The Green Sheet Online Edition
November 23, 2009 • Issue 09:11:02
How to grow your merchant portfolio
As one of the founders of Charge Card Systems Inc., my goal is to develop a company dedicated to nurturing and developing sales partners to realize a profitable future in the payments industry. As such, I am constantly asked by agents how they should go about growing their business.
Given the subjective nature of success - is it earning $5,000 or $50,000 per month? - ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) want to know why some agents become incredibly successful, while others seem to languish. Regardless of how agents define success, they want to know how to attain it.
Of course, hard work and following traditional, tried-and-true business philosophies are paramount to growing one's business, but I'm hoping this article will stimulate creative thinking on eight strategic initiatives that can be implemented to help scale and grow your portfolio.
1. 'Waste' money creatively
This sounds like a strange way to increase residuals, but let me explain. Too many ISOs and MLSs are so overly conservative that they never invest in innovative ways to grow business.
We have all heard the expression, "Think outside the box." By allocating a small portion of your advertising and marketing budget to a creative approach, you can try new ways to attract merchants.
Don't laugh at having an advertising budget, you should have one. Just like every growing company needs to invest in its business, you should be investing in yourself.
The foundation of this article is that you must spend money to make money; if you don't, it is very difficult to build a scalable business. For example, most full-time sales agents work eight to 10 hour days.
And, for the typical MLS, there is a lot to do in a day, including doing prospecting, cost comparisons and downloads; speaking with processors; reconciling bank statements; and offering customer service to resolve other time-consuming issues.
Agents should be encouraged to invest in themselves. Also, if they have proven themselves through deal production, consider matching their investments, which will help drive more business for them. Investment also demonstrates that they consider themselves professionals in our industry and want to better themselves, their families and their quality of life.Think of your sales agents as your partners. In this regard, committ to developing your business relationships to produce a mutually beneficial future.
But how do agents, go about investing in themselves? Endless ways. I'll provide a few, but let your own imagination run wild since my ideas might not be appropriate for your business model.
2. Downloads and POS conversions
How much time do you spend doing terminal downloads and POS conversions? If you're writing eight to 15 deals per month, I would assume it's a significant amount of time. Are you better off working with an ISO that will do this job for you or working with a part-time consultant and paying him or her an hourly fee so you can free yourself to get more sales?
3. Networking groups
There are lots of networking opportunities, and some are better than others. However, there is typically a cost to join networking groups. Many of our ISOs have joined associations and chambers of commerce; through them our partners have developed a great base of merchants, plus referring partners, that have helped to grow their individual portfolios.
4. Surround yourself with winners
Many people watch too much depressing news and surround themselves with negative people who see the glass as half empty. Rather, align yourself with optimistic people, both within and outside our industry.
So much of success is determined by attitude. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. It's so interesting how some people really use that day and are full of excitement, and others just procrastinate and seem to never finish anything.
5. Find a mentor
I have been fortunate to have had mentors throughout my life who have been instrumental in my personal and professional development.
My father has filled that role on numerous levels, but a limited number of businesspeople have also been instrumental in my professional and personal growth. It is important to surround yourself with individuals who care about you and do not harbor hidden motives.
Some of our MLSs have received mentoring from business professors at local universities. People want to feel needed. It's amazing that if you just pick up the phone and call successful businesspeople in your community and ask for advice, many times they will indeed be willing to help, for all the right reasons.
6. Tradeshows and conferences
Events cost money to attend, whether the cost involves travel, lodging or just buying a badge. But if you select the right event, the time and money spent will be invaluable.
For example, enduring, positive results can come from attending a local acquirers association meeting, the annual Electronic Transactions Association Meeting & Expo in Las Vegas or exhibiting at an industry-specific tradeshow where you can meet numerous prospective merchant customers over a few days.
7. Telemarketers and lead generation
Our agents have had different levels of success by either using our internal lead generation program or outsourcing telemarketing efforts to call centers to generate appointments.
Either way, many agents have built highly successful businesses using lead generation and following up by meeting with merchants to win accounts.
8. Be accountable
Work with your ISO, or a friend, and make yourself accountable for your activities. It's too easy to let a week go by without having accomplished your goals. As the expression goes, "Plan your work, and then work your plan."
Effort leads to growth
The concepts just presented are just a few examples of how to grow business, but hopefully they illustrate some of the ways you can invest in yourself. Remember, if you don't, nobody will.
The beauty of our business for ISOs and MLSs is that the sky is the limit in managing your time, your income potential and your freedom. However, most people do not achieve their goals. By implementing some of the above techniques, your level of success will be exponentially increased.
Jeffrey Shavitz, a member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board, is one of the founders of Charge Cards Systems Inc. He can be reached at 800-878-4100 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit www.cargecardsystems.com.
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