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The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 24, 2014 • Issue 14:03:02

Street SmartsSM

Lean in, sign on, step out

By Dale S. Laszig
DSL Direct LLC

Editor's Note: We, at The Green Sheet, are proud to have been able to work with Dale S. Laszig for the past year on Street SmartsSM. With grace and keen intelligence she has hit all the right notes issue after issue, researching, reaching out, probing and then crafting insightful articles that help us see the current state of the industry and point us in positive, inspiring directions. We hope she will continue to send educational articles our way now that her Street Smarts commitment is coming to a close. We also very much look forward to working with Tom Waters and Benjamin Abel, two dynamic colleagues at Bank Associates Merchant Services who are brimming with ideas to explore as Street Smarts co-authors and have the energy and expertise to follow them through in the coming year. They've already begun posting questions in the MLS Forum and will pen their first article for our April 14, 2014, issue.

Thank you, editors of The Green Sheet and members of GS Online's MLS Forum, for facilitating our lively discussions over the last 12 months. I look forward to continuing conversations with incoming Street Smarts columnists Tom Waters and Benjamin Abel, who are actively engaging with us in the Forum.

I've chosen networking as the focus of my final commentary. Here are recommended strategies from Forum members and other business development professionals for building sustainable networks through community, business and civic activities.

Polish your pitch

Introducing yourself in a crisp and memorable way is a prerequisite to effective networking. This kind of introduction is sometimes referred to as an elevator pitch due to the average time it takes to ride an elevator and the small window of opportunity it affords for introducing yourself to a stranger. Good elevator pitches are simple and catchy, with a call-to-action component that makes your audience want to know more. Chris O'Leary, author of Elevator Pitch Essentials, cautions against overloading the pitch by giving the audience so much information that they feel overwhelmed. "Think drinking fountain, not fire hose," he wrote.

Career coach and author Nancy Collamer recommends crafting an elevator pitch by writing everything you'd want a prospect to know about you, then editing it down to a manageable sound bite.

"Keep editing until you've got the speech down to a few key bullet points," she wrote in a blog post for Forbes.com. "Your goal is to interest the listener in learning more, not to tell your whole life story."

Choose your leading brand

Many merchant level salespeople (MLSs) represent more than one ISO and have more than one area of specialization. The key to effective networking is to know which brands and specialties to emphasize.

Forum member Dee Malik is accustomed to working with an array of technology providers when implementing end-to-end solutions for his merchant customers. He's careful to establish the ISO and processor as the star of the project while positioning ancillary service providers as supporting actors.

"For the most part, I push the ISO/processor brand in merchant services," Dee Malik wrote. "It is not just because MC/Visa requires it, but because this is serious business. I will work with you, and them, to make this a smooth as silk implementation.

"In addition, I don't have an issue with pushing the gateway – especially since they do not compete against me – and check services because I want them to know that these companies, 'got their back.' The way that I push my brand is to assure them that I will not leave them hanging if any of those partners fall short. Things change but my integrity will not."

Whether you're an entrepreneur or an account executive, specializing in a particular niche can help you differentiate from competitors. Bruce L Katcher and Adam Snyder, co-authors of An Insider's Guide to Building a Successful Consulting Practice, caution against being a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none.

"Who would you rather hire when your washing machine breaks down," they wrote, "a general contractor who claims he can fix anything or a washing machine repair specialist?"

Find the right venue

After trying a number of networking and lead exchange organizations, Forum member Dhessco found success as an active member of his local chamber of commerce. "As with anything, you need to stick with it," he wrote. He advised going to after hours events and volunteering when the chamber needs it. He also suggested securing a position on the chamber's board, especially a titled position. "You will then obtain a presence in the community," he said.

Dhessco also recommended BNI and similar groups. "[H]owever, everyone is there for one thing: to get leads," he wrote, adding that while he finds their types of groups can be productive, "to earn the trust of other business you need to put in the time." That is why he favors his local chamber of commerce. "While you are earning trust in the chamber and other events you also get a sense of satisfaction from community service," he pointed out.

CSandifer also recommended chambers of commerce as a good source of leads and referrals. "[If] you have a few hundred dollars, join the chamber," he wrote. "You can get a list of all the chamber members. Cold calling them, and telling them you're a fellow member will get you a lot further than a traditional cold call."

Other lead exchange organizations for business development include local Rotary International clubs, church and civic groups, and special event boards. Dhessco, who likened Rotary clubs to BNI, but with a more community service focus, posted an adage: "They don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."

Smails supported this view. "I agree with all the comments about chambers, BNI, and other networking groups," he wrote. "Not only is it a great way to get your name/brand into the community, and get business, but the ROI is unbeatable. One or two new clients per year [will pay] for the membership dues, and obviously you should be able to get way more business than that."

Be all in

There was a consensus among MLS Forum members that you reap what you sow when it comes to networking. Smails noted, "One thing I think a lot of agents don't do well enough with these organizations is to be consistently active. You can't go to one chamber meeting per month when it fits your schedule ... you really have to be [involved in] everything."

Smails noted that involvement is even more important when joining smaller networking organizations. "So, if you have to get up an hour and a half early to be at the breakfast networking meeting at the Holiday Inn, that's 15 minutes away... get up an hour and a half early, and be sure you are there. Also, get on a committee ... they all have them. Membership committees, finance committees, event committees, etc. This will really cement you as an active member."

Make a long-term commitment

When you consider the importance of consistently showing up and actively participating in a networking group, it makes sense to choose wisely. Clearent suggested doing some due diligence when looking for a networking group and trying things out before making a commitment.

"The best way to build your professional network is to target specific opportunities," he wrote. "For example, I know one ISA who is active in about three different networking groups, and is well known, but the groups aren't structured to ever generate business.

"Be careful where you commit your time on building the network. Choose a merchant group if possible, maybe a specific one tied to your specialties."

Continue a networking tradition

Social networks were also cited in the discussion. There's no doubt of their importance and our need to keep online profiles current. Still, let's remember what got us into this profession in the first place; many of us are fascinated by the world in which we live. There's no substitute for getting out of the office, meeting other like-minded business professionals, and actively participating in our industry and communities. See you at our next event!

end of article

Dale S. Laszig manages business development and strategic initiatives at DSL Direct LLC, a payments consulting company that helps clients promote, design, and deliver secure, leading-edge technology solutions. Her clients include software integrators, manufacturers, retailers, and value-added service providers. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or dale@dsldirectllc.com.

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