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The Green Sheet Online Edition

November 10, 2014 • Issue 14:11:01

How to network like an industry leader - Part 2

On Oct. 27, 2014, in issue 14:10:02, we published the first article in a series on networking. Given the new types of networking now available to augment traditional methods, we asked members of The Green Sheet Advisory Board the following:

  1. What forms of networking do you employ now, how did you decide which types to use and how do you measure their effectiveness?
  2. How much emphasis do you place on networking in your company? Do you conduct training for employees and associates? If so, what types of training or mentoring have been most helpful?
  3. What have been your most and least successful networking tactics to date? Please explain. Have you tried an entirely new form of networking recently? If so, how did it pan out? If not, why?
  4. How important are payments industry tradeshows, and how do you decide which ones to attend?

This article concludes our two-part series on networking. The Green Sheet wishes to thank all those who allotted time in their busy schedules to share their expertise on this topic.

Curt Hensley, Impact Recruiting Group

1. Networking is really the very essence of what our company does. The main difference for us as a recruiting firm is that we are only looking for top performers. We definitely use all of the resources technology has to offer. We have an advanced database that logs every call, meeting, interview, opinion and many other factors. If you have a profile on LinkedIn or other popular sites, you can bet we have access to it.

Typical Internet and social media sites are great for finding people, but they don't really tell you who the best person for a particular job really is. That's why we still use old-fashioned personal referrals as our main source. We've spent the last 15 years getting to know payments industry executives on a personal level. We send multiple leaders within our company to over a dozen different payments industry tradeshows. We participate in volunteer committees and payments networking organizations.

We spend the majority of our day on the phone interviewing and networking with payments industry professionals. Personal referrals that can tell us exactly how valuable a candidate is remain priceless to us. Over the years, we've come to know what industry professionals give us the most accurate referrals. Technology is important and makes our jobs even more efficient, but it will never replace our personal referral process.

We have an evaluation process of every placement that we make. We combine the data of every evaluation to tell us what networking resources are working the best as well as many other factors of our search process.

2. As a recruiting firm, we are basically a networking organization, so it has heavy emphasis in our company. We believe in expert training for our staff, so we've paid several times for the very best recruiting industry trainers to fly to Phoenix to train our entire staff. Networking is definitely an emphasis of each training. Besides flying in the nation's top recruiting experts, we've had each member of our staff read several of the recruiting industry's top books about our trade. The more knowledge everyone on our team has, the better we can perform searches for our clients.

3. Our most effective networking is still being on the phone or at tradeshows gathering personal referrals. Luckily, after 15 years in the payments industry, many of the top candidates in the industry just automatically call us if they are ever considering making a job change. No new tactic will replace personal knowledge of people. The least effective networking tactic that we have ever used is job postings. Internet job postings tend to give you the best of the unhappy or ineffective employees in the marketplace, so it's not an effective way of getting top 10 percent talent.

4. The payments industry tradeshows have been critical for us. We go to every show that has networking built into its agenda. The only ones that we skip would be those that simply have educational sessions and no specific networking events. We do send more people to the shows that are attended by more than 2,000 industry professionals. Again, there's just nothing that can replace personal knowledge of people that we meet at shows.

Justin Milmeister CPP, Elite Merchant Solutions

1. About a year-and-a-half ago, we implemented a program with our W2 sales reps where they must attend a minimum number of networking events each month. In addition, our sales reps are required to attend various tradeshows and join at least one chamber of commerce. We encourage our sales team to choose an association that they either are interested in and/or understand. This allows them to speak intelligently at events and meetings with association leadership and members, which has yielded positive results.

2. Elite was for many years a dial-and-smile and feet-on-the-street organization. Over the last year and a half, we have placed a strong emphasis on networking, as we had big success stories from some of our sales reps that actively networked on their own. Elite places tremendous value on training; training on how to be an effective networker is no different than training on the various products and services we provide.

The training I found to be most effective is having a successful networker at Elite attend events with our newer sales reps so they can see how to network effectively. Additionally, we have hired various speakers to teach effective sales techniques, which of course included networking. One of the most famous speakers we hired back in 2010 was Jordan Belfort, who was played by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. He taught our staff his straight-line sales system and the value of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming).

3. We have tried several networking tactics, some which didn't yield results and others that yielded tremendous results. The answer was quite easy as to what tactics yielded results and what did not.

