February 12, 2018

What keeps merchants up at night? (The Green Sheet) »


No matter what you sell, you need to know the source of your prospects’ pain. What keeps them up at night? What do they not have – or not have enough of – that you can provide? For merchant level salespeople (MLSs), understanding the challenges of small business owners and operators has never been more critical or more challenging.

In the past few years, technology has changed the whole world, while most small businesses have continued with business as usual. Today, merchants find themselves operating in a world where the Internet has fundamentally changed consumer behavior, and they are overwhelmed by adapting to this new environment.

New landscape means new opportunities

This widening gap between the world that merchants remember and the one that now surrounds them is a tremendous opportunity for MLSs. Selling payment processing alone is not enough to create a value proposition that makes merchants stick with you or their processor.

However, if you can offer value-added services that address their biggest worries – well then, you’ll be on to something.

Top five merchant worries

So, what are those worries? Womply recently surveyed 3,000 merchants in all 50 states and asked them to rank their biggest concerns as business owners. Here were their top five responses:

  1. Attracting customers
  2. Having enough time for everything
  3. Making enough money
  4. Controlling costs
  5. Hiring/retaining employees

These worries outranked options such as paying for health insurance, tax concerns, cash flow management and the possibility of a recession. The simplest way to interpret these results is that revenue and time loom very, very large for merchants. This makes sense: small businesses have always struggled to keep customers coming through their doors, and entrepreneurs obviously wear many hats and constantly feel overstretched.

What’s interesting about these findings is the top two worries – attracting customers and having enough time – don’t change when you filter the results by business owners who feel optimistic or pessimistic about their business outlook. In other words, these two quandaries are universal for small business owners.

Tailored solutions dissolve objections

Knowing this, you can appeal to your clients’ pain, tailor your solutions and overcome objections. If I were selling a POS system, for example, I would frame the entire pitch around the technology’s potential to impact these two pain points. I would explain that many people won’t patronize a business that doesn’t accept credit cards, so you’ll attract more customers with a modern payment portal than you would without one.

Then, I’d extol the many efficiencies of swiping a card over making change for cash payments, including the time saved on the accounting side. Time is money, after all, especially for busy merchants.

Understanding how merchants rank their pain also helps with resolving objections. Let’s say you present a value-added software product to a merchant, and the response is it’s too expensive. What the merchant is really saying is you haven’t sufficiently explained why it’s valuable. Remember, controlling costs falls below three other pain points on our list. If you can demonstrate that the product solves one of those weightier problems, the objection goes away.

Focus on revenue, not expenses

Worry comes from what’s at stake. For small businesses, attracting customers is literally the difference between staying open or shutting down, so it makes sense that revenue-focused worries rank higher than reducing expenses. In a separate survey, Womply asked 2,300 merchants how long they could stay in business if sales stopped entirely. The results were bleak: one in five would shut down within 30 days; nearly four in five wouldn’t last 6 months. Cost-cutting won’t solve that problem – only increased sales will.

Acquiring customers, making money, and saving time are related issues. Most merchants are stuck doing things the old way, which means trying to attract customers through traditional advertising or other “shout” methods. They pour time and money into those channels and don’t see an increase in foot traffic because consumers have migrated to using their smartphones to find local businesses to patronize.

Pair solutions to critical problems

Time and money wasted, and no customers to show for it. You’d be losing sleep, too. MLSs are in a prime position to really consult their merchant clients on these critical changes and provide solutions that help them attract more customers, make more money and save time every day. You just need to pair your value-added solutions to the most critical problems, and present them through the lens of what’s really worrying the merchant.

Everybody wins when this is done right. Agents make more money, merchants solve their biggest problems, and they remain in acquirers’ portfolios longer because they receive more value. It all starts with knowing.

Barry Davis is Vice President of Business Development at Womply, a software-as-a-service company that partners with the payments industry to provide a technology and data platform to small business merchants in more than 400 industry verticals across the United States. For more tips or resources, reach out to his team at partnerships@womply.com.

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