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The Green SheetGreen Sheet

The Green Sheet Online Edition

December 28, 2009 • Issue 09:12:02

Book Review
The payments industry numbers game:
Volume over price

Undertaking a career in merchant sales can be quite the gamble. For many, the decision to become a merchant level salesperson (MLS) pays off with a sizable portfolio and healthy residual stream. Some agents earn figures that reach well into the millions of dollars.

But that isn't everyone's outcome, and even for successful MLSs the road to prosperity is usually arduous. As Mariusz Kapturski points out in his new book, Taking Charge in Today's Economy - Secrets of Credit Card Processing Revealed, most agents quit the payments industry within the first year of doing business.

"It is important to remember that the first months can be difficult, especially if you do not get upfront bonuses," Kapturski wrote. "It is simply not enough to pay the bills. Plus you get no reimbursement. You are on your own. You make a sale, you make a buck; you do not, you starve."

Nebulous world

Kapturski, who immigrated with his family to the United States from Poland, weaves plenty of autobiographical detail - such as his struggle to learn payments jargon while also learning to speak English - into a book that helps clarify a number of points pertaining to the often nebulous world of electronic payment processing.

The book could use a little polishing (there are a number of grammatical and spelling errors), but it is nonetheless an edifying look into an arena that can be confusing even to those who have been in the business for years.

"Greed is the root of all evil," the author wrote. His text is intercut with moral declarations of a similar kind, including biblical passages, but they all relate to a more concrete point: good salesmanship puts building long-term relationships above finding ways to turn quick profits. It's an approach to which Kapturski says he owes his own flourishing payments industry career.

The book also has some interesting sections that elucidate - using extensive detail, charts and mathematics - some of the more head-scratching processes that take place behind electronic payments.

Those include the reading of merchant statements, how to transition from MLS status to become a full-blown ISO, and the fundamentals of interchange charges imposed by issuers, as well as fees tacked on by processors, ISOs and MLSs.

Thoughtful sales techniques

Kapturski convincingly hashes out sales methods that he contends will bolster any MLS's portfolio, including the use of "cost plus" enticements that reduce to certain bare essentials the myriad fees typically imposed on merchants. Kapturski argues that by cutting out the merchant discount rate and relying solely on interchange enhancements, MLSs are bound to acquire additional merchant accounts whose total revenue will more than offset the modest residual losses of each one. "I learned that you make money on volume, not a single item," Kapturski said.

He also stresses the importance of honesty and transparency in MLS/merchant agreements: avoiding hidden fees, for example, and helping merchants understand exactly how and why they are being charged. He also advocates doing away with contract termination fees.

Such fees can actually encourage merchants to opt out of agreements because they feel intimidated and bullied, according to the author. He believes good MLSs nurture their clients instead of alienating them with underhanded tactics. Sometimes the best way to profit is to stop trying so hard to profit all the time. end of article

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