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The Green Sheet Online Edition

September 22, 2008 • Issue 08:09:02

A day in the life of a successful MLS

By Jason Felts
Advanced Merchant Services

How, exactly, do successful merchant level salespeople (MLSs) invest their time? A member of GS Online's MLS Forum recently suggested this topic to me, and I decided to pursue it. Hopefully, the thoughts expressed in this article will help you achieve the ultimate goal of succeeding in the payments industry.

To experience success in this industry, a new MLS will be faced with myriad small decisions within the first several months. These decisions will include how to invest their time to get the best start in a bankcard career. Let's assume the following:

  • You have already found the right ISO/merchant service provider partner.
  • You hired an attorney to protect your interests before signing an agreement with said ISO.
  • You have been through some classroom-style training in which you learned how to read and analyze statements, complete all the necessary paperwork and so forth.

Now you might be wondering how to pinpoint the necessary tasks one must complete daily to become successful. To assist brand new MLSs, as well as provide a refresher for those with many years' experience, I will outline the keys required to unlock your potential.

Leads, leads and more leads

First, you need leads - lots of them. Yes, prospecting is part of it. Creating a steady flow of good leads is paramount to being successful in bankcard sales. If you do not have prospects ready and willing to listen, you cannot make sales. Therefore, at the top of the list for any MLS is investing time in finding interested prospects willing to give you enough time to present your offer.

Several industry insiders who contribute to The Green Sheet have written articles on the topic of lead generation. You may want to research the subject at The Green Sheet archives. Or, shoot me an e-mail, and I will send you several of my articles The Green Sheet has published on the subject.

Leads can basically be broken down into three categories:

  1. Leads with a third-party endorsement or referral: These could be from agent banks, associations, merchants, franchisors and so on.

  2. Self-generated leads: These are generated through cold calling, appointment setting via the telephone, lead club, to name a few.

  3. Purchased leads: These could be the result of pay-per-click advertising on a Web site, paying a telemarketing firm, hiring your own telemarketer, sending out mailers or contracting with a lead acquirer like Buyer Zone.

In the early days for most MLSs, time will be spent within category two, self-generated leads, because they have not developed many referral relationships yet and do not usually have enough money to purchase leads.

Therefore, a great deal of their time must be dedicated to beating the streets or dialing for dollars in an attempt to generate sufficient leads to get in front of enough interested merchants to meet sales goals.

Successful MLSs will also consider joining lead clubs like chambers of commerce, Rotary clubs and networking groups like BNI. The good news is most of these meetings are not in prime selling time, so they should enhance rather than interrupt your day.

Most lead groups either meet for an early breakfast around 7:00 a.m. or for an evening mixer around 6:00 p.m. While you will always have numerous people also trying to sell to you at these types of events, often you can develop good relationships that will get you in front of interested prospects.

You must invest significant time every day in generating leads. The amount of time will vary based on your effectiveness regarding the number of people, doors or dials you require to set a quality appointment.

Seasoned MLSs should be able to set one quality appointment for every 20 to 25 doors opened while cold calling, and every 40 to 50 numbers dialed. Zig Ziglar said it well: "In the beginning, you can make up with numbers whatever you may lack in skill." Therefore, if your sales are not where you want them to be, just open more doors or dial more numbers.

Also, when you set an appointment by cold calling face to face, pick up the merchant's processing statement. When you are new to the business, this is especially critical because it allows you time to take the statement back to your office and spend time understanding what you can do for your prospect. This way, you'll be able to develop a complete analysis.

Now what? Naturally, the next phase is presenting your offer. Every day you need to make sure you have solid appointments to present your offer to qualified, interested parties. Especially when you are new, it's critical to have enough opportunities to present your offer. I like to suggest a minimum of two presentations per day, but I really recommend four. To learn how to plan a presentation, you may want to read "Potent Presentations," by yours truly, and published in The Green Sheet, May 26, 2008, issue 08:05:02. Your presentation should be dynamic, enthusiastic and include great questions. Make sure to include the following:

  • Break the ice - get to know the prospect
  • Ask great questions to understand the prospect's needs
  • Present your offer
  • Complete the analysis
  • Disclose the fees
  • Ask for the sale - close the deal

Voices of experience

Several members of the MLS Forum shared their wisdom on how to spend time to maximize sales. Following are excerpts from what they had to say:

    Any MLS who wants to be successful needs to take ownership of their work. If you were an employee of a company, you would have to conform and produce according to the requirements of that job. Being an MLS is no different.

    Yes, you can start and end your day any time you want. You have the freedom to set your own expectations and suffer the consequences of your own inactions. You are CEO and sales rep at the same time. Put your CEO hat on every morning, and set expectations for your performance. Then put your rep hat on and go do the work to meet those expectations. At the end of the day, put the CEO hat back on, and assess your success or lack thereof.

    Decide what to do the next day, and make a plan. Set a goal and a reward for achieving it. The reward could be as simple as a day off for a long weekend, or it could be a trip to Hawaii with the family. You are the carrot holder and the mule following it.

