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Q & A – Cold Calling Merchants in Saturated Markets

Merchant Sales Podcast · How To Overcome A Saturated Market The agent today is from the UK. She asks what to do when the merchant says, “You’re the sixth person to call today about […]


The agent today is from the UK. She asks what to do when the merchant says, “You’re the sixth person to call today about card services!” How can you get past that instant barrier?


Here’s some sales psychology. When setting appointments, there are two variables: quality and quantity.

Quality leads are contacts who know why you’re calling; they understand it’s about card services; they’re interested in meeting with you; you set a time to meet. That’s a great lead!

Quantity leads are lower quality leads based on how many you could arrange by the approach, “You’re a local small business owner; I’m a local small business owner. When could we get together to network? I’d like to meet you and give you a business card.”

So, rather than having the difficult task of overcoming the barrier, avoid it altogether. The middle ground is to set yourself apart. Give contacts the idea you sell services of some kind, but don’t make the call all about card services.

The big question is whether the higher quality appointment actually gives a significantly better result than a lower quality one? I’ve found that for most salespeople, it doesn’t! The fact that a merchant agrees to meet for any reason gives a good chance of having a conversation and generating interest.

Suppose you are trying to pitch card services on the phone. That is causing a loss of 90% of possible appointments. If you get all those appointments without saying “card services,” the 10% you do secure for appointments won’t be closing any better than those you secured by using those words. So, my advice is not to say, “card services.” Ask yourself what you can talk about that merchants will like?


#1. Present yourself as a “cost reduction expert.”

“Hi! My name is James Shepherd. The reason I’m calling you today is that I’m a cost reduction expert. I work with small business owners and shops to help reduce ongoing costs. I’ve worked with many business owners. I’m calling today to do some networking. I realize I’ve never been in your shop before; I’d love to stop by and say hello. Could I come either Thursday morning or Friday afternoon, drop off a business card, and say hello?”

#2. Present yourself as a “solution sales” agent. This is one of my favorites. You can say, “I offer business solutions such as software to help your business, point of sale systems, etc.” If you offer a full range of products, as the agent today does, you can talk about those.

Merchants don’t like to hear the words “card services” or “credit card processing.” But, you probably won’t be the sixth person to call a merchant to talk about point of sale solutions or software.


Be careful not to give much information about anything on your call. The goal of the call is to introduce yourself and set an appointment. Make sure you don’t take the bait of providing more information.

Here is the usual progression of the call:

AGENT: “I just wanted to come by, network with you, and drop off my business card. I’d enjoy learning a little more about your business and telling you about mine. Wonder if you have time Thursday morning or Friday afternoon?”

MERCHANT: “Well, what do you do?” or “What do you want to talk about?” or “What is this meeting?”

Although salespeople get this question all the time, they are seldom ready to answer it! Therefore, they actually answer the question, which is a very bad idea.

If you give merchants enough information to say “no” on the phone, they will. Rather, you must learn to pivot and go around that question rather than taking the bait.


The agent should answer,

“We do a lot of different things, mostly business services. We provide many services such as cost reduction and software solutions. But I don’t want to take your time right now; I know you’re busy. Did you say Thursday morning would work? Or would Friday afternoon be a better fit for you?”


If all your efforts to avoid the barrier fail, I have found the only possible strategy which might overcome that barrier is humor. You’ll need to be a bit over-the-top with it on the phone since the contact can’t see your face.

MERCHANT: “You’re the sixth call I’ve had today for card services.”

AGENT: “Yeah, but I’m the best looking of the six.” Or “You must be really popular in your market.” Or “Susan, it must feel great that everybody wants your business, huh?” [Break the ice a bit with that. Then continue…]

“I really do believe I’m different than all the others who’ve called from the big companies, because I’m a local, individual business owner. I’m actually not even coming to sell you anything. If I don’t think there’s a good fit for my product, I’m the first person to walk out the door. The only reason I want to stop by is that I love having relationships with as many small business owners as possible. I just want to come by, look you in the eye, hand you my business card, let you know I really am local in the area. Then if you ever do need my services, you know where to find me. Is that fair?”

There is only a slim chance of overcoming that barrier! Be careful to avoid the barrier instead of trying to overcome it.

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