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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 28, 2012 • Issue 12:05:02

Five tips for choosing the best POS system

By David Robertson
Harbortouch

It has grown increasingly evident in recent years that to succeed in the merchant services arena, it is essential for you, as ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs), to employ a consultative sales approach. This means becoming well-rounded payment advisers who have broad knowledge of the multitude of payment options and value-added services available to merchants.

Be an informed adviser

Becoming your merchant customers' trusted source of all things POS also necessitates learning how to assess each merchant's unique situation, determining which products and services are best for that merchant and explaining to the merchant why you are recommending certain products and services over others. By taking this approach, you can obtain higher margins, larger accounts and lower attrition. This article discusses POS systems to help you reach a level of proficiency so you can become a valued consultant to merchants whose businesses would benefit from POS systems.

Learn what works and why

Following are five important issues to consider when helping merchants select POS systems:

    1. Startup and upgrade costs: For a brand new merchant, it may seem premature to worry about future upgrade possibilities. However, with the rapid pace of technology evolution, a new merchant's first upgrade may not be too far down the road. Most new merchants include approximately $12,000 to $16,000 in their business loans to cover the initial cost of a POS system.

    Providers offering the equipment and setup for free eliminate that expense and allow the merchant to instead invest this additional capital directly into the business for inventory, storefront upgrades, hiring additional staff - whatever might be needed. Look for POS providers that offer a low monthly fee, instead of a big upfront cost.

    Also consider that, when the time comes for an equipment upgrade, a given merchant may not have funds set aside to cover the cost. To avoid getting stuck with dinosaurs they can't afford to upgrade, merchants should choose systems that will grow with them, ones that include software updates and hardware upgrades as part of the monthly service plan.

    2. Scalability, centralized command and control: No merchant goes into business planning to fail. Plan for growth with POS systems that can grow with merchants quickly and easily and provide complete visibility and control over the entire enterprise from a single dashboard.

    Let's say a merchant starts out with two terminals, but due to rapid expansion, the merchant now needs five. Or, perhaps the merchant is ready to open a second location. The best systems make it easy and seamless to add new terminals even if they're not in the same building. With a centralized reporting and management system to tie it all together, merchants can keep tabs on an entire operation from a single dashboard.

    3. Functional flexibility: Owning your own business gives you the freedom to virtually take any direction you please. Merchants should choose POS systems that offer the flexibility to add new modules and new capabilities that can keep up with their aspirations.

    Maybe a merchant is a small specialty food retailer now but would like to add an eat-in cafe down the road. Or perhaps the three-bean chili that has made a diner a local landmark is such a big hit, the business would like to sell it in jars, along with a selection of other items, in a retail gift shop.

    When the time comes to add employees, merchants will want systems that include time clock features and sales tracking and reporting to help gauge employee performance. Truly flexible systems provide the capabilities merchants need to not only expand their product line but also their business model and operations to suit their evolving needs.

    4. Service agreement versus lease: Most POS providers operate on five-year lease agreements that cannot be canceled. Approval requires a credit check to get started and to add just one or more new terminals. In the worst case scenario, if a business fails, leasing companies will hold the merchant to the terms of the lease, leaving the business owner strapped with this ongoing expense long after the doors have closed.

    This option also typically requires considerable additional monthly fees for ongoing service and support on top of the monthly lease payment. Look for a provider that offers a monthly service agreement similar to those offered by satellite TV providers. In exchange for the monthly fee, the equipment is included for free and merchants can generally cancel with a reasonable termination arrangement.

    5. Training and support: For whatever reason, many POS providers have earned a reputation for offering lackluster training and support. Far too often, once the sales rep closes the deal, the merchant is on his or her own to solve problems and get help when needed. A merchant wouldn't settle for this with any other service provider, and there's no reason the merchant should tolerate it from a POS company.

    Find a provider that is truly a partner, offering support and training modules to meet the merchants' needs and on their terms. A provider that is focused on earning money on the credit card processing rather than on quick equipment sales or leasing has a need to keep the POS system up and running at all times or risk losing money on the account. This arrangement keeps the POS provider invested in the success of merchants in its portfolio.

    For user training purposes, the most advanced systems offer online modules employees can access as needed and are available anytime, from anywhere. And, if a problem does arise, you'll want a provider that offers true 24/7 customer care for complete support to solve any problem whenever it occurs and as often as the merchant needs assistance.

These five basic guidelines offer a glimpse into the world of POS systems, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Should you decide to include POS systems in your suite of product and service offerings, be sure to partner with a POS company that provides you with comprehensive sales training and support. end of article

David Robertson is Director of Sales at Harbortouch. His responsibilities include training and supporting the company's sales partners, specifically in regards to point of sale (POS) systems. Harbortouch offers a free POS program that supplies a full-featured POS system to restaurants and retail businesses with no up-front costs. He can be reached at drobertson@harbortouch.com.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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