By Jeff Fortney
As children, we're all asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" In the early 1950s, the most common answers for boys were a policeman, fireman or cowboy. My brother wanted to be a cowboy but, of course, very few people grow up to become cowboys.
My brother was the exception. He became a cowboy. From a very young age his wardrobe consisted of cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, jeans and flannel shirts. It remains his wardrobe today, as he continues to run cattle. He also has a limp because his leg was injured in two separate car accidents. As he grew older the limp became more pronounced. On his 50th birthday, his mother-in-law gifted him with a pair of custom-made boots.
The first question the cobbler asked was his shoe size. My brother said seven, but when they measured his feet, he was a seven-and-a-half. He'd been wearing his boots a half size too small. Once he got the right size, his limp drastically reduced. It also made him a happier person.
This story is a classic example of the importance of fit. Fit is critical for success in the payments world, too, whether you are a merchant level salesperson or you run an ISO. Yet we tend to give only lip service to the issue.
I hear talk about fit, but usually it's reserved for solutions that best match the merchant's needs. What is not considered is whether the merchant actually fits the ISO. The argument is that any merchant that processes cards fits the ISO, right? Therein lies the problem. The first importance of fit is not if you fit the merchant; it's if the merchant fits you.
We are primarily in the residual business. The longer a merchant remains in your portfolio, the more value you receive. A merchant that fits you is more likely going to stay with you, and become a valuable partner. The challenge is to change your perception of fit. To address that challenge you first must understand who you truly are and what traits a merchant must have to provide the best fit to you.
This is not about who you are personally. It's about who you are as a payment professional. It's a difficult question to answer. It requires self-reflection into the professional you, and that can be off-putting. To make it easier, answer these questions, and remember that there are no right or wrong answers.
Examine your answers and classify them into two groups: portfolio growth or sales driver. For example, a sales driver is likely to concentrate on a specific terminal or POS solution and would rather be out selling than spending time on support. A portfolio growth individual is usually more hands on with customer service and tends to be more technologically savvy.
If your answers are skewed heavily one way or the other, you have a clear picture of who you are. However, if you are evenly split or have only a slight variation between the two, don't fret. That defines you, as well.
The next step is to identify which of your merchants best fit you. It's easy to eliminate the merchants that you dread hearing from when they call. After they are eliminated, consider your classification.
If you are a sales driver, identify which merchant has been with you the longest and requires the least amount of effort. For the portfolio-growth individual, which merchant almost always reaches out to you when an issue arises, and seems reliant on you as his or her trusted advisor?
Examine these merchants and think about why you chose them. What makes them unique? Once you answer this question, examine your total portfolio. How similar are your other merchants to the one you identified as being the best fit? The odds are strong that those who have been with you for a while are quite similar. Once you have identified the type of merchant that fits you best, adjust your marketing efforts and target those types of merchants more than specific marketplaces or other classifications.
Don't be like my brother and end up with sore feet. Sign merchants that fit you best, and you will find yourself much closer to that exit strategy you stated. And after all, isn't that really your end goal?
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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