By John Tucker
1st Capital Loans LLC
This article begins a discussion of merchant level salespeople (MLSs) rebranding as technology sales professionals, or more specifically, leading in as experts in advanced point of sale (POS) technology. The term "point of sale" is often used interchangeably with "point of purchase." Both refer to the origination of retail transactions.
Various processes and tools have been used over the centuries to manage the POS, including barnyards and farms when animals were used for barter, money boxes in the early days of money circulation, electronic cash registers, and today's feature-rich POS systems.
Today, there are two main options for merchants in the retail, restaurant, service and hospitality industries to use for managing POS transactions: it's either an electronic cash register (ECR) or a feature-rich POS system. To reference an interview from 2012 posted on Point of Sale News, Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Harbortouch, said, "If a Harbortouch salesperson goes into a restaurant or bar and the merchant doesn't have a POS system, it's not because they don't know what it is. They will tell you in two seconds that it costs too much."
The ECR dates back to 1884 when the National Cash Register Co. introduced the first mechanical cash register, but it really wasn't until the early 1970s with IBM's 3650 and 3660 models, along with ECRs used at McDonald's restaurants, that the ECR really advanced technologically. Today's modern ECRs have certain qualities that separate them from feature-rich POS systems.
First, the bad: ECRs lack many of the feature-rich tools of the POS system that aid in growing a merchant's business. These include better inventory control, customer relationship management, marketing tools, sales related tracking, back-office integration, better reporting and more.
Now, the good. ECRs offer:
The first POS systems emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with Gene Mosher's touchscreen interface under ViewTouch, and Martin Goodwin and Bob Henry's first POS system that ran on the Windows platform (IT Retail).
Today's POS systems allow merchants to have traditional counter-top systems or virtual setups, where they manage their entire POS operations through an online gateway. A mobile connection can also enable them to access their POS systems on the go. Here's a look at some characteristics that distinguish today's POS systems:
First, the bad. POS systems entail:
Now, the good. Today's POS systems offer:
When rebranding from leading with rate savings and free terminals to leading with POS related technology, I suggest you offer both ECRs and POS systems to your merchant base, as there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution.
For example, for startups or businesses that are small but growing, you might want to sell them an ECR due to the lower purchase costs and lower learning curve. You could also offer them a virtual POS system, which usually only includes a monthly fee for usage without costs for upgrades due to the system being cloud-based. For large growing businesses, you might want to recommend traditional counter-top POS systems.
I recently asked GS Online's MLS Forum for their opinions on MLS rebranding to technology sales professionals. The discussion sparked a great debate between some of our industry's major players, providing in-depth, insightful information.
NWBC, who has been posting about leading in with POS systems since 2005, provided the following words of wisdom: "Which system you sell is less important than how you sell it," he wrote. "The simplest version that does what the merchant needs it to do is the best version of the software to sell. If you're not leading with POS, I hope you're leading in with something other than a free terminal, as POS merchants have always been 'stickier,' and even with everyone having a system to sell or give away, they will never flip as easy as a terminal merchant would.
"A 'free' POS should never be sold as free. I sell systems that you purchase outright and SaaS ('free') systems, but over time you're going to pay me the same amount one way or another. The only question is how much do you want to put out of your pocket today?"
CCGUY stated that he sells the Bevo POS, which also includes EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa) acceptance capability. His target market is nightclubs and restaurants that want traditional POS systems, as well as pay-at-the-table functionality.
"To the MLS, if you are not partnering with a POS company or ISO that offers POS systems, you could get shut out of the sales process, as merchants are moving to POS more and more in retail and restaurant," CCGUY wrote. "It will also get less expensive over the next couple of years. If you choose your POS right, you can control the entire relationship through high reprogramming fees or setting it up so that the merchant can only work with the ISO/MSP that you designate.
"There is no free lunch; a 'free' POS system might come with a $79 monthly fee, a variety of other fees and higher merchant processing rates. I have not seen a 'free' POS with low processing rates such as interchange plus five basis points and eight cents, because the company providing the 'free' POS would be out of business."
In upcoming Street SmartsSM articles, I will continue to highlight MLS Forum members' perspectives on rebranding as technology sales professionals, or more specifically, leading in with POS technology.
John Tucker is Managing Member of 1st Capital Loans LLC, as well as an M.B.A. graduate and holder of three bachelor's degrees in accounting, business management and journalism. Tucker also has over nine years of professional experience in commercial finance and business development. You can contact him by email at email@example.com or by telephone at 586-480-2140.
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