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The Green SheetGreen Sheet

The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 09, 2009 • Issue 09:03:01

Street SmartsSM

A gentle perspective on payments

By Kelley Felts
Advanced Merchant Services Inc.

A note from Jason Felts: For this installment of Street Smarts, it's my pleasure to introduce my wife and the Chief Financial Officer of Advanced Merchant Services Inc, Kelley Felts. In 1996, I began my bankcard career in sales. Approximately one year later Kelley entered this very exciting, interesting and lucrative industry.

From the beginning she has worked in administrative roles and sales alike. In the early days, Kelley would physically take all new female AMS merchant level salespeople (MLSs) into the field herself and train them. She has been an amazing partner and asset to me personally and professionally. She's written hundreds of merchant accounts and trained dozens of women.

While most of her days are now spent within a more corporate environment, I believe she very much has her finger on the pulse of our industry - from the street to the back-office. With that, Kelley will share her thoughts, based on over a decade of experience in this business.

W"e all realize the face of the payments industry is changing. We now have Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliance, security breaches, "free" terminals and the idea of regulation that could bring more change front and center.

The change that I want to bring to your attention is a lovelier, more gradual change.

When I reminisce about the first payments industry function I attended, many things come to mind. You see, I had finally convinced my family that this was a legal, legitimate industry, and I was so excited to meet other people who made a living the same way that I did.

I walked in with my husband; he was also an agent at the time. To my surprise, I was one of only a few women in the room. I naturally migrated toward those women, hoping to gain some gender-specific knowledge.

They were kind and happy to speak with me, but neither of them worked on the sales side of the business. I certainly was not the only woman in sales, but I sure did not see very many of us 10 years ago.

Recently we attended the Northeast Acquirers Association's Winter Seminar and Outing, and I was so pleased to see that the face of our industry had indeed changed - and for the better. It looked to me as if at least 35 percent of the attendees were women.

I was privileged to speak with several of these women about their experiences and views on our industry.

I would like to share their views with you. Some of the women I spoke with were agents; a few ran ISOs. I asked them two simple questions; their answers were illuminating:

The first question was, What is the biggest change you have noticed in our industry in the past decade? Here are the answers I received:

  • Acceptance: Women are acknowledged as great counterparts in our industry.

  • Competition: Our beloved bankcard industry has certainly gotten more competitive.

  • Complication: We have so much more to offer our merchants - from pricing to equipment.

  • Educated merchants: This is a good development that enables us to better serve them.

  • Professionalism: We, as a whole, have gotten our act a lot more together. Most of us do not feel the need to pull out a décolleté blouse to make the sale; we are secure in relying on our knowledge and ability to help our merchants, staff, et cetera.

  • Initiative: Women seem to have a more entrepreneurial attitude than in the past.

The second question was, What would you like to see change in our industry? The answers follow:

  • Follow-through: We want agents to follow through with merchants, but we also want processors, ISOs, technical support personnel, risk assessment specialists and so forth to do the same.

  • Free terminals: Most of the women I spoke with would like to see these go away. We really do miss lease funding.

  • Regulation of agents: Uneducated and unethical agents make us all look bad and make everyone's job more difficult.

  • Equal pay: Some women reported they are being paid less than their male colleagues.

The last answer was alarming to me. I encourage women who are not receiving equal pay to find new homes for their businesses. I cannot imagine why a woman should accept less pay than her male colleagues.

I love this industry for many reasons. One of them is that I truly have the opportunity to earn a living in direct proportion to the effort I put in. I get to decide what I make based on how many people I am willing to help.

The business gives me the unique opportunity to truly balance work with home. I never have to miss the "big game." This business enables me to be a part of as many field trips as I choose, and I do not have a boss to tell me that I cannot.

At NEAA, I also had the privilege of speaking with several young women who were new to our business. The most common question I heard from them was, Where do I begin?

I recommend several things right out of the gate:

  1. Get educated. Read everything you can get your hands on about sales and the payments industry. A subscription to the The Green Sheet is a great start. I love Zig Ziglar products. They are motivational and educational.

