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The Recruiters Credo: Know Thy Customer

By Jamie Garfield

In the competitive industry of bankcard sales, we fight a war to win the most talented salespeople. To do this, we must have a clear and effective recruiting strategy.

Devising such a plan requires knowledge of and adherence to central truisms of our business. I can express one of these in only three words:

Know thy customer.

You can't sell to anyone, let alone the best talent, unless you know their preferences, needs, goals and most importantly, how everything works. My background is in operations. The number one complaint from people working in this department, and in the sales office is "Why did the salesperson make all these promises that we can't deliver?"

For recruiters, enticing and attracting customers (salespeople) takes a lot of time and energy, and we often over commit and under deliver.

This leaves others frustrated, makes the company look bad, and ruins the sales executive's credibility. I love to say "Yes" to everything ... who doesn't? However, what I've learned in recruiting is to listen first, and then determine limits and implement accordingly.

Following are rules that have helped me in recruiting sales offices as well as operational techniques that I believe will benefit both ISOs and merchant level salespeople in their recruiting efforts:

Know Thy Customer

Learning as much as you can about the sales office is the most important way to achieve everyone's expectations.

Learn the type of equipment the office markets and sells; which agents work for the office; how it determines price (and if it requires custom pricing); and whether the office wants to register.

Learn how the office does business so you can mesh your way with its way. Assure the office that you can deliver everything it needs. If you can't, be upfront about it and put together a work around that will keep all parties satisfied.

Be Their Champion

Some might disagree, but I believe the jobs of Sales Recruiter and Relationship Manager go hand in hand.

Agents think that they will live and die by the strength of a company's sales support staff, but in reality, if the company's Sales Executive is always involved in their escalated issues, they will be much more successful.

The end result: More respect for you because you take a personal interest in their business. I'm not saying that you must handle every issue personally, but do become educated on the day-to-day issues and what results from their interaction with your entire organization.

Get an update from your sales support staff on how their day went and what problems the offices encountered, and follow-up with a call to make sure all of the offices' issues were resolved.

Be More Than a "Sales Guy"

I have found that practically anyone can sell something, but in today's business environment each representative I talk to has already sold for five of my competitors, and everyone wants the best deal.

Try to bring something new to the table. I've found that agents respond if you can answer these questions successfully:

Can you talk about interchange? Can you read a commission report? What front-ends work with what terminal? What program does this merchant qualify for and what paperwork do I need to send with it?

How many basis points will I make on this account? I want to send this account to underwriting; what are the requirements? Why do you put my merchants on risk reserve? What are the advantages of this vendor versus that vendor?

Educate your reps and make them feel that you can help them with any issue they bring to the table. Do this and you won't have to flip them to a sales support rep ... this is your office, take ownership.

Never Bad-mouth the Competition

I think it's wise to never disparage another competitor. You can show the differences between your companies and point out how yours is superior, but attacking another company or individual simply makes you and your company look bad.

Bad-mouthing your competition will create a lasting negative impression in the prospective agent's mind. I also try to better understand my competition. I believe that we can all flip through the pages of The Green Sheet and see a variety of ads that boast speed, conversion bonuses or free services.

As competitors, we need to keep in mind what we are up against and how to get around it or use it to our advantage.

Rekindle Old Flames

Regenerating business from your existing contact base also makes a difference. A former colleague told me that he calls it "throwing a boomerang." Always try to find ways to get old offices to come back to you.

I often review our database to think of new ways to inspire inactive offices to take another look at us. Agents come and go for many reasons, but I think it's important to try to keep your name and company fresh in their minds.

Recent surveys indicate that 12% of companies would prefer to work with past employees/agents/vendors again. An additional 21% say that they welcome back agents/employees/alumni without hesitation because of the time and dollar savings.

This makes complete sense. Companies spend a lot of time, money and effort recruiting, training and supporting agents. Agents become accustomed to their systems and paperwork and the individuals working there.

But then they leave for some reason. It's much easier to bring them back than to spend money recruiting a new office.

To recruit former agents and offices:

  • Keep agents in the loop! Keep them on your newsletter and e-mail distribution lists.
  • Send existing and former agents a list of current promotions that you're running, departmental news and announcements, and other events related to improvements to your organization.
  • Invite agents to attend company-sponsored trainings, tradeshows and other events.
  • Don't ostracize agents. Make every effort to maintain harmonious, open door relationships.

Last, but not least, the most important thing that I have learned about recruiting is that you don't have to be a salesperson on the golf course talking with clients about the latest sporting event or smoking cigars in the bar.

You simply need to know your customer, take ownership of servicing the account and most importantly, build a lasting and trusting relationship.

This industry is all about relationships, and the more people you know the better. Even if they don't remain with your organization forever, chances are you'll see them again. It might even be at another company, so it's nice to have relationships that you can call on again someday.

If problems with operations or pricing come up, people can deal with the issues better if they know that you are in their corner, you have built a relationship with them, and at the end of the day, you will take care of them and get the job done!

Jamie Garfield is Director of Business Development for Electronic Exchange Systems (EXS), a national provider of merchant processing solutions.Founded in 1991, EXS offers ISO partner programs, innovative pricing, a complete product line, monthly phone/Web-based training, integration services and, most of all, credibility.
For more information, visit EXS' Web site at or e-mail . EXS is a registered ISO/MSP for HSBC Bank USA, National Association.

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