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Selling Merchants is Like Playing Golf

I started playing golf around the age of nineteen. For the […]



I started playing golf around the age of nineteen.  For the next five years or so, I walked nine holes five days a week and eighteen holes on Saturday.  I love golf.  I got away from it until last year and then decided to start up again this summer.  Going from a three or four handicap player ten years ago, to a twenty or thirty handicap player today has been a fun yet frustrating experience.

Yesterday I walked nine holes.  The first hole was a par three.  I chunked the tee shot, chipped on to the green, and then putted three times, starting out with a double bogie.  My thoughts as I walked to the second hole were,  “Why am I doing this? I have so many other things I could be doing!”  This went on for three more holes.  The fifth hole was a par four.  My tee shot was out of bounds giving me a one stroke penalty, and my approach shot was left of the green.  There I was chipping from fifteen feet for par.  Out of nowhere, I chipped the ball onto the green,  and it rolled into the cup!  Now my thoughts as I walked away from that hole were,  “I need to get fitted for custom clubs, so I can get to the next level!”

Selling merchants is a lot like playing golf.  You roll out of bed and think of all the things you need to do today besides prospecting.  Some of you are reading this post right now as a form of procrastination.  You have convinced yourself that reading this post during regular business hours is a profitable use of your time.  (It isn’t!)  Once you finally convince yourself to get into the field and start selling, the first business you walk into usually rejects you.  Then, you go back to your car and rack your brain to think of any errands you could run to avoid walking into the next business.

  • Are my business cards professional enough?
  • Maybe I should get a tri-fold brochure designed before I walk into another business.
But, if you persist, you will eventually walk into a business where the merchant says, “We have had so many issues with our current company. What kind of pricing do you offer?”  Fifteen minutes later you have a signed agreement or a statement with a commitment to follow up.  Now you’re thinking, “I wonder how many more businesses I can walk into today before I have to head home?”

Today I want to share five ways that selling merchant services is like golf.  I hope my experiences selling over the last fifteen years will encourage and challenge you.

#1 – The toughest part of golf and prospecting is scheduling the time.  I am a workaholic with a wife, two kids, and another one on the way.  So, I am a busy guy.  At the end of every week, I look back and think about what I planned to do that didn’t get done.  Usually, the tasks which aren’t “urgent” like my two rounds of golf and going prospecting as planned are the ones I missed.  Although not “urgent,” time must be set aside to do them.

#2 – Set a tee time and a prospecting start time.  The hardest thing about prospecting is starting.  Likewise, if I don’t set a tee time, the odds are I won’t play my golf game.  When are you walking into your first business on Monday?  Do you have a scheduled start time to arrive at your first prospect and begin the day?  If not, you probably won’t do it.  Does your family know what your work schedule is for the week?   Make sure they know!

#3 – Selling merchant services, like golf, is hard and takes years of practice.  Being rejected all day long your first day in the field is no excuse to think, “This market is really tough!”  That’s like going golfing for the first time ever and thinking, “I need to find a course without any sand traps!”  What you need in golf is to improve through disciplined practice.  In sales, read sales books and practice by talking to more merchants.

#4 – Strategy and tactics matter.

Golfing strategy questions:

  • Should you try for a monster tee shot and risk ending up in the thick rough with eighty yards to the green or –
  • Hit a five iron and end up with 150 yards to the green from the fairway?
Prospecting and follow-up strategy questions:
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Is this the time to close or not?
Walking into a lot of businesses is important, but you also need to think about your strategy.
#5 – Both can be a lot of fun once you get good at it.  When I talk to top sales people, they admit how challenging it still is to get in the field.  But they also talk about how much fun they have helping prospects come to the right buying decision.  I love talking sales strategy even more than golf strategy, because I am better at sales than I am at golf.  Keep practicing; keep role playing; keep reading sales books.  You will create a lifelong passion which is fun and rewarding.  After you’re done selling for the day, hit the driving range.  Then you might develop a second passion.  Make it a great day!
James Shepherd


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