The Green Sheet Online Edition
July 13, 2009 • Issue 09:07:01
One business ends, another begins
Bruce Reisman, merchant level salesperson (MLS) for Focus Financial Solutions LLC, has found a comfortable niche in the payments industry, having finally followed his mother's advice to "see what was on the other side" after a long stint in his family's art supplies business.
Bringing the commitment and energy cultivated at his parents' business to his new job, he is available to his clients - who have his cell phone number - all day, any day of the week.
In this interview with The Green Sheet, Reisman discusses the importance of patience in building residuals, as well as the virtues of communication, honesty and transparency, especially in an industry replete with rules and regulations that can be difficult to grasp.
The Green Sheet: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Bruce Reisman: A successful businessman like my father. I always have admired his work ethic and the many things he has accomplished in life. He is my hero.
GS: How long have you been in this business, and why did you choose this profession?
BR: Nine years this June. I was in a family business for 20 years, and due to the changing economy, we closed down our business of 30 years.
We were in the wholesale, retail and manufacturing of arts and crafts supplies to the mom-and-pop industries. It was a family-owned business. I worked very closely with my father and mother. Unfortunately, the big chains destroyed our mom-and-pop customer base, and the rest was history.
However, with my experience (in manufacturing, retail and wholesale), I wanted to stay in sales. I enjoy working with people in all walks of life, and this seemed like the perfect fit.
GS: When did you know you'd be able to succeed in this business?
BR: When I saw that my potential clients gained my trust.
It became easier to board them, and as long as you kept them informed and provided them the customer service and honest relationship they deserve, they would become residual customers for life in most cases.
GS: What do you like best about your career, and what's been most challenging?
BR: I love working with so many types of businesses. It makes it so interesting. You know in my former business it was one type of customer.
This business allows me to tailor to the needs of each customer in an individual manner. The most challenging is you know you have the best solution, but then a potential client decides to go with their bank because they think that since the bank handles all their finances, they will take care of them in this arena too. Totally untrue.
GS: What has kept you in the industry?
BR: The residuals. Once you establish your base and your customer loyalty, it makes it a lot easier. However, you always have to look for new customers as in this day and time it's becoming harder for many merchants to survive.
GS: Are you working as an employee or contractor for someone else, or do you own your own company? And are you satisfied?
BR: I am an independent sales contractor with my own business. I represent two processing platforms and many other vendors (gateways, gift card, ACH processors). Yes, I am very satisfied as long as they pay me in a timely manner.
GS: Describe your typical work day, and tell us how many hours you put in now versus when you first started.
BR: Funny you should ask. In my family business for 20 years I was always at work by 7:30 or 7:45 a.m. Even though in this industry that is too early to be in touch with my vendors or clients, I still go in and prepare for the day ahead.
It used to be going on the road visiting clients before technology and the business environment changed. Now I can do a lot of the deals via e-mail, phone and fax.
Don't get me wrong - I still visit the new client, but so much work and time is saved via technology. I usually get home by 6:00 p.m.
GS: Do you set personal and business goals?
BR: Yes. It's important to set personal and business goals. My personal goal is to be able to provide for my family and keep them happy. My business goal is to work for my customers' best interests. If you do that and keep up with their needs and wants, you will not only feel a sense of accomplishment, but you will be paid well for it. Keep the faith. Never look back. Always be forward thinking.
GS: What's the funniest sales experience you've ever had?
BR: I had this medium-size chain of 15 stores. It was early in my career. Underwriting was a lot looser. However, I couldn't seem to get the processor to approve this account. Needless to say, I was a little frustrated.
To make a long story short, the president of the processing company called me up on the phone to apologize for the confusion. I almost dropped dead.
GS: Do you have any chargeback horror stories?
BR: My biggest chargeback story just happened recently. I make it a point to explain chargeback consequences to all my new clients, even ones I am converting (existing businesses never really understand it).
