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A Thing

KISS - Keep it simple, smarty

By Ken Boekhaus

Ours is a complicated and confusing business. All too often, payments industry sales reps try to be all things to all people and get bogged down in details. As a consequence, they miss opportunities. This is frequently the case with new merchant level salespeople (MLSs) who have been at it just long enough to learn some of the industry's complexities.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

All's well that's priced well

Pricing is probably the biggest trap: It's such a complex issue, and merchants know just enough to trap agents into over-complicating it. Until you become very familiar with pricing, it's better to stay with the basic three-level pricing scheme of qualified, mid-qualified and nonqualified transactions. At most, use four-level pricing that breaks out qualified check-card transactions.

In addition, don't play with downgrade surcharges unless it's absolutely necessary to win a particular merchant's business. Reps tend to want to fine-tune the surcharge downgrade pricing to either get the perfect merchant pricing or maximize their own profit. This can easily open Pandora's box. Keep pricing as simple as possible early in your MLS career.

There will occasionally be deals that need more than the basic pricing structure. For these, it's critical to work with a processor that can provide you assistance with pricing analysis, strategy formation and pricing structure. Working closely with a pricing expert will also help you learn more about pricing and prepare you to win more deals going forward.

If your current processor is unable to provide this level of personalized support, find a new processor.

Fie, Jacks of all terminals

The second area that rookie MLSs tend to over-complicate is the POS solution. Initially, it's best to become an expert on just one terminal and one e-commerce/virtual terminal gateway.

This means you need to select a full-function, multiapplication terminal. Otherwise you'll be recommending a basic terminal for basic solutions but will need a full-function terminal for sales that include other products, such as gift cards.

It's much more difficult to support two terminals in your portfolio than just one. The same holds true for gateways. It's easier to become an expert on one gateway that best meets the majority of your customers' needs.

Everyone should agree that it's easier to "sell" a merchant a free terminal than one at a marked-up price. It's OK to attempt to sell terminals, but even veteran agents should always have a free terminal as a backup for times when selling doesn't work. That way you can still seal the deal and increase your closing percentages. As you become more seasoned in sales, the percentage of deals in which you sell terminals will increase.

Most successful MLSs become specialists in a few vertical markets. (By vertical markets I mean categories like fast-food restaurants, auto dealers, auto shops, home maintenance/repair outfits, boutiques, Internet service providers, etc.) This is an especially good idea for new reps since the natural tendency is to sell to any merchant who can fog a mirror.

You won't know what merchants' hot buttons are unless you're familiar with selling into their vertical markets. Start with one to three vertical markets. Pick those that you know best. Find out what merchants' hot buttons are in those markets and what approaches work best.

Over time, evaluate which verticals have brought you the most success, and adjust your focus accordingly. Drop those in which you've had little or no success. Add verticals that are similar to those in which you have been successful. Remember the word "specialize" has "special" imbedded in it for a reason.

Mind the midmost

Finally, don't focus on large merchants. Pursuing big enterprises means greater competition, smaller margins, longer sales cycles, fewer deals closed and complex implementations. Unless you have a major inside track with a specific vertical market or merchant, don't focus on larger merchants.

At the other extreme, the smaller the merchant, the less you will make from residuals. Focus on a happy medium. Don't get me wrong; take smaller merchants and larger merchants as the opportunities arise. Just stay focused on the middle to make the most money.

Newer agents have the greatest level of early success when they focus their efforts where they can be most successful and don't over-complicate the sale. Be smart. Just remember KISS! Keep it simple, smarty.

Ken Boekhaus is Vice President, Marketing and Business Development for Electronic Exchange Systems, 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 and quarterly seminars. For more information, please visit EXS' Web site at or e-mail Boekhaus at . EXS is a registered ISO/MSP for HSBC Bank USA, National Association.

Article published in issue number 060901

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