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The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 12, 2012 • Issue 12:03:01

Are you selling rate, a solution or both?

By Jeffrey Shavitz and Adam Moss
Charge Card Systems Inc.

For ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) in the payments industry, it's rewarding when a merchant prospect says yes and asks for an application.

It's good to celebrate when this happens, but it's also beneficial to be introspective at such a time and do follow-up research to determine how you found and landed that new merchant account.

If you sell a product or service that can be purchased almost anywhere (that is, credit card processing) from multiple vendors, you're selling a commodity. This creates significant problems in that you must convince merchants to buy from you and not your competition.

The rate dilemma

We are both amused whenever we meet with a merchant who is processing a few thousand dollars per month and is proud that he is such a smart, successful businessman because he has changed his processor three times within 24 months.

The merchant feels empowered because he was able to negotiate no termination fee with each of his processors, and he was able to reduce his interchange-plus pricing from interchange plus 10 basis points to interchange plus eight, and now, finally, he has this amazing deal at interchange plus seven.

How silly to go through all that to save a few dollars, but this is our business; we must embrace it if we are to grow and become successful.

When on a sales call, many of us will ask a merchant prospect for an existing processing statement. Why? To undercut the merchant's existing fee structure. And then one year later, the merchant will give our statement to another MLS who will then reduce our rate structure. In the end, it's a losing proposition, and this is why attrition has become such a big issue in the industry.

The synergy solution

As leaders in our company, we spend a significant amount of time researching new concepts and speaking with experts in synergistic fields - all in the hopes of creating "integrated relationships" with our merchants.

All payment professionals want their merchant relationships to be "sticky." To that end, we strive to provide ancillary services that, working in tandem, are of greater value than the sum of the isolated parts. And if we succeed in doing this, why would our merchants ever want to leave us?

To become successful in the payments space and build future wealth (a solid portfolio five and 10 years from now), you must offer solutions that are not based on price and demonstrate why merchants should buy from you. MLSs often say to us that "there aren't any" such reasons, and "the merchant is only interested in price." Shame on them because they are wrong.

We are not naïve. Price is a significant variable, but it's not the only variable. Must you be competitive? Of course. Must you offer all of the traditional skill sets to get you in the door?

Of course. But you need to discover or uncover the other benefits you deliver that will make this merchant stay with you.

Merchants want to buy from people who care about them and their business endeavors. Embrace social media and its many nuances; develop new reports and tools that are user friendly; study metrics of specific industries so, for example, if you are prospecting to restaurateurs, you can speak their language.

Since payment processing services are ubiquitous, many of us sell only on price, but selling a commodity based on price is a losing proposition.

Someone will always be willing to undercut you, as evidenced by the high levels of merchant attrition in our industry.

Push yourself to sell a solution, not a rate. You will be happily surprised with your improved conversion ratios. Good luck. end of article

Jeffrey Shavitz is a founder and Adam Moss is the Vice President, National Sales Manager of Charge Card Systems Inc., a nationwide leader in merchant services offering a full suite of products and 12-hour funding. Shavitz is an active member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board and the First Data ISO Advisory Board; both Shavitz and Moss are frequent contributing writers to The Green Sheet. They can be reached at jshavitz@chargecardsystems.com or amoss@chargecardsystems.com or 888-505-CARD. For additional information on CCS, please visit www.chargecardsystems.com.

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