At first, when a sales rep signed an association as a preferred provider they would kind of sit back and think the deals would pour in from association members because we were now the "preferred vendor." That could not have been further from reality; we found out early on that you must work these associations and actively attend their events. Signing an agreement with an association in no way guarantees you the business with its members; however, it gives you a big leg up when contacting the members.

In addition, we consistently have a booth at tradeshows around the country with whom we have a relationship. This gives us an opportunity to talk with the members and successfully earn their business.

4. If you are in the payment processing industry, attending at least one tradeshow per year is mandatory in my opinion. I generally attend three industry tradeshows per year, which include the Transact show, one regional show, which for me is the WSAA, and the strategic leadership forum. If I could only attend one event per year, it would be hands down the Transact show. There is no better place to network within the payments space and obtain the most updated information with respect to new products and services being offered.

Jeffrey Shavitz, Charge Card Systems Inc.

Networking – Networking – Networking. So often, we hear this term and it's those people that effectively use networking in the positive sense who redeem the greatest return. Unlike reading a financial statement where the ROI (return on investment) is the overriding acronym, ROT (return on time) should be paramount when you choose how and which groups to join.

It's all about time and where to spend your time and the potential relationships and friendships that will be nurtured. Time, being patient with time, is the most frustrating aspect of networking, that is, do not think that you will land that $1 million per-month merchant from attending just one meeting. People need to get comfortable with you, see you at regular meetings, really understand what you do, as there is reputational risk when a fellow businessperson provides you with a warm lead.

I have been very fortunate to have joined four groups during my business career; each one offers something different to me ranging from:

  1. Young Presidents Organization and Tiger 21 are two groups that act as my personal board of advisors.
  2. Strategic Forum for education and prospecting.
  3. 6 Degrees of Golf for playing golf monthly with friends, followed by a "lunch and learn".

Over the years, and having run an agent model, I have suggested to many of our merchant level salespeople to join a variety of groups. It is those individuals who understand that this is their long-term career, and will take the time to nurture and cultivate relationships, who will be successful networkers.

I also strongly emphasize to be a "giver" versus a "taker." It is so obvious the people that just take, take, take. We had an experience years ago when a new member in the insurance industry joined, and within a few days of the initial breakfast meeting had begun calling each member asking for three leads. The story is pretty simple, as this gentleman was respectfully asked to leave the group.

Payment tradeshows and conferences are a great way to see fellow competitors, friends and suppliers in the industry and continue to learn about trends and the future of our industry. However, I don't think it's a great use of time for developing key prospects. Said differently, I would target industry tradeshows of key niche markets to develop new and unique merchant prospects.

Networking, like any budget item in your P&L, is – and should be – a significant marketing expense to continue to develop and grow your business.

Steve Sotis, eProcessing Network LLC

1. eProcessing Network uses a variety of effective networking methods to help develop and foster relationships with other vendors who are not competitors and who recommend ePN to their client base. To be successful, we attend targeted industry tradeshows, participate in speaking engagements at conferences and on panels, and publish articles that offer industry insight in several industry publications and newsletters. We also advertise in print and online, and allow interested Merchant Service Providers (MSPs) to request reseller information through our website. Measurement is a challenge, as we do not currently employ a database for capturing and analyzing lead data.

2. Networking is vital to our organization. We get a significant number of reseller and merchant opportunities through referrals. ePN offers extensive training for both our reseller partners and the merchant. For our reseller partners, we offer product videos, customizable marketing collateral and a consistent schedule of product webinars. For merchants, product videos and extensive user's manuals are available, along with free access to our technical support department.

3. With ePN's focus on building and supporting a strong reseller channel among the various payment processors, ISOs and MSPs, our best networking opportunities are at shows that attract this type of attendee – namely ETA, regional acquirer shows and individual ISO sales conferences.

Least successful opportunities tend to be shows that emphasize solutions for specific industries, but not necessarily payment processing. Recently, we have focused on developing strategic partnerships with companies that offer merchant services and state-of-the-art solutions to offer a comprehensive merchant experience with maximum flexibility and usability.

4. Payments industry tradeshows are critical to not only attract new clients, but to make sure we are visible and maintain a strong presence as a leading expert within the industry. Experience has dictated which tradeshows work best for us. end of article

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