In part 1 I talked about the credit card merchant services business – the products I offer and why I can generally get businesses better rates than the large processing companies can. In this post I will talk about how I do my job – how I find customers and sign them up.
My most lucrative sign-ups are new businesses just opening their doors. They not only need credit card processing, but they need equipment as well – usually a terminal, sometimes a wireless terminal or Internet virtual terminal. I subscribe to the Memphis Business Journal’s new business listings – every week, the MBJ e-mails me a spreadsheet full of info on everyone who has filed a business license in the past 7 days. I then run the phone numbers through the federal Do Not Call list (some of the businesses are home-based and therefore residential numbers), and call the ones who are not registered.
This can actually be a quite entertaining process. For example, a new business opened up in Whitehaven called Stanky Car Wash. Only in Memphis would someone put “Stanky” in the business name. That particular one didn’t supply a phone number, although I don’t know if I could have carried on a conversation with them without laughing!
Calling people can be entertaining as well. Now and then someone answers “Yeah?” Who the hell answers THEIR BUSINESS PHONE with “Yeah?” I find that I’m developing a real good intuition for who will make it and who will not by looking for signs like this.
If there’s no phone number, I note the address. If it’s not too far out of my way and sounds like a real prospect, I’ll try to drive out to their location and see if anyone is around. If all else fails, I’ll mail them a personal letter with my business card attached.
When I’m not out talking to new businesses, I go to existing businesses that already take credit cards. I ask to see a recent statement from their current credit card processor. I fax the statement off to my regional manager, who prepares an analysis showing how we can save them money by reducing their rates and in some cases getting their equipment up to date. From what I’ve seen, we can save a small business a substantial amount of money ($300 a year or more, and sometimes in the thousands) about 60-75% of the time. Most companies really are paying their credit card processors too much.
The other way I generate business leads is by networking. Whenever I get a chance to talk to people, I make sure that they know what I do for a living, and what kind of people fit the profile of the business owners I’d like to talk to. Recently I joined a formal networking organization called BNI (Business Network International). Our chapter meets once a week on Thursday mornings at the Arcade, and membership is limited to one per profession – so there can’t be two credit card guys in the same chapter. We currently have a professional business coach, a health/life insurance guy, a real estate agent, a mortgage broker, a network monitoring company, a CPA, a financial advisor, an attorney, a security/alarm guy, and a cell phone guy. I’ve invited a web designer and a trade show consultant to come this week.
Each week at BNI, I give a 60-second presentation explaining what I do and (especially important) how the other members would know when they are talking to a good referral for me. As a result, during the rest of the week when we’re all out doing business, I have a “sales force” looking for people to refer my way. And I’m looking for qualified prospects for all of them. In the 6 weeks I’ve been a member, I’ve received 8 referrals – meaning my fellow members have talked to these people and they have said they’d like to meet me and possibly do business with me. Obviously this is much more productive than cold calling!
If you’re a business owner or are in sales, you’d do well to give BNI a look. If it sounds interesting, send me an e-mail and I can arrange for you to attend a chapter meeting as my guest.
That’s how I beat the bushes for sales. In part 3 of this series, I’ll do an expanded version of my BNI presentation, and explain what types of people are ideal prospects for me. In part 4 I will talk about another interesting side business I’m getting into, a spinoff of my involvement in BNI.
Almost midnight as I type this. Time to log off for the evening. I found a really interesting atlas of world history on the sale table at Borders, so I’ll read that for a while and then get some sleep.