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The Green Sheet Online Edition

December 26, 2016 • Issue 16:12:02

Insights from puppy training applied to payments

By Steven Feldshuh
Merchants' Choice Solution East

After my wife and I received delivery of a new puppy, it dawned on me that I have been training puppies for many years and have made some critical mistakes with each one. I came to this conclusion when the puppy trainer, who was also the breeder, required my wife and me to read through a thick loose-leaf binder of instructions and tested us on some of real-life conditions he wrote about.

While being quizzed by the dog trainer, I realized I hadn't addressed some of the most important questions in the past, because no one had asked me to. I also realized that in some respects new merchant level salespeople can be likened to puppies in their need for consistent, basic training. Please do not take this personally if you are a "puppy" in this industry. This is intended to be a guide for ISOs and MLSs who are expanding their businesses.

Bringing your new puppy home

First, let's take a look at the new payments industry puppy's background:

  • Birth date: Two to six weeks in merchant services industry. Breed: Newbie. General disposition is excited, attentive, ready to learn, full of promise, hungry to make money, but very confused.
  • Puppy check-up: Had three to four recruiters emphasize the riches of their ISO programs, how easy the business is and how the new recruit will make tons of money in the first year. Misleading, maybe.
  • Training: None so far, and puppy leaves his mark all over the place. Numerous missteps.
  • Shots: Puppy has been set up with an ISA agreement but is clueless what any of it means. Puppy has no idea what he signed. Puppy doesn't know the "meaning of residuals, claw backs on bonuses, or what non-solicitation really means along with many confusing paragraphs that are difficult, at best, to understand. Puppy doesn't realize how his food, his security blanket, his place in the family can be taken away from him.

So how do we help the newbie breed in payments? How do we establish the correct expectations, working habits and understanding about the industry? How do we get newbies excited, but keep them under control so they don't make a mess? I believe addressing key items I have previously overlooked will help get newbies off to a solid start.

The contract to be a good newbie (puppy)

One area I haven't properly tackled is the agent contract. There's so much to explain to newbies that details in the agreement get overlooked. Yes, the non-exclusive part of our agreements should give agents piece of mind, but what about the clause of non-solicitation and its potential penalties? What about the claw-back period on signing bonuses? What about explaining the bank risk fee?

I haven't made sure to emphasize these and many other items, simply because of time. But if we want our puppies to behave, produce and stay with the organization, they must understand the backbone of our relationship. So, don't skimp on thoroughly reviewing the high points of an agreement. Your newbie must understand this is a real business that can provide a great life style, and there are consequences if one misbehaves.

Setting daily expectations as the puppy matures

I've always asked newbies about their expectations, but I often haven't stated what my expectations were. With my expectations unstated, how can newbies know what I expect? It takes a huge investment of time to properly train a newbie in merchant services. How much time have I wasted by not setting expectations?

It's important to include expectations in a plan, so newbies have a strong, achievable direction. If strong direction isn't given with set responsibilities, and a set plan, it's like giving your puppy free rein.

Role playing, critiquing

Most of us are good at explaining the business. We understand interchange pricing, industry terminology, various equipment options and technology needed to be successful in this industry. I know I have done two-day, one-day and shorter training sessions, based on my availability and the availability of the newbie.

However, in all those trainings, I've never done role playing or critiqued the newbie. I think this is because I incorrectly feared I would embarrass the newbie. It wasn't obvious to me that my newbies might not have been paying attention or have the right stuff to pull this off. Instead of spending countless hours on product, etc., I should have seen how good my new recruits were at improvising, how well they listened, and how I could improve their conversations with merchant prospects.

I have over-trained and probably bored newbies instead of getting right down to conversations they should be having with prospects. It's important to establish good habits with newbies. And it should be made clear that the office is here to support them, but it is their efforts that will make or break their future in the industry.

Developing good habits

Puppies know tough love, and so should newbies. Motivating newbies isn't easy, but it's the ISO's job from day-one to get them in motion. Getting into the field or getting on the phone shouldn't wait until the newbie knows every detail of the business. They need to learn how to speak with merchants, understand what the five most common objections are and address them before hitting the field or phones.

Set newbies up to practice at a distance from the territories they plan to work in. So when they mess up a call, it won't have long-lasting negative repercussions; as long as there is no mess, there is nothing to clean up. If your puppies are confident speaking in person, give them aids for when they are going door to door, such as flyers, pens, and some materials printed with their name and phone number.

If they are phone mavens, get them going right away with scripts. Help them develop original contact scripts and follow-up emails. Let them know that sitting in a coffee shop or car or checking emails makes them no money.

A long day in the field or on the phone will have much better results than a three-hour day filled with excuses. Emphasize that practice does make perfect and practice builds confidence.

Let them off the leash

Don't make your newbies dependent on you for their daily activities. The sooner your puppies take responsibility for their work ethic; understand your overall program; and can complete all required paperwork, grasp the technology portion of your offerings, and install equipment; the better it will be.

If the newbie stays true to your program, follows your lead and understands the lawn on the other side of the street isn't greener, you may have a winner for the long term. Make sure you bring in your puppies for frequent check-ups, and make sure they bark out, I mean, feel comfortable sharing what is going on each day until they feel at home. If you need to tighten the leash every once in awhile, do it. It's for the newbie's own good. end of article

Steven Feldshuh, President of Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions East, has 18 years' experience in sales and ISO development. Directly prior to joining MCPSE in 2012, he was President of Payment Partners. In his current position, Steven devotes the bulk of his time to assisting agents in building their portfolios. Contact him by email at stevenf@mcpseast.com or by phone at 212-392-9202.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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