By Steve Norell
US Merchant Services Inc.
For the entire time I have been in this industry (which seems like forever) the one thing that has driven me crazy is the lack of ability on the part of merchant level salespeople (MLSs) to use targeting, researching, planning and executing (TRPE) or a similar system that would enable them to be organized, consistent and effective in their careers.
"A common area of weakness with many companies is the absence of a systematic approach to selling," Wendy Maynard, co-founder of the Kinesis Inc. marketing firm wrote in "7 essential ingredients to create a remarkable selling system" published on the company's blog. "Most businesses lack a pre-defined, step-by-step set of interactions that their salespeople take prospects through in order to qualify and convert them. Instead, each salesperson operates by intuition, which means there is no consistency or scalability."
Maynard's observation may be especially true of merchant services. We are an industry that revolves around the independent contractor, and the accent is on independent. Most merchant level salespeople (MLS) do not treat this job as a full-time thing. Many use the payments industry merely as a source of incremental income. If they make a few bucks great; if not, then they move on to the next venture. I was told years ago that the national average of deals written by MLSs is one per month. If this is true, then my point is made that most MLSs are part time at best.
Because of this, most MLSs never practice the art of TRPE. In some cases, this is not the MLS's fault. Often the ISOs that agents write for do not train them to practice the art of TRPE. In all fairness, I don't know many ISOs that go out to visit every MLS in person to train them on this sort of thing. It would be cost prohibitive.
Here's how I approach the art of TRPE:
I have never understood why MLSs, in general, do not practice, train and study when it comes to both the merchants they are approaching and our industry as a whole. Doctors are always studying. Athletes are always training. Attorneys are always practicing.
So my question for ISOs reading this is: What do you do to help your MLSs succeed when it comes to the points I have made above?
And my question for MLSs reading this is: Do you do any of what I've discussed above?
I have found that the number one mistake made by many MLSs is believing they have to sell every merchant they meet. Not every merchant should be sold. Many companies know their program or product is not for everyone. Why can't we take a page out of their books and run our businesses the same way?
In addition, it seems to me that the only training provided to all MLSs is on products and never on selling principals or techniques. Unless you count the one time a year at the annual meeting or the trade association conferences where the keynote speaker spends an hour on this topic. In those settings, it usually goes in one ear and out the other. Instead of relying on periodic special events designed to force-feed attendees, we could employ continuous learning techniques that are integrated into daily MLS routines, making it far more likely that key information and insights would stick.
Steve Norell is Director of Sales at US Merchant Services Inc. Based in Port St. Lucie, Fla.; he oversees the USMS sales force and maintains the company's bank and processor relationships. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 772-220-7515.
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