The Green Sheet Online Edition
August 13, 2007 • Issue 07:08:01
A colorful life, a day at a time
Before becoming a merchant level salesperson
(MLS) six and a half years ago, David E. Hanlin
Jr. served in the U.S. Air Force and later flourished
selling structural steel and metals to businesses.
Then he spent a decade working in the mental
Itching for change, he tried his hand as a dock inspector,
a longshoreman and even a carpenter until he returned
In this article Hanlin, who loves to travel and fish in his
spare time, reveals the payoff in persistence and why he
wouldn't change a thing about his career.
The Green Sheet: Why did you choose this profession?
David Hanlin: I didn't really choose this profession, per
se, as in weighing different options. The commission sales
job that I had at the time was not panning out too well,
and I was rather desperate to quickly find something
better. I replied to a classified ad in our local newspaper. I
had an interview over the phone and was offered the job.
I didn't have a clue what the bankcard processing industry
was all about, but the guy that interviewed me assured
me of easily attaining a six figure income. I thought I'd
give it a whirl.
The following week, I attended a day and a half of training
in a hotel in New Orleans (about 150 miles west of my
hometown of Mobile, Ala.) The school was on a Thursday
and Friday. The following Monday, I was … giving my
memorized, canned sales pitch on preset appointments.
GS: As a child, what did you want to be when you
DH: My dad was an auto mechanic, and I wanted to be
just like him.
GS: What do you like best about your career, and what's
been most challenging?
DH: Being my own boss is probably tops because of the
freedom that can only be found in owning your own business.
Then, of course, are the residuals and the sky being
the limit as to where one can take his vision.
The most challenging part is staying on top of the learning
curve of all the changes, new products and services, so
that we can best advise our merchants.
GS: How has the industry changed since you started?
DH: When I started, it was all about leased equipment
to keep the bills paid while you built your residuals. The
"freebie" [free terminal] folks have changed the landscape
But, knock on wood, I have yet to lose a decent account
to them. Having found very reasonably priced sources for
terminals, I put on a reasonable mark up and sell them.
I see POS systems coming in a bigger and bigger way,
and I hope to get over the learning curve and become a
re-seller, and perhaps get back into some lease programs
on POS systems.
GS: If you could change anything about this business,
what would it be?
DH: I'd like to see NAOPP [National Association of
Payment Professionals] start wearing some bigger shoes and get some sort of lobbying effort going to protect our
industry and way of life.
GS: Looking back, would you have done anything differently
in your career?
DH: Not really. I think the Lord works in mysterious
ways and all of the rocky roads, blind alleys, quagmires
and various calamities that I experienced have eventually
led me to where I am today. … I am still a long way
from financial freedom, but I can envision it as something
GS: If you were going to call it quits and do something
completely different with your life, what would you do?
DH: I haven't a clue. I would just have to trust … that
another door would open that would be a good fit.
There's been a lot of doom and gloom on GS Online's
MLS Forum lately about where our industry is headed. I
hope there will be a big push, and all MLSs and ISOs will
get more involved in NAOPP.
GS: What's been your greatest success so far as an agent?
DH: About four years ago, I was out cold calling on a hot,
muggy, dog day of early August. I don't remember getting
so many no's in a single day. Every time I'd get back in my
car it was like opening the door of a clothes dryer. I kept
telling myself that all of these no's would eventually lead
me to a yes.
By around 5 p.m., a little voice in my head kept telling me
to call it a day and find the tallest, coldest beer in town. I
trudged on. Finally, about 5:15 p.m., I called on an automotive
accessory shop, gave my few opening sentences,
The merchant said he was very unhappy with his current
provider and was so glad that I dropped in. He pulled out
a statement before I could get seated, and I wrote him up
on the spot.
That one, hot, sweaty cold call has, over the years, resulted
in dozens and dozens of very loyal merchants being
added to my portfolio.
