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The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 28, 2022 • Issue 22:03:02

Street SmartsSM

Payments is a true entrepreneur's dream

By Jeff Fortney
The Strawhecker Group

Editor's Note: [Editor's note: This is the last article in Jeff Fortney's second stellar round as Street SmartsSM author. A gifted teacher, he draws from his decades of sales leadership to share timeless wisdom today's merchant level salespeople (MLSs) can put into action. Jeff, a long-time contributor to our publication, will pen articles beyond this column, time permitting. We thank Jeff for his steadfast support and will miss his engaging voice on our pages. Looking forward, you'll meet our new Street SmartsSM author in our April 11, 2022 issue.]

A Texas saying goes, "If you don't like the weather, wait an hour." I discovered this was true shortly after moving to the Dallas area. You could be outside on a warm day, a cold front would come through and the temperature would drop swiftly.

This saying applies to the payment's world, too. Through my career, change was and remains a constant. At times, the change was minor but still influenced our actions. Other times, it would significantly impact our industry and how we worked.

I saw POSs take a quantum leap forward, only to be obsolete in a year or two. Pundits predicted the demise of independent sales agents and ISOs, only to be proven wrong. There was always a new payments "toy"— an innovation, a sales tool, or even a philosophy—that hit the market with a roar. Everyone would add it to their offering, only to find demand wane.

The card brands made changes to the base costs or added to the data fields required for transactions. Online ordering grew from a rarity to commonplace, as did the associated security steps required. I prefer consistency over change. Yet during my 28+ years in this business constant change has kept me energized. Change created opportunities. How I handled those changes and adapted to them helped me leverage those opportunities. And I was able to use the past to understand the impact of changes, find opportunities and help others find them, too.

Often, change is evolutionary. Other times it's sudden—the pandemic's upheaval, for example. My goal in writing this Street SmartsSM series was to help readers recognize changes, their impact and inherent opportunities. And I offered steps to take to leverage sudden opportunities.

What's to come

I'm sure the pandemic will lead to further changes. I'm also confident we won't return to the way things were before COVID-19. That's why I call this time "the new normal." Now, in this last article in this series, I'm offering the following five predictions:

  1. Small businesses will need a strong internet presence to survive: Since its inception, people have used the internet for research and networking to address their needs. Now, people are more than comfortable buying online. Before the pandemic, the percentage of those who preferred to buy online was below 50 percent. Now, it's often the first choice when people shop. Without an internet presence, merchants will lose out on a large opportunity.

    ISOs and MLSs should look for a merchant's web page before talking to the merchant. If a merchant doesn't have one, that creates opportunity. If they have one, review it for ease of purchase. You may not be selling a web page, but this can be a talking point leading to a hosted payment page.

  2. Tip before settlement will be the norm: Pay at the table used to be seen as unnecessary and expensive. Today, more and more restaurants want to avoid contact with cards and/or want the full transaction authorized—including the tip. The only options for this are pay at the table or a receipt presented for tip prior to running the transaction.

    The cost of a pay-at-the-table solution (along with a POS that supports it) may not be within smaller merchants' budgets. Recognizing this, providers have created QR code solutions, which are likely within the budget of small restaurants. QR code transactions are still newer to the market, but they will gain traction.

  3. Consolidation and acquisition will continue: A payments company cannot remain static. The most successful companies of all sizes have always had an exit strategy, for example, a trigger to sell the company, a point where acquisition of other companies is necessary for growth, or even a point where a merger of equals becomes logical.

    The companies involved see these as the next steps for growth. However, the sale of a processing company often creates uncertainty for merchants. Similar to rate changes, such sales may cause merchants to be more open to other options.

  4. The days of "big iron" will end: Merchants' use of server-based processing solutions has dwindled. Newer, faster, SaaS-based solutions with semi-integrated POSs have become the choice for the majority of merchants. The pandemic hastened conversion to an SaaS or hybrid form of POS for all merchant types.

    The key is semi-integration, along with tokenized sales. The card brands rolled out a slightly discounted interchange cost for tokenized transactions. Along with this benefit, the cost of hardware to implement SaaS solutions is lower than that of traditional equipment. Providers can often link the merchant's web page directly to the POS, helping them expand their internet presence.

    The days of the terminal as a standalone solution are coming to a close. Terminals are adapting to merchant needs and offering options such as loyalty programs, tap processing or remote acceptance. All these create opportunities.

  5. Merchants aren't responding to statement reviews and cost savings. Before the pandemic the race to the bottom was a huge issue. Cost was king, and profit margins shrank. Many hit bottom and started to dig.

    Selling just cost savings without understanding the merchant's processes, market, internet presence and structure will not lead to sales. Merchants want to save money, sure, but they understand that payment processing must be an integrated part of an overall solution. If an MLSs isn't prepared to examine their current offering to find the holes so they can better address merchants' pains, merchants will send them packing.

Before I close, let me thank those of you who have read this series (as well as previous articles I've written for The Green Sheet.) I've heard from many of you, and it's been an honor to spill a little knowledge candy for you to use. It's my hope that something I've written has been useful in growing your business, regaining confidence and acquiring the knowledge you need to be successful.

This business may change often, but I still see it as a true entrepreneur's dream. You control your financial success if you continue to seek out usable knowledge. Remember, don't listen to only one source. Network and find mentors. The future of payments is as bright as it was in its infancy. I know you'll do us old-timers proud. end of article

Jeff Fortney, a senior associate at The Strawhecker Group, is a long-time payments industry executive and mentor. He is focused on sharing his industry knowledge and experience with others to help them grow their business. He can be reached at 214-458-1379.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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