They say that ignorance is bliss, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to sales.
When I look back to my personal records in sales, I realize that I closed more deals when I was nineteen then I do today.
Now initially, that bummed me out and started examining my sales style in the past versus how I sell today. Strangely, the most significant change I found was my level of education.
When I first started selling credit card processing my knowledge was limited. I had one solution, and I would sell it. Boom, done, next sale, please.
However, as I’ve matured and our company has expanded into more payment solutions, I’ve realized my knowledge of the product makes it more difficult to sell.
I’ve lost my youthful naivety when it comes to sales, and I know it’s never as easy as simply selling someone a product or service. Things have gone from black and white to hues of gray.
Now, my role has evolved from the early days of feet on the street sales to a higher level. While I’m not selling in the traditional sense, a lot of my job has to do with selling other businesses on our company and why they should partner with us.
To be a truly good salesperson you have to have the knowledge and care about the long-term relationship you’re going to have with the person who purchased something from your business.
In this piece, I’m going to go over all the ways I was a better salesperson before I became educated, and how our sales process as a company has evolved over the years.
Being naive in the early days
When I first started selling payment processing services as an independent sales rep back in 2006 I only had one solution and the goal to sign up as many businesses as possible.
Of course, I wanted to help businesses and give them a good deal, but it was easy to sell because I only needed a yes or a no to proceed. Sales cycles were short, and the biggest hurdle I had to overcome was to get them to say “yes”.
I didn’t understand all the details of the product I was selling, as a credit card terminal and flat credit card rates are fairly straightforward.
When my business partners and I started our own company and began to explore more options, it became a little more challenging to find the best “fit” for every business. When you begin to offer better payment solutions to businesses, like account integrations or CRM compatibility, you’ve already started to limit your ability to sell.
In the beginning, it was simple, credit card processing. We give you a terminal and make sure your business is up and running. Now there are criteria a prospect has to meet before we can sell to them. What accounting software do they use? Are they high-risk? What CRM do they use? How much are they processing a month?
You can only be great if you focus on key problems that cause significant problems for businesses, and then create a solution that improves their lives. To do that, we had to dedicate our time to specific tools and products and didn’t try and become a one-size-fits-all solution.
We wanted to have the best solution for a certain type of business. So now if a potential business does not fit with the current solutions we support, then the sale is over before it even began.
Part of growing means refining your product, and sometimes that means cutting certain businesses out of your sales funnel. Instead of a market of millions, maybe you’re down to a market of a few thousand.
Now your sales funnel has gotten smaller, but instead, you’re going to find leads who are the right fit for your business. Fewer sales isn’t inherently a bad thing, especially if you’re offering a high-quality product or service.
In the early days, I was inexperienced and had to support each merchant account I sold. I didn’t have the best answers or solutions for a merchant, and sometimes we were just seen as a bill.
Now, that I’ve learned more I’ve discovered there are countless other areas where small businesses struggle. Maybe it’s improving their online presence through a website, reducing theft through a point-of-sale software, or perhaps it’s a payment automation software that guarantees a business isn’t sixty days out with A/R.
The more complex services you offer, the more likely it is you’ll have a harder time just selling, as there are more barriers to break past. In the end, you may have more obstacles, but you can give a business a more meaningful solution.
Being the best isn’t easy
One of the first big changes that made sales harder was changing our pricing structure for payment processing.
There are three specific ways a business can be priced for credit card processing. Either a flat rate, interchange, or tiered pricing. Flat rate pricing is preferred by companies like Square because it’s straightforward and everyone knows what they’ll pay.
Tiered pricing, on the other hand, is far more complicated and involves a lot more work on the processor’s end. For one, rates are determined by what type of card was used and if it was swiped or keyed. Therefore there are hundreds of factors to consider to find a good rate for a specific business.
Despite the complexity, it tends to be a cheaper solution in the long run. Because the processor is analyzing what types of cards your business traditionally runs and gives you the best rate possible.
However, it makes it difficult to sell someone who just wants a straight answer of “what will my monthly rates be?” If we don’t have a processing statement to analyze we have no way to give a straight answer but instead give you a range.
When you’re trying to sell services the more variables you introduce, the harder it’s going to be to get someone to say yes.
It can be difficult to sell when you have to establish trust and prove you can help their business. Even though it was a challenge when we first made the switch in our pricing, we were able to build our reputation as experts and establish trust.
Making a product better for your customers isn’t always easy for sales, but can create a larger impact on your company’s reputation.
Fewer sales, but a better experience
Even though the amount we sell to every merchant has gone down, our credibility and knowledge have grown significantly.
We’re not the right solution for every business, so we’ve become experts in the areas we offer. Sometimes a business isn’t a good fit due to where they are at; maybe they are too small to afford a professional website and a payment solution. I’ll point them toward an option that will work for them now and let them come back in the future.
There have been times where someone interested in us was not a good fit; so I pointed them towards a competitor.
That’s honestly the best way to handle someone who just isn’t a great fit for your company. If you politely point them toward a competitor and explain why you’re not the right fit they will respect your business.
Turning away a prospect is not great for sales if you’re purely focusing on the number of deals you close a month. As you grow, your business should switch from quantity of leads to quality.
To grow beyond a startup, you have to understand more about the companies you’re trying to sell too. Sales are not about hitting numbers or closing as many deals as possible, instead, it should be about understanding your prospect. What are their needs? What are there struggles? What can your product or service do for them?
It comes down to you being able to communicate the value you can offer them and drive them to make a decision. If what you’re selling is a good product, and you can help someone, all you’re doing is showing them that.
If they can trust you and see your product is going to help them, you’ve become a successful salesperson.
Final thoughts on sales
If you sign up a business you’re not suited to support, it can backfire on you in the long run.
It’s not going to work out and then they will have a negative experience with your business. They might share their experience with another business who is a good fit, and now you’re out that sale.
You can turn a business way if they are not the right fit. We’ve turned away some companies that we couldn’t meet their needs and it lead to a bunch of referrals. They still had a positive experience to trust us to work with their friends who were the right fit.
My notions of sales have changed, but the people I sell to have a better experience.
Thank you so much for reading my thoughts on becoming better at sales. I hope I challenged some of the preconceived notions of what makes a good salesperson.