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The Green SheetGreen Sheet

The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 12, 2010 • Issue 10:07:01

Strong relationship skills obliterate obstacles

By Jeffrey Shavitz
Charge Card Systems Inc.

Just five to 10 years ago, the average small to midsize merchant - which many merchant level salespeople (MLSs) are targeting aggressively as their ideal market - had high rates, so developing a competitive and more efficient program for them was relatively easy.

In my experience, larger companies (whether public or private) have chief financial officers who study the effect of processing fees on their company's bottom line, making them a more difficult merchant base to convert.

Having worked with many CFOs and presidents of companies of all sizes, I've realized that interchange and related processing costs are now one of the top expenses and line items of concern to those running a company that accepts credit cards as a form of payment.

Making a fair margin

Let's return our focus to the small to midsize company (defined as processing less than $50,000 per month). The competition for this category is fierce, with margins shrinking every day. In fact, our company's gross margin on basis points has been reduced consistently every month during the past two years. Where and when is the benchmark going to stop? I hope soon.

As ISOs and MLSs, we truly provide a valued-added service and deserve to make a fair and competitive profit margin. I would rather walk away from a deal than get into a position where I'm being "nickeled and dimed" for a few basis points.

I strongly believe that many merchants do not under-stand the value of a basis point and that some of our salespeople have lost small deals ($10,000 per month) over a few basis points.

If you are truly a good salesperson in our industry, you should be able to utilize your sales skills to win a deal if a competitor offers a three basis points reduction. Do you know what the revenue for three basis points is on $10,000? It is your responsibility to persuade merchants that your availability to resolve problems is worth paying the extra few pennies.

Finding the right partner

The hurdle ISOs face is in recruiting sales partners to join an organization. It is challenging to identify and recruit great salespeople. And I have heard many MLSs speak about the difficulty of finding processing partners with values and customer service traits that mesh with their own values and approach to service.

Given the number of options in the marketplace, I can offer this simple advice: Do your homework by meeting personally with qualified partners to gain better insight into their philosophies, priorities and business practices.

It's all about the relationship and ensuing partnership. Just be comfortable and confident that you've chosen well. end of article

Jeffrey Shavitz is one of the founders of Charge Card Systems Inc. He is also an active member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board and the First Data ISO Advisory Board. He can be reached at jshavitz@chargecardsystems.com or 800-878-4100. For additional information on CCS, please visit www.chargecardsystems.com/gsadvisoryboard or the company's corporate website at www.chargecardsystems.com.

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