My favorite thing about writing these blog articles and creating training resources for new agents and industry professionals is being able to share real life sales stories from my own experiences in the field. Unlike some sales trainers who made their last sale years ago, I actually made a sale today. I try to make a few sales each month so I can test new ideas and techniques. I enjoy staying up to date on our industry from the front lines.
First, let me give you my latest sales story. Then I will mention a few lessons of which I was reminded, including some mistakes I made in the process. Then you can add this to your arsenal of sales techniques. Back in June of this year, my telemarketer called a large, seasonal business which has five accounts – one for each line of business. One of the accounts does $250,000 per month for three or four months per year. Another account does $80,000 per month for seven or eight months per year. The other three are smaller accounts doing a steady $4,000 to $10,000 per month. My telemarketer spoke with the secretary who said the company is always looking for ways to save money. So she set up an appointment for me one morning that week and simply asked the secretary to have a statement ready if possible.
I went in for the appointment; did a little small talk; met the general manager; got a copy of the statements (which the secretary had copied already); and left. I was asked to email the analysis to the company to which I agreed since they are a long way from my office (a big mistake, by the way.) So, a couple days later I emailed the statement analysis which would have saved them $11,000+ per year and didn’t hear back. I wasn’t worried. I figured with those kinds of savings, I had the sale. After a couple more days I called. Then I called again in a week or so. Finally in August I actually went up to the place and met the secretary again. She told me, “We actually went with another company that agreed to save us a little bit more money!” I was devastated!!!!!! However, I managed to stay professional and asked if the terminals were installed yet for the new company. She said they would be in a week. I replied that I would check back with them by the end of the year to see how things were going. I put this in my calendar for December.
A couple days ago, I drove up unannounced and walked in to find the same secretary. I explained the Durbin Amendment and pointed out the fact that I recalled they were on pretty high tier pricing. I suggested this pricing structure might be even worse now that the Durbin Amendment was in effect. She agreed to allow me to do another analysis and gave me statements. I got the analysis done and found the newer company was actually charging them more than the first company! I went back up the next day to find everyone left early. Then I came back today and had a meeting with the general manager and secretary who seem to be about equals on making the decision, with the general manager having a slight edge. When I sat down with the general manager, we talked about his business a little bit. I was genuinely interested in how they made a profit and how they market, since marketing is my background. Then I got right into the analysis and showed how much total savings we could offer. Again, they have five accounts. If they switch now, they will have a $195 cancellation fee on each of the five accounts. After making the presentation, I noticed that the general manager wasn’t saying much.
So I said, “That’s all I have” and sat back in my chair. This was followed by Silence…..Silence….Silence….Silence. About thirty seconds later (seemed like two hours!) the general manager asked, “so what about equipment?” (This is an ownership question. If you are any kind of a sales rep, you know you got the sale as soon as he asked that question.) After talking about equipment and several other things, I said, “One other thing we need to discuss. You have five accounts. I will pay the cancellation fee on the three big accounts but not on the two small ones (which I knew would do less than 5K the first thirty Days). Now I am only saving you $30 combined on these two per month, and it will cost you about $400 to cancel them. Do you want me to switch these or leave them alone until the end of the contract? We talked about this for a while. After learning they were renting equipment, we agreed to free equipment on all five accounts. He gave me all five accounts with the understanding that he would cover the cancellation fee on these two accounts. This one account will bring in a nice yearly profit for my business, as well as make my entire month of December look a lot better. Now let’s look back at this sales story and learn a couple things.
1. Don’t judge who is a decision maker or who can set an appointment right off the bat. If you are cold calling or walking in, assume that everyone has a part in the decision making process. If you are calling to set appointments, talk to whomever picks up the phone and schedule an appointment with that person. Don’t try to make “solid leads;” just try to make leads. If my telemarketer had asked for the “Business Owner,” I never would have ended up at this business in the first place. The owner lives out of state and isn’t really involved with day to day operations.
