By Jeffrey Shavitz
Charge Card Systems Inc.
As a long-time business owner looking for prospective sales partners, I have met and spoken with many merchant level salespeople (MLSs) with payments industry experience, many of whom are avid readers of The Green Sheet.
I have also spoken with numerous newbies on the verge of selling credit card processing for the first time; they've heard it's a lucrative career with residual income opportunity in an industry that will not be going away (at least we all hope this to be true).
With greater numbers of both experienced and inexperienced salespeople competing for merchant accounts, it's increasingly imperative to become a proficient professional versus just the credit card weekend warrior dabbling in our business. But how do agents go about attaining professional salesperson status?
As I sat down to reflect on this question, I started writing simple, common-sense answers. And I'm amazed that many people I encounter in this business are not following a process similar to the protocol that easily arose from my inquiry. These are the MLSs who always ask me, "Why am I not earning as much as the other guy who sells in my neighborhood?"
The protocol I recommend follows:
Call the person who you believe can help you most, and join his or her team as an assistant. Become a sponge. Follow Jim Collins' advice (paraphrased) in his famous business book Good to Great: get the right people on the bus and make sure everyone understands your strategic direction.
I was an investment banker before founding Charge Card Systems Inc. with my partners and knew nothing about the payments industry. By networking and asking many questions, however, I met people who became role models, strategic partners, banking allies and friendly competitors.
They ultimately helped us launch our business. You can do the same as we did.
2. Leverage The Green Sheet: We are very fortunate to have such a valuable trade publication for our industry. I meet many people new to our industry who have found The Green Sheet through a Google search. Use all that this multifacetod publication offers, including the Resource Guide and GS Online's MLS Forum.
As part of your professional approach to our business, spend time each week reading articles and sharing your insights through blogs or other communication tools. Even prior to becoming a member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board, I welcomed each new issue as a way to learn more about our business.
3. Attend tradeshows: These can be expensive, including travel, entertainment and other associated costs, but it's well worth the investment to attend a conference and meet the players in our industry and get a real pulse on our industry.
Whether you attend the Electronic Transactions Association's Annual Meeting & Expo, a local show or shows dedicated to subsets of our business (such as those focusing on ATMs, gift cards and payroll cards), the days spent at the shows can prove invaluable. In the long run, I would suggest that a $1,000-plus investment in a tradeshow experience will prove more beneficial than making cold calls and even closing a few deals.
It's all about the relationships and powerful partnerships developed face to face. You will learn a lot more by talking to a terminal representative in person than visiting a website for a tutorial.
4. Ask for help: Tell your current ISO or bank partner that you want to develop professionally to strengthen your business and need advice and assistance to do so. So many MLSs work in a vacuum and don't use the resources at their disposal.
5. Learn by doing: Yes, there are lots of books, manuals, websites, seminars and other resources published about credit card processing. I wish it were that easy to learn how to become a payment professional. How hard can it be? Interchange is interchange, and transaction fees are transaction fees. But we all know that there's a lot more to it.
As a new MLS, you need to get out on the street, meet some smaller merchants to get your feet wet, make mistakes and never be scared to say to a merchant, "I don't know, but I will find out for you later today."
I've told all of our new salespeople (who are also new to our industry) that, even after just one hour of training, they know more than the average merchant. Will they know every detail? Of course not, but if you speak with confidence and truly care about your merchants, then you are performing a real service for them.
So many agents will not really learn until they are on the front line with their merchants. It's like learning math in school: when the teacher shows you how to do the equation on the blackboard, it looks so easy and actually makes sense until you try it later that evening at home.
It's the same with credit card processing. Get out there; learn by doing; risk making mistakes. Don't make your first cold call to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., of course; start with the local neighborhood merchant. What's the worst thing that could happen: you don't get the deal? You'll get over it.
There are multiple ways to better yourself within our industry. Do not accept mediocrity, and keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to realize the success you desire.
Jeffrey Shavitz is one of the founders of Charge Card Systems Inc. He is also an active member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board and the First Data ISO Advisory Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-878-4100. For additional information on CCS, please visit www.chargecardsystems.com/gsadvisoryboard or the company's corporate website at www.chargecardsystems.com.
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