ISOs and agents believe they can close more deals when they view the world through their clients’ eyes.

They’re expressing that view in an ongoing online study by Mark Dunn, a consultant, sales trainer and head of Hartland, Wis.-based Field Guide Enterprises LLC.

Among executives at the more than 20 mostly small ISOs who have taken the survey in the first half of this year, the ability to ask good questions on the initial sales call scored 4.4 on a scale of 1 to 5, Dunn says. He asks respondents to award a single point to the least important aspects of selling and 5 points for the most important.

The survey-takers’ high regard for asking good questions falls in line with Dunn’s assessment of the selling process.

“That’s one of the key elements for salespeople to understand,” he says of the importance of good questions. “When they start trying to see things from the merchant’s point of view, they can truly start having a conversation.”

With real communication, salespeople can understand and help solve merchants’ problems, he says.

That notion fits well with the characteristic survey respondents have so far identified as equally important with asking good questions.

Talking to a merchant to create a needs analysis also received a 4.4 score, Dunn says.

In other areas, skill at explaining why a merchant should switch to a company’s transaction processing scored 4.1.

Respondents rated overcoming objections as 4.0.

Having the ability to analyze a merchant’s monthly statement also earned a 4.0 rating.

But before an ISO or agent can analyze a prospect’s statement, the salesperson has to persuade the merchant to hand it over, so having the knack to accomplish that scored 3.9.

Some of the categories that are receiving weaker marks seem surprising, Dunn says.

In one example, selling financial services, such as merchant cash advances, scored just 2.3.

The survey also indicates the importance of focusing on a niche for differentiation, Dunn notes.

The respondents have tended to come mainly from small ISOs, typically with three to five partners and fewer than 15 salespeople, he says.

Like most small businesses, ISOs of that size tend to use their own resources when they can, Dunn observes

That’s why 91% of respondents train their new salespeople in-house and the remaining 9% combine in-house training with outside resources.

More than 70% of the survey-takers have been training recruits for five years or more, and they tend to rely on their personal experience.

“How you were trained is how you train other people,” Dunn says. “You also rely on what you’ve seen in the markets.”

Some ISOs become masters of selling but have difficulty describing the process to a trainee, he says. Often, an experienced salesperson internalizes the knowledge.

“It becomes second nature to them,” Dunn says, and thus can become difficult to express.

To bridge that gap, most ISOs use training materials they received from someone outside the firm, he notes. Trainers simply copy those materials and hand them out to new salespeople.

“Almost none are generating their own training material,” Dunn says.

Just about all of the partners or sales managers who perform the training use printed materials, a book or a binder, he says, noting that that’s the most popular approach.

Second comes training by a live trainer, while conference calls place third, followed by web seminars in fourth and self-directed e-learning courses in fifth.

In the self-directed course that Dunn offers, he concentrates on knowledge and skills, he says.

Knowledge means knowing what to do, and skills means have the capacity to put that knowledge into practice, he continues.

“You have to be able to make things happen in the sales call,” Dunn says, noting that means connecting or reconnecting, learning more about the client’s business, and making a proposal.

Truly mastering all that can take two years, he says.

“This is a key item in the growth of small ISOs – putting enough people in the field who are competent to close deals,” Dunn emphasizes.

To help, Dunn’s course consists of 35 15-minute presentations, all with automatically scored tests.

Dunn offers a standard test and one that’s white-labeled and customized for a particular ISO’s quirks.

The training changes because about 25% becomes out-of-date in three years because of new interchange rates and new products and services, Dunn says.

He began turning a profit with the testing within six months of launching it in early 2011, he says. He also consults for startup ISOs and for established small and medium-sized ISOs.

The survey is still under way, and ISOs can participate by visiting the Field Guide site.

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