One customer did the exact opposite of what I told her, and she, of course, blamed me and now is going after the processor. I feel bad for her; she has no case. She probably will never be able to accept credit cards again.
GS: How do you balance the demands of your work and personal life?
BR: I tell my customers they can call me from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., Monday through Friday and weekends if they need me. However, once I get them situated, it's rare they have to call me. This gives me the time I need and value with my family.
By the way, that is why I try not to have too many restaurants on my books. They would be calling me at all hours, as my cell phone number is my contact number, and I tell my customers to call me any time. This gives them a comfort level.
GS: Have you ever lost or almost lost a residual stream? And what did you do about it?
BR: Yes. I hate it when I have very close customers and they go to their banks and get new loans. The banks tie them up with this deal that they have to give all their revenue streams to the bank, including processing the credit cards. They put a scare into the customer.
It's not right. They get the deposits anyway. The customer feels so uncomfortable. Banks are not doing their clients justice with this tactic. Nothing you can do about it.
GS: Do you have a surefire way to resolve conflict?
BR: Be calm.
GS: How often do you check on existing merchants?
BR: Quarterly or sooner. I always stay in contact.
GS: What are you doing to ensure that your clients are compliant with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard?
BR: Be honest with them about the new PCI rules. I hear from customers all the time about people calling them telling them they aren't compliant.
The callers don't know who that customer is, and it puts the fear factor in them. I am aware of PCI compliance, so my customers feel comfortable knowing and trusting me.
GS: Do you often lead with value-added services? How does this compare with leading with saying, "I can lower your rate"?
BR: It's not about the rate. It's about how I can help you understand what you are paying for processing credit cards. I have trained or try to train my future and current clients that you can't compare apples to apples in our industry.
I am finding even with "true interchange plus" some of my competition add on unnecessary fees. I am very transparent with my clients. They know exactly what they are getting.
GS: How do you secure referrals? Are there any lead generation methods you would never recommend? Why?
BR: My customers are my best referrals and lead generators. I hate those new customer business lists. You end up being the 50th person calling them.
GS: How do you explain interchange rates to prospects? How does this differ from the way you introduce interchange to new reps you need to quickly bring up to speed?
BR: That's a tough one. You have to treat each potential client and rep differently. It's very complex. I only sell true interchange plus programs.
Most will grasp on to it, though. I usually go through the history of tiered pricing to get them to understand it.
GS: What do you do when it looks like you're on the verge of losing a sale?
BR: Oh well, so what. What's next?
GS: What is your approach to terminal placement? Do you lease them, place them for free or do some combination of the two?
BR: I basically sell them at cost. I want the residual stream. Leasing is dishonest. And free? There is no such thing.
GS: What are three things an agent should never do?
BR: Lie, cheat and steal from their own clients. I have seen it before my very eyes.
How MSPs [merchant service providers] raise fees like minimums and membership fees and termination fees without telling their clients is so dishonest, and it happens all the time. Not with me.
GS: What does it take to succeed in this business?
GS: Do you think all ISOs should be registered?
BR: Yes. But they should not have to pay the Visa and MasterCard yearly registration fee.
GS: Do you use professional services such as those of accountants or attorneys in your business? If so, how have they been useful?
BR: Yes. They help make sure your MSP is honest with you.
GS: How has The Green Sheet helped you?
BR: It's so informative - always great to know what's going on. Also, it's always interesting to hear what other ISOs or MSPs do to generate sales.
GS: Any advice for newcomers?
BR: Don't believe these MSPs when they say you can get rich quick. It takes time to build. Make sure you start this job part time and build your residuals. You will starve if you don't.
Also, make sure from your first residual check you get paid not only for your credit card processing, but your other services you sell as well (gateway fees, et cetera). Keep them honest from day one or leave quickly.
GS: What's your greatest dream?
BR: That people will learn to be honest with others and themselves. Then this world would be a greater place.
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