2. Always present the analysis in person. I am 100% confident that if I would have brought the analysis back to the business the first time rather than emailing it, I would have made this sale in June. If a business is too far away or too difficult for you to get to for a follow up visit, don’t make the initial prospecting visit or call. Do all of your follow ups in person, especially the one where you present the analysis for the first time.
3. If you don’t get the sale, resist the emotional reaction of, “You will be sorry.” Instead, go for a more professional approach of, “I certainly understand your reasoning. I am not going anywhere; I am in this business for the long haul. So would you mind if I checked back in three or four months to see how the new company is working out for you?” I have never had anyone say “no” to this request, by the way.
4. When you follow up after a long period of time, just to walk in unannounced is always best. If you call first, they will likely say, “Oh, we are really happy with the new company, but thanks for checking.” However, you can offer to look at the new statements when you are right there. Then you can compare figures to see how the new company is really doing versus the original company with whom they did business.
5. Don’t be afraid of silence. It is very, very unusual for a prospect to be silent for a while and then say “no.” Usually the silence is an indication they are seriously considering your offer and perhaps thinking about the switch over process. DO NOT BREAK THE SILENCE!!! Let your prospect break the silence once he or she has had a moment to think.
6. Don’t be surprised by “Yes.” Too many agents don’t know what to do when a merchant says “yes” because they are not expecting it. I expect everyone to say “yes.” When they do, I go right into a conversation about the equipment and the installation process.
7. Do not be afraid to bring up a negative. Even though the general manager told me “yes,” I don’t really think he fully trusted me at that time. After I said in no uncertain terms, “You will have a cancellation fee with your current company on all five accounts. I will pay for three of them, but you will have to pay for the two smaller accounts. How do you want to handle that?” he immediately realized how much easier it would have been for me not mention this but deal with it later. I chose to be honest and up front. A good manager or business owner can recognize when someone makes the tough choice of doing the right thing over doing the easy thing, and they really appreciate this.
8. Lastly, here is one tip I didn’t mention in the story because it is hard to describe. Learn to talk like a sales professional. Get a copy of Tom Hopkins book How to Master The Art of Selling. Learn how to use tie downs like “Isn’t it?” “Doesn’t it?” “Don’t they?” Also learn to use questions such as “Porcupine Questions” or “Involvement Questions.” I use these without even thinking because I have spent hours and hours rehearsing them. I thought to myself after my meeting today, “This is so easy! How can I explain to sales agents how to do this?” The simple truth is I have spent hours, probably even weeks, of my life dedicated to mastering the questioning verbiage from Chapter 3 of this book by Tom Hopkins. I honestly think that mastering the skills in this book pays higher than mastering just about any other profession.
Let me give you an example. An average sales rep might say something similar to this: “Mr. Jones, I hope I have answered all your questions and that you can see we are going to save you money if you buy today (awkward pause)… Are ready to sign the contract today?” A sales professional would say, “Bob, it has really been great meeting you. I think this is a great business you have going. Now, the savings we talked about make sense to you; don’t they? (Response, “Yes”) I am excited about doing business with you; are their any other questions you have for me? (Response, “No”) Ok, great! I will get the paperwork together and come back tomorrow, (no pause here) but before I leave I have a few questions for you. Are you planning to connect your terminal to the internet or to a phone line? Do you accept American Express? etc., etc.” Then at the end of the conversation, “Well, I think I can get all the paperwork together this evening. If I swing back by tomorrow to get it all processed, would 2 p.m. still be a good time for you?” Notice how this second example flows. There are no scary words such as “Buy” or “Contract.” The sales professional not only expects the prospect to say “yes,” but also has genuine questions to show the prospect his knowledge of his business and his commitment to setting everything up right the first time. There are no awkward pauses while the sales agent frantically tries to think of some cheese closing line to use, having no idea if the client is even interested. Lead with questions and read chapter three of Tom Hopkins’ book.
I hope you got a couple tips that could help you!
See the previous post: Making a Great Presentation
Making a Great Presentation
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Intro to Merchant Services