodigy, my efforts to learn violin basics were plain awful for anyone within listening distance. That brings me to the topic of this article: the pain in practicing.
We all got our start in much the same way in the credit card industry. We came into the payments world knowing little, if anything, about the industry. We had various levels of expertise in sales, but most of us hadn't known the credit card processing industry even existed.
Like musical proficiency, mastering merchant services entails learning and remembering essentials – and practice, practice, practice. Becoming accomplished takes a lot of practice. What kind of practice are we talking about? With the payments industry, you do not study notes, chords or bowing techniques; you learn pricing in various keys such as tiered, interchange-plus and cash discount.
Like a violin, a merchant services business is portable and can be practiced anywhere, whether you live in New York, Montana, Colorado or Florida. Like a violin, while you learn to play, some people won't know what you are playing and won't want to listen; others, like your parents, will sit through the squeaks and other ear-defying sounds because they want you to succeed.
So how does one become an accomplished merchant level salesperson whose messages are heard and appreciated? Is it possible to become the equivalent of the No. 1 violin player in the orchestra? Is it possible to be akin to the conductor and direct a full symphony?
Given the interest today from Silicon Valley and the "Valleys" of several other cities, there is intense interest in the payments industry. Many of these folks are looking for the end-all software, application or hardware that will revolutionize our previously quiet, little-known industry. Most of these folks are looking for the big hit. Some may find their way downstream to learn about becoming salespeople to get the experience to develop their own ISO.
Others will come into our industry from industries that understand the value of building one's own business. And don't forget the annual recruitment of new high school or college graduates. So I believe the talent and drive will continue to be there in our sphere. Even with today's investment firms and super ISOs gobbling each other up, there will always be room for the new guy with the new idea.
I have often heard potential salespeople ask me, "How much am I going to make?" My answer is, "I don't know your abilities and your resiliency, but if you start a diet of working hard and practicing, you can be successful."
Another question is, "How much do I need to practice and learn?" My answer typically is, "You never stop learning, experimenting and practicing new techniques. Our industry is constantly evolving, and you must continue to study the craft of selling and keep up with the changing technology." Most of all I spell out that to become successful in sales, you must continue to push and not waste time on nonsense.
So, the first step is to insure you are working with the right crew. There are a lot of good companies in our marketplace. Find a company that wants you to learn and practice, not one that just wants to throw you into the field to swim – and fail. This is going to be a career, so find a home where you feel wanted.
Next, insist on coming to meet the folks who will be controlling your income. Insist on getting training, whether in person or by phone and web. Without training you are dead in the water and sure to fail. Too many potential agents say they know sales, but do they actually understand the power of building residual sales?
Once you feel comfortable with the initial knowledge received in training, you need to practice. Football players, basketball players, attorneys and doctors all practice their craft, so why shouldn't you? To master the merchant sales conversation and be able to overcome objections, I recommend you go into the field and stop by as many physical locations as you can over the course of a week. When you begin, drive at least one hour away from your home to an area that you are unlikely to return to. So if you goof up, get tongue-tied or just feel overwhelmed, your business won't suffer, because you won't be coming back.
My rule of thumb is not to practice on people in businesses I know. This isn't the insurance industry. Get a lot of experience before approaching your warm base. You will feel much better talking to your uncle Jake or cousin Leslie once you know what you are doing.
So how do you get accustomed to walking in merchants' doors? I still strongly believe in an old-fashioned flyer to give to whoever appears to be the owner or manager of the business you're targeting. You want to leave something behind. Printing a flyer on goldenrod paper works best, since you can refer to the colored flyer in a follow-up call. A simple flyer with your information and a little teaser on pricing and services works best.
Always try to hand the flyer to the person who seems to be in charge. Tell the person you are working in the neighborhood and you would like to meet for five minutes when you come back to install a new processing system for one of that business's neighbors. When the individual asks who the neighbor is, say you cannot reveal that because it would break that merchant's confidentiality. Do the "pull away" if the prospect starts talking and asking questions: say you would be glad to meet at a designated future time to answer all of the prospect's questions. You will have now set the merchant up to feel he or she can trust you and that a neighboring business has trusted you. These are all good things.
If you are like others I have worked with, you may begin by just dropping flyers off at locations and asking to leave them for the owner. Once you realize no one is going to bite you, you can start with letting merchants know you build your business through referrals, and you are hoping to do the same with them once you have a meeting.
Remember, the more you get in front of people, the more skilled you will become at overcoming objections. Some of you plan to do sales by phone, which is a great way to reach more people. But ideally, even those who plan to build their career over the phone should initially meet face to face with merchants. You will develop a much better understanding of what businesses face each day, and you will learn the common objections merchants have.
I also found it is more difficult for merchants to dispense with me when I am standing in front of them. It is much easier to hang up on a phone call. It is not fun to be told to leave, but chances of success increase when you show in person who you are.
One last item to consider along with practicing is giving away something to each merchant you visit. I achieved the best results after giving a merchant a goldenrod flyer, along with a 10- or 20-cent pen with my phone number printed on it. Yes, if you give away 1,000 pens, it will cost you $100 to $200. But I found pens to be better drivers of sales than business cards. When you give someone something for free, the person tends to feel obligated to listen to you.
The tiny amount of money you spend on such a giveaway is a great investment and will go a long way in helping you build your business. Yes, this is old-fashioned for most of you, but remember, there are still people out there that like to meet in person with the people they are dealing with, and they do like receiving something, even a cheap pen. I promise you will learn a lot that you can put to use if you practice.
Steven Feldshuh, President of Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions East, has 18 years' experience in sales and ISO development. Directly prior to joining MCPSE in 2012, he was President of Payment Partners. In his current position, Steven devotes the bulk of his time to assisting agents in building their portfolios. Contact him by email at email@example.com or by phone at 212-392-9202.
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