By Dee and Emily Karawadra
Discord between operations and sales teams can harm the health of an organization. In this article, Emily and Dee Karawadra discuss how these distinct, but interdependent arms of a company can work together for greater efficiency, happier merchants and more profits.
In the merchant level salesperson (MLS) world, sales fuel success. Without them, there is no growth. You can have all the policies and procedures in place, but without customers and new sales, a company stagnates. And an operations versus sales mentality can quickly hinder the growth of any MLS. When these two instrumental arms don't work together chaos ensues, and the customer eventually feels it.
How do we prevent this from happening? We can relate first hand as Dee is the sales guy who goes out and sells a complicated deal and I, being more operational, get to figure out how to make it work. This has fueled many a debate at the office and at home. We see this struggle within our own sales and support teams as well. MLSs who bring in big deals and multilocation merchants appear to be living high to operations staff. They see sales reps constantly recognized by upper management with President Clubs and "atta boys," while the operations staff does all the work of making the merchant account work. When something goes wrong, it's always the operations staff that gets the brunt of the blame.
In our case, our operations staff, with zero sales experience, had no insight into the life of sales reps. They didn't know how many times an MLS tried to close a deal or how much effort it took to convince merchants to switch their accounts to Impact. They didn't see the statement analysis or the reconnaissance work that went into getting that merchant's signature. They had processed paperwork and supported merchants. Selling was foreign to them. Years of frustration over unfinished and ineligible paperwork finally reached a boiling point between the two arms of our organization. We then realized that requiring operations staff to engage in sales tasks would open their eyes What we did next was enlightening for all involved. We had an internal conversion scheduled for merchants on legacy equipment and platforms that we needed to transition.
Normally, we would utilize an inside sales team for this. Instead, we enlisted our operations staff to call merchants and convert them. They had to make contact, explain the conversion and obtain newly signed merchant agreements. These customers had been with us 10-plus years; our operations staff thought this should be easy.
They quickly learned they couldn't approach these conversations in the same way they interacted with merchants when in a support role. They had to speak with real enthusiasm; they had to convince merchants that change was a good thing, and that the hassle of new paperwork and learning a new technology was going to benefit them.
They got off to a rocky start. By the end of the first day, we had no willing merchant participants in the conversion. We met with our team and went over all the responses they had received that day. One by one, we tackled the objections. They found they had the right answers; they just had to position them differently. And they learned what it takes to get a merchant account. There are numerous questions and significant resistance to change to overcome. It's not as easy as filling out new paperwork and scanning it over to the boarding team. In the end, our operations team, with help from sales, converted 85 percent of that portfolio.
Being inclined toward sales, I tend to favor the sales side of the business. I work hard courting MLSs and ISOs to partner with Impact. The sales cycle involved in bringing on a new sales partner can range anywhere from one day to two years. What I find frustrating is bringing on MLSs who then encounter issues boarding new accounts. This causes the MLSs to stop boarding. Operations plays a big role in this.
From my perspective as a sales guy, I assumed operations had an easy gig, and there was no reason why the operations team should have an attitude. But to understand breakdown in our sales cycle, we looked at why the operations team seemed frustrated and grumpy. In truth, operations staff does a host of things that make them part of our A team. And they rarely get calls just to tell them they are doing an awesome job. They aren't invited to have lunch, dinner or drinks with merchants. They don't receive a residual check monthly. Their job is to take care of issues that arise from merchants during presale, boarding or post sale.
To succeed at sales, you must have a team to support you. Before a sale, your support team can provide valuable information pertaining to merchant types, such as applicable integrations, supported terminals, value-add products, etc. And we rely on operations staff to board merchants, get deals through underwriting, build terminal profiles, prepare for downloads, mail welcome kits, download terminal(s) and ship them out.
After the sale, it's operations staff who are tasked with keeping merchants happy. Depending on an ISO's business model, often, merchants call the ISO for support. The operations team keeps merchants processing, taking care of technical and billing issues, change of address, chargebacks, bank account changes – and the list goes on.
Why is it so important to be in sync with your support team? It pays to keep them happy. Without them, you wouldn't have time to sell; you'd constantly be troubleshooting on merchants' issues, which would mean fewer merchant applications. The support team is all many MLSs have for sales help. Operations staff have better knowledge of what's hot and what's not, what it takes to get an account approved, what different industry requirements are, and how to land complicated deals. Support staff deals with this daily. Evaluate the relationship between you (or your team) and operations in your business. Even if you're a small shop, the relationship between sales and operations can make life easy or difficult for all. Next time you talk to someone at your ISO or on the operations team, remember that a call that came in before yours might be why the person who're speaking with seems frustrated or grumpy.
Work together to keep applications flowing and keep merchants happy to lower attrition. If your operations team is happy, they will always have your back. Behind every successful ISO and MLS,
Dee Karawadra is president and CEO of Impacy PaySystem, and Emily Karawadra is the company's chief financial officer. Since 2001, Impact PaySystem has been a leading provider of payment processing technologies and services to merchants throughout the United States. Through alliances with payments industry leaders such as Chase Paymentech, First Data, Buypass, Sage and more, Impact PaySystem offers tailored solutions to meet the unique needs of each merchant. Dee and Emily will welcome your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.
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