The Green Sheet Online Edition
November 12, 2012 • Issue 12:11:01
Functioning in today's challenging payments world
|| "I run on the road long before I dance under the lights."|
- Muhammad Ali
Think back to 20 years ago in the payments industry when leasing was a common sales channel, the competition was limited to other ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs), and phones were used mostly for conversation. A decade ago the payments industry could not have foreseen today's dongles, software and payment alternatives any more than the country as a whole could have then predicted the coming failure of Lehman Brothers.
Twenty years ago, the amount of knowledge an ISO or MLS needed in order to provide payment processing and value-added services that could meet a range of merchants' needs was a fraction of what is required today. And back then, merchants needed to consider far fewer variables when evaluating the merits of a payment professional's offerings than they do now.
Part of the challenge for today's payment professionals is to help customers through the often vexing process of making important choices they don't fully understand.
Today, decisions regarding security, POS terminals, platforms, software and a host of other services and products can make or break a business, but the majority of customers have nothing approaching a sophisticated understanding of any or all of these things. And guiding the customer to the best choice possible is a big responsibility when the health of the customer's business may ride on the outcome.
Giving your customers a hand
So, how do you help your merchant customers and prospects make decisions that will serve them well now and in the future? Here are several tips, some of which you've heard before but bear repeating:
- Pick your partners wisely. Research companies before you sign contracts. Make sure they are ethical; well informed and actively involved in new developments in the industry; strive for the best outcomes at all times; offer resources, including educational opportunities, for you; and provide assistance to you and your merchant customers when needed.
- Actively participate in your own ongoing education. For example, if you're an MLS, take advantage of educational offerings and training your ISO offers, but educate yourself, as well. Attend industry conferences, find a mentor, take workshops, classes and webinars, read industry publications, volunteer to test new equipment and so on.
- Before you feel like you're ready to do so, begin teaching what you've learned to other payment professionals at conferences, through mentoring, by writing articles, hosting webinars, etc.
- Strive to become a trusted resource and mentor for your merchants. Think about each individual's unique circumstances. When informing a current customer or prospect about your offerings, weed out extraneous information that doesn't truly apply to a given merchant's situation to avoid overwhelm.
Use your industry knowledge to help merchants distinguish between something trendy but not particularly useful to them and something that will truly boost their profits. Build new concepts and ideas on what the merchant already knows, and proceed step by step to foster understanding.
- Stay open to new opportunities even if they make you uncomfortable.
Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, but the more prepared, involved and flexible you are, the better you will serve your merchant customers and yourself both today and in the future.
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