By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.
What's the one thing that you'd most want to change about the payments business? In recent discussions on GS Online's MLS Forum and the Merchant Account Sales group on LinkedIn, agents complained about overly controlling managers. Managers criticized agents who go through training only to disappear after sending in one or two deals.
Numerous comments also surfaced about unscrupulous agents who damage the credibility of the honest, hard working majority of merchant level salespeople (MLSs). Merchants were cited for "memory lapses."
MLSs receiving a 1099 form instead of W-2 forms are independent by definition. Managing them requires a different approach than techniques used for supervising employees.
Dee Malik wrote in the MLS Forum, "ISOs that want to treat you like employees rather than independent contractors yet are not paying you a salary - of course because, again, you are not employed by them - but think they have the right to think of themselves - and treat you like that sales manager in Glengarry Glen Ross. ... I am not your employee. I would like to be your partner, nothing more - nothing less."
There's nothing more frustrating than recruiting a new agent, taking the person through orientation and training, and then having them simply disappear without an explanation or forwarding address.
"You know, we talk about the pet peeves with merchants or rogue/semi-rogue agents," Clearent posted in The MLS Forum. "But one of my pet peeves is the number of agents [who] sign contracts, but never submit one deal to their new partner. I have always wondered why they would go through all the effort. I know there can be reasons, but more often than not, these few just fall off the radar and [don't] even return calls."
Jmathis described the process of hiring and training promising sales professionals, followed by heartbreak when they fail to launch: "Never ending cycle, but what saddens us the most is like [Clearent] said. After you bring people on board and go through all of the steps they just [can't] knock on doors."
Our applications aren't always easy for merchants to navigate or fully comprehend. That's why many of us walk merchants through every part of our agreements, pausing to confirm their understanding by initialing and signing applications.
But no matter how careful we are, some merchants will still be surprised and confused when they receive a merchant statement. This can be especially frustrating when we've gone above and beyond in our efforts to manage expectations.
Dee Malik takes particular exception to merchants who "will never admit that they signed a contract in which they read but didn't really understand or didn't read it and blame everyone else for their mistake."
Then there are merchants who don't understand the basics of electronic funds transfer and think we sit on their money for a few days before passing it through to their banks. More 2's biggest pet peeve is when a "merchant calls me asking me, where's his money - like I have it."
The ordinary challenges of our day-to-day professional lives are compounded when unethical or inexperienced MLSs muddy our playing field.
Gmartin listed his pet peeves as margin compression, lack of any barrier to entry, false advertising, and lack "of any rule enforcement or regulation to clamp down on the ones that damage our industry."
LinkedIn's Merchant Account Sales group member Lori Morefield-Berg shared her frustration with having "to overcome the stereotype of the unscrupulous merchant processor. Technology has changed so much that we are really more like system integrators than used car salesmen! Of course once you have a chance to educate your audience it is a smooth road."
Janet Sanders of LinkedIn's Merchant Level Sales group described the worst aspects of the MLS's job as "first, dishonest and shady sales agents and ISOs that make it difficult for legitimate players to speak with merchants. Rates that the merchant never sees, obscene cancellation fees, and leases in amounts that would buy automobiles - have made merchants hate us.
"Used car salesmen used to be the business pariah - drop that standard 20 notches, and that is how ISOs and agents are thought of. A close second are shady merchants that take legitimate processing offers to their current providers to see if they will 'match' the deal."
Maketelinc feels that ISO owners and managers are to blame for sending out untrained representatives to sell merchant services. "They put out novice agents on the street and make sure the agents know nothing about the business, so the agents could lie, without knowing that they are liars.
"Then they steal your accounts and lock them in; they keep abusing; when you attempt to get them back after contract, they suffer from Stockholm syndrome. Besides they are embarrassed to let you know how they were fooled."
CCGuy is all for putting the stray dogs back in the kennel through better qualification and training of prospective MLSs: "Barrier to entry - if this were to happen we would all be happier, it would solve a few issues: No.1, better training would have to happen. No. 2, less salespeople [means] margin compression would not be happening as often."
We all share some responsibility for areas in need of improvement in the payments industry. Mbruno wrote, "[A]ll the pet peeves I have boil down to a lack of honesty or refusal to believe/acknowledge they are wrong when presented with facts. That goes for merchants, agents, ISOs and other interested third parties."
Sometimes venting is good for the soul. Now that we've shared a bit about annoyances that come with selling merchant services, some of us have a deeper appreciation for everything that's right about this business.
Jim Hilber of LinkedIn's Merchant Level Sales wrote, "[T]his industry has provided so many such an amazing opportunity to work hard and truly have your dreams come true. And I am not even trying to sell you something. I am highly motivated, and this industry continues to return the energy.
"I understand, with 21-plus years of experience, the challenges of the job. I just can't get myself to subscribe to 'pet peeves.' But I do love the candid and honest comments posted here. Be good all, and sell well! (putting soap box away now)."
As Slick Streetman stated, "I guess the best thing about our job is the fact that it is not a job. We are independent business owners. We pick and choose which ISOs are the best homes for our merchants, and we can fire the ISO if need be and give another the chance to earn our business. Long live our industry."
Well said, Slick.
Dale S. Laszig is a writer and payments industry executive specializing in business development and sales performance improvement. She manages channel sales at Castles Technology and sales effectiveness programs through IMPAX Corp. and C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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