    Bottom line: You need to set expectations for yourself that you would want a rep beneath you to perform. When the time comes to hire one or two, the system is worked out and you're on your way to tripling your success."

    - Fast Transact

    A normal day has changed quite a bit over the years. When I started 20 years ago, I scheduled merchants from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. I had a telemarketer/assistant scheduling and following up for me. As time went on, I found myself spending more time with education, marketing and service.

    Then I found the agent bank world. For a while, I would spend two hours every day talking to community banks. Now my reps and I spend the day in front of as many customers as possible, spending time talking to banks, following up with new/existing customers and, finally, looking for the next new customer by cold calling, telemarketing and referrals.

    - Ladera Business Solutions

    Based on my conversations with sales representatives and MLSs in the last 10 years, most successful ones would emphasize having the following in their daily routine:

    • Prospecting: Spend part of your day searching for new clients either from cold calling or referrals.
    • Customer service: Make a few calls or visits to your existing merchants to say you care.
    • New business: Set a goal at the beginning of the week. If you did not reach your goal, add the load to the following week.
    • Enjoy a bit: A sales job comes with pressures, so a hobby or sports activity helps to get away from occasional frustration.
    • Time Management: Keep track of what you do every business hour for a few weeks, and do a review every so often. Make adjustments, as required, to spend your time more efficiently.

      - Alexpher

    I am new and can't say there is a typical day, but one thing I tried to decide on early was what I want to measure. At first, I started to measure outgoing and incoming phone calls and e-mails I send. But you can't really take that to the bank, and it also was somewhat cumbersome.

    After a while, I could see one great measurement tool. I knew what my closing rate was - meaning how many sales do I make when I get merchant statements? I found, at least for myself, I would close about 40 percent of accounts for which I received merchant statements. Thus, if I got 10 merchant statements a month, that meant I would gain four new accounts per month; so if I have a goal of 10 accounts per month, then I would need 25 statements or so per month.

    It is pretty exciting hearing the fax machine kick in and seeing a statement coming over. So if I were coaching a new rep, I would suggest that he or she set a goal to get a certain amount of merchant statements per month. They are easy to track, and you can extract your closing ratio. And you are on your way to building and achieving your goals.

    From there, you need to determine how you are going to get those statements, that is phone calls, cold calls, face to face, referrals, e-mailing prospects and so on. I have found pounding the phones with referrals is the best way, as you can make more contacts faster and then see them in person when you are ready to present.

    - Ncrum

Beyond leads

In addition to investing time in prospecting for leads and presenting to those leads, I encourage the following:

Dedicate 60 to 90 minutes per day to referral groups. This could be done by calling on local trade associations, local independent banks, merchants that serve new businesses, franchisors in the area or other similar organizations.

Call POS software and hardware vendors that could refer you, contact Web hosting companies. You should make it a goal to see or talk with a minimum of one, but preferably two potential referral relationships each day.

That would provide you with a chance to be referred by five to 10 companies every week, which will ultimately create an opportunity for you to work smart, not just hard.

While in the car, invest in yourself, as opposed to listening to the radio (bubble gum for the brain). How about investing in some motivational and inspirational CDs?

You will experience a tremendous amount of negativity and rejection in this profession. The best way to combat the negatives is to fill your mind with positives all day long.

There are many good speakers who will train, motivate and inspire you. I encourage you to buy or rent anything from the following authors and speakers: Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, Brian Tracey, Les Brown, Tom Hopkins, Earl Nightingale.

And don't forget the many classics by Dale Carnegie.

Anything you can listen to while on the road that will assist you in overcoming the constant negativity and rejection, while feeding your mind with training and education, turns "window" time into a valuable educational and motivational experience. (By the way, when I come out with my bankcard CD series, I will be sure to let The Green Sheet know.)

A day in the life

An aspiring MLS should expect to spend approximately four hours a day prospecting, two and one-half hours presenting appointments, one hour working referrals, 30 minutes returning e-mails, one hour eating and, last, returning phone calls while driving between appointments.

Here's a good sample daily agenda:

    7:45 a.m.

    Drive to the nearest Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or local coffee shop.

    8:00 a.m.

    Do early morning prospecting at auto repair, marine, bait, hardware stores, etc.

    9:30 a.m.

    Cold call near first appointment.

    10:00 a.m.

    Arrive at first appointment.

    11:00 a.m.


    12:30 p.m.

    Eat lunch (30 to 45 minutes).

    1:15 p.m.

    Stop by local bank.

    2:00 p.m.

    Arrive at second appointment.

    3:00 p.m.

    Prospect near second appointment, return phone calls.

    3:30 p.m.

    Arrive at third appointment.

    4:15 p.m.

    Stop by an association for referrals.

    4:45 p.m.

    Call leads and business contacts for appointments, return e-mails, an so on.

    5:30 p.m.

    Attend fourth appointment -or chamber, rotary or mixer meeting.

    6:15 p.m.

    Drive home, keeping an eye out for good prospects to remember for the next day.

Expect to be challenged and, occasionally, even feel beat up. Remember this quote from Lou Holtz in the pursuit of your own worthwhile goals: "Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I'll show you someone who has overcome adversity."

To your success! end of article

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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