OPINION-1

Comments: Expanding Your Offering

O.B. Rawls IV

Years ago, in business school, I had a marketing professor who taught me a very valuable question about establishing a product, person or company. He always asked the question, “What is your product and how do you make the market aware of the value offered by the product, person or company?” In other words, who are you? So, I ask you, what do you sell? What’s the value for your clients or merchants? Are you making their lives easier or better in some way? If so, how? Questions that we need to be asking ourselves if we aren’t already. Whether you’re an agent, ISO, VAR, or even a developer, if these answers aren’t crystal clear for your entire team, then you had better take a second look.

On the agent/ISO side, the typical ‘sale’ was a merchant account and the leasing of a terminal. Selling the ability to accept credit card payments in-store, online, via telephone (or fax), or on the go. The value? Maybe convenience. Maybe not losing customers because of only accepting cash or checks. Were their lives impacted for the better? Probably not.

For VARs and developers, the ‘sale’ centered around a need, most often technology related. Take for example a legacy point-of-sale (POS) system. The customer may/may not have done some research themselves, looking for a system specific to their individual business. They connect with a VAR – value added reseller (value’s even in the name) – and then the VAR helps them through the entire process from understanding the need, to recommending pricing and selling them a solution, to installation and ongoing service/support. But, even with the VAR or developer, did they really know, or care, if the customer was getting the maximum benefit from the solution? Was the customer using it to make their lives easier/better? Was their business growing?

Today’s marketplace is hyper-competitive. There are dozens of tablet based POS systems, many SaaS based. There are a ton of value added solutions ranging from digital gift and loyalty offerings to business analytics and reputation management to marketing and customer relationship management, and pretty much everything in between. There’s more people than ever – agents, ISOs, VARs, and developers trying to sell to the same customer base – the small to medium-sized business (SMB) owner.

And, it’s not just confusing for the SMB, it’s as challenging for the reseller to filter and choose solutions that make sense as they focus on expanding their offering. So, let’s go back to the questions we started with.

What do you sell? (Who are you?)

It must be more than just a merchant account. But, it’s important to make sure the product portfolio you sell compliments your sales process (face-to-face, tele-sales, inbound/digital) and, more importantly, your target customer. If you target nail salons and personal services, then find the best solution for those specific customers, know it cold, and turn the transaction into a consultation. Get inside their minds. If you don’t know, then ask and build from there. Think about the nail salon. What would help them? A business management system (POS), appointment setting, online exposure/reputation management, gift cards and maybe even a loyalty program.

Remember more isn’t always better. Stay focused and ensure that your team is focused as well. They should know the solutions as well as the people who developed them; training and confidence are key.

What’s the value for your customers?

And by value, I don’t mean price. Price should be the last thing you’re talking about. This really starts with knowing your customers. If you don’t know them, get to know them. Sales teams should be listening, asking questions, confirming the needs, and then offering a value-added solution. What are their pain points? If they could solve for one thing in their business, what would it be?

Changing the conversation from price and product to value and solution will not only help sell more, it will help you sell the right solutions to the right customers, and, in the long-run keep customers longer, as this is just the beginning of your customer relationship.

Are you making their lives easier or better in some way?

This conversation starts during the consultative sale, by understanding the needs/pain points and then providing a real solution, but it doesn’t end there. Each customer has a lifetime value, and your sales team should be in tune with that. It’s not a ‘one and done’ sale. That is transactional. This is consultative. You’re providing value today, and you should be tracking each customers’ performance on an ongoing basis to ensure that A) they’re using the solution and maximizing the benefit of it B) they haven’t outgrown the solution and/or need something more and C) they know the value and recognize that the solution you provided is helping them with their business.

In the end, it comes down to one simple fact. For you to be able to grow your business today, you need to focus on helping your customers grow their respective businesses. It’s an evolution and it doesn’t have to be hard. Keep it simple – like the Pick 3 menu from a local fast food place – start by picking 3 key products/solutions that will really make a difference for your target customers. For some, that might be Clover Mini, cash advance and reputation management. For others, it may be digital loyalty, a tablet based POS, and gift cards. What’s imperative is that it’s more than a merchant account and it’s about value and not price.

One trick ponies aren’t going to survive in the new wild west of payments. Agents and ISOs must become more VAR-like and focus on adding value. Those will be the real winners, in the short-term and in the long run as well.
OB Rawls IV Small
O.B. Rawls IV is the CEO, iPayment, Inc.

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