Chuck Saden is President of POS Card Processing Inc.; 10 years ago, he was a newly hired merchant level salesperson (MLS) who sold leases and received no residuals. He quickly jumped ship to a better fit at Bank of America Merchant Services.
In this interview, he talks about automated goal reinforcement, his laissez-faire approach to having an arsenal of products and the importance of using merchant life cycles to determine when to make a pitch.
The Green Sheet: What business/profession were you in before you joined the payments industry?
Chuck Saden: I was in the insurance business. I started with Combined Insurance in 1983. I'm a huge fan of its founder, W. Clement Stone. He stands as my number one influence and is the person I'd most like to emulate. RIP Clem!
GS: Are you working as an employee or contractor for someone else, or do you own your own company?
CS: I would consider myself self-employed, but I have paid myself by W-2 since 2002. I stay out of trouble with taxes, and I have a five-year track record of income that I could only dream about while selling insurance.
GS: What has kept you in the industry?
CS: The money has been outstanding, but it's also been great working with my daughter (who sells and services with me) and wife (who does our books).
GS: If you could change anything about this business, what would it be?
CS: I would like to see a higher hurdle to enter our business. I'd also like to see some kind of certification: something as simple as a third-party testing facility administering a 100-question test on the , Electronic Transactions Association's Encyclopedia of Terminology for the Acquiring Industry. That would be better than nothing.
GS: If you were going to call it quits and do something completely different with your life, what would you do?
CS: I'm really doing it now, but part time. I've been going to school the last few years. I completed the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) coursework and recently finished a Master Urban Rancher program. Next up is a Spanish degree. I'm shooting for professional student status.
GS: Do you set goals for yourself?
CS: My wife and I have a net worth goal e-mailed to us twice per day by Yahoo! Groups. We both read it out loud when we receive it. The goal is written according to the exact instructions on page 36 of Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich.
GS: What are your long-term business goals, and what steps are you taking now to ensure you'll reach them?
CS: Every business decision I make now asks the same questions: How can I make more and spend less time doing it? Will this activity or new product make my earning capability more efficient? Can I do this plan without having to hire anyone else? How will this action affect my stress level?
GS: What's been your greatest success so far as an agent?
CS: The low attrition of our client base, overall, has really surprised me. Of course, I always hoped for low attrition, but it's nice to see that our model is working very well.
GS: What are some keys to lowering attrition?
CS: One thing is that major life cycles are the best times for merchants to look at switching processors. In the life insurance business, rarely was it a good deal to replace a policy. But that didn't stop salespeople from overselling. It's the same with merchant services.
Major life cycles for buying insurance would be buying a new home, getting married, having a child, and so forth. I like to wait until major events in a merchant's life, too. These include bank or checking account changes, opening a new store, opening a second location, buying a new POS system, and so on.
Poor service with a current processor is next, but savings is at the bottom of the list. Instead of overselling merchants, I've sat on leads for months and even over a year. It's done wonders for attrition.
GS: What has been your most significant learning experience?
CS: I was lucky to have a mentor in Charlie Ryan, who was the Bank of America Merchant Services' Manager in Atlanta. His entire team was classy. From the get-go, I saw that you could make a great living at this and have it be good for the processor, bank, salesperson and, especially, the merchant. What a way to start.
GS: How do you balance the demands of your work and personal lives?
CS: I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2003 but actually had my first attack in April 2002. This kind of thing forces your hand a little. Some organizations feel the need to hire, hire, hire and constantly put more and more stress on themselves. Lose an eye, and see how important success is. I have no problem getting personal time in.
GS: Have you ever tried to move your merchants from one processor to another? If so, what happened?
CS: Moving blocks of merchants is like telling them you gave the wrong recommendation. It's also double the work. Making more commission is not a valid reason to move a client unless you are completely cut off.
GS: What is unique about your sales style/method?
CS: I've done a great job in creating referral relationships. Everything is either an incoming referred call or an outgoing warm call.
I've also taken advantage of my CFP training to create some great CPA referrals. CPAs know there is a code of ethics in the CFP world: integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence. It makes it easier for them to let me help their clients.
GS: What would people be surprised to know about the way you do your job?
CS: Maybe being able to never leave the office might surprise some. But I think our colleagues have seen just about everything.
Maybe they would be surprised to find out that I'm registered with two different banks even though we only have two salespeople. I'm a big believer in being registered.
GS: Why is it important to have a full arsenal of products to offer merchants?
CS: Don't look at me. When I ask myself the core questions of effort versus stress versus return, most weapons end up on the scud heap.
GS: What does it take to succeed in this business?
CS: If I was starting out today, I would hope I could find a mentor, like I found Charlie Ryan. If available, I would buy the ETA's terminology book and read it cover to cover. I would hope that I would stumble onto The Green Sheet and the GS Online MLS Forum early in the game.
If I were at street level, I would call in off-the-beaten-path areas, like business to business areas. I would never call on the best store in the shopping center first.
I'd spend at least an hour each day looking for a referral source. Go the extra mile; make one more call.
GS: What would a good agent training program consist of?
CS: There is only one way to train someone in this business. You take them out with you and let them see you make the sales. The longer the better. Whether you split commissions with the new person or just make them watch, they will pick up the lingo by watching you.
Then, they have to prove to you that they can retrieve statements. If they can get statements, they can make it, and you can help them make it.
GS: If you had to bring a new sales rep up to speed on interchange right away, how would you do it?
CS: I'd pull out old statements and analyze them side by side with the interchange sheets. I would focus on what you can prove and show them how to use the Socratic method of selling to show savings on categories with hidden fees.
GS: How has The Green Sheet helped you?
CS: I remember when I got my first copy of The Green Sheet. I knew my employer didn't want me to have access to it. It was like being 12 years old and finding your dad's Playboy. Oh, the secrets it revealed!
The MLS Forum is a fun place to be. It allows us to search for just about any question we can ask. The print version has been invaluable. To share a secret, I was looking for a specific relationship in June of 2004. I don't know what exactly caught my eye about a new advertiser, but I called. I send them over $200,000,000 annually now. And I registered with them, too.
GS: What hobbies do you enjoy?
CS: I love to fish and farm my property. I also like to video edit.
But what I really like is to see my favorite band, Blue Oyster Cult. I have been close friends with them since 1996 and created a benefit concert with some of their members. We've had a ball over the last 10 years. The shows and late nights following get better and better.
GS: Do you have a motto that you live by?
CS: Miracles do happen; take one.
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