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The Green Sheet Online Edition

October 24, 2022 • Issue 22:10:02

Street SmartsSM

What's scarier: a haunted house or the life of an MLS?

By Natasa Cvijanovic
Tesla Payments

Creatures, witches, ghosts. The spookiest day of the year is meant to send shivers down your spine, but some things may be even scarier, particularly for merchant level salespeople (MLSs). Given that it's almost Halloween, I thought I'd discuss some scream-worthy topics and ideas for dealing with worrisome situations.Navigating the world of electronic payments can be scary. Adding curveballs for MLSs this year, such as inflation, unreliable inventory levels, technological innovations, rumors, etc., could cause MLSs to swing and miss on revenue.

Just say Boo!

Due to card platforms' dependence on outdated, proprietary infrastructure that was expensive to maintain and difficult to scale, it was challenging for small businesses (SMBs) to enter the market 30 years ago. Today, payment startups are ubiquitous, but despite this growth, the future of MLSs has been questioned for years. I heard 20 years ago that "the agent model is dead" and "the feet on the street will soon be extinct."

Although writing new business has become more challenging, the need for MLSs to work with SMB owners continues despite predictions to the contrary. SMB owners prefer to deal with MLSs rather than large conglomerates, ensuring survival for MLSs. However, some adjustments are necessary. What are those changes, you may ask? First, don't be a "jack of all trades, master of none." Whether a product, vertical or otherwise, niche selling is the key to long-term success in this industry. Those who sell in a niche market differentiate their services and set themselves apart from the competition by leveraging their expertise in one area. They also compete in a smaller market, which usually requires less marketing resources and gives them a greater chance of success than those selling everything to everyone. The most important benefit of niche selling is that it encourages word-of-mouth referrals.

If the broom fits …

There are far too many mediocre salespeople and far too few exceptional ones, making it challenging to find the best candidates. In our industry, reputation is everything. Hiring the wrong person carries a high financial risk and can damage your relationship with your processor, portfolio and reputation. 

Never make a hiring decision without conducting thorough background checks on potential employees. This is especially true when dealing with salespeople, as many are skilled at selling themselves. Learn to trust your instincts. If you have an uneasy feeling about a salesperson, don't deny it or make excuses for it.

Forget the ghosts, beware of …

You may not have needed or wanted assistance as a child when trick-or-treating, but it was reassuring to know that someone was there to help you (but not eat your candy).

Fast forward many years. You are still knocking on doors, and you don't need hand holding and support every minute, but if something goes wrong, you and your merchants need to be confident that you will receive immediate support from your processor or ISO and simultaneously not risk losing your merchants to the same partner. Choose a partner who supports you; cut them loose if they don't.

Heroes and villains

Chargebacks are increasing drastically. By 2023, the cost of chargebacks could reach $117.47 billion or more, according to industry projections. Despite dire statistics, many merchants view chargebacks as an unavoidable business expense. The numbers, however, don't lie: chargebacks pose real risks for merchants who choose to ignore them. As a result, they threaten your portfolio.

The good news is that chargebacks can be avoided without extreme measures such as silver bullets or wooden stakes. Consider using 3-D Secure (3DS) technology and payment authentication to shift liability from the merchant. Through implementing an effective chargeback management strategy, you have the potential to become a hero by assisting merchants in avoiding chargeback nightmare scenarios and drastically reducing chargeback-associated costs and disputes.

Master of disguise

Card breaches, fraud and other security concerns can put any merchant, regardless of size, out of business, which has a direct financial impact on your company. Fraud is terrifying for any business, but there are ways to handle these worst-case scenarios.

In addition to 3DS, your merchants need a PCI solution and processes that address potential threats and keep them ahead of fraudsters. Merchants still must be careful, but finding a vendor that handles these concerns will enable you to provide them with more happily-ever-afters and fewer nightmares.

O, what a tangled web 

With distributed ledger technology, some types of payments can be made in a way that's cheaper, safer, and easier to track. Blockchain allows cross-border payments to be made instantly and openly without confusing fee structures. Legal and technological barriers must be addressed before blockchain can be fully used, but the potential is undeniable because it has applications that extend far beyond bitcoin and cryptocurrency.

Because utilizing cryptocurrency in business presents both opportunities and challenges, merchants considering incorporating cryptocurrency into their operations should keep in mind that it is still in its evolving stages. And they must clarify their rationale for doing so. You can ensure that your merchants truly understand and need the technology and that, if adopted, they can keep up with its changes as it develops.

Look what's brewin'

As new technologies pave the way for innovation, it's not shocking that fintech companies are shaking up the payments industry. Technology continues to advance, the needs of consumers have shifted rapidly and dramatically, and the traditional payment systems no longer meet those needs. To better serve merchants and meet their customers' demands, payments industry players are spending significant amounts of money updating their aging infrastructure.

Consequently, you, too, must continually update your offering. Do you really want to provide merchants with outdated payment solutions that are more terrifying than zombies or clowns?

With technological innovations, increased customer demand for digital solutions and a shift toward real-time transactions, our ever-changing industry provides us with challenges and opportunities. Don't waste the opportunities before you.

Make no bones about it

The current state of the industry can be unsettling, depending on your viewpoint, casting doubt on the long-term future of MLSs and causing professionals in the field to feel an increasing amount of anxiety and fear. That is fine if you're experiencing the right kind of fear. A healthy dose of fear can serve as a catalyst and fuel remarkable progress; however, debilitating fear can lead to the demise of your business.

Rumors and other distractions surround today's MLSs, but learning to ignore distractions will increase your productivity and success. Your future as an MLS doesn't have to be disconcerting, so long as you are willing to adapt.

One of my favorite quotes states, "Failure is not fatal, but failing to change it is." It's a fitting sentiment for the state of our industry. Those who can adapt to its ever-changing landscape and remain at the forefront will thrive and grow.

There's no hocus-pocus here. Leave the terror behind and get back to running your company. Just creepin' it real! end of article

Natasa Cvijanovic, co-founder and CEO of Tesla Payments, has a proven track record within the payment industry of cultivating successful relationships with ISOs, MLSs and strategic partners. In developing national sales channels, she provides training and coaching to sales partners to enable them to become better business partners and advocates for their merchants, and to assist them in building portfolios producing steady residual streams. She is also dedicated to consistently delivering high levels of professionalism, integrity, dependability and trustworthiness. Contact her at natasa@teslapayments.com.

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