Almost 3 years ago I started a job selling credit card processing services to small & medium size businesses in Portland, OR. If you aren’t familiar with the payment processing industry, it’s crowded with competition. There are only 10 or 11 credit card processing companies in U.S. that actually process the transactions for businesses, but there are probably 6-7k companies that operate as resellers calling on merchants. Because of this, merchants get 3 to 5 phone calls per week from someone soliciting their business.
The company I worked for was a great company but there was no CRM, no leads, and only very basic training. In fact, there wasn’t an official company training that I was invited to until after I had been with the company for a year or so. As you can imagine, the first 6 months were very difficult for me as an inexperienced, commission only, credit card representative.
I had tried to walk in spewing all the recommended scripts that the company had provided me but I kept coming up short with no sales. I decided to take a different approach that would, over the next 6 months, yield a 45% closing ratio and a 90% retention rate with businesses I approached with my services. As I think about the mental shift I made during that critical time, I am reminded of the 7 things I did to find success. It started with:
Too often sales professionals go out to sell products and services they don’t believe in, making it very difficult for them to persuade someone else to invest in those products or services.
I remember listening to Dan Sullivan, a leading global business advisor, talk about the importance of selling yourself on what you do and why you do it before you try to persuade someone else to buy from you. So that’s exactly what I decided to do. I slowed down on trying to book as many appointments as possible and began studying my company and our competitors, crafting stories that would appeal to prospects, and taking the time to sell myself on why I chose this particular company to sell for.
“If you’re not sold on what you do, see if you can figure it out. If you can’t, find a new product or company to sell for.”
The next thing I did was drop the verbiage that I didn’t identify with and immediately replaced it with my own personality and language. I started communicating in a way that was natural and authentic to me. I started sharing real stories with the people I wanted to do business with. If I didn’t know the answer to a question they had, I was upfront about it and promised to find the answer for them. I wanted to be as transparent as possible because my ultimate purpose was to build trust, not to just sell a merchant services account.
What I found was that businesses were tired of working with inauthentic sales professionals, and they were looking for real, honest dialogue with the people they do business with.
“People buy from people who have first, bought from themselves.”
When I was initially hired, my sales manager didn’t provide much training on how to get clients. He just advised me to make as many calls as I could reading from a script and then follow the appointment script if I secured an appointment. I don’t fault him for his advice, he was just doing his best. Needless to say, there were already 30-40 credit card reps calling on merchants using scripts and I wasn’t having much success, and I felt a little slimy doing it.
What I decided to do was research the companies I wanted to do business with along with their industry, competitors, and challenges they were likely facing. This allowed me to develop a sound understanding of what they were up against prior to reaching out to them. I could now approach them with information and solutions specific to their industry, allowing me to differentiate myself from the people calling from the same script every day.
“One of the best ways to build trust and respect is to show up, PREPARED.”
B’ING CURIOUS & INQUISITIVE.
It felt great to walk into my appointments with a spirit of curiosity and inquisitiveness instead of having commission breath. Being prepared allowed me to ask genuine questions about their business and industry that were crafted, not scripted. Jerry Acuff, the leading sales trainer for the pharmaceutical industry, says that in selling, “meaningful dialogue” is the foundation of long-term selling success and influence, something preparation gave me the confidence to foster quickly.
I also started asking questions that helped me get to know them, instead of being Mr. Credit Card Expert. I would ask questions like, “I’m curious, who’s your favorite employee here? What do they do that you really appreciate?” or “If you could teach one class with all the life & business experience you have, what would you teach?”.
What I found was I developed real relationships that completely transcended the products and services I was selling, and when the timing was right, we could discuss my products and services at a time most convenient for them on their terms.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” –Zig Ziglar
Then one day I got a phone call.
Me: This is Keith!
Customer: Hey man the credit card terminal showed up but it’s not working! Help me out here!
I had signed a sports nutrition store and the terminal that got shipped to his store wasn’t working. But there was an even bigger problem, the customer lived in a town 4 hours away and my service team wasn’t having any success getting him up and running over the phone. So I jumped in my car and drove to his store to make sure he was able to keep his store open. It wasn’t a very lucrative decision, but it is one that I would do 100 times if I had the opportunity to do it again. It was an opportunity to be there for a client when he needed it the most.
This experience was important because we live in an age where companies think having an 800 number to call is true customer service. I learned that business owners still really appreciate the human aspect of old fashioned customer service and that it shouldn’t be discounted or handed off to the lowest bidder.
“The quickest way to erode trust with your clients and potential clients is to be flaky after you sign the deal.”
B’ING A PROBLEM SOLVER.
I quickly realized that business owners really didn’t care about the name of my company, how many employees we had, how many endorsements we had, or what our slogan was. What they wanted to know was, “Will I be in a better situation as a result of us working together?”. And so I chose to focus on delivering tangible solutions to the challenges my potential clients were facing, instead of boring them with my company’s credentials. I also chose to introduce my clients to other professionals that could help them solve problems in other areas of their business outside of just credit card processing.
I learned that nothing demonstrates your ability to listen like taking the time to create real solutions to the problems and challenges they are faced with. I also learned that being curious and inquisitive is pointless if you don’t follow through with solutions to the challenges your potential client has shared with you. Taking the time to help your client, even if it’s not with your product, speaks to your client in ways your words never could.
“People don’t have time to care about your company. They barely have time for their problems. If you can solve their problems, they will make time for you.”
B’ING IN TOUCH.
The final thing I learned along the journey on my path in the credit card processing business was the importance of staying in touch. As sales professionals, we are constantly reminded that 80% of sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact, but rarely do we get much quality advice how to follow up properly with this statistic in mind. We usually just call to ask if they are ready to buy, and if they aren’t, we politely terminate the conversation and move on. I learned quickly that this was a major turn off, so I decided to take a different approach. When following up, I chose to make it about the relationship and their success, instead of it being about the sale. I would follow up with valuable information, thoughtful questions, answers to some of the concerns they expressed, or just checking in to see how they were doing.
I found that when I focused on advancing the relationship in a quality, genuine, respectful manner, conversations about my products and services were less stressful and a lot more fun. I also got referrals without asking for them, and would have owners reaching out to me to let me know they were ready to discuss their credit card processing.
Making these adjustments to my process not only helped me earn more money, but provided the greatest asset known to humankind: quality relationships. Had I focused only on closing deals, I would’ve missed out on some of the coolest relationships I am fortunate to have today.
“He who provides the most value over the longest sustained period of time, WINS. Being consistently in touch over a long period of time while doing your best to provide value to help your potential clients win, is a process that will consistently win.”
Thank you for taking the time to read about the 7 B’s. If I can be of any value to you or answer any questions along the journey, don’t hesitate to contact me.