By Natasa Cvijanovic
The most wonderful time of year is here, bringing joy, love, good times and a lot of work. If past holiday seasons are any indication, most people will not be ready until the very last minute. But fear not: your gift is prepared well in advance.
Everyone has heard that it is better to give than to receive. It is much more rewarding to do something good for others without expecting anything in return other than the satisfaction of knowing you tried to make a difference in their life. However, in the thick of holiday season preparations, many people lose sight of this, but not here.
I reached out to CEOs and business owners in a variety of merchant services-related fields and asked what advice they would give to those considering or currently pursuing a career in merchant services. They enthusiastically took time away from their businesses to offer you their best advice.
Instead of the traditional gifts for the 12 days of Christmas, I offer you 12 (and more) pearls of wisdom from powerhouse entrepreneurs who have walked in your shoes. Because they provided so much valuable advice, I will be sharing their words of wisdom with you throughout December's issues. Following, in no particular order, are their comments.
"There are many obvious suggestions regarding perseverance and overcoming self-doubt. Entrepreneurs will inevitably need to keep at it regardless of the circumstances. I'll try to share a couple that may not be as often repeated. "First, make a business plan. A full business plan as if you were needing to attract investors (regardless of whether you need investors). Vet it with folks you trust and solicit challenges to your assumptions. This will help you hone your actions and better focus. In each of the instances where I built a business, I always started from a plan, and even though in each instance, there was a need to deviate from the plan, having the plan was critical to understand the implications for when I did deviate.
"The plan should be improved through the various revisions as well as through the feedback received from trusted sources. Whether you are starting a business or working through a transition, having a fully thought through business plan will aid in your success and assist you in using your time efficiently. Entrepreneurs have an infinite number of tasks. A business plan will assist in prioritizing your actions.
"Second, stay married. Life is easier and your business will be more successful if you stay married."
A founder of Humboldt Merchant Services, co-founder of Eureka Payments, former executive for such payments innovators as WePay, and founder of Napa Payments and Consulting, Ken Musante has experience in all aspects of successful ISO building. Contact him at email@example.com)
The second piece of advice comes from powerhouse entrepreneur Michael Baron. Michael has been in the industry for 30+ years and represents several ISO organizations. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is what he had to say:
"Natasa asked me to provide some advice to fellow salespeople based on my experience over the past 30 years. When I was typing the last sentence my predictive word app suggested "sales professional" when the word I was planning on typing was "salesperson." So that is a good place to start. If you want to be successful, be a professional. When I started in this industry, I knew nothing. I soon had my entire dining room table covered with all my notes in preparation for questions from clients. Know your product better than your competition. Customers respect knowledge.
"Have clear goals for yourself, and plan how you are going to achieve your goals. Have plans for the long term as well as plans for today. Before I quit for the day, I already have my plans for the next day in writing. And please make sure you are not doing busywork during your prime selling hours that could be done before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. Your sales time should be sacred."
Michael offers additional advice, which will be shared in the second part of this series.
The next piece of advice comes from Lisa Wright, who has been in the bankcard industry for 20 years. She has won many achievement awards during her successful career in merchant services.
"The first step in this is to research your processor to make sure they are an honest company before you sign a contract. Have an attorney check your contract. Always read what you are signing.
"Once in the industry, differentiate yourself from the competition by being knowledgeable about everything you can get your hands on. This includes pricing, interchange rates, chargebacks, surcharging, cash discount, credit card machines, virtual terminals, software, etc. Help your customers with anything they need. If you don't know the answer, find out from someone who does. Always be available to your customers.
"Also, be persistent. Selling requires a daily plan. Follow your plan. Put the pressure on your system versus on yourself. It's a wonderful business if you love people and remember this should also be fun."
Next comes advice from Hawkins Siemon, CEO/founder of Elevate Payment Alliance. Elevate is an ISO founded on doing business the right way and building strong, long-lasting relationships. Contact him at email@example.com.
"Roadmap to success in merchant services: I have been in the merchant services industry for over 20 years. It's an ultra-competitive space, and can be challenging to make a career of it. The good news is that many believe right now is one of the best times to be in our industry in the last 20 years. This is due to dual pricing/cash discount pricing's rapid growth. If I were looking to get a start now in the industry or even pivot to selling dual pricing/cash discount, I would recommend following some of the following points.
"Choosing the right partnership: One of the most important decisions a sales partner makes in their career is who they partner with. An ideal ISO partner would have integrity, a great product suite, high service levels and competitive compensation.
"A great place to start your research is by joining a number of Facebook groups for merchant services sales partners. There is a wealth of less biased reviews of different partnerships. Unfortunately, in my view, 20 percent of the partnerships offered in our industry are good long-term partnerships. So choose wisely."
Elaina Smith's wise words bring this article to a close. Elaina is the CFO and an owner of Secure Bancard, the full-service alternative to big payment processors.
"If you want to be successful in payments, these things will take you far: Be willing to do the work, find something that's broken and figure out how to fix it, never stop learning, find ways to give and contribute, connect with people who level you up, adopt an abundance mindset, and treat people well."
The next issue will contain advice from John McCormick, Michael Baron, Dee Karawadra and Hawkins Siemon.
Having other perspectives from your friends, colleagues, co-workers and mentors is crucial to becoming an entrepreneur, so be sure to seek those people out. Visualize great success and seek challenges, because when you get loads of rejections, you stop fearing them. Maintain a positive attitude, and don't checkmate yourself before you even start the day. Each of our contributing experts went from "Has Potential" to "Has Become a Powerhouse." So can you. I wish you a wonderful holiday season.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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