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The Green Sheet Online Edition

February 13, 2017 • Issue 17:02:01

Lessons from the past that apply today

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

Friends and family often think I live in the past. It may be because I like to watch old movies, many in black and white. I still enjoy old game shows, too, like I've Got a Secret and What's My Line. I listen to the Seriously Sinatra station on Sirius Satellite Radio, and I watch Perry Mason daily when possible.

But it would be wrong to say I live in the past simply because I enjoy the entertainment from times gone by. My favorite statement is still, "He who does not learn from the past is doomed to repeat it." Life lessons help build who we are and help prevent us from making the same or similar errors.

In truth, I am an optimist. In my eyes, optimists look forward with excitement to the good that is to come. It would not be possible for me to look back and say it was a better time or a better world (although I would say the entertainment was quite good).

But even optimists have to be realistic, too. To me, the future is ripe with opportunities. However, no matter how optimistic you are, there will be challenges and hurdles to those opportunities. By reflecting on lessons learned from history, we can overcome those challenges, hurdles and, in some cases, significant roadblocks.

Five points to remember

Here are several lessons from the past that if not remembered can and will disrupt your future success.

  • Knowledge is power: I would be hard pressed to find someone who disagrees with this statement. However, in the payments world, the answers to common questions change often. Unless you are constantly in a learning mode, you will miss out on key changes and improvements that can help drive your success.
  • Don't assume that you know it all: And don't get too comfortable in your knowledge, because our industry is constantly evolving. Find a trusted advisor for questions (ideally your ISO partner) and look for learning opportunities often. Even if you think you know everything, it never hurts to be proven correct. Or transversely, corrected.
  • Remember the Edsel: Ford executives believed they had built the next generation of automobile when they revealed the Edsel. They staked their reputation on it. History shows that although the Edsel was technologically advanced, the market didn't flock to it. People either ignored the Edsel or criticized it. This experience resulted in lost revenue and hindered Ford's growth. And the Edsel is remembered today as a colossal flop.

    The moral of the story is not as obvious, for at the time of the Edsel debacle, Ford still had a number of other models. The lesson here is that the company incorrectly chose to push one model hard over other options. In the payments world, consider your choice of terminal or POS solution. You likely have your preference and know the terminal intimately. However, if you are not open to other options, you are losing deals. Don't lock yourself in because of your comfort level or preconceived notions about what is best for your customers.

    Remember, never try to fit a square peg into a round hole.

  • Someone's offerings will always be cheaper: We talk and talk about not selling cost savings, yet it's the default for many merchant level salespeople. Selling price as the reason to change ensures that the next person in the door offering savings (even if it's nonexistent savings) will win the merchant, at least temporarily.

    If you begin the conversation with price, nothing else will matter to the merchant. He or she will stop listening, but it doesn't have to be that way. Your customers are merchants, after all. They understand the cost of doing business. Sure, they will squeeze on price, but if you first identify what they need to be successful, price becomes a part of the solution, not the only question.

  • People lie: In many cases, people do not recognize their lies as such. People often say that a salesperson will say anything to close a sale. There is even an old joke about a salesman. How can you tell a salesperson isn't lying? His lips are closed.

    The truth is that the vast majority of merchant level salespeople (MLSs) don't intentionally lie. Many are willing to walk away from a sale rather than resort to saying anything just to close it. However, problems arise when unintentional lies come into play. The most common example is the practice of padded fees.

    For example, an MLS sells an account as interchange pass-through plus a markup. Calculations indicate that the deal will be at worst the same as the merchant has now, and at best, the merchant will save a few dollars. However, the first month's statement comes in and the merchant is actually paying more. The merchant is upset, and the MLS can't figure out what happened.

    What the MLS didn't know was that the ISO partner was increasing assessments, adding to the network access and brand usage fee and acquirer processing fee, and charging an American Express processor fee, as well. The merchant's previous processor did not, which explains why the merchant is now paying more.

    Take the time to know what you're selling, and if your partner pads fees in any way, remember, you are in control of your own ethics.

Many others lessons learned can be applied today, and I am sure you can think of some right now. But the most important lesson learned is one I recommend at the beginning of every year: avoid falling back into bad habits. Make this the year you let go of old, detrimental habits, like selling price, forcing something to fit when an alternative would work better, and inadvertently misleading merchants. You will find yourself happier and wealthier. 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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