By Natasa Cvijanovic
Recently, I spoke with a new sales representative about merchant prospecting. The subject of cold calling inevitably came up, and this person was explaining to me that cold calling is no longer effective. Because I enjoy a good challenge, I asked him to explain his reasoning and walk me through his cold calling strategy.
As soon as we began dissecting his cold calling strategy and retracing his steps, I realized why he was unsuccessful with cold calling and was able to assist him. If done correctly, cold calling remains an effective strategy. However, if you repeatedly make the same mistakes, your success will be limited.
Do you remember your first cold call? I will never forget mine, no matter how hard I try—and believe me, I try. It was daunting. I was at the merchant location in person. To say I was nervous would be a gross understatement. My hands were sweaty, my heart was racing, I was stumbling over my words. I don't believe I've ever spoken faster, and I'm not even sure I mentioned any important points.
I was talking myself into a panic attack. It was the epitome of epic failures and the worst sales pitch in the history of mankind (it felt like it anyway). I wish I could tell you that the story ended happily ever after and that the prospect is one of my most loyal customers, but that is simply not the case. I'm pretty sure my visit to their business inspired their non-solicitation signs. What makes me laugh now was not amusing at the time. You're probably wondering why I'm admitting this. And the answer is simple: regardless of the outcome, every cold call is a learning experience and therefore beneficial to you. Nobody is born a merchant level salesperson (MLS) expert; we learn as we go, we move on, and it is perfectly acceptable to laugh at yourself.
When you make cold calls, timing can be just as important as what you say. This is a common piece of advice, but it's critical. For example, calling a potential merchant on a Friday afternoon or Monday morning is not a good idea. You are doomed to failure if you attempt cold calling on either of those days. Wednesday or Thursday mornings or afternoons are the best times to contact prospects.
Having to make a cold call can intimidate even the most seasoned salesperson, but your tone of voice makes a difference. If you call on me as a merchant and say all the right things, but your voice sounds nervous, flat, unenthusiastic and uninterested, I will not pay attention to you.
Please avoid droning in a monotone, and project a strong sense of confidence when speaking. Even on a cold call, excitement is contagious. That being said, I understand how difficult it is to maintain enthusiasm and a positive attitude throughout the day, call after call.
Still, your tone should be confident and friendly, assertive but not too pushy. It will take some time, but you'll learn how to strike the right balance with practice.
Be sure to do your homework and research the potential merchant before stopping at their business or before picking up the phone. At the very least, find out who the company's decision-maker is and what their position is.
You are probably wondering how you would find that information. Reference Solutions, formerly ReferenceUSA, is an online database of over 16 million U.S.-based businesses. It is my favorite resource and my colleagues and I use it extensively. If your local, public library provides online resources, as the majority do, Reference Solutions is going to be available, and it's free when accessed through a library.
If you want to learn more about a prospect, decision-maker, or prospect's annual revenue, Reference Solutions is an excellent resource. Consider this my early Christmas present to you.
The database also includes information on your prospect's competitors, so if you're targeting a specific niche, this resource also includes information on your prospect's local competitors. This will not only fill your pipeline with high-quality leads, but it will also provide a wealth of background information and details on any business. I can't emphasize enough how much we value and rely on this resource.
Engaging in small talk is perfectly acceptable. It's an important part of establishing rapport and being approachable and friendly with your prospect. Before selling your services, small talk can help you to determine whether you're talking to the right person and gauge their level of interest.
And be sure to avoid launching into your pitch as soon as someone picks up the phone or you enter their business. When it comes to pitching content, instead of listing the features of your products or services, which I refer to as "data dumping," focus on how you can help your prospect. Merchants are only interested in how your product or service solves their problems, simplifies their lives and improves the efficiency of their businesses. If you can effectively communicate this, you will close a sale or, at the very least, secure a meeting. I'm not a fan of sales scripts, but a well-prepared script and knowing what you want to say may help you feel more confident and at ease during your sales pitch. Use your script as a guide, but don't sound robotic or read it word for word.
Make sure you're always selling yourself. During every cold call or meeting, you have the opportunity to show prospects that you are an experienced, trustworthy salesperson who genuinely values their business. Having a friendly conversation with a merchant and demonstrating genuine interest in helping them and their business can help you persuade them to see things your way.
People are much more likely to remember stories than facts. As a result, it's critical that you purposefully share stories with your merchants and prospects and make every effort to help them understand why you do what you do.
According to Simon Sinek, an author, motivational speaker and marketing consultant, people will work for "what" but will die for "why," so choose your words intentionally. The words you choose will influence how people feel. Make your prospects feel something because emotions will drive them to action.
Natasa Cvijanovic, co-founder and CEO of Tesla Payments, has a proven track record within the payment industry of cultivating successful relationships with ISOs, MLSs and strategic partners. In developing national sales channels, she provides training and coaching to sales partners to enable them to become better business partners and advocates for their merchants, and to assist them in building portfolios producing steady residual streams. She is also dedicated to consistently delivering high levels of professionalism, integrity, dependability and trustworthiness. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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