By: Andrew Rhodes
I couldn’t believe it.
“If they have 12,000 likes on Facebook, they must be doing something right. And if they understand social media, they’ll understand this.”
I was about to embark on one of the most rewarding sales relationships of my life, but I didn’t know it at the time. All I knew was, I had an idea and I wanted to test it out. My current prospecting methods weren’t giving me the results I was looking for, and it was time to try something new.
Merchant Services is a brutal environment for sales reps just starting out. On my first day of orientation, one of the Sr. Sales Directors told me that the annual churn rate across all US business owners was 25%. Every year on the average, one out of every four businesses in the US switches from one Credit Card Processor to another. Every day I was calling business owners trying to sell them on the superiority of our solution… a solution that they often viewed as a commodity, since they got many other calls just like mine on a regular basis.
Every day I made my calls, and every day I looked up to see our company-wide leaderboard ranking me against everyone else. I was making tons of calls to business owners every day, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I knew all our talking points and how to structure a deal, but it didn’t matter if I couldn’t get past who I was and what our company could do for their bottom line.
After another day of topping the leaderboard in call volume but coming up empty where it really counted, I trudged home. I wasn’t sure why the next day would be any different.
Weary and frustrated, I thought to myself, “There has just got to be a better way.”
The next day, all the sales reps on our team of 200 received an email about a new product that was about to be released. It wasn’t a new piece of hardware or a new kind of gift card. It was a digital solution that would help business owners correlate their daily revenue with their guests’ activity on social media. I read through the email and started to make my calls for the day, but I kept thinking about this new product and how it might make our service more compelling than that of our competitors. And a crazy idea started to form in my mind.
When I found that business on Facebook with 12,000 likes, it was the missing piece to my puzzle. My crazy idea had gelled into a strategy for sidestepping the competition and increasing the value of our entire service. I put my plan into action:
Cold Call to Influence the Influencer
The first step was simple. I called their main office line, asked to be transferred to their decision-maker, and left a voicemail that went something like this, “Hi, my name is Andrew and I wanted to learn how you connect dollars with ‘likes’ on Facebook. Please call me back…” My voicemail mirrored our talking points perfectly, except for one thing:
I didn’t leave a message for their top executive. Instead, I left a message for their Director of Marketing.
And she called me back the next day.
She had a few questions about how we could connect ‘likes’ with dollars, and once I addressed those she agreed to join me for a demo a few days later. At no point did I launch into a description of our “core” product – Credit Card Processing. Not yet. I was just getting warmed up.
Need-To-Have that Solves Critical Pain Point
During our demo, I demonstrated how she could connect her presence across Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp with her guests’ spending habits on a day-by-day basis. I had already done my homework, and discovered that those 12,000 likes were just the beginning of an online conversation that I suspected she had not yet been able to translate into revenue.
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” We all know this quote, attributed to John Wanamaker, and my contact was no exception. With our digital solution, she recognized that she could finally start to understand which of her marketing dollars were influencing her customers’ behavior across multiple social channels… and which of their social actions led to increased spending at her business. When she started to ask more detailed questions about the capabilities of our solution, I knew it was time for the next step in my plan.
“But That’s Just One Way We Help…”
By this point she could see the value of our solution, she knew it would solve a critical pain point for their business, and she wanted it. Once I had her commitment, I responded like this:
“I’m glad you see the value of this digital solution. Here’s the best part: It’s integrated into our secure Credit Card Processing. Now I’d like to learn more about your needs for this part of your business, since it’s the best way to connect you with this Social Listening tool we’ve been discussing. May I request your introduction to the Executive Director?”
What followed was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. She didn’t just email the Executive Director and CC me. She talked to the Executive Director first, then emailed us both, then joined me and the Executive Director on two of our subsequent calls. During both of those calls she answered questions on the solution that the Executive Director had intended for me. By the time we finally got around to discussing Credit Card Processing, my original contact had become the best Champion I could have hoped for, and my final negotiations with the Executive Director were a breeze.
I received their signed agreement about a week later, and it was the largest deal I had completed up to that point. Writing this now, four years later, I still believe I would never have had a chance if I had approached them in the ‘traditional’ way. Here are the lessons this sale taught me:
- Present the right value to the right party. Our social media solution helped me create a compelling case for their Director of Marketing. If I had led with my standard pitch about Merchant Services to the Executive Director, this deal would have been dead before it started.
- Don’t just tell a better story than the competition. Tell an entirely different story. The only way I could own the conversation was starting a new one, from scratch.
- If your traditions aren’t working… keep making new ones until you see the results you want. Traditional wisdom would have had going straight to the top, immediately. Traditional wisdom would have had me leading with our core service, and only recommending value-added services as upsells during the negotiation stage. Traditional wisdom… would not have won me this deal.
Prospecting is challenging, difficult, and extremely rewarding. The process and results I’ve outlined above weren’t a matter of luck. I succeeded in this deal because of preparation, persistence, and patience. And a willingness to try out a crazy idea that I thought might be right.