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Street SmartsSM: Blueprint for MLS Success: Part II

By Ed Freedman

Blueprint for MLS Success: Part II

In my last "Street Smarts" column, "Blueprint for MLS Success: Part I" (The Green Sheet, Aug. 9, 2004, issue 04:08:01), I introduced a plan for you, MLSs serious about achieving unprecedented success. I also gave a presentation based on this plan to hundreds of industry professionals at Mark Dunn's seminar: "Field Guide for the Developing ISO," held July 28, 2004 at the Drake Hotel in Chicago.

In Part I, I laid the groundwork for building your business on a solid foundation. I also explored how to set yourself up for success by incorporating the right contract and compensation plan; effectively selecting vendor partners, including choosing the best ISO partner; and generating lucrative leads. In this second installment, we'll look at executing the blueprint.

There are not many secrets in this business. The difference between your success and the success of your competitors is how well you execute your blueprint. You know what you need to do, and how well you do it makes the difference. The key components to effective execution are:

  • Closing Deals
  • Value-added Services
  • Industry Involvement
  • Doing the Right Thing

Closing Deals

One of my favorite scenes from a must-see movie for any sales professional illustrates my feelings on the subject of closing. In the 1992 film "Glengarry Glen Ross" the character Blake, played by Alex Baldwin, says:

"...Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers only...because only one thing counts in this life: Get them to sign on the line that is dotted. 'A,' 'B,' 'C.' 'A': always; 'B': be; 'C': closing. Always be closing. Always be closing."

The difference between a professional salesperson and a hack is that a professional salesperson has a game plan for every sales presentation, whether it is given in person or over the phone. The successful closer controls the process. Here are my secrets to closing deals:

  • Break the ice. Introduce yourself, and make the prospect feel comfortable speaking with you.
  • Ask the all-important initial question: "What is your time frame for getting up and running?"
  • Interview the merchant. Ask lots of questions that lead your prospect to make small commitments. Use the merchant's answers to help explain and validate recommendations.
  • Make appropriate recommendations, and base them on the prospect's answers. For example, "Based on what you have explained to me, I recommend..."
  • Explain start-up costs and logistics for getting the account set up.
  • Finally, make the assumptive close. It doesn't matter whether they tell you they need to get set up in two days, two weeks or a month. Your final statement is: "Based on the time frame you told me, (insert that time frame here, i.e. one week, two weeks), we need to get started TODAY!"

Let me offer one last secret weapon to closing the deal. I highly recommend a book by Zig Ziglar titled Secrets of Closing The Sale. This book offers practical advice and effective questioning techniques to transform prospects into clients.

Value-added Services

The next area of the blueprint includes a strategy that will put more tools in your deal-closing tool belt. Credit and debit card processing is no longer enough in today's competitive market. In fact, starting conversations with prospects by explaining how you can save them money on their credit card processing services will not likely produce great results.

You must come up with a new intro or lead for why they need to work with you. If you learn to sell at least one new product or service, you'll not only have a competitive edge, but you'll surely add value to your existing credit- and debit-processing service offerings. Value-added services include:

  • Check conversion with/without guarantee
  • Gift and loyalty cards
  • Wireless services
  • Internet/gateway transactions

For example, a check conversion program with or without guarantee enables merchants to accept and process checks similar to credit card transactions. That means they can increase sales, and you can increase revenue.

Merchants offering gift and loyalty cards can create a compelling reason for customers to choose their shop over another's; these programs also help retain customers and increase shopping frequency.

By adding these types of services to your offering, you're not just an MLS who gives merchants good rates on credit card processing services, but you've transformed yourself into a payment-processing expert: a consultant who figures out ways for merchants to develop their business and achieve more profits. That translates into greater merchant retention.

Wireless processing, also known as mobile commerce, or m-commerce, offers merchants the capability to accept credit cards anywhere and anytime using a wireless merchant account.

Right now, there's real opportunity for you to sell wireless. POS devices have expanded to include a myriad of wireless capabilities. To meet growing demand, new wireless service providers have also emerged. Learn how to sell these other options, and add them to your arsenal. Also, study the coverage areas, and target the areas where standard service does not work. Find a wireless solution that will work in that area and start selling it! Internet processing also offers a growing opportunity. If you're not selling to both brick and mortar and online merchants, you're missing a significant revenue opportunity. With advances in technology, the ability to sell products and services online has never been easier, safer or more cost-effective.

