By Jeff Fortney
This summer I watched coverage of the Tour de France, which is the Super Bowl and World Series of bicycle racing (as the announcer stated a number of times). I have come across coverage of this event in the past, but this time I was especially intrigued.
First of all, let me point out that the last time I was on a bicycle was more than 15 years ago. And I know I was not going 40 miles per hour, nor was my bike as advanced as those used by competitive cyclers.
I have always been intrigued by the nuances of various sports. Many casual fans find certain sports boring and slow. However, by observing the nuances, you can witness so much more than meets the casual eye. Bicycle racing is one of those sports. And these observations can apply to business practices.
Contrary to popular belief, competitive cycling is not an individual sport – it's a team sport. No rider rides alone. From my observations, there were anywhere from three to five teammates – or more – with each member playing a specific role. All had the end goal of helping their team leader win the race. These teams were easy to spot in action, as the announcer often commented on the teamwork.
In addition, each team has a support group and strategists who are harder to identify. Many follow behind in vehicles, changing flat tires, repairing damaged bikes and discussing the team's overall strategy. In one instance, the strategist was formulating a plan with the biker as he rode alongside the car. The announcer explained that they were discussing when to attack on the course.
As with any sport, certain riders are favored to win. But unless they have a solid team supporting them, they will face serious roadblocks along the way.
As I watched the race, I realized how closely this approach mirrors the merchant services business. From the outside, someone new to the profession may think success comes easily to those who sell credit card processing. After all, you call on a merchant, complete the application and it's a done deal, right?
However, most new sales reps soon discover this view is seriously flawed. If they want to be successful and build a self-sustaining business, they need a strong team. And similar to competitive cycling, each team member must play a role.
This role could also be called that of the trusted adviser. The strategist provides input and assistance in all phases of your efforts. The individual is your go-to person for marketing plan reviews, pricing questions and any assistance needed to address roadblocks to your success.
Although there are several people who can technically serve as your trusted adviser, the ideal source should be your ISO partner. The ISO's primary role should be to help you grow your business.
In a bike race, teammates work to help keep the pace strong. They also trade off leading the team so that the others can draft behind them. Some may be sprinters, others may be excellent at climbing and others will have more specific skills. However, they all bring value to the team and are focused on helping the leader win.
In the payments world, the key is to have teammates who bring value to your team. They may be POS solutions, gateways, equipment sources, gift and loyalty cards, check services, and the like.
When building your team, your strategist is an excellent source for recommendations and for providing reviews of the various choices. A team is necessary whether you are a one-person shop or have multiple merchant level salespeople working with you.
One key component in all international cycling teams is the sponsor. From what I have heard, the sponsor not only has a monetary investment in the team, but also has considerable say in the process.
The selection of the wrong sponsor, or partner in our industry, handicaps the team, because the wrong sponsor is typically either overly involved or too hands off. In both cases, the success of the team and the leader is severely hampered.
At the end of the season, the team owner often evaluates the sponsor to see if the sponsor is still a good fit for the team, both in terms of involvement and the overall commitment level. If the sponsor is hindering the team, a new sponsor must be sought quickly before the start of the next season.
As well as being the team leader in the race, you are also the team owner. And your ISO partner's role compares to that of the sports team sponsor in addition to that of a trusted adviser.
If you are newer to the profession, choosing your ISO partner can be difficult. The most important step is to gain as much information as possible about potential partners from people you trust. Don't get swayed by promises; look instead for the best fit for your team.
Like cycling team leaders, you should evaluate your ISO relationships at various intervals. One key question to ask yourself is whether you can truly call your ISO your trusted adviser and partner. If not, you may want to determine if it's because you haven't sought out the ISO's expertise or if the ISO is simply not able to help you in the way that would be most beneficial for your business.
Remember, the most important thing is to look for a relationship in which you are treated like a partner. After all, your ISO's success ultimately relies on your success, which is why the whole subject of teamwork is so important.
The Tour de France consists of 23 segments, covers hundreds of kilometers and lasts for more than three weeks. It's a grueling challenge, for sure, and yet the best teams always win. Just like the Tour, sales in the payments industry can also be challenging. However, the proper team can make the trek much easier, a lot more profitable and definitely more rewarding.
Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.
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