The Green Sheet Online Edition
September 22, 2008 • Issue 08:09:02
Selecting the right ISO is one of the most important professional decisions a merchant level salesperson (MLS) ever makes. The right choice can cause an agent's career to soar; the wrong one will do just the opposite. But, there are so many companies in the payments space, how can an MLS, especially one who is new to the industry, evaluate the options?
There are other junctures at which ISOs and MLSs make crucial decisions. Some examples include when they are:
- Selecting new vendors to work with
- Deciding whether to move into certain vertical markets
- Choosing value added service providers
- Deciding whether to break into new geographical markets
- Learning how to approach merchants whose cultures are different from their own
Gathering accurate information about the area of inquiry should be a crucial part of this process.
One excellent but often overlooked tool to enhance decision-making is the informational interview. Such an interview is a meeting you set up with a representative of a company, organization or community of interest to you. It is a way to gain insight in a more relaxed setting than a formal interview in which you are seeking to establish a working relationship.
Often informational interviews are set up by phone and conducted at an interviewee's office. However, they can also be done extemporaneously, if time allows, at many of the industry events, chamber of commerce and other business meetings that happen throughout the year.
Here are some tips to help prepare for an informational interview:
- Determine what your goals are. They could include, for example, learning how and why the interviewee got into the payments business, what the person likes about the company he or she works for, what is especially compelling about the company's products and services, what the unique attributes of the interviewee's community are, or what advice the person would like to pass on to an MLS who is looking for the right ISO fit.
- Select someone who has substantial experience with the company and the industry.
- Let the interviewee know you are not seeking a relationship with the company at this time, that you just want information and you will be the one asking the questions.
- Do not send the interviewee your resume before the meeting.
- Don't have an ulterior motive of turning the interview into a job or partnership offer.
- Prepare a list of questions in advance. Ten to 20 is a good number. Your questions should be specific to each individual and will vary depending on whether you're learning about ISOs, vendors, verticals, technology or new market opportunities. This will require some research on your part before you draft your questions.
- Find out what is considered to be appropriate professional attire there, and dress accordingly.
Following are guidelines for making the most of your time during and after the interview:
- Be honest, ask for advice and stick with the goal of gathering information.
- Remember that you're in charge and refer to your list of questions to stay on course.
- Listen to your interviewee's responses, and ask related follow-up questions, as needed.
- Do not interrupt when the interviewee is in the middle of an answer.
- Thank the person when you finish the interview.
- Ask for the names of other people who might be willing to share information with you, and follow up on any leads the person may have given you.
- Send a thank-you note promptly.
Another benefit to conducting informational interviews is that you meet people you like, some of whom turn
into colleagues or mentors down the road. So, if you establish good rapport with someone you've interviewed, stay in touch.
Not only is this an excellent way to gain valuable insights and information, it is an excellent way to build a network that you can maintain throughout your career.
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