By Jason Felts
Advanced Merchant Services
The payments industry is unique when it comes to training merchant level salespeople (MLSs). Many have told me over the years their training left a great deal to be desired. Often the experience has been described as the lunch-and-napkin approach to bankcard 101.
While Advanced Merchant Services Inc. offers a full MLS training and development curriculum that includes sales manuals, presentation and marketing materials and DVD presentations covering a myriad of topics, I realize many MLSs do not have access to this kind of resource.
That's why in this article I am going to explore many of the benefits the Electronic Transactions Association offers ISOs and MLSs. I will also include suggestions from a candid discussion about the ETA University. ETAU classes address key areas that are imperative to master so you can grow your business wisely and be a true credit to the industry. Classes are designed to meet your needs whether you work for an ISO, financial institution, processor, vendor or service provider.
The ETAU is divided into six colleges: general studies, executive studies, sales and marketing, operations, compliance, and technology. Each curriculum focuses on a targeted aspect of the electronic processing industry. Students have the ability to focus on a specific area of expertise or obtain overall knowledge in each area.
The ETA sponsors two meetings each year: The Annual Meeting & Expo, held in the spring, is by far the largest tradeshow/expo within the payments industry. The Strategic Leadership and Networking Forum, held in the fall, offers a chance to discuss important issues with key decision makers within the industry.
Both events provide networking opportunities, as well as information about new products and services and targeted educational experiences.
An increasing amount of regulation and government intervention is beginning to encroach upon the industry. I see no signs this will stop; many look to special ETA committees for representation and guidance in these matters.
Key committees include:
So, how well is the ETA doing? Here are some comments and suggestions from the MLS Forum:
To an average MLS, ETA looks like a foreign world, which many consider is beneficial only to processors and ISOs. Formal communication, even if it is monthly or quarterly, will encourage MLSs to participate and attend ETA's future shows. I would definitely consider joining ETA if it offered individual membership. - Alexpher (also known as Alex Pherwani)
While attending the 2008 ETA Meeting and Expo, I met with Thomas Goldsmith, the organization's Director of Communications and Public Relations. I asked him the following questions. I'd like to thank Tom for his time and candid answers:
Jason Felts: What do you feel the ETA offers the average MLS?
Thomas Goldsmith: A forum that provides exceptional opportunities to connect with industry leaders, peers and vendors. This offers the MLS a chance to experience firsthand new technology, products and services they can include in their offering to merchants.
There are also educational and training opportunities. For example, they can learn about important topics such as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliance.
JF: Are the training classes and ETAU available to those who simply cannot attend the show?
TG: Yes, we are just this year rolling out our first set of courses on our Web site, www.electran.org. The first course is sales channel development. We also have plans for hosting several webinars throughout the year.
JF: Has the ETA ever considered, or will you consider, an individual membership at a reduced price that would be more suited to MLS participation?
TG: Offering individual memberships would be a fundamental change in the nature of the ETA, which now has a corporate membership structure. That's not under consideration at this time.
JF: Would the ETA ever consider having an MLS single day within the show that would allow registered MLSs free entry to the show floor so they could meet with vendors?
TG: Yes, an exhibit hall-only pass has been considered. But so far there hasn't been a tremendous demand for it.
However, we listen carefully to the comments and evaluations we get from our exhibitors and attendees, and if there were enough interest in the ETA offering this to increase attendance and floor traffic, I'm sure we would respond to that demand.
JF: Tom, many have wondered if the ETA has plans of once again moving the expo around, as opposed to keeping it in Vegas year after year.
TG: We are under contract with the Mandalay Bay here in Las Vegas through our 2010 show. Therefore, the next two will be right here.
Vegas has proven to be a very successful venue for the ETA. However, we are always willing to keep our options open and, yes, we may consider other locations in the future.
JF: Is there anything else you'd like to share with the thousands of MLSs and ISOs who will be reading this article?
TG: Within the financial payments industry, there's simply no better place to learn more, connect with people, see new technology and have a fantastic time doing it. Our classes are taught by industry experts and chief executive officers of large companies.
It's worth the price of admission just to have the opportunity to learn from those who have been the most successful. The ETA is a success because of who you meet, what you see and what you learn.
As you can see, the ETA offers many educational and training venues and opportunities for ISOs and MLSs.
If you would like to learn more about the ETA or make plans to attend an upcoming event, visit www.electran.org. And mention you read about the ETA in Street Smarts.
You may also consider going to one of the regional tradeshows. Having attended, exhibited and been a guest speaker at many such shows, I can confidently endorse them as well. These are much smaller venues that typically offer valuable educational presentations and breakout sessions, along with a smaller exhibit area.
These, too, provide fantastic opportunities to connect with your peers, vendors and industry leaders.
Many MLSs establish new business partnerships at these shows, and the relationships continue to be rewarding personally and financially year after year.
Here's a list of regional associations, along with contact information:
I hope you will pull valuable information out of these articles to assist you in your mission to exceed your goals in the bankcard industry.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me directly.
Until next time, here's one of my favorite relevant quotes from Jim Rohn: Formal education will make you a living; self education will make you a fortune.
Jason A. Felts is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida-based Advanced Merchant Services Inc., a registered ISO/MSP with HSBC Bank. From its onset, AMS has placed top priority on supporting and servicing its sales partners. The company launched ISOPro Motion, its private-label training program, to provide state-of-the-art sales tools and actively promote the success and long-term development of its partners. For more information, visit www.amspartner.com, call 888-355-VISA (8472), ext. 211, or e-mail Felts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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