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The Green Sheet Online Edition

September 08, 2008 • Issue 08:09:01

Value added workshop
Sweet-spot MLS training

By Christian Murray
Global eTelecom Inc.

A laundry list of challenges face ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLS). Chief among them is sellers' ability to build lasting relationships with merchants. This is not a new hurdle, but it is one that still vexes many sales agents in the field. Good, solid relationship building and networking with merchants have never been more critical.

However, many ISOs and MLSs are still pounding the pavement with little or no "true value" to offer merchants. Reps' sales tactics may need revamping, but finding ways of improving agent-merchant relationships is the key to business longevity and revenue growth for agents.

True value

Getting in the door is a greater challenge than ever before. Well-worn tools and techniques designed to gain merchants' attention may not work so well any longer. Sales offices that sell based on rate or free terminal programs as the "value" to merchants take a backseat today to ISOs focused on building more value for merchants.

Of course, merchants, like consumers, are receptive to the idea of free services, but they are even more motivated about how they can increase revenues, streamline operations, reduce fraud, save time and make shopping at their businesses more convenient for customers. This is the true value merchants seek.

If you can reach merchants at this level, beyond that knee-jerk reflex to free services, you will have a much better chance of gaining their full attention. Only then will they listen to the value added services you propose.

Make sure sales efforts incorporate strategies that help build better relationships with merchants and promote selling additional services to them.

Agents should educate themselves on the newest technologies in order to feel confident when discussing solutions with merchants. Such an investigation may lead to finding that golden opportunity or niche market that might pay off handsomely.


ISOs and MLSs need to take time to digest as much information about leads as possible; that knowledge can be used to great effect in meetings with merchants. Additional knowledge about merchants' businesses may make all the difference in closing deals. At the least, what you learn about companies will help you formulate business-specific questions that show merchants you have taken the time to learn as much as you can about them.An old proverb states, Often rocks are tripped over rather than being lifted to see what is beneath them.

That statement couldn't be more true for sellers. Often, sales agents don't ask merchants enough questions. Most merchants are eager to offer information about their businesses if you ask them to. Merchants will be impressed by your questions. If you show interest in merchants' operations, they will more likely show an interest in you. In many cases, the feet on the street sell what they feel comfortable selling or what their processors push them to sell. Rather than asking merchants for statements or rattling off best rates and special offers, it's important to first learn how to prospect.

Times have changed, and information gathering is much easier now. A simple online search can often provide plenty of useful information about new technology and prospective merchants. Encourage MLSs to take the time to do research. Often they can uncover details from other merchants to use in meetings. It's also a good idea to research prospective merchants' local competition to see how competitors are doing business. Investigations of this sort can help MLSs close deals.

Player evaluation

Call a sales meeting to discuss how each person handles:

  • Prospecting
  • Relationship building
  • Networking
  • Selling value added solutions

And take the following guidelines into consideration during training meetings.

    Open forums

    Hold meetings in an open forum so ideas can circulate freely and methods can be absorbed by the participants. Open forums will help you better evaluate each employee's strengths and weaknesses, which will assist you in making sure they are focused on long-term relationship building and are using sales methods that promote solution selling to merchants.


    Explain how agents can slow down the sales process and focus on merchants' individual needs. It's not all about the lowest rates anymore. It's about building long-term business and introducing time-saving and revenue-generating solutions for merchants.

    Make sure the sales team is taking the time to learn more about the merchants, demographics, market conditions, local competition, tourists, seasonal business, universities and other factors that may impact merchants' bottom lines.

    Provide techniques on how to break the ice with prospective merchants. Focus should be on the "front talk" to help merchants open up to MLSs in initial sales encounters.

    Have MLSs follow through with needs analysis so they are better prepared when it's time to suggest solutions to solve merchants' pain points.

    Help agents learn to master the overall process flow, stay in contact with merchants and cross sell value added solutions.


What you are trying to do is reengineer your sales team to think more like consultants and less like door-to-door salespeople. But building closer relationships with merchants is no small task. Each agent will have his or her own style. It may be a challenge to crack bad habits or introduce new ways of selling.

It takes regular meetings and coaching to make a difference. It's especially difficult to retrain seasoned agents who have ingrained habits.

Stick to it

Your objective is to keep the new initiatives in place to encourage better relations with merchants. Providing structure and ongoing support will enable the team to feel confident in solution-selling to merchants. If the solutions are not infused into the sales process and the deal flow, the whole system will crumble. Then your relationship building, merchant retention and sales team's confidence level will plummet.

Remember to stay involved with your agents. Provide cutting edge solutions, continue to streamline operations and reward your valued agents. This will enable you to build a dynamic sales team capable of selling multiple solutions today and into the future. You will see improved profits, better agent retention and happier merchants. end of article

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 cmurray@globaletelecom.com.

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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