By Jason Felts
Advanced Merchant Services
One day while I was busy working, The Green Sheet called and asked if I would be willing to write 24 articles for Street Smarts in the coming year. Immediately, I felt both flattered and somewhat nervous based on the excellent job those who have come before me have done.
However, with enthusiasm, I did accept the challenge, as I really admire and appreciate The Green Sheet - both the magazine and the online forums. I also have a sincere desire to educate, motivate and inspire the merchant level salesperson (MLS) community.
You will find me occasionally posting on GS Online's MLS Forum under the name SalesAMS; I've been a member since 2002.
I've been asked before about my user name. Considering that I'm the Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Merchant Services Inc., why did I choose SalesAMS? The answer: Sales is absolutely my passion.
I came from the streets selling eyeball to eyeball and over the phone, and I love it. To me, sales is among the greatest professions on earth; a top-notch salesperson can earn an extraordinary living with or without extensive formal education.
I've personally written well over 2,500 bankcard apps and literally trained hundreds of MLSs because before anything else can happen, somebody has to sell something.
Some (hopefully not many) may ask, Who is Jason Felts, and how is he qualified to write these articles? Please allow me a moment to share a little about myself and a few of my experiences.
I started in the bankcard industry as an MLS in 1996 and quickly realized it is a fascinating business. The concept of collecting a few signatures and then receiving a lease funding of more than $1,000 coupled with a long-term residual was very intriguing.
Upfront cash and long-term residuals was a dream come true for the Felts household. From that day forward, we were "off to the races."
I set an ambitious goal of reaching a six-figure income and achieved it in my first full year as an MLS. My next goal was to reach that six-figure income exclusively through residual income.
I accomplished that in my second full year by understanding and embracing the power of residual income as opposed to giving the rates away to grab the lease.
Waking up every morning with the knowledge that I had already earned more than $100,000 that year - before writing another deal - was exhilarating and inspiring.
It was also thought provoking and inspired me to teach others how to improve their lives through the bankcard business. I took the next leap of faith and founded Advanced Merchant Services in 1998.
My wife, Kelley, and I started out in a home office with two agents, one being my brother Jeremy. He was making $300 weekly in construction.
However, as part of the Advanced Merchant Services family, he now earns more than $300,000 annually running a very successful sales office in Knoxville, Tenn.
With the talent and dedication of the founding team coupled with an opportunity of this magnitude, our business quickly grew. Four months later, we leased our first, yet small, office space.
From my first days in the business to today, I have always stayed close to the street level transaction. The difference today is that, instead of a small shop out of my home, we have grown into a nationally recognized merchant service provider with over 200 sales partners. And we are expanding every day. Why I care We absolutely love helping sales partners tap into their true potential. We now have many offices that duplicate our efforts by training brand new agents and providing mentorship, leads and more.
For Kelley and me, the goal is to invest significant time personally teaming with 100 very motivated sales partners and together create 100 millionaires in the next 10 years.
Ten years and 100 millionaires - together we can turn the dream into reality. Why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary?
Some may wonder, Why do I need sales training and education? Why even bother reading these articles? I would simply ask, How much money do you make on the sales you almost close - when you get real close, and a potential customer is thinking about your offer extra hard?
When the prospect is about to sign the agreement, or about to say yes but just doesn't make the change, how much do you make when the sale doesn't close?
Perhaps, you leave with a referral and the knowledge that you almost had one, but at the end of the day, you make the same amount of money as I do on sales that fall through at any point in the sales process: zero, nada, nothing, zip.
Don't you hate it when someone you almost close let's you down but then tells you that you really are an excellent salesperson. Doesn't it make you want to say, thanks, but if I were really excellent, you would have signed today.
So, do you ever wonder why you don't win more of the really close ones? I heard a conference speaker once explain it this way: The answer may be the difference between an ache and a pain.
Most prospects don't take action until they are in enough pain to change their current situation.
You see, they are more afraid of the unknown than the ache they are experiencing. They may have some discomfort; they may even have some pain.
But they are not hurting enough nor have they seen enough value in your offer to discontinue using the incumbent competitor and switch to your company. Perhaps this story will illustrate the point.
Two farmers were talking one afternoon. One noticed his friend's dog lying on the porch. The dog was moaning and groaning. He asked, "Why is your dog moaning?" The answer, "Well, he's lying on a raised nail. But he's not in enough pain yet to move."
Until your prospect is "in enough pain" to take action, your prospect will not change or agree to buy your product or service. In years past the "pain" could often be brought to light by showing your merchant genuine savings.
While that approach still works, in today's competitive climate, it works less frequently.
My advice is to show the merchant a strong value and clear return on any investment. Then your savings becomes the icing on the cake, and your value is the cake itself.
Your challenge as an MLS is to uncover your prospects' pain and show them a value added solution that would create enough motivation for them to take action.
To achieve this, you must assist the prospect in becoming aware of the existing needs, the existing "pain."
This is achieved by asking appropriate questions, evaluating and - more importantly - understanding their current circumstances.
Then, you will need to disclose your findings and make professional recommendations in a manner that solves a problem or brings value to your prospects with an enthusiastic, sincere delivery.
Many have asked why I would be motivated to help my competition. The truth is my goal with this year as a contributing writer for Street Smarts is simple: I'd like to give back and share some of my knowledge, mistakes, wisdom and experiences to help you, the MLSs, achieve more because you took the time to tune in and educate yourself.
One of my favorite books of all time is the Old Testament's Book of Proverbs. Religious or not, it is truly a must read for any leader, entrepreneur, business professional or salesperson. One story contained in the book is that of Solomon.
Here's a quick summary. Just after Solomon became a ruler of an ancient Middle Eastern empire, God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge.
God replied, "Since this is your heart's desire, and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life, but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king; therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given to you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have."
While working within this industry, we've had bumps and bruises along the way. However, it has provided a fantastic opportunity for my family and me. The same opportunities exist for each of you.
The question is simple: Will you embrace it and make the most of it?
Being average or mediocre was never an option for me, and I trust that if you have read this much of this article, mediocrity is not an option for you either.
Therefore, if you commit to reading the next 24 articles of Street Smarts, I will commit to delivering a powerful message that you can use to better yourself and your career.
If you have any questions or would like to speak with me directly, please feel free to call or send an e-mail.
Until next time, I'd like to leave you with a quote from Zig Ziglar, one of my favorite authors and speakers: "Ambition, fueled by compassion, wisdom and integrity, is a powerful force for good that will turn the wheels of industry and open the doors of opportunity for you and countless others."
Jason A. Felts is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida-based Advanced Merchant Services Inc., a registered ISO/MSP with HSBC Bank. From its onset, AMS has placed top priority on supporting and servicing its sales partners. The company launched ISOPro Motion, its private-label training program, to provide state-of-the-art sales tools and actively promote the success and long-term development of its partners. For more information, visit www.amspartner.com, call 888-355-VISA (8472), ext. 211, or e-mail Felts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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