The Green Sheet Online Edition
August 14, 2017 • Issue 17:08:01
Identifying strong sales agents
The merchant services industry has been very lucrative for quite some time, and just like any other rewarding industry, it has become highly competitive. ISO owners rely on merchant level salespeople (MLSs) to do the heavy lifting of soliciting merchants and generating new business. In turn, ISOs offer their sales agents aggressive compensation plans for their efforts.
However, the lucrative opportunities our industry provides have also attracted numerous people who, unfortunately, do not have the proper training and selling skills to become successful. On a The Green Sheet's online MLS Forum, TheCreditCardMan asked, "How do you identify which recruits have the best chance for success?" This article provides advice on how to do just that.
Five tips for hiring the best
In my professional sales management career, I have had the opportunity to recruit well over 10,000 independent sales agents, also known as MLSs. This includes experienced agents as well as agents new to the industry. During this period, I have learned quite a bit about recruiting and identifying agents that are most likely to thrive in our industry, and how to differentiate them from those who really can't go beyond signing their aunt and uncle's local business.
Of course, finding sales talent is not a perfect science, but here are five suggestions to keep in mind when recruiting sales agents.
- Do not rely on the resume. I wish selecting new sales team members were as simple as reviewing resumes and hiring based on that, but the most useless tool for hiring a salesperson is a resume. However, short of interviewing every person who applies for the position, which often may not be practical, you have no choice but to start with a resume. If the number of candidates is small enough, interview all of them. When this is not practical, keep in mind that most resumes are not entirely accurate reflections of the individuals they represent. You're hiring salespeople, and essential qualities like motivation and purpose don't always translate well onto resumes.
- Take your interviews seriously. Taking the interview seriously does not mean memorizing a bunch of questions from a book, and asking the candidate ridiculous questions such as, "What super hero would you be?" Instead, try to figure out what an applicant's motivation is. Find out why the person wants to be a sales agent, and what he or she is willing to do to be successful. Don't just share the good stories and the glory with applicants. Share the hard road ahead, and let them know there will be many ups and downs. Everybody wants to be a millionaire, but very few are willing to do what it takes to become one.
Your goal should be to find out if an individual is hungry enough for success, as well as whether the person is coachable and willing to do the necessary work. You want people with realistic goals. Find out if the person you're interviewing can self-regulate, or whether he or she is jumping from one gig to another every few months – every time another opportunity sounds a little bit better. People who are constantly switching jobs or employers are generally not the candidates you are looking for, because success takes time, and you are looking for someone who can stay the course.
- Beware of merchant consultants. Two words that are the biggest red flag in recruiting sales agents are "merchant consultant." These words form a title that underperforming salespeople generally elect to use, because it subconsciously helps them to justify their lack of production. If you call yourself a "salesperson," you are expected to perform and sell; if you're just a "consultant," you can technically keep walking out of every business without a sale, and no harm is done to your ego, because you "consulted" with them. This is laughable.
In all of my years in this industry, I have yet to meet a "merchant consultant" who was also a strong salesperson. So, if you see "merchant consultant" on a resume, skip that resume. And during an interview, if someone tells you, "I consider myself more of a consultant than a salesperson," thank the person for taking time to come in for an interview and show the person the way out.
- Remember, experience doesn't guarantee success. I have hired very seasoned sales agents with years of industry experience who turned out to be complete flops, and I have also hired MLSs who didn't know the first thing about our industry who became tremendous successes. Industry experience alone does not automatically translate into success in sales.
I have learned that when you are hiring MLSs, you typically find three groups of candidates. The first group comprises those very motivated people who are looking for an opportunity to change their lives, and they will fight through obstacles to do the work. The second group consists of those who are looking for an excuse not to do the work. This is the group that usually says the industry is "too competitive."
The third group is composed of the pretenders who only take on new positions to make themselves feel like they're doing something, but in reality, they never will do much of anything. Instead, they will drain your time and energy. And, you guessed it, the merchant consultants fall into the third category.
- Place value on integrity. It is imperative that the sales professionals that will be representing your company conduct themselves very ethically, so you must look for individuals that display a certain level of integrity and professionalism. I recognize that this is easier said than done, but unfortunately, I have found that many ISOs justify an agent's unethical selling practices as aggressive selling. This could not be farther from the truth. The truth is that a very good MLS does not have to resort to unethical tactics. It's when sales agents lack the selling skills that they feel the need to resort to lies and misrepresentations. And when one of your MLSs does this, it reflects negatively on you, your organization and the entire industry.
So, to set your company up for sales success, review your hiring strategies, employ the best sales professionals the industry has to offer, and provide them with training and the tools they need to prosper. Leave the merchant consultants for your competition.
Aaron Nasseh is the founder and Chief Executive Officer at Finical Inc. His extensive sales and management experience includes having previously served as the General Manager of CardPayment Solutions and Vice President of Sales at iPayment Inc. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 818-330-4055.
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