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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 11, 2015 • Issue 15:05:01

Face fears before changing course

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

It was probably only 10 feet, but for a 10 year old it might as well have been 10 miles. The high dive platform towered over the pool and had been tempting my cousins and me for over a year. Today we decided it was time to literally take the plunge. Well, actually they decided. You see, I never really liked swimming – or deep water for that matter. However, similar to many families, if my cousins did something, I was expected to do it, too.

So there I stood, looking down at my cousins, both of whom had eagerly jumped before me. Neither had drowned. In fact, both exclaimed how much fun it was. My oldest cousin then yelled, "Your turn!"

Fast forward 29 years – six months before my 40th birthday. I stood on the bungee platform listening to the instructions, waiting for the command, "Bungee!" – the operator's word for, "Jump now!"

Listening may have been the wrong word because all I heard was my brain asking, "What are you doing up here?" I heard that question over and over as the instructor spoke. I was also fighting off irrational thoughts like, "At your age you don't need to do this," and the best one, "The ladder is right behind you." Nevertheless, despite these rampant negative thoughts, I also kept hearing, "Face your fears. It will be all right."

Lessons applicable today

Both diving instances came to mind recently as I was talking with a merchant level salesperson (MLS). He was explaining what he wanted to do for 2015 and beyond. Although he was trying to present his plan, his voice and the questions he asked told me he was afraid of what the future held for his business.

It seems the attrition rate was up for him and his ISO partner, which had implemented price increases over the past two years. He was also facing heavy telemarketing in his area that was emphasizing Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) implementation. At the same time, he was reading and hearing about different POS solutions. And merchants – both potential and existing – were asking questions about the Cloud, tablet POS solutions and other new approaches.

His plan was to add salespeople or possibly start telemarketing to replace the merchants he had lost. As he spoke, I could tell he was afraid that if he didn't find a different path or a new model, his portfolio would slowly disintegrate.

He wanted my advice on how to accomplish his plan. But before I could offer my two cents, I first needed to see if he was really committed to the plan, or if he was instead avoiding his fears. I then said, "It sounds like you have thought this through, but what I am really hearing is that your current portfolio, which you worked so hard to build, is under attack. What have you done to address this?"

He didn't really have an answer. I wasn't surprised. I've had numerous discussions with agents across the country who are facing this very problem. Plus it's a hot topic on the message boards. One thing these MLSs have in common is that instead of facing their fears, they default to what they do for a living, which is to sell.

Underlying issues to address

There is nothing wrong with selling, but until they address the real issue causing them to want to change course, the underlying issues will only continue to grow. While talking to the agent seeking my advice, I noticed two steps were missing from his plan: one was internal factors involving his business; the other was external forces in the marketplace.

Addressing these issues doesn't necessitate changing sales efforts. Rather both require facing fears, as follows:

  • Internal: Start by identifying the internal cause of the issues you are facing. With the recent flood of rate increases by ISOs, laments about attrition have become common in the payments business. Other concerns could stem from a lack of support or service.

    If your issue is a rare occurrence and has only happened once, discuss it with your ISO partner immediately. However, if you are experiencing the same issue over and over, it might be time to review your partnership. Ask yourself, honestly, if your partner is there to help you grow, or if your partner could be the cause of your attrition.

  • External: There will always be attrition caused by outside forces. For example, businesses close or are sold every day, causing you to lose business. Even so, everyone must have an attrition plan. That plan begins with consistent communication. The key to consistent communication is to be proactive, not reactive.

    Stay ahead of any possible issues, especially when they impact merchant pricing. It's better if your merchants hear negative news from you, rather than receive a statement message. That way you can control the message and instantly respond to any questions and concerns.

    You should also keep your merchants informed about key industry trends and issues. This can easily be accomplished via newsletter or email. Make sure your merchants are in the know about topics like EMV and near field communication, as well as potential deceptive sales practices that others in your market are using.

    Don't panic if you haven't been communicating with your merchants since day one. It's never too late to start communicating. Rather than planning to reload your portfolio, your first step should be stopping the outflow.

In both cases, it's critical that you face your underlying fears. Whether you have a fear of changing partners or a general fear of change, you won't be able to truly move forward until you face your fears.

Remember that day on the high dive platform I told you about? Well, I was able to conquer my fears and take the plunge. I was also able to gather up enough courage and leap off the bungee ramp. I wouldn't call myself a daredevil by any means. All it takes is facing your fears head on and being open and honest with yourself. Once you do that, I'm confident you will see your business grow.

end of article

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 jeff@clearent.com 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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