By Jeff Fortney
My father was a gearhead before that term was even coined. He loved cars. Throughout the 1960s he would buy a new car every two to three years. His philosophy was that the newer the car, the better the features.
His love of the automobile led to his original career choice. He was a mechanic, having learned the trade in the 1930s. Ultimately, he found his calling working with Caterpillar tractors and spent the last 37 years of his working life at the local Caterpillar distributor. But his true avocation was working on cars.
I remember spending many a Saturday under the hood, changing the oil, adjusting or changing belts, replacing thermostats, and even doing tuneups. Although the cars were relatively new, he loved doing all his own work on them, and he always seemed to have a friend who owned a gas station that had a lift and would let him use it for his cars. In turn, he would send them business.
The early 1970s brought many changes to the auto industry. The first oil embargo created a strong demand for cars with better gas mileage. The first efforts led to smaller and lighter cars, with the space in an engine compartment a premium. I remember my father saying, as he bought his third car in that decade, "Son, it looks like I may have to hang up my tools. More and more of these motors use metric measurements, and now fuel injection. I am too old to learn anew."
In 1977 he did exactly that. He told me, "You better find a trusted mechanic because I can't fix these new cars." He still bought new cars, for the same reasons he always had, but his days of tinkering under the hood were over.
I remember clearly in the early 1980s driving by his friend's garage and seeing that it had closed. When I asked what had happened, my dad said that business was slow because people now needed more specialized repairs, and he just didn't have the desire or ability to learn how to work on newer types of cars.
In the payments business we are facing a similar situation because the industry is constantly evolving. Every day I receive questions about tablet-based solutions for merchants. In most cases, a year ago the merchant would have happily used a traditional POS terminal; today, even small and midsize merchants are asking about the cloud.
In turn, the merchant level salespeople (MLSs) who would have placed Vx 510s everywhere two years ago are now finding that saving money on processing is becoming less of a means to sell and more of a need to offset the cost of newer equipment or solutions. It would appear that what has worked in the recent past may not be as successful today.
To continue to grow in 2015, MLSs must revise their toolboxes, as well as their strategies. This does not mean that you completely abandon what has worked in the past, but rather that you expand your knowledge to cover the key components of today. This process begins with a thorough self analysis to make sure you are up to speed in certain areas. For example, you need a working knowledge of the terminology surrounding tablet-based solutions, mobile payments, near field communication and EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa). You also need to be able to explain what the cloud is as it relates to the payments world.
This knowledge base is not just restricted to terminology. Tablet solutions may appear similar, but under the hood, the features, functions and benefits can vary greatly. When considering adding a solution to your toolbox, you need to understand the total cost structure, connectivity options and system restrictions. You also need to understand the needs of your marketplace.
Gaining this knowledge can be done independently, but I strongly encourage you to leverage your mentor and ISO partner. They should be your key points of contact.
At this point, you can begin researching mobile and tablet solutions with an emphasis on your target market's needs. Unless you are looking for something industry specific, it's likely you will have many options. If you have tended to prefer working with a small group of terminals, you may decide to concentrate on a select few solutions.
The differentiators may seem obvious, like features and functionality, but there are others that don't create a differentiation in the terminal world. When comparing tablet- or cloud-based solutions, don't forget to factor in the cost of the hardware and hardware options (that is, does the solution work on both iOS and Android platforms? If so, it can reduce the cost of the tablet as there are many inexpensive Android-based tablets).
Also consider the connectivity requirements. Many solutions may be proprietary or have added costs associated with a third-party connection. Talk with your ISO partner about any they may have directly certified using either an application programming interface or hosted payment page. The cost savings can be the differentiator.
Just remember, adding to your toolbox does not mean making a radical change to your marketing efforts. Terminals will still have a place in the market. Your goal in every sale is to identify the merchant's need, or pain, and then address that pain. Just keep in mind that addressing those pain points might require a different set of tools.
What is a gearhead?
A gearhead is someone who is interested in technical or mechanical things, such as computers or automobiles. According to Merriam-Webster online, the first known use of the term was in 1974.
Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.
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