    I also love Advanced Merchant Services Inc.'s IsoPro training system. I know I am partial, but it really is great. You really should have a good understanding of how you can help your merchants.

  2. Create a business plan. Remember, you are in business, and a solid foundation begins with a thorough business plan.

    Your business plan should include goals. These are not just dreams. They should be attainable, but they should also make you stretch outside of your comfort zone. Also, it is very difficult to achieve your goals without planning your strategy for success. What will set you apart from the competition?

    Your business plan should include the following:

    • A brief summary of your market: Who are your target merchants, and how will you reach them? How many will you have to reach out to in order to get your desired results?
    • A description of your product or service: What is your niche? Be an expert at something.
    • A description of your qualifications: This should also include qualifications of anyone in your sphere who will be an asset to your business. This is where all of your relationships come into play. Make sure your ISO, equipment vendors, leasing company, staff and value-added vendors are providing you the tools you need to be successful. You should all be on the same team.
    • A great marketing strategy: Remember to include an advertising budget.
    • Forecasted, solid financial information: Be sure to list anticipated operating costs. This should include any membership fees for networking. You will have utilities, registration fees, rent space and anything else that is applicable.
  3. Now, attack your goals. Passion is a powerful thing. I have seen many people burn through their passion making plans. You know: making sure that everything is in place before they actually go to work, and the work part never quite follows. Go out and sell.

    Don't wait for opportunity to come knocking. Make it happen.

  4. Present yourself as a true professional. It is said you only have one chance to make a first impression. It is equally true that it is nearly impossible to overcome a negative first impression.

    Your appearance - from how well you dress to how well you care for your vehicle - will be evaluated from the moment you arrive at a prospect's company.

    Presenting a positive appearance, then, is crucial to producing a positive first impression. It will not only set the tone for how well you will be received by your prospects, but it may also determine whether you will ultimately make sales.

    Most prospects have had negative experiences with ineffective salespeople. If your physical appearance conveys confidence and professionalism, you can help dispel their preconceptions. They may be relieved to think they have finally met a successful, capable salesperson.

    Invest in the highest quality clothing you can afford. Work within your budget to acquire pieces that are well-made and appropriate to your sales environment.

    Consider great fitting logo wear. This quasi "uniform" makes you look like part of something bigger. It also provides good time management, saving you from the "what should I wear?" routine.

    Your attention to the details of your professional appearance will have a huge effect on how well you will be received by your prospects. By presenting yourself as the successful sales professional you aspire to be, you give yourself every possible opportunity to succeed.

    We all like to say that it is what's on the inside that counts. In professional sales, especially when you want a one-call close, what's on the outside counts a lot, too. The "right look" adds credibility to you and your organization.

    Attention to detail, combined with your sincere desire to serve your customer and your level of expertise, will put you ahead of your competition and help you establish yourself as a sales professional.

  5. Perfect your presentation and your closes. Please take time to read archived Street Smarts articles on these topics. You can find them online at www.greensheet.com/gs_publications.php?flag=street_smarts.

  6. Find a mentor. Locate someone who has achieved the success you want to attain, and be a sponge. People at all levels need great mentors. Ask great questions, and listen to the answers. Hopefully, what you hear will inspire you to create the life you really want.

Women in bankcard have many advantages. I feel that a percentage of merchants are more trusting of women. When you balance that with our nature to teach, nurture and pay attention to detail, we present the "total package."

This business affords so many great opportunities. I look forward to experiencing the changes that the next 10 years will hold. Harness the opportunity this industry has to offer, and remember this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." If you are a lady who is established in this business or just starting out and you have questions you'd like to ask, feel free to send me an e-mail directly at kelleyf@advancedhq.com. end of article

Jason A. Felts is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida-based Advanced Merchant Services Inc., a registered ISO/MSP with HSBC Bank. Kelley Felts has worked with him in the business since 1997. From its onset, AMS has placed top priority on supporting and servicing its sales partners. The company launched ISOPro Motion, its private-label training program, to provide state-of-the-art sales tools and actively promote the success and long-term development of its partners. For more information, visit www.amspartner.com, call 888-355-VISA (8472), ext. 211, or e-mail Felts at jasonf@gotoams.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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