By Dee Karawadra
First, I would like to say thank you to the GS Online MLS Forum members who replied to my posts regarding this column. Street Smarts is committed to bringing the voice of merchant level salespeople (MLSs) to print; the MLS Forum is a great place to start a dialogue about anything related to the payments industry.
If you haven't logged on to the Forum yet, go to www.greensheet.com/forum, sign in and start to explore. I learn something new every time I log on.
I asked what you would like to read about. Here are some topics you suggested:
All of your ideas were spot on; it was hard to choose one. But when Jason Felts of Advanced Merchant Services wrote that he "always thought about hitting areas that could directly improve/increase" the number of merchant applications submitted, I thought that encompassed many of the suggested topics.
It has become more challenging each year to round up new business. The market used to be like a green pasture. Grazing was easy. But times have changed, and the market has become crowded.
Today, networking is the name of the game. To make a decent living, one must maximize time and invest in relationships that reap referrals. Whether you join your local business chamber or join a local retail association group, networking is your key to the merchant world.
Time management is essential. You may need to attend numerous activities and do extensive recruiting - recruiting of referral partners, that is. Remember, doors open with ease when you are referred by someone a prospect knows and respects.
Let's take a look at some good referral sources that could be in your backyard.
How many franchise groups are in your area? Many do not have mandated credit card processors, leaving franchisees to use whomever they choose.
Franchise groups are usually divided into geographic regions. They hold monthly or quarterly meetings, and they welcome vendors that can present to the group as a whole. Wouldn't it make sense to contact these groups and offer them a plan that will provide both financial savings and great customer support?
Educate yourself on the type of POS system the franchise uses. Are credit card payments processed through an integrated system or do franchisees use stand-alone terminals? You'll need to know this.
Anna Solomon (aka FastTransact on the MLS Forum) wrote the following about her experience with the franchise sector: "We developed some niche programs and integrated different software that supports the programs.
"They refer their customers to us. We go to all their tradeshows, give presentations and advertise in their publications. We are at the point where they are contacting us for integration."
Find out if your ISO partner has the ability to process on the POS software your franchise prospects use. If not, search for alternatives, or find a new ISO partner. Go into sales calls prepared, and offer multiple ways to process credit cards.
These groups like to have choices, and each franchisee's shop may run a little differently than the next.
Other good referral sources are cash register and software resellers. These folks sell POS equipment all day long. Why not incorporate credit card processing into their POS system deals? Offer resellers a referral fee and agree to provide personal service to their clients. Building strong relationships with a reseller's customer base will improve your business.
"If the merchant is treated poorly or is unhappy with the service or quality of product, it impacts them," Solomon wrote. "They are putting their stamp of approval on your ability to provide what they hope is quality to their referrals. They would rather lose the spiff or residual than their reputation."
Offer to recommend the provider you have chosen to your merchants whenever one of them is in the market for cash registers or POS software. In return, the reseller may be willing to carry your preferred hardware and refer new purchasers of that equipment to you for processing.
Don't be afraid to approach POS equipment and software providers. Just like you, they are always looking for ways to increase their sales.
Get in on the new technology era by partnering with Web developers. They create Web sites for merchants who are opening up Internet-based virtual storefronts. Through these sites, merchants can sell products without the high costs associated with a physical location.
Know what your ISO requires to get a Web-based merchant set up for processing, and create a plan to approach Web developers with the prospect of partnering.
Three important factors are necessary for developers to get merchants prepared to accept credit cards via the Internet. The first is a payment gateway.
Gateways enable merchants to electronically submit payment transactions to payment processing networks via the Internet.
Authorize.Net Corp., VeriSign and EFSnet are among the companies that provide gateways. The gateway sits between the merchant and the payment processing entity. The gateway's relationship with a processor allows it to pass transaction information on behalf of the merchant via the Internet over a proprietary and secure connection.
The next requirement is a shopping cart, which is software that facilitates an online store's catalog viewing and ordering process. Typically, a shopping cart is defined as the interface between a company's Web site and its deeper infrastructure.
The shopping cart allows consumers to choose merchandise, review their selections, make necessary modifications or additions, and purchase the merchandise. ITransact Inc. and Cart Manager are two companies that provide shopping carts.
The third element necessary for a merchant to accept online credit card payments is a relationship with a credit card processor.
The processor must be certified on the company's gateway and shopping cart. Then it can take information from both the gateway and the shopping cart and complete the sale.
Web developers usually have no preference when it comes to payment processors; they are looking for the easiest way to get the job done.
Make it worth their while to recommend your processor by partnering with an ISO that has the capability to process for multiple gateways and shopping carts.
The more options you can provide, the greater your ability will be to accommodate your Web developer's customers. Arm yourself with knowledge and flexibility. The relationships you build will be increasingly beneficial for both parties as referrals multiply.
Next time you're out shopping and you run across a franchisee, ask for the name of the company's regional representative, get in contact with that person, and begin your research. Then, when you meet with the franchise group you will be prepared to make a killer presentation.
Ask your current Web merchants who designed their Web sites, compile a list of developers and begin contacting them. Check your local Yellow Pages for cash register dealers and start networking.
The sooner you reach out to these prospective referral sources, the sooner you will bring in new merchant accounts. Until next issue, happy prospecting. And let's keep in touch on the MLS Forum.
Dee Karawadra is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of Impact PaySystem, based in Memphis, Tenn. He and his team have a wealth of knowledge on the merchant services industry, with a niche in the petroleum market. Dee's experience on the street as an agent has guided him in laying a foundation for an agent program that is both straightforward and lucrative for his agents. Contact him at 877-251-0778 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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