By Adam Moss
Charge Card Systems Inc.
As an ISO or merchant level salesperson (MLS), one of the questions to continually ask is, How do I add value? The question is rooted in what you and your company can offer to separate yourselves from the competition. What makes you different? Would your agents or merchants agree that you go the extra mile?
Here's the thing about adding value: as soon as you stop, you lose traction. For ISOs, this means the MLSs you rely on for a steady deal flow will now look to other ISOs; for MLSs, it means the merchants you supported will look for other providers - each in search of better solutions and a better value.
In the past, success could be had by simply walking into a store and piquing a merchant's interest by offering savings on the merchant's monthly processing fees. A guarantee of savings was the driving force in securing new business. At the same time, merchants were willing to lease terminals, putting more money in your pocket.
Today, if you approach merchants about helping to lower their processing fees, you'll likely hear, "You're the fifth person today who's contacted me about guaranteeing to lower my fees. I'm not interested." Try to sell or lease a terminal and you're told, "Three others have also offered me free equipment." Staying the course on a pricing-focused strategy will put you behind the competition.
Today's merchants are smarter. The government has entered the arena. Recent legal action and pending settlements have given merchants the ability to surcharge their customers. Like it or not, our industry is front and center. We need to work smarter, be more resourceful and go the extra mile.
ISOs need to ask, Why would an MLS want to work with us? MLSs should ask, Why would a merchant choose to work with my ISO and me? The answer? Because we add value.
So how do you make the transition to adding value? Change the conversation. Listen to what merchants are saying and understand what they need. Ask questions, gather information and gain leverage.
Worry less about how many basis points you need to save merchants in order to earn their business. Focus on how you can fill a need. There are merchants who are willing to pay a little bit more in fees if they find the solution that best suits their businesses. That, coupled with sound customer service, is a winning combination.
Some believe that being a jack-of-all-trades is the right course when selling merchant services. For some, this can be a successful approach. However, I believe focusing on a niche market, product or technology will yield greater results. Technology or a specific product can help determine the niche market on which to focus. The key is to become an expert at what you do.
If you decide to pick an industry, learn that industry by reading trade publications, attending industry tradeshows and doing research online. If you decide to focus on a product, learn the product and be able to speak about the product to a business owner. Merchants will appreciate speaking with someone who is knowledgeable, knows his or her product offerings and can explain how said offerings can benefit their businesses.
As a result of changing the conversation and truly hearing what your agents and merchants are telling you, you're changing the manner in which you sell. Maybe "sell" isn't even the best word to use. You're fulfilling a need, differentiating yourself and becoming a problem solver/solution provider.
Equally important for MLSs is working with an ISO that has the resources and backing to help you run your business, in effect, to be your sales partner. It all starts with a back-end office and staff who are dedicated to your success.
Selling may not be easy, but we all know how rewarding it can be. If you can change the conversation and add value, you will see a positive change in both your deal flow and residuals.
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