By Dale S. Laszig
DSL Direct LLC
Best practice in any discipline represents a hallmark of ideal procedure and protocol. The payments industry has established best practices in everything from the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard to the Electronic Transactions Association's Certified Payments Professional (CPP) exam.
How do you apply best practices as you go about your daily rounds selling processing services? Here are some opinions shared in GS Online's MLS Forum.
Stephen Covey's book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People offered a set of best practice principles; it has sold over 25 million copies since it was published in 1989. The book has been widely quoted and challenged, most recently by Dilbert cartoonist and author Scott Adams.
In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Adams wrote, "I think Covey described a good set of patterns for people to follow, but they are only a start." He went on to summarize Covey's seven habits as follows:
Adams then added his own priorities:
"Education and psychological bravery are somewhat interchangeable," Adams wrote. "If you don't have much of one, you can compensate with a lot of the other." He also noted that good health is a baseline requirement for success.
We're taught in professional sales to take a measured, incremental approach to achieving our goals. One common tactic is to take our sales quota and break it into manageable parts, such as how many calls per day, visits per week and new business presentations we'll have to make to achieve our number. That set of actionable items forms the basis of our own best practices.
Steve Norell, a CPP-certified professional, shared his own customized system of best practices in a Forum discussion:
"1. Never, never, never lead with [credit card] processing." He emphasized this is especially important if you usually begin with a statement such as, 'I can save you money on your processing.'"
Norell continued his list: "2. Find and market three to five different products that [have] sizzle and merchants are interested in. Such as: a. smartphone apps; b. text messaging; c. cash advance (I know); d. financing the merchant's clients; e. anything that drives business to the merchant; f. POS-based systems; g. [online] ordering. I am sure that there is more but you get the message?
"After they have purchased any of those items, tell the merchant that the credit card processing automatically comes with it, and you will never talk price. Also if they stop processing the [credit cards] then the price of the other products goes up.
"3. Have [approximately] 100 at all times potential merchants that you want to sell. Make [sure they are not small] and no-revenue merchants. Only the quality ones get to qualify for your expertise.
"4. Once you have [approximately] 100 active merchants, sell them any and all of the other products and services you offer so that you are always increasing your monthly recurring revenue.
"5. Make sure that if a merchant is sold a bill of goods, and some two-week wonder is trying to steal the account, you have one serious" early termination fee that gets you "a minimum of 36 months of fees. You need to make it really hurt if they leave. …. [N]o merchant lasts more than 36 months with any processor anyway, so all I am looking for is 36 months of revenue, one way or the other. I was never in favor of this, but I have seen the light. The blame falls squarely on every idiot that is encouraged to lie, cheat or steal a merchant just to make $10.
"6. Don't get into this business with $10 in your pocket. You will need to spend to make.
"7. From day one get a really good database that does everything. (We built our own but there are others out there.)
"8. Get a really good lawyer because, the odds that you are going to [need legal counsel] to keep you out of trouble are high. Also [the attorney will] create the documents that you will use and need.
"9. Pick a great ISO or partner to send your business to. Not just one that gives away the store such as bonuses, free equipment, 90 percent splits, etc. If they are giving that much away, they are going to either go bust or short you someplace. And that is when you are going to need that good lawyer.
"10. Read and study everything you can get your hands on that will make you smarter than the merchant and your competition.
"11. Go to every possible association meeting you can afford, but go to at least one.
"12. Figure out how to get as many leads and referrals as possible. Stop walking up and down the street."
Emerging technologies, evolving standards and changing consumer behavior are transforming our world, making it more important than ever for merchant level salespeople (MLSs) to stay up to date on industry trends.
Using the example of someone returning to the merchant services trade after a 10 year absence, Clearent wrote, "The world has changed. Depending when they last sold, they will have a learning curve just like any new MLS. The question will be, can they allow themselves to not default to what they knew before, but question everything?
"For example, in the 1990s leasing was still in vogue, but there were no cash advance companies to speak of until the end of the decade. If they found their revenue through the lease, they are going to find it harder to sell today. Sources of revenue have also changed, and until they learn where those sources are, they will leave money on the table.
"Unless they can take that step back, they are going to find they make less money, and have unhappy merchants."
Empire described ways in which ISOs and processors are leveraging the mobile and virtual aspects of merchant and consumer behavior at the POS.
"We're finding that merchants want to either use mobile payments as a stand-alone or as a fully integrated solution to their processing," he wrote. "A prime example of this 'ubiquity of commerce,' as I call it, is an HVAC client using mobile in the field to process payments and capture card data and create an e-invoice for billing later on, the back-office billing department billing monthly recurring service contracts and the accounting department reconciling everything into [QuickBooks] and billing through that software once an invoice is generated.
"Everything can be a stand-alone solution but can also be seamlessly integrated. I think you'll see more of this concept in the future as [ISOs] and processors continue to develop their in-house solutions to keep and preserve market share and offset eroding margins."
Chuck Saden sees value in creating systems for success as opposed to just setting goals. "I have also recently read Scott's book, as I am a big [Dilbert] fan," he wrote. "I have completely adopted his 'System over Goal' philosophy. I guess deep in my heart, I knew it was the system over the goal. Scott put it so well."
In business and in life, the ultimate best practice is to identify what matters most. If we "begin with the end in mind" as Covey encouraged us to do, we can identify where we want to go and design systems that get us there while keeping us healthy, happy and energized.
Dale S. Laszig manages business development and strategic initiatives at DSL Direct LLC, a payments consulting company that helps clients promote, design, and deliver secure, leading-edge technology solutions. Her clients include software integrators, manufacturers, retailers and value-added service providers. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or email@example.com.
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