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Article published in Issue Number: 061201

Jerry Compton

Career cold caller is just getting warmed up

Jerry Compton's sales career has spanned nearly half a century. Based in Lafayette, Calif., he's been in the merchant services business 11 years. Prior to that, he had a 35-year stint in food service, working for distributors and manufacturers.

Compton is always on the move. After breakfast, e-mail and phone calls, he spends his day out and about meeting with prospects and customers face to face. In this interview, he discusses his secrets of success, which include cold calling, carefully researching potential ISO partners, and learning the ins and outs of interchange.

The Green Sheet: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Jerry Compton: I've always been a gregarious person, and selling seemed to fit my personality.

GS: Why did you choose merchant services?

JC: I wanted to stay in sales and also wanted to change the product [I was selling].

GS: What has kept you in the industry?

JC: My business is financially rewarding and a lot of fun. I get to meet and work with people from all walks of life.

GS: How has the industry changed since you started?

JC: When I started, there were only two credit card terminals available, the Tranz 330 and ZON Jr. Today the field is crowded with equipment, and computerized transactions are a fast-growing segment.

GS: If you could change anything about this business, what would it be?

JC: I would require proof of a good, solid support system from the processor before submitting a contract. The companies I have chosen to work with provide excellent support should a problem arise. I am an independent contractor and work with three separate processors. A lot of research had to be done to find the right companies with which to associate.

GS: How should a merchant level salesperson (MLS) go about choosing an ISO partner?

JC: Find someone with experience and compatibility.

GS: Did you know enough about industry contracts before you signed one?

JC: No, I did not. I relied on a friend who had been in the business many years and whose experiences were very positive.

GS: Have you ever lost or almost lost a residual stream?

JC: I have been quite fortunate in that area. The companies I've worked for have been very honorable.

GS: What do you like best about your career, and what's been most challenging?

JC: Building new relationships and completing a sale successfully. Retaining my customers when competition threatens.

GS: What are your current career goals?

JC: To work as long as I am mentally and physically fit to do the job, but take time along the way to play and relax.

GS: What's been your greatest success so far in the industry?

JC: Learning as much as I have about the business and applying that information to my own success.

GS: What has been your most significant learning experience?

JC: Learning how to correctly read the interchange chart. I always have a chart with me to help explain [to prospects] the many categories a transaction can fall into and that all processors and banks pay the same costs for Visa and MasterCard.

GS: If you had to bring a new sales rep up to speed on interchange right away, how would you do it?

JC: I would go over the interchange chart with them explaining what the different categories represented and make sure they understood how transactions were downgraded.

GS: What is unique about your sales style/method?

JC: Ninety percent of my success has been obtained by cold calling in person. I also make it a point to personally service my accounts within reason. If possible, I refer them to customer support or technical support.

GS: How do you generate leads?

JC: My leads are primarily built on referrals and cold calling.

GS: Merchants are savvier now about credit card processing. How does this affect MLSs?

JC: It is my job to make sure the merchant understands all the charges on his statement. I periodically meet with each client to review the account.

GS: What's the strangest thing a merchant has asked you?

JC: The client was from Iran and got into trouble with our government. He asked me to write a personal letter of reference for him.

GS: How do you ensure account retention? What do you do when it looks like you're on the verge of losing a sale?

JC: I contact the merchant immediately to identify the problem, and then do everything in my power to retain the business.

GS: Why is it important to have a full arsenal of products to offer merchants?

JC: The more products you can sell a customer, the better you can lock him in to long-term business.

GS: Do you have a surefire way to resolve conflict?

JC: Conflicts happen, and I try not to take them personally. If all else fails, I walk away from it.

GS: What types of merchants do you prefer to work with? Why?

JC: I prefer working with large-volume accounts because I find there is less maintenance involved.

GS: Do you think there will always be street sales?

JC: Yes. We as salespeople must continue to talk to every potential client.

GS: What do you think about free terminal programs?

JC: I'm not a fan of the idea. I lean more toward building my residuals.

GS: What does it take to succeed in this business?

JC: Motivation, perseverance, drive, dedication and consistency.

GS: How has The Green Sheet helped you?

JC: The Green Sheet keeps me updated on the industry and abreast of what my competitors are up to. It is an invaluable business resource.

GS: Any advice for newcomers?

JC: Listen and absorb all you can. Study The Green Sheet. Get your feet wet by making cold calls either in person or by telephone.

GS: Do you have a motto that you live by?

JC: Live life one day at a time. If necessary, live one step at a time.

GS: If you were going to call it quits and do something completely different with your life, what would you do?

JC: After 35 years of institutional food sales, this is the something different with my life.

Many top-notch agents have inspired others by sharing their perspectives in AgenTalk. Will you be next? If you'd like to participate, please send an e-mail to

Article published in issue number 061201

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