By Dee and Emily Karawadra
As an independent sales organization (ISO) in the payment industry, our primary focus is always our sales strategy. Being in a sales-fueled industry, this has been and continues to be our top priority. What has worked for us in the past and works now in the present is to focus on niche markets. This has allowed us to home in on what that niche market needs and build a program that our sales agents can communicate and sell.
One of the first niche markets we tackled was petroleum. Petro was considered complex and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) were hesitant to go start selling to merchants in this sector. We had to open the conversation up with the MLS community to which we were recruiting.
First, we had to have a platform that serviced petro merchants. We found this with the Buypass Platform at First Data Corp. They had the infrastructure built and the technology to service these accounts. Then we targeted unbranded gas stations and jobbers servicing these locations. We educated our MLSs on petro retailers and all that was involved in the setup. We created guides to help them in the field that enabled them to identify the pump software and communication methods.
Petro put us on the map, and soon MLSs were seeking us out so they could put bring their petro business to us.
We also had merchants sharing their good experiences with other merchants, and word of mouth brought us many referrals.
We were able to take the complicated out of the sales conversation by educating our field sales representatives. At the time of our emergence into petro, only a couple ISOs were actively pursuing the market. We had MLSs and ISOs who had relationships with FD Buypass but could not figure out how to board the merchants correctly not, most importantly, could they figure out how to support them. We were considered an expert in petroleum and pay-at-the-pump just by becoming educated, making ourselves the experts and educating others.
Another niche market we went after was lodging/hotels. This was another niche market that MLSs shied away from. Agents were unsure of the preauthorization process and the terminal functionality. When we first tackled this market, we were mostly dealing with mom-and-pop, unbranded locations. Once we mastered that, we soon went after branded franchise locations where we saw high volumes in processing and great residual returns.
We again began to educate the MLSs on how to talk shop with hotel owners. We researched each hotel brand and what property management system was being mandated by their brand. Then we had to ensure we had access to all of the platforms or gateways these brands were utilizing. Soon, we were attracting MLSs and ISOs who wanted to master the lodging market and sell into it.
You see, what we realized early was that too many ISOs and MLSs were knocking on the doors of retail businesses. The continual flood of eager payments industry hopefuls inundated the field, and our agents were frustrated with being turned away again and again. Then we started to focus on niche markets, and our agents began to have a much different kind of experience when they were out cold calling. They found that the petro market or lodging market was not flooded with other MLSs, which made it easier for them to close deals. Also, they received more referrals from this new customer base than they normally got from the retail space.
Focusing on niche markets narrowed the scope of our competition. The merchants in these markets were not being overwhelmed with cold calls or telemarketing. And we were able to strategically target demographic areas within the niche market and close business.
Seeing this as a viable strategy for others going forward, we want to bring to light several things to keep in mind when you are devising your sales plan for a niche market.
Dee Karawadra is president and CEO of Impact 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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