By Jeffrey Shavitz
Charge Card Systems Inc.
Competition in our industry is fierce, as merchant level salespeople (MLSs) are competing for the same customer base. Why not differentiate yourself by cultivating specialized vertical markets through industry associations, buying groups and local chambers of commerce?
During the past several years, I have become deeply involved with such groups, developing integrated programs to help my sales partners earn more business while providing a real added-value benefit to the organizations involved (in addition to their saving a few basis points on processing fees).
Associations and buying groups, like nonprofit organizations, are losing market share because their membership base is dwindling: new members are not joining, and existing members are not renewing because of our difficult economic times.
Companies' annual dues could range from as low as $25 to more than $1,000, depending on the number of employees and office locations.
Payment professionals derive tremendous value from affiliations with special-interest groups, similar to the way they benefit from joining the Electronic Transactions Association or participating in regional acquirers associations.
But most people do not fully understand the advantages to be gained by pursuing such affiliations or realize annual fees more than pay off for those who become actively involved.
It is possible to create a win-win program through which an association helps demonstrate the value of your merchant services while enjoying aggressive revenue-sharing for the merchant accounts you board.
Through just such a program, my colleagues and I have helped many associations increase membership during what has been the worst economic period since the Great Depression. And association endorsements have helped active MLSs receive warm leads, which have a high closing ratio.
It's amazing how much more powerful a phone call is to a merchant when you say something like, "John, this is Jeff Shavitz of Charge Card Systems. We are the endorsed vendor to XYZ Association, and I want to describe a value-added merchant services program now being offered by your association," as opposed to using a random, cold-call pitch for credit card processing.
Those few words - endorsed vendor, the vendor of choice, preferred vendor et cetera - help differentiate you and your service, which translates to more business and more residual income for you.
Top-down selling is powerful and results in exponential business growth. Why sell to only one merchant at a time when you can sell from the top down through your affiliations, which will enable you to meet hundreds, if not thousands, of merchants through endorsements?
Associations create a "meeting place" for industry-specific executives to share information. Unfortunately, due to the difficult economy, many companies have chosen to cancel their memberships with local chambers and buying groups. And - worst of all - they have stopped giving to charities that desperately need donations to continue their programs.
An effective way to enhance your professional satisfaction is to combine your sales career with a philanthropic approach to life.
Take a position on something, for example, by contributing part of your residuals to a worthy cause. Some ISOs and MLSs give to national causes; others choose to provide aid to the local marketplace. Both choices are excellent.
Other possibilities abound. One is to help sales partners create women-owned companies that contribute part of their profits to causes that assist women's activities. Let your imagination run wild. Just pick a cause that is close to your heart.
It is a gift to be of service, whether it's giving a hand to one deserving person, a charity that provides food to hungry families or an association striving to attain a worthwhile goal. Think creatively about how you can combine your career and personal missions.
Do it for the right reasons, and I guarantee you will feel 100 percent rewarded, and your business will continue to grow.
Jeffrey Shavitz is one of the founders of Charge Card Systems Inc. He is also an active member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board and the First Data ISO Advisory Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-878-4100. For additional information on CCS, please visit www.chargecardsystems.com/gsadvisoryboard or the company's corporate Web site at www.chargecardsystems.com.
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