The Green Sheet Online Edition
September 22, 2008 • Issue 08:09:02
Stay the course
I'm often asked how some merchant level salespeople (MLSs) succeed in building huge portfolios worth hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars while others struggle just to survive and make a living. My answer is that successful MLSs have more determination to succeed coupled with unending perseverance - attributes average MLSs lack.
Perseverance is as important to achievement as diesel is to driving a truck. Sure, there are times you feel like you're spinning your wheels, but you'll always get out of the rut with genuine perseverance. Without it, you won't even be able to start the engine.
The opposite of perseverance is procrastination. While perseverance means you never quit, procrastination means either you never get started in the first place or, if you do get started, you don't finish. Remember, the inability to finish something is also a form of procrastination.
Ask people why they procrastinate, and you'll often hear one of the following complaints:
- I didn't have enough time.
- I can't work with distractions.
- I can't work when I have a headache.
Such excuses are often offered by people who consider themselves perfectionists. But their complaints are really faults disguised as virtues. This fault-into-virtue syndrome is a common defense when people are called upon to admit their weaknesses. In the end, it's just another form of procrastination.
Why we procrastinate
Having trained hundreds - if not over a thousand - salespeople, I'm amazed by new MLSs who want to know every possible detail before they visit their first merchant. The fact is, while training is critical, you can go into information overload that leads to paralysis. What's the value of having the information if you never get around to applying it?
I prefer working with sales partners motivated to learn in order to make money; those who lack motivation soak up three months worth of valuable training time for nothing. At some point, you must stop the procrastination and make a sale.
Procrastination is really fear of failure. There's no difference between being afraid of performing less than perfectly and being afraid of anything else. You're still paralyzed by fear.
The same logic applies to the difference between never starting something and never finishing it. There is no difference between the two: you're still stuck and going nowhere. You're still overwhelmed by whatever task is before you and unable to take action.
This overwhelming negativity is really a mechanism that allows you to do nothing. It's a very convenient mental tool.
So how do you overcome procrastination? It involves employing two very powerful principles that foster productivity and perseverance instead of passivity and procrastination.
Break it down
No matter what you're trying to accomplish, whether it's writing a book, climbing a mountain or building a million-dollar portfolio in the payments industry, the key to achievement is being able to break down the task into manageable pieces and knock them off one at a time.
The secret is to take care of what's right in front of you at the moment, and ignore what's in the future. In essence, banish the future from your thoughts. And substitute real-time positive thinking for negative future visualization.
Suppose I asked you to a write a 400-page novel. If you're like most people, that would sound like an impossible task. But suppose I ask you a different question - write a page and a quarter every day for one year. Do you think you could write that book now?
By breaking down your "great American novel" into bite-size pieces, the task looks more manageable. Even so, I suspect many people would still find the prospect intimidating. But why?
Writing a page and a quarter may not seem so hard, but you're being asked to do it every day for one whole year. That type of commitment scares people. So let me formulate the idea of writing a book in yet another way - by breaking the task down even more.
Suppose I asked you: Write a page and a quarter, not every day for a year, not for a month, not even for a week, but just today. Don't look any farther ahead than that. I believe most people would confidently declare they could accomplish that, even though they are the same people who would feel incapable of writing a whole book.
If I said the same thing to those people tomorrow - if I told them, Don't look back and don't look ahead; just write a page and a quarter today - do you think they could do it?
The secret is to take things one day at a time. We've all heard that phrase. That's what we're doing here. We're breaking down the time required for a major task into one-day segments, and we're breaking down the work involved in writing a 400-page book into page-and-a-quarter increments.
If you keep this up for one full year, trust me, you'll complete that book.
Discipline yourself to look neither too far into the future nor too far back into the past, and you can accomplish things you never thought you could possibly do. And it all begins with three little words: break it down.
Write it down
The second technique for defeating procrastination is also only three words long.
We know how important writing is to goal setting. But writing is also great for disciplining yourself against wasting time. To cut wasted time from your daily life, you must recognize what those time wasters are.
