Today I’m going to share with you the most important habit for merchant sales professionals.  Our 6-Week Jump-Start Program has given me the opportunity once again to work one-on-one with many sales professionals in this industry.  Some of those are very experienced sales people wanting to take their performance to the next level.  And some are brand new to the industry.  One common theme I found throughout was the need to develop one important habit – that habit is PROSPECTING.

Now, don’t stop the video, shut off the podcast, or stop reading yet.  I know you are thinking, “Well, of course, James!”  Okay, so let me ask you a question.  In the last five working business days, did you walk into 20 businesses for the first time prospecting?  Or did you make enough calls to talk to 20 business owners on the phone every single day of the last five?  If not, keep reading and/or listening.  

Why is prospecting the most important habit?  Because everything else almost takes care of itself.  If you find a prospect who says, “Yeah, I’m actually really interested.  I don’t have my statement here.  But if you come back tomorrow, I’ll get you my statement.”  You ARE going to find a way to get back there tomorrow.  No one needs to force you or remind you to get back tomorrow.  Rather, you WANT to go back because you found somebody who is interested; you want to make the sale.

When a prospect says, “Hey, we’re ready to move forward,” are you going to find time to get the paperwork done?  Of course you will; you want to make a sale.  Once the paperwork is done, are you going to find time to follow through with the submission process?  So, these things will take care of themselves.  Believe me.  You don’t need to schedule time to watch Netflix or Hulu.  You will find the time.  There’s no need to schedule time to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  You’re going to do those things.

However, what is the only thing you won’t do if you can help it at all?  Prospecting.  One road-block which prevents prospecting is over-thinking.  Stop overthinking it.  Go prospecting.  These are questions I hear from sales people:
  • “Well, James, should I target one specific business type?”  Or,
  • “Should I target all the businesses on a street?”  Or
  • “Should I call them?”  Or,
  • “Should I walk in?”

My answer, “YES!  Any of those are fine.”  Go prospecting.  You must prospect every single day for two or three hours.  Whether you go after a specific vertical or go into the field doesn’t matter.  There are definitely advantages to certain strategies.  However, I’ve found those advantages really don’t matter for 90% of the merchant sales professionals with whom I talk.  The reason is they’re not even going prospecting AT ALL anyway.

Many sales people are prospecting perhaps one day a week for an hour but are asking, “What strategy should I use?”  That’s like sitting in a parking lot in a car out of gas while  asking how to steer the car.  Yes, steering the car is important.  It’s just that steering doesn’t matter if you’re out of gas because you’re not going anywhere.  So, until you develop the habit of prospecting and put some gas in the tank, my great prospecting ideas won’t help you go anywhere!

Prospecting is one of those things that either you ARE doing or you’re NOT.  The people I know who are successfully prospecting, are doing it almost every day.  Some of them have a strategy where one day a week they just do closing and follow-up, which is fine.  But then four days a week they’re out prospecting.  If you really want to be successful as a sales professional, go prospecting.

Here’s another quick tip for you.  Whenever you’re trying to convince yourself to do something that maybe you don’t want to do, always have sticks and carrots.  Use the idea of trying to get a horse to move.  You can hold out a carrot, and the horse will come to you to get that treat.  Or you could give them a little whack on the behind.  Then they’ll move forward as well.

Do the same thing for yourself.  What are the sticks that you can use?  One is accountability.  Find people you know and respect and say, “Look, I really want to be successful.  In order to do that, I need to make sure I’m walking into my first business by 9:00 a.m.  And I need to make sure I’m still in the field prospecting by 11:00 a.m.  May I text you at 9:00 a.m. when I’m walking into my first prospect?  And then may I text again when I leave my last one?  That will give me a little accountability.”

What about treats?  People think this is so corny.  Although I say this all the time, nobody does it.  I’m really serious though.  Is there some ice cream shop that you love in your area?  Is there a candy bar that you love?  Do you love sitting in Barnes and Noble to read a magazine?  (I love doing that.)  So what do you just love to do that takes maybe a half hour?  Every single day when you’re done prospecting, go do that.  That’s not very complicated.

Recently, I talked to a war hero who was in the Vietnam War but now teaches leadership courses.  As we discussed our Scripture devotions, I asked, “Man, I really struggle with having devotions daily.  How did you get the discipline to do that?”  His answer was, “Oh, that’s simple.  I really like Three Musketeers candy bars.”  Of course, I wondered what that had to do with Scripture reading!  He continued, “Well, I have a little box of them.  I put a small one by my chair where I read my Bible every day.  I have an agreement with myself that the only time I ever eat that candy bar is right after I finish my devotions.  Every day when I get up, my mouth starts watering.  I want to go do that devotional so I can eat the candy bar.”  Sticks and carrots – give yourself what you want after you do the prospecting.    

Whose opinion do you value?  There are always people who we respect.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Be accountable to them.  Make sure you’re going to do the thing you need to do.

The most important habit for a merchant sales professional is prospecting.  The key is to go DO it, and do it every single day.  Have an awesome week!

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