By Steven Feldshuh
Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions East
We all know we have only a certain amount of hours in each day. How we allocate that time to guiding our sales groups has a direct impact on our financial prospects and should be a consideration in our daily, weekly and monthly planning. Yes, we all strive to be the best leaders we can be and give maximum support to everyone who brings in new business, but does it make sense for us to give the same amount of time to an individual who provides 12 deals a year as is given to a sales office that provides 150 deals a year? The answer should be obvious, but it isn't always so.
Like many of you, as a smaller ISO with an outside sales organization, my company has limited resources. We all have qualities and practices that distinguish us from other offices in our space, but we are all faced with the same dilemma: spending too much time with someone who doesn't produce much or whose deals always come loaded with problems.
My ISO does have some amazing individuals who work with us in Florida, California, New York and Texas, and they tend to be real professionals who require little of our time. At times, we reverse roles and call them for insights into products we don't handle as frequently as they do. These individuals aren't what I call "time eaters."
Since we all have to forecast new business, which seems to be increasingly difficult each year, we tend to hold onto time eaters, because getting those 12 deals a year from several low-performing agents, in the larger picture, does add up. So, what do you do with these agents?
The answer, I finally realized, was hours of training. We all know that guessing instead of providing correct answers on an application just to get the application process over quickly doesn't work. The answer to preventing this is to insure each agent fully understands the application. Making sure they learn the ins and outs of multiple terminals can make a huge difference, as well.
The time eaters may have developed bad habits before entering the payments industry, and perhaps their ISOs may not have given them a heads up about ongoing training that is available to them. If an individual refuses training or continues to make mistakes due to lack of knowledge and expertise, this is the time to say goodbye.
When my colleagues and I looked at our sales group, we realized the obvious: the best agents were the best educated in our industry. The time spent in the industry did factor into this, but we do have relatively new sales agents who actively developed their industry knowledge and became extremely efficient after only six months on the job.
In looking at other industries, or even within our industry, the ideal situation for fostering results is ongoing education. If someone doesn't learn the trade, just like if someone doesn't pass any licensing exam, drop them.
Yes, we all hear the same thing from agents: I can't make the webinar or the training. Well, if that is the excuse, let them re-schedule the training time with you at their convenience. If that doesn't work, drop them. This business depends on how sales agents perform, and if they do not have time for training, drop them. Working with outside sales offices can bring additional issues. It is great to receive multiple applications, but if all the apps come in with missing information, you have one crazy mess. You may also have to overcome the obstacle that a sales office may not want you to directly work with their people, for various reasons. In this case you have to either hope that the owner of the office does a great job training, or you need from day-one to stress your involvement with the agents as being part of their contract.
Some groups working with our ISO want to handle every detail themselves and not involve us; other offices basically hand their agents off to us. I prefer the second situation, because it allows us to be there to help their office grow. With any sales office, building immediate rapport with the sales agents is most important. It is crucial that they understand the full picture.
Getting everyone on the same page when submitting deals makes it easier for your own staff, as well. Staff members become less concerned about slipping up on something that shouldn't be mentioned. Inclusion versus exclusion is what I have found to be the best method of putting a team together.
An agent who is sincere and desires to learn is very valuable. A professional agent who attends webinars on a regular basis is a priority. Sales professionals who are willing to assist their merchants and who answer their merchants' phone calls promptly are also valuable. Agents who understand the value of building a residual stream are the most valuable. Agents who learn about the tools of processing are a welcomed relief.
So, in essence, we are not much different than any other industry. If you want to be good at this business, you need to listen and learn, and maybe look at the business like you are a transactionologist. A transactionologist is someone who has a keen understanding of every aspect of our processing industry and who is also honest and fair-minded.
Steven Feldshuh, President of Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions East, has 18 years' experience in sales and ISO development. Directly prior to joining MCPSE in 2012, he was President of Payment Partners. In his current position, Steven devotes the bulk of his time to assisting agents in building their portfolios. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 212-392-9202.
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