FAIL (the browser should render some flash content, not this).

Change Your Approach, Raise Your Income

Today's marketplace demands highly skilled sales professionals. This translates into individuals who know their product, and more importantly, who know how to build merchant relationships through properly developed communication skills.

Fine-tuning your initial approach will help you achieve remarkable results. Once we believe we can change our style, anything's possible. As we start the fine-tuning process, consider some of the basic driving forces behind conducting business:

  • Our society's perception of salespeople
  • How our merchants conduct business
  • The role of basic human emotions


These issues play a crucial role in how your merchant perceives you and how you should develop your first approach.

Let's face it, people are fickle. People are likely to "click" on and off subjects or individuals who don't quickly capture their interest. Considering most people's short attention span, a new merchant is likely to click you off if you don't capture them immediately. Generally speaking, you'll expend twice as much energy with someone who's not really listening. This is a waste of everyone's time. Consider another reason you might be "clicked off”: Most merchants, just like most consumers, have a basic fear of salespeople! This fear alone can sabotage a prospective sale, if your initial approach does not capture your merchant's attention quickly and instill confidence.

If we want to psychoanalyze, this "sales-phobia" can be easily traced to our childhood. How often did you hear "don't talk to strangers"? And in our adult lives, we've all encountered the "fast talker," the salesperson who's all form and no substance. They trap you, waste your time, and leave you feeling taken advantage of. Buyers often suffer the disappointment of empty sales promises that were never kept, or having purchased something where the value to cost was simply not there. All of these negative experiences shape current attitudes toward salespeople. The fear of the salesperson is hard-wired and grounded in our life experiences (unfortunately).

The Initial Approach: Using it to your advantage
With all of this working against us, it's pretty obvious why merchants often respond unfavorably when confronted with a salesperson with an unrefined first approach. With this in mind, let's take a look at some techniques that might help turn this sales process into a successful and profitable meeting.

Instill Confidence
In meeting a prospect for the first time, you must work to come across as non-threatening. Everyone feels good when they work with someone they like and trust - this must be you! The prospect has to feel safe with you and in feeling safe they'll most likely let down their guard and talk openly with you. Your approach should also create an atmosphere that makes them curious about you and your product or service. They should feel as though they've been given an opportunity to work with you.

A simple thought to remember, create an environment in which your prospect will welcome you back. Your approach with your new prospect must be positive, allowing the merchant time to get to know you. The merchant must feel comfortable with you from the start or you will probably not get a second chance to give that first impression. When you create a positive and safe atmosphere, you'll have a greater opportunity to move your meeting into the presentation stage. Again, creating a safe environment opens the door for you and your merchant to continue your relationship-building process.

Retain Interest
Why so much emphasis on the first approach? The first approach is the first impression you make - it will stay with that customer forever. If your first approach is weak, then it becomes an uphill battle to maintain their interest level. They could "click" you off in an instant if you don't have their attention. An escalating lack of interest creates a constant game of psychological warfare between you and your merchant. Your merchant is nervous about buying something from a stranger and may be quick to say, "Sorry, I'm not interested." Chances are, if they're afraid to meet you or they're not responding, there's something lacking in your initial approach. Remember that should your initial approach fail, you will have to work much, much harder to make it to the close.

Ok, How do I Change My Approach?
The initial approach is personal and must come from you as an individual or it won't sound real. This initial contact, however, could come via any number of different channels: phone call, e-mail, fax or an in-person visit. Although each contact may be different, you can start out by asking the right questions. Keep in mind that the sales process is not about you, it's about the merchant. And remember that they don't know you and most likely didn't invite you to contact them.

If you're at standstill, here are a few example questions that might help you get started:

  • "Mr. Merchant, do you currently have an employee training program?"
  • "When was the last time your equipment was serviced?"
  • "Are you aware of Interchange surcharges?"

By asking these types of questions, you will keep the merchant thinking about who you are and what you have to offer, but the focus remains on them.

You're making an impression right now, so think about what you want this merchant to leave with. You want them to think you are knowledgeable about your product, that you will educate and teach their employees, that you are customer service-oriented, and that again, they feel safe doing business with you.

Now the merchant is formulating an opinion and makes a decision as to whether or not they will continue to keep listening and move forward. Hopefully you've begun the first stage of a merchant relationship and you'll be welcomed back to complete your sale. Because selling doesn't always come naturally to everyone, here's a list of ideas that should help organize your thoughts and help you create that perfect first approach:

  • Decide on your initial greeting.
  • Develop two or three opening questions.
  • Understand the response you expect to receive.
  • What will your tone of voice be? Speak softly and slowly.
  • What do you sound like? Are you credible?
  • How much time do you expect to take with this first meeting? (Watch for signs that your time is up)
  • Do you know the effect of your appearance?
  • What will your body language say about YOUR interest level?
  • Where will your eyes be looking?
  • What does your business card say about you and your company?
  • Do you know what your other merchants say about you? Find out!
  • How close will you sit or stand to your customer?
  • What material will you hand or send to your prospect?
  • Will your handshake be firm?
  • How much will you talk and how much will you listen? (You should listen a lot!)


Take Stock
You should be able to personally answer and feel comfortable with all of these questions. Add more as you remember past sales calls that could have had a better outcome, and use your answers to help strategize your personal first approach. Develop a real passion for making your approach productive and profitable.

The bottom line: Change your approach and watch your income rise!