To do that, start writing about the present just as you experience it every day. Keep a diary of your daily activities. It should describe what you do with your time and list all the places you visit every day.
In so doing, you will be surprised by the distractions, detours and downright wastes of time you engage in during the course of the day - things that keep you from achieving your goals.
For many people, it's almost like they planned it that way, and maybe at some unconscious level they did. The great thing about keeping a time diary is that it brings all your time-wasters out in the open. It forces you to see what you're actually doing - and not doing.
A time diary doesn't have to be elaborate. Use a little portable notebook, or put it on your Blackberry. When you go to lunch, when you drive across town, when you go to the dry cleaners, when you spend time shooting the breeze with coworkers at the copy machine, make a quick note of the activity, the time you began the activity and the time it ended.
Make your notations as soon as possible after the activity. Try to make an entry at least every thirty minutes. And make notations for at least a week. At the end of the week, add up all the wasted minutes. You will start to realize how much time you fritter away.
Breaking it down and writing it down are straightforward, powerful and effective techniques that will help you put an end to procrastination and jumpstart you toward achieving your goals. But you might be wondering how all this writing will help you make sales. Well, I'll tell you.
In the real world
Working in tandem, the two techniques are designed to instill discipline in your day-to-day actions. Once you know how to focus your attention on the daily goal and recognize all the time wasters that keep you from achieving that goal, you can take action to eliminate time wasters and focus on the goal.
Let's say you would like to build your portfolio to $30,000 per month. What you've got to do is get the first sale under your belt; then the second sale; then three in a week; and then repeat the process.
I believe a million dollar portfolio in today's market is a good mix of business earning between $30,000 and $40,000 per month. If you were new to the industry and told to build your business to $40,000 per month, it would appear nearly impossible, right?
However, if I told you to simply go sell three accounts this week, could you do that? If so, in five to six years, you would have the 700 to 800 active accounts needed to develop that million dollar portfolio.
It is reasonable to expect an MLS to earn an average of $45 per merchant per month. Therefore, 777 accounts would yield $35,000 per month, giving the MLS's portfolio an assessed value of over $1 million.
So, discipline yourself to follow through with your plans. If you hear about a great new selling opportunity, don't procrastinate. Follow through on that opportunity immediately.
But take it one step at a time. Research the leads one day; contact the leads the next day. Break up a project into sections. Break up sections into tasks.
If you follow the techniques I've just described, you will develop the discipline to take action intelligently, with self-awareness and tact. You will cut out time wasters from your day. And you will set daily goals that are realistic and productive.
I often reflect on my early years in the payments industry when I was actively selling in the field. My preference was to run preset appointments from my telemarketers. We also monitored results.
I kept track of how many dials per appointment and dials per hour were made. My closing ratio exceeded 80 percent of appointments in which I had face to face meetings.
If I received five appointments in one day, one would invariably cancel for some reason. So I'd sit down with four and usually write three of them. Therefore, I knew if I wanted to make 12 sales per week, I'd need to run leads four days and have six appointments (or so) per day. That was my formula.
Then, if I decided I wanted to spend $10,000 on a vacation, I knew I needed to write one more deal per week for three months to make my sales goal. But that's what it was: my goal. You have to develop your own numbers and your own strategy for getting to wherever you want to be.
This is a fun and fascinating business. Sure, some will MLSs fail and others will succeed. But isn't that true in any worthy endeavor. Which side of success or failure will you fall on?
Remember, eliminate procrastination; then take action. And make a commitment to discipline yourself to achieve your goals, so in the years ahead you can celebrate your successes. You might even write your story down and have it published in The Green Sheet.
Jason A. Felts is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida-based Advanced Merchant Services Inc., a registered ISO/MSP with HSBC Bank. From its onset, AMS has placed top priority on supporting and servicing its sales partners. The company launched ISOPro Motion, its private-label training program, to provide state-of-the-art sales tools and actively promote the success and long-term development of its partners. For more information, visit www.amspartner.com, call 888-355-VISA (8472), ext. 211, or e-mail Felts at email@example.com.
Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.