Change Your A
Raise Your 


by Ron Tunick       

   TODAY'S MARKETPLACE DEMANDS HIGHLY SKILLED SALES PROFESSIONALS. This translates into individuals who know their product and more importantly, know how to build merchant relationships through properly developed communication skills.
   Believing the initial approach to be critical in the success of your sale will help you achieve remarkable results. Once we believe we can change our style, we must also understand some of society's basic concepts of salespeople, how our merchants conduct their business and some basic human emotions. All these areas play a crucial role in how your merchant perceives you and how you should develop your first approach.
   Today's society is fickle. People are quick to "click" on or off subjects or people who do not quickly capture their interest. Therefore when approaching a new merchant, if you do not capture their attention immediately, they are apt to "click" you off. You will most likely expend tremendous energy with someone who is not listening. In addition, most merchants, as most people, have a basic fear of sales- people. This fear alone often sabotages a prospective sale if your initial approach does not capture your merchant's attention quickly.
   Much of the fear about new salespeople stems from our childhood. How often did you hear "don't talk to strangers?" Also, in our adult lives we have all encountered the "fast talker," the salesperson full of form but not of substance. Buyers have suffered disappointments from salespeople making promises that were never kept or having made a purchase from a salesperson where they felt the value for the cost was not there. Don't forget, all these experiences shape current attitudes toward salespeople. The fear of the salesperson is grounded in our life experiences.
   Now it should become clearer as to why merchants often respond unfavorably when confronted with a salesperson with a less than acceptable first approach. With this in mind, let's move forward and look at some techniques that might help turn this sales process into a successful and profitable meeting.
   In meeting a prospect for the first time, you must work to come across as non-threatening. Everyone feels good when they work with people they like and trust. The prospect has to feel safe with you and in feeling safe they will not let down their protective barriers. Your approach must not only make your merchant feel safe, but also create an atmosphere that makes them curious about you, your product or service.
   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 will 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.
   Remember that should your initial approach fail, you will have to work much harder to make it to the close.
   Why so much emphasis on the first approach? The first approach to your customer is the first impression you make - it will stay with that customer forever. If your first approach is weak, then it is an uphill battle to maintain their interest level. They could "click" you off in an instant if you don't have their attention. There is a constant game of psychological warfare going on at all times between you and your merchant. Your merchant is nervous about buying something from a stranger and may be quick to say, "I am not interested." This often-heard comment comes from merchants who, for whatever reason, are afraid to meet you.
   The initial approach is personal and must come from you as an individual or it won't sound real. However, your initial contact may come in several different ways, i.e., 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. Remember that the sales process is not about you, it's about the merchant and for the most part, they do not know you and they did not invite you to contact them.
   Here are a few 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.
   Think about the impression you want to leave with this merchant. 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 have begun the first stage of a merchant relationship and you will be welcomed back to complete your sale.
   Because selling does not always come naturally to everyone, here is a list of ideas that should help organize your thoughts and help you create that perfect first approach. Remember the prospect must always know why you are there, for example; do you want your merchant to just listen during this meeting or do you want them to buy?

  • 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?
  • How close will you sit or stand to your customer?
  • What material will you hand to your prospect?
  • Will your handshake be firm?
  • How much will you talk and how much will you listen? (You should listen a lot!)

   You should be able to personally answer and feel comfortable with all of these questions. Add more as you can think of past sales calls that could have had a better outcome. 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!

Ron Tunick is Vice President of North American Bancard. You may contact North American Bancard at 1.888.229.5229 or via their website at