In today's commoditized payments world, many merchants believe all ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) are basically interchangeable. Thus, the problem persists of retailers readily jumping to whichever service provider appears to offer the lowest rates.
However, those of us who have carved out careers in this industry know there are extensive and significant distinctions among payment companies. These can make the difference between a merchant having a cost effective, well supported POS that meets the demands of his or her unique business environment and an expensive, unreliable nightmare POS that hinders the merchant's ability to provide a smooth checkout experience for shoppers.
The distinctions between ISOs can also mean the difference between a merchant level salesperson (MLS) whose sales soar and one who barely gets by. Thus, the choice of business partners is extremely important to an MLS's ability to succeed.
When seeking a new ISO partner, an MLS typically evaluates a number of factors; among them are an ISO's:
Some of these attributes are easier to assess than others, and certain companies are more forthcoming than others. To get insiders' views on payment businesses, many pros attend regional acquirers association meetings, the Electronic Transactions Association's annual meeting and expo, and other industry tradeshows throughout the year. They also post questions on GS Online's MLS Forum, where the industry's feet on the street gather to share information and expertise.
Even so, doing thorough research is a challenge, especially since factors such as those just listed aren't the only ones to assess when looking for partners. It's also essential to go beyond what can be measured and look deep into the heart of a company to see what makes it tick. Two successful, reputable companies could appear to offer everything you're looking for, yet one might be a superb fit and the other not.
This will first require that you do some soul searching to determine what you stand for and what matters most to you. With that clearly in mind, you can ask probing questions of people representing your prospective partners. Ask why they do things a certain way, and when you receive an answer, ask another "why" question related to that answer. Keep going; dig deep.
You'll find that some companies, above all else, want to be the biggest and best; others want to be known as the experts, the ones all others turn to for industry knowledge; some disdain convention and care deeply about innovation; others think of themselves as guardians, willing to go above and beyond duty to see that merchants are protected; some want only to grow rich as quickly as possible.
There are more possibilities than these, and you'll discover them as you investigate. It's worth taking time to identify these inner, driving forces and pick partners whose motivations are in sync with yours. If you do this, you will be more comfortable with your colleagues, better able to communicate authentically and establish business relationships that will be rewarding for years to come. You'll also help change merchants' perceptions of the industry in the process.
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