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Industry Leaders: Jim Poulson
Front and Center with Service for All Sides

Throughout his sales career, Jim Poulson has serviced a number of different segments of the payment industry. He has worked on the processor side of the business, the acquirer side, the software side and the terminal manufacturer side. And no matter what "side" he has been on, he has continued to work hard at fostering relationships with his clients and staying abreast of trends and new technologies.

"The thing that's served me so well in this industry is my technology background -whether it's integrated systems, wireless, e-commerce or mobile commerce - they are all built on data communications, which is the expertise I developed early on in my career," Poulson said.

Poulson has worked for a number of companies, including NCR Corp., Attachmate Corp., ARCO's PayPoint Electronic Payment Systems (acquired by BP plc in 2000 and later sold to First Data Corp.), Hypercom Corp., CyberCash (formerly ICVerify and now part of First Data), B3, Lipman U.S.A. and, currently, VeriFone, Inc.

"Each of the different companies, whether it's their philosophies or management styles, gave me new tools in my bag," he said. "Different companies perceive the same industry in different ways, and exposure to that is definitely a good thing."

While in college, Poulson remained focused on pursuing his childhood dream of doing sales. His father was a career salesman, and Poulson said his father had a great deal of influence on him.

Poulson earned a B.S. in Business Administration at Drexel University in Philadelphia, with an emphasis in marketing and computer systems management, and got his big break with NCR in 1986. He was hired right out of college "as a young pup" into NCR's national accounts program, which prepped account managers to become team leads on Fortune 500 accounts. Poulson went through eight months of extensive full-time sales and product training.

"I had the choice at NCR because of my technology background to go the technical path or go the sales path. And I chose sales just because it was more fun," he said.

As an account manager at NCR, Poulson serviced ARCO, which at the time still owned PayPoint. This is how he became more acquainted with the payment industry. NCR had sold ARCO a solution that automated payments at its convenience stores. "They were the first convenience store to do scanning and pay-at-the-pump way back when that stuff was bleeding edge," Poulson said.

After five years at NCR, Poulson left the company to join Attachmate - a software company that sells programs that automate PC connectivity to mainframes. At Attachmate, ARCO was still one of his accounts although from a different angle than payment processing.

"I've always been open to opportunities that tap my skill set - particularly in companies that are commercializing new technology. That's something that I really have a passion for," he said.

Poulson's steadfast account service for ARCO paid off - a few years later ARCO recruited him to build a national sales team at PayPoint. He was PayPoint's first non-ARCO hire. PayPoint had only two or three accounts at the time, and the company was looking to expand dramatically. Poulson was brought in to hire, train and field a team of six sales reps across the U.S.

At PayPoint he also had his first experience, in 1994, working with ISOs, including Chico, Calif.-based ISO National Data Funding Corp. Poulson described how two executives at NDFC, Scott Hatfield and David Paul, helped him understand the merchant account business.

He said at that point in his career his exposure to the industry had only been at the national merchant level. He really didn't understand the "knockin' on doors, mom-and-pop retail business." Hatfield and Paul gave him the inside scoop.

"Jim has taken his own path and has gone way beyond what I showed him," said Hatfield, Executive Vice President of NDFC. "He probably understands technology and emerging markets better than anybody. He's got a great reputation in the industry. He puts his nose to the grindstone and gets the job done."

Perhaps an example of his commitment to building relationships, NDFC remains one of Poulson's customers today.

"I really believe strongly in developing clients for life," Poulson said. "I think the clients I do business with trust me because I'm a straight shooter. I think the best policy for a salesperson in our industry is to set customers' expectations appropriately."

Poulson is more than willing to share a thing or two about what he has learned about sales over the years. For instance, it's OK to say "no" to customers if necessary; it's also important to put your customers' shoes on your feet in order to help them solve a business problem, he said.

"If you're always focused that way, in my opinion, that is how you achieve success," Poulson said. "The key in our industry is to keep the merchants involved. Keep them in your mind and make sure their best interest is in your heart."

Poulson's favorite quote is from Zig Ziglar, a faith-based promotional speaker: "You can get everything in life you want if you will only help enough other people get what they want."

Even with a solid background in business, Poulson still longed for more knowledge. While working at B3, an application service provider, he also completed a Master's in Technology Management at Pepperdine University in December 2000. The degree involved an in-depth study of the commercialization of new technologies in a global environment. Part of the program allowed him to spend a month abroad visiting companies in Europe and Asia to get a sense of how they do business.

"I found the intellectual challenge of grad school really kept my brain fresh," said Poulson. "When grinding on something at school, I'd find I'd come up with a solution for a problem at work."

Poulson boasts a collection of books on the different approaches to successful selling and philosophies of doing business. One book he recommends as "absolutely critical" for all salespersons is titled "Make Success Measurable!: A Mindbook-Workbook for Setting Goals and Taking Action," by Douglas K. Smith. The book describes how to set "smart" goals that are outcome-based rather than activity-based.

"Jim really exemplifies the traits of a highly successful salesperson - he's passionate about his industry, he's constantly learning about it and he works his network of contacts - not only for business development but also ongoing positioning for his employer," said Richard Crone, Vice President, Financial Services for Dove Consulting. "It's just that kind of talent that's in very short supply."

Crone and Poulson worked together at CyberCash, an Internet payment services company, in 1998. Poulson served as head of sales for the entire company, overseeing both software and services, and later as the General Manager for the software side of the business.

"I think Jim is viewed as more than just a sales manager," said Crone. "When I was working with him he was really perceived as a consultant - as a thought leader - because he really knew the industry inside and out."

Poulson has been with VeriFone since March 2003, serving as Sales Manager and managing the account team that services First Data, one of VeriFone's largest clients. He also managed the First Data account while at Hypercom from 1996-98. Poulson is quickly gaining a reputation for his enthusiasm and knowledge of wireless technologies in the payment industry. Before coming to VeriFone, Poulson served as Executive Vice President of Sales at Lipman USA. In that role he gained a lot of experience with wireless point-of-sale such as Mobitex, Motient and CDPD although he did have some exposure at Hypercom - he sold the first two wireless deals there.

Poulson said he was lured to VeriFone by the company's latest product set and use of new technologies such as Ethernet/IP, SSL, CDMA, GSM/GPRS and wireless WAN and LAN technology on terminals with 32-bit processors. VeriFone is bringing these new products to market, which provide a much faster transaction and, Poulson said, a lower cost to merchants.

"VeriFone has largely rebuilt itself, and the products that are coming out of the company today rival anything they've ever done historically," he said. "VeriFone is applying some very cutting-edge technologies to what I think most people would say has been sort of a ho-hum point-of-sale for the last few years."

As a salesperson who has worked in the payment processing industry for more than a decade, Poulson certainly has seen a lot of change, and part of that is the evolution of the point-of-sale terminal.

"In the old days you could have whatever your favorite terminal was to pull out of your trunk - and that's what you presented and that's what you sold, because that's what you knew," he said.

"Today you need to stay abreast of the changing technologies and the different offerings that are available and make sure that you're selling solutions to your customers that not only solve their problems today but position them for the future, so they don't have to replace that terminal in 12-24 months."

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