GS: Do you have any chargeback horror stories? Success
DH: I had a business go belly up, and we lost $8,500
in uncollectible chargebacks. My half was $4,250, and
it caused a domino effect that nearly wiped me out.
After that, even if the ISO I write an account with doesn't
have shared liability, I scrutinize them with a giant magnifying
GS: How do you balance the demands of your work and
DH: I can't. I have just slowly learned to embrace and
GS: Have you ever tried to move your merchants from
one processor to another? If so, what happened?
DH: Only if they are out of contract and I have found a
better deal for them.
GS: Do you have a surefire way to resolve conflict?
DH: If at all humanly possible, carefully and tactfully
dig out the bones of contention and make my best
effort to resolve them, one piece at a time. Sometimes,
on rare occasions, they are irresolvable and one must …
GS: What is unique about your sales style/method?
DH: I think mastering a good opening statement that
tweaks the merchant's interest is most important and
then just letting the conversation flow until you find the
merchant's 'hot buttons' and offer a solution.
GS: Merchants are savvier now about credit card processing.
How does this affect MLSs?
DH: The savvier, the better. This gets all the smoke and
mirrors (free this and free that, rates below cost, etc.) out
of the way from the get-go.
GS: How do you explain interchange rates to prospects?
DH: I have the tables in my presentation manual and give
them a thumbnail sketch as part of my presentation.
GS: What would people be surprised to know about the
way you do your job?
DH: That someone as disorganized as I am could get
GS: Why is it important to have a full arsenal of products
to offer merchants?
DH: If you don't do it, someone else will, so you might
as well give each call your best shot in meeting all of the
GS: How do you ensure account retention? What do you
do when it looks like you're on the verge of losing a sale?
DH: Always answer my cell phone and, when time permits,
drop in and make sure everything is going OK.
If I seem to be on the verge of losing a sale, I restate the
benefits that I offer and try to uncover and resolve any
problem area that the merchant may have.
GS: What types of merchants do you prefer to work with?
DH: I like them all in a big way. However, I have a lot of
Asian clients, and I have become very fond of doing business
I feel like a guest in their homes when I enter their businesses.
They are cordial and gracious hosts/hostesses;
they offer me free food if it's a restaurant, or some bottled
water or juice if it's retail.
They don't seem to have the thinly veiled contempt
and hidden agendas that we sometimes encounter in
GS: What is your experience with agent training?
DH: Never had any real structured agent training. This is
not rocket science. If we feel we have to know it all, we'll
never get out the door.
GS: How should an MLS go about choosing an
DH: The best way is to go on the MLS Forum and ask
questions, private-message other MLSs and spend some
chat time on the phone with them.
GS: Did you know enough about industry contracts
before you signed one?
DH: Not an iota. I just signed whatever was sent to me
and went to work on a smile and a handshake. Yeah, I
know, in retrospect, not too smart.
GS: How has The Green Sheet helped you?
DH: In every conceivable manner that you can think of.
I had been in this biz for about two years before I heard
of The Green Sheet and subscribed.
I immediately found good sources of terminals and
direct leasing sources, instead of paying the inflated
prices/factors from the ISO.
I didn't check out the MLS Forum until a couple of years
ago, and wow! The clouds opened up; I found a whole
The Forum created a networking area for us MLSs to
compare notes about the very best ISOs. Before the
Forum, we were all lone wolves in the woods.
Hardly a week goes by that I don't learn something on
the Forum that helps me in my business.
Plus, we joke around, tease, cajole, and laugh and cry
together. It's about the best combination of business and
pleasure that I've found.
GS: Any advice for newcomers?
DH: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Find two to
four good ISOs.
GS: What's your greatest dream?
DH: To become financially free enough to travel the
entire 50 states and then see most foreign countries. I
also hope in some way to leave this earth a better place
than it was before.
GS: Do you have a motto that you live by?
DH: A quote from Davy Crockett: 'Be sure you're right;
then, go ahead!
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