Online stores allow merchants to be open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Not only is this an important convenience for customers, but it also means more revenue for the merchant and you. More than 75% of the merchants that our company sets up with an Internet gateway do not sell products or services online. They just find it to be an easy, inexpensive way to process card-not-present transactions. Think about it. There's no software to install, no worries about terminals breaking down or becoming outdated or obsolete. All your merchant needs to do to process transactions is access a Web site. It doesn't get much easier than that. From your perspective, you can usually get a merchant set up for free with the Internet gateway of your choice.

Industry Involvement

To stay ahead of the curve, you need to be informed about new products and services available in the marketplace, at least on a semi-annual or annual basis. You should also expand your resources to create a solid network of colleagues.

The best way to do this is through active participation in the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA); National Association of Payment Professionals (NAOPP); regional acquirers' associations; locally hosted trade shows/conferences; and training events and sales seminars. If you don't heed this advice, your business will slip while your competitors' business grows. A better industry will make a better company.

Doing the Right Thing

How we conduct ourselves in both our professional and personal lives directly correlates to how much success and failure we experience. This can also be a separating factor between you and your competitors. Nearly a decade ago, after I enjoyed some initial success selling bankcard services and setting up merchant accounts, I encountered several roadblocks while attempting to take my business to the next level: I struggled with vendor partners; I had trouble finding sources of capital to grow my business; I felt like some good things were happening but, at the same time, some not-so-good things were happening, too.

I was convinced these things weren't based on luck, so I searched for consistency. There had to be more to it. I figured it was something I could learn to do. I just hadn't had enough time to get it done.

Then I found a book that helped me understand what I was doing right and what I needed to work on. The book is titled, The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Strategies for Managing Your Business and Your Life by Geshe Michael Roach. I recommend that everyone read it; not only once but several times, especially the section on real solutions to common business problems.

Two excerpts from this book proved invaluable to my success. They are:

  • "...take a little time figuring out how business really works. In the end, it would save you years of your life if you could figure out the basic reasons why business success does or doesn't happen in the first place."

  • "...It is essential to understand that, in terms of content, a positive result (business or personal success) cannot come from a negative cause (such as hurting or cheating anyone else)."

Your world, namely your personal or business success, is a creation of your integrity, or lack of it. Success is driven by the good or bad that we do to the people around us. I firmly believe that if we learn how to act consistently and in a good way, we can design our own future...and that future will come out just the way we want it.

There you have it: the complete Blueprint for MLS Success. If you've skipped over a step, you need to go back and fix it. For instance, at Total Merchant Services, we recently announced a Special Forces Work Group, a branch of professionally trained people dedicated to the needs of MLSs. Some people asked why we waited so long to do this, and wasn't it too late?

Let me unequivocally state, "It's never too late." I am not a proud man. I have no problem admitting I missed something. Rather, I boldly announced I had gone back and fixed something that was missing. It's never too late to go back and get your contract set, choose better vendors or implement value-added services to your offering.

Don't be embarrassed if you missed any part of this blueprint. Reading about it now, it might seem obvious, but execution is not always so simple.

If it were easy, then everyone would be successful. Remember, having a blueprint means having a foundation. People have a tendency to skip this basic premise and realize, too late, that a solid foundation is the key to success. If you follow this outline, I guarantee you that success will be a "when" and not an "if." For many of you right now it's an "if." To take the "if" out of your business equation, embrace this blueprint and follow it.

My next column will feature a guest columnist. As always, I'd love to hear from you. Please send feedback on this topic (and any others) to Streetsmarts@totalmerchantservices.com . Your voice is an invaluable part of this phenomenal industry.

"The fundamental qualities for good execution of a plan is first, intelligence; then discernment and judgment, which enable one to recognize the best method as to attain it; the singleness of purpose; and, lastly, what is most essential of all: will, stubborn will." -Ferdinand Foch

See you next time where the rubber meets the road.

Ed Freedman is founder and President/CEO of Total Merchant Services, one of the fastest-growing credit card merchant account acquirers in the nation. Freedman is the driving force behind all business development activity as well as the execution of Total Merchant Services' marketing plan, including recruiting and training independent sales offices and establishing strategic alliance partnerships with leading vendors, so that Total Merchant Services can provide its customers with the highest quality and most reliable services available.

To learn more about Total Merchant Services, visit the Web site at www.totalmerchantservices.com. To learn more about partnering with Total Merchant Services, visit www.upfrontandresiduals.com or contact Freedman directly at ed@totalmerchantservices.com.

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