The Green Sheet Online Edition
February 22, 2010 • Issue 10:02:02
A hike on the winding payments road
Like many payment professionals, Anthony Martin, Owner of Premier Merchant Consultants LLC, came to merchant services by accident. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a teacher and football coach. His dream came true. And then he realized he was working 16-hour days for insufficient pay.
He found the payments industry by taking a sales position to land a job in pharmaceuticals. In his first appointment, he sold two terminals and processing to a convenience store - an auspicious beginning. Martin has now been in the industry for seven years, with a focus on PC-based POS systems for the last five. But even though he found his professional calling, his path has been anything but a straight line.
The Green Sheet: Did you start your own company toward the beginning of your career in the industry?
Anthony Martin: I started out working for someone and then went out on my own for five years. I sold my company a year-and-a-half ago and went to work for the company that I sold to [a cash register POS company]. I decided a couple of months ago that it wasn't a very good fit for what I wanted to do, so I'm back out on my own and building up my own office again.
GS: What are the best and most challenging parts of your job?
AM: I like that I can build reoccurring revenue while also earning upfront money. The most challenging part for me is shifting gears between all the roles that I have to play.
GS: Describe those roles.
AM: I've always done recruiting, training, payroll, managing my in-house people, selling myself, getting my own paperwork through, all the way down to taking out the trash to paying the bills and that kind of thing. So I've just had to wear a lot of different hats.
Even when I have staff that's supposed to do those things I still have to be involved with them. So, yeah, that's the hardest thing, shifting from that sales go-go-go mindset to having to stop and take a look at things and make sure everybody else is doing their job and that kind of thing.
GS: Describe your typical work day.
AM: A typical work day starts with me checking e-mails and then heading out the door to an appointment or networking meeting in the morning.
After that I'm calling my reps and appointment setters and making sure that they are doing what they need to be doing. From there I let whatever has the highest priority dictate what I do and where I go.
I work anywhere between eight to 16 hours per day and wouldn't have it any other way. I'd say I work more hours now than what I did when I first started because I'm not only personally selling, I'm also managing other people.
GS: Do you set personal and business goals for yourself?
AM: My goal is always to just get better every day and to not make the same mistake twice.
I continue to evaluate what I'm doing and not get complacent. My biggest goal is to get my deal count back to where it was before I sold my business.
GS: What is unique about your sales method?
AM: I never go into an appointment or cold call with anything other than business cards.
GS: Do you often lead with value-added services?
AM: I carry a lot of value-added services. I've been called Rambo because, just like the scene in Rambo where he's loading up with dozens of weapons, I do the same with products. I sell POS systems, gift card, a loyalty program, ATM, Web design, digital video signage, digital video surveillance and check processing.
But I've also sold probably five or more other products that I keep in the back of my mind just in case I see an opportunity.
In some ways, credit card processing becomes my value-added service, but I actually don't lead with any product at all. I lead with [myself] as a merchant consultant who just happens to carry products and services that provide solutions to fill a need.
GS: What is your most successful value-added product?
AM: POS systems because they affect a business from front to back.
GS: Why is it important to have a full arsenal of products to offer merchants?
AM: Because, if I'm spending the time and resources to meet with a customer, I don't want to walk away empty handed. If I can get a prospect to buy at least one product, I feel like I'll eventually sell them another product that they need when the time is right. This also allows me to make my follow-up visits turn into profit opportunities.
GS: If you could change anything about this business, what would it be?
AM: I'd like to see some kind of barrier to enter this business.
AM: You know, you see the ads on craigslist and everywhere for some rep of some rep who's advertising to get another rep to bring in, and they don't teach them hardly anything and they send them out there with rates and things that are not realistic. And lots of merchants signed up. And they never actually get that rate.
So, I'd like to see where there's something that makes you have to actually do something to be able to get into the business as opposed to just saying, 'here's some apps,' and go out there and tell a bunch of people lies.
I'd rather there be something that makes them have to get their name in a book, even if they have to pay $100 down toward something ... just something to make somebody have to commit to this industry and learn before they can go out and start selling ... to prevent the guy that's been in the business for a month out there muddying up the water. We also need some place where somebody can get tracked back - instead of hearing, 'Well, can't find that guy anymore. We'll have to contact the actual true ISO.'
The ISO may not be able to locate that person anymore either. I still think you need to probably have a background check, number one. And number two, be able to track someone down and be able to get a hold of them if something is wrong - and be accountable for it.
GS: What would an ideal training program consist of?
AM: Start with the basics until after the rep has turned in some sales.
GS: Have you ever lost or almost lost a residual stream?
AM: When I first got in this business, I was actually a rep for a company and, within a couple of months, actually was pulled into the office, and I started managing their sales reps and then recruiting.
I basically had only three or four sales reps. And it was one of those type offices where it was just straight commission based off of equipment sales and that kind of thing.
Well, it turns out that they were only going to give me a buy rate, and it was kind of a handshake deal and [they said] we'll get your contract to you soon, soon, soon.
And I went out and sold and we averaged, just right off the bat, probably 30, 40 accounts a month, for just about a year. About midway thru that year I was already going, you know what? I know there's other ISOs out there I can get a deal with that will put it on paper and everything else.
One of the deals was that we could waive the annual fees, or we could charge them, and if we charged them obviously, you know, you would think that you would share in that income, and I asked that question, too. I also asked it to be put on paper, and they [kept putting it off].
I got them up to probably 100 to 150 appointments per month, which was fine. And by that time I already knew about interchange and everything else and was pretty well educated on the business, but I got the idea they were going to help me open up my own office. ... Anyway, long story short, after probably a couple hundred merchants that I put thru, finally I decided to start working with the company that I worked with before. And, once I did that, they cut off my residuals.
GS: What has been your most significant learning experience?
AM: Working with other sales channels such as POS vendors and dealers.
GS: Do you have a surefire way to resolve conflict?
AM: Honest and open communication. Most conflict is cause by a misunderstanding or miscommunication.
GS: What has kept you in the industry?
AM: I get to keep doing what I love [coaching] while building residual income and earning profit.
GS: What does it take to succeed in this business?
AM: Thick skin and a great work ethic.
GS: Has The Green Sheet helped you and, if so, how?
AM: Definitely, and if I were to say how I would end up writing a paper the size of a typical GS magazine.
GS: What's the funniest sales experience you've ever had?
AM: I had a customer that was irate that his merchant number had 666 in it and wouldn't run a single transaction until I got him a new number. For some reason the ISO that I was working with was standing firm that they would not issue a new merchant number.
At that point it was no longer funny, but we did end up getting it resolved.
GS: Any advice for newcomers?
AM: Either work with an ISO that is very close to you or work for a sub-ISO, or agent office in your area, because you're going to need all the support you can get.
GS: How do you balance the demands of your work and personal lives?
AM: This is always my biggest struggle, and I'm still working on how to come to a balance.
My wife and kids have come to the understanding that it doesn't matter if we are on vacation. If I get a call from a customer, I've got to answer it because without those customers we wouldn't be able to be on vacation.
GS: Do you have hobbies?
AM: I have three kids, so they are all the hobby I'll ever need. I used to have hobbies, but I cannot remember what they were.
GS: What's your greatest dream?
AM: That my kids all grow up to be successful and good parents if they choose to have children.
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