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The Green Sheet Online Edition

April 22, 2024 • Issue 24:04:02

GS contributors, an evergreen source of knowledge

By Laura McHale Holland

It's no secret that the industry professionals who pen articles for our Education and Views sections have, since The Green Sheet's earliest days, been integral to making the magazine a premier resource for payments professionals. After all, nothing can compare to the knowledge gained from taking a payments organization from startup to industry powerhouse, as many of our contributors have done through the years.

Some stalwarts, Adam Atlas, attorney at law, and Ken Musante, CEO of Napa Payments and Consulting, for example, have each been working with us, generously sharing their expertise, for more than two decades. Others, such as industry titan Robert O. Carr, have written on and off, as business demands permit. Many have taken on the Street SmartsSM mantle and written two articles per month for the industry's feet on the street for an entire year.

All of their words of wisdom are available in our online archives, which date back to 2007. Much of the advice is evergreen and an enduring source of inspiration for those who have chosen to pursue a career in the challenging payments sphere. This article shares several excerpts from articles in our archives. They range from practical to more philosophical, from words of encouragement to thoughts on payment trends.

Sales, sales, sales

TSG Senior Associate Jeff Fortney, one of our most prolific contributors, often shares sales wisdom through personal stories. This excerpt from "One powerful question, a multitude of sales," published Feb. 28, 2022, takes us back to the genesis of his favored approach: "I was conversing with a merchant level salesperson (MLS) recently about the state of his sales efforts. After about 10 minutes, I asked what he would do if he were king of the world.

"'I can't answer that, because even the king of the world can't make people change,' the MLS said. I continued the conversation, but the response is one I had to ponder. I thought of the first time I'd heard the question used. "It was in a creative writing class in 11th grade. Several students (like me) enjoyed writing and wanted to learn the nuances needed to write creatively. At the time, I was the sports editor of the high school newspaper, which taught me how to approach who, what, when, where and why. But it strongly discouraged creativity. This class did the opposite. We were told that those who could tell a story would do well."

In his Street SmartsSM articles, Jason Felts, CEO of Advanced Merchant Services, never failed to inspire. In "Go from middlin' to marvelous," published April 28, 2008, he wrote: "Ironically, the top producing MLSs are not necessarily more intelligent, and they do not work 10 times more hours than those producing in the middle (40 to 60 percent) range. Rather, the top 10 percent make the extra effort it takes to win.

"It's the daily commitment to being consummate professionals that sets them apart. Top producers fully understand that in order to get far better results, they must make dramatic changes in the way they sell. They must do what others won't even try: step outside their comfort zones to achieve superior results."

Known as an innovator and true friend to many, Biff Matthews (1946–2020) was a founding member of the Electronic Transactions Association. In "Stemming the attrition tide," published May 24, 2010, he wrote: "The critical question to managing attrition is whether you are surveying merchants about why they left. The simple answer you find when looking into this is price. The merchants came to you because of price, so they left you because of price. That's possibly true, yet is there more to the story?

"Dig deeper since learning who is leaving and why yields three results. You identify: the current customers you must invest in to retain; the identity of your good customers and therefore the profile of a desirable and profitable customer; and the merchants whom you should either make profitable or help to leave you, as well as attributes of merchants to avoid.

Marketing for acquirers

Promotional mavens Nancy Drexler, founder of Acquired Marketing, and Peggy Bekavac Olsen, founder of Strategic Marketing, have taken us deep inside the world of marketing. Here's an excerpt from Drexler's "Sell what people really want to buy," published May 27, 2013: "One of the most profound lessons I've learned in my career came from a trusted leader in the advertising world. He said, 'Consumers aren't buying a four-inch drill bit; they are buying a four-inch hole.'

"Think about that. Effective marketing for a power tool should not address the size, shape or intricacies of the tool; it should show you how fast, simple and affordable it is to get exactly the hole you need. The same is true in merchant services. ... So don't sell a drill. Sell a hole. Sell a promise."

Following is an excerpt from Olsen's "Be positively different to make your business stand out," published July 9, 2012: "In an era when merchants are constantly bombarded by solicitations for merchant processing services with pitches that tend to all sound the same, being different can go a long way toward boosting your business.

"The first step in being different is to identify a marketplace niche that is well suited to your businesses' strengths, inherent skill-sets and interests. It's important that the niche enables you to solve a specific problem for potential customers and fills an important need. The niche you select should permit you to uniquely position your business in a different light than the competition, while being big enough to allow you to make plenty of money."

Early guidance

When the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) was new on the scene, data security expert Tim Cranny, principle at The Cranny Group PLC, wrote a series detailing each of the requirements of the standard in reader-friendly language. In "More than PCI," published Aug. 9, 2010, he wrote:

"Risk management isn't just a security standard; it's the issue all the various standards are trying to address and measure. One of the main dangers with PCI is that people get too focused on the standards themselves, while forgetting their purpose is risk management.

"Thinking only in terms of passing PCI is responding to a serious fever by saying a particular thermometer has failed the 'thermometer test' and trying other thermometers until one indicates a 'better temperature.' The only logical approach is to pursue PCI compliance with strong risk management in mind, confident in the knowledge that focusing on the underlying goal will also mean your business will ultimately meet PCI standards. "Don't become fixated on the fine points of the PCI DSS. If you do the right thing by taking measures to assure your system's security, PCI compliance should follow almost automatically. It's almost always possible to cheat or short-change formal measuring and reporting systems like the PCI DSS, but a short-term tactic usually leads to long-term problems.

"As a side note, remember that merchants found to be noncompliant in the inevitable after-breach audit are guaranteed to miss out on any possible safe-harbor provisions available to those who are actually affirmed to have been PCI compliant at the time of a breach."

In their Street SmartsSM article, "Bitcoin: Passing fad or dangerously disruptive?" published Oct. 13, 2014, Bank Associates Merchant Services' Benjamin Abel and Tom Waters wrote: "It is difficult to find the middle ground of opinion on bitcoin. There are passionate believers and shoulder shruggers. There are those who dive into learning more about the technology and those who do not see any value if it cannot help them today. Many believers liken the disparity to the initial reactions toward the internet.

"As industry professionals, we should take seriously any technology or corporation that stands to disrupt our industry. We always must learn how it works, how to adapt to it and how to stay ahead of the game."It's a given that payment companies must adhere to the card brands' rules. Our contributing writers have helped us navigate this terrain very well. In "Making the most of the rules: Passing on credit card fees," published Oct. 22, 2018, Evan Weese, founder of Eaze Creative, wrote: "Most purported cash discount programs are noncompliant, because they list the cash price on the shelf and then add a fee at the POS. This brings them under the surcharge rules, meaning fees cannot be charged to debit transactions. Merely claiming that a program is cash discount does not make it so.

"More to the point, federal law defines a 'discount' as a reduction from the listed price. ... The card brands agree, with Visa rules plainly stating, 'A merchant is permitted to offer discounts for paying in cash, however, the discount must be given as a reduction from the standard price.'"As a consequence, a true cash discount program must increase the price listed on the shelf and then reduce it at the register when consumers choose cash. Very few merchants want to do this, since increasing prices on their shelves makes them look more expensive relative to competitors."

These are just a sliver of the riches in our archives. All of our contributors, with links to their articles, are listed at www.greensheet.com/search.php?node=bylineDisplay. Share your favorites via greensheet@greensheet.com, and we'll spotlight them in Readers Speak in an upcoming issue. end of article

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Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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