The Green Sheet Online Edition
July 14, 2008 • Issue 08:07:01
Value added workshop
Merchants don't bail on added value
Merchant retention is not a new topic in our industry. However, even though many ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) understand the concept of customer loyalty, securing it is an ongoing struggle for most. The solution is to build close relationships with merchants from day one.
But how can you, as ISOs and MLSs, build relationships that will lead to merchant stickiness? Understanding merchants' basic processing needs, of course, is essential. But so is probing to uncover areas in which you can suggest additional solutions that will maximize your clients' efficiencies and profits. Many merchants aren't even aware their service providers can do far more than debit and credit card processing.
The majority of ISO and MLS sales strategies are based on cramming the maximum number of merchants into their portfolios each month. They are fixated on increased bankcard volume and portfolio growth, not on positioning and implementing value added solutions as essential ingredients in the product mix.
Many fail to see that including value added services in a suite of payment products and services increases MLS satisfaction and retention, attracts new MLSs to an organization and, ultimately, leads to greater merchant retention. Several reasons are given for failing to make value added services central to an ISO or MLS core business model. These reasons (or excuses) include:
- It takes too much time to train on value added solutions.
- I don't make as much on these types of products.
- I don't want to jeopardize my merchant relationships.
- I don't have the time to pitch my merchants on other programs.
- I don't want to confuse my agents; it's too complicated.
- I can't find a reliable vendor to work with.
- It's too expensive for my merchants.
- Merchants don't ask me, so I don't care.
But in most cases, value added programs fail because ISOs do not fully understand the products they are offering and do not implement internal procedures to fully support sales efforts.
The key is to have efficient communication and a smooth process flow that address value added services throughout all sales, operations and support endeavors. If you do not make value added services part of your core sales process and provide MLSs the proper education and incentives, any attempt to integrate them will fizzle.
Whether you are a two-person team working from a home office or a large ISO with multiple locations, selling value added solutions must be a priority at the highest levels of your organization. Having everyone in your organization on board from the start is also critical for a winning program.
Not having everyone on the same page causes a ripple effect that is damaging to the confidence of those in the field. If your MLSs are not confident your organization or vendors can manage the back-end properly after merchants are boarded, they will simply choose not to sell value added products. Or, they will leave your company altogether. Is this their fault? No.
Some say retention is earned by providing good customer service and support. Yes, this is an important piece, but it should not be the only tool in place. Whether your sales process involves telephone sales, appointment setting, direct mail or feet on the street, you need a game plan for incorporating value added services.
Once you've decided to include value added sales strategies in your core sales process, the following steps will help you get started:
- Design a sales strategy and process flow that require agents to pitch value added programs to every merchant they sell.
- Implement a marketing plan to target your existing merchants on such programs.
- Provide incentives to each MLS, and offer a bonus or revenue sharing opportunity.
- Align your company with quality vendors and service providers that are willing to provide ongoing training and support for your sales team.
Having strong value added product offerings, educating your sales force on the products' features and benefits and teaching MLSs how to use those offerings to build strong merchant relationships will make a difference. And don't let staff turnover issues discourage you. Finding the right formula for your organization's circumstances is often difficult, but it is well worth the effort.
Remember, bankcard salespeople have retention problems; payment consultants don't. Take aim, set your course and focus on the value of what you're offering to merchants. Your customers will see the benefits of staying with you long-term. So, call a meeting with your sales managers, sit down and start planning. Call your vendors, and make sure they are ready to support your efforts. Get on the bandwagon, and maximize your profits before it's too late.
Sometimes all it takes to lose a merchant is another ISO or MLS offering a lower buy rate, local service or free equipment - or your organization's failure to address more than basic payment processing needs. Your competition will never stop trying to flip your accounts. Do what you can to educate and train your sales force and business partners so you can implement quality value added programs that reward your MLSs and keep merchants happy.
Christian Murray is the Director of Business Development for Global eTelecom Inc. He has more than 12 years' experience within the payments industry. GETI provides check processing and gift and loyalty solutions. For more information, visit www.checktraining.com and www.giftcardtraining.com, or contact Christian directly at 877-454-3835 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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