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Street SmartsSM:
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
By Ed Freedman

Welcome to the newest member of The Green Sheet family! As part of the "Education" section, this bimonthly column will be the voice of The Green Sheet's core readership. It is dedicated to the Merchant Level Salesperson (MLS) whose feet are firmly planted out on the street and whose opinions, observations, concerns and critiques need to be heard. It is appropriately titled "Street SmartsSM."

Its creation came about over dinner at the recent ETA annual meeting in Las Vegas. I had the privilege to sit down that night with Paul Green, Editor-in-Chief of The Green Sheet, and Julie O'Ryan-Dempsey, its General Manager. We were discussing the recent 2002 Reader Survey and the extraordinary statistic that 74% of the readers work for an ISO/MSP organization.

I assumed, based on the tremendous response my company had received from articles and advertisements over the years, that The Green Sheet's audience was largely made up of Merchant Level Salespersons. The survey proved my assumption correct.

We talked about how the newly renamed MLS Forum (online at has become an invaluable site for sales professionals in the payment processing business to get together and discuss topics of interest in a constructive, inquisitive and/or educational atmosphere. Then we asked, "Wouldn't it be even more valuable to have a similar forum published in each issue of The Green Sheet?" Now there is ... and I will be hosting it for you.

I am sure your first question is, "Who is this guy and why should he be hosting it?" You're probably wondering if I even know what's relevant to the Merchant Level Salesperson.

Here's the answer: I am a guy who came from the streets and still can be found there. When I started my company, Total Merchant Services, I didn't immediately set up an agent program. I did not just quit my executive position at Cardservice International. I didn't just leave an easy job at a bank or credit card processing company.

I set up my company in a two-bedroom apartment in West Philadelphia. There were bars on the windows in that neighborhood, and I used to run to the car to keep safe. I spent the first two years selling the first thousand merchant accounts on my own. I learned a lot during that time. I learned how valuable and how difficult a job it is that you, as an MLS, are doing. The fact that I sold thousands of merchant accounts myself is certainly not the only reason why I am qualified to host "Street SmartsSM."

More important, I understand and appreciate what's happening out on the street today because I continue to manage and work with more than 400 different MLS sales offices all over the country.

I do not speak for myself. I speak for everyone I'm hearing from each week. My feet may not be hitting the street every day, but I am talking to every guy who's out there every day. I am entrenched with them and I know what they're going through. I listen to them and, in doing so, have found a lot of common threads, common issues. The basis for this column will be those issues.

I also want you to know that this is not my first time putting pen to paper. For a number of years I've been writing articles, giving presentations, even putting together educational sales conferences.

Why do I do it? In 1997, I first met Paul Green at a Green Sheet seminar in Princeton, N.J. I asked Paul why he was conducting this type of educational conference, why he cared so much about the Merchant Level Salesperson.

He told me he wanted to give back something to an industry that has given so much to him. He was actually the first ISO ever to exist in the United States. Paul's example encouraged me to do more of the same and to give back to an industry that has given me so much.

Since then I have been committed to doing just that. I am a founding member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board. I am a teacher with the ETA University's Audio Conferences. I was a speaker at The Green Sheet 2000 National Tour. And I have been doing presentations at the ETA conferences on various topics over the last two years, in particular a well-received program titled "The Future of ISOs."

Now, with the creation of "Street SmartsSM," I'll be able to do even more for the core of our industry. I am very excited about it and hope you will be as well.

So there you have it. I plan to hold ongoing conversations with you. I promise these conversations will be relevant and up-to-date. I will continually solicit your input for issues you would like to see discussed. I will review topics that appear on the MLS Forum. And, in the process, I also will offer my own insights and opinions.

Some of the topics "Street SmartsSM" will address in the coming months include equipment, lead generation, compensation, new products/services, training and trade associations. In our industry, there are dozens of things a Merchant Level Salesperson needs to be successful. Some are critical, others are not.

Paramount to all strategies is one issue that is key. My next column will address that topic. It will discuss the key that not only will unlock your success but will ensure your survival in this phenomenal business of ours.

Since this column always will be dedicated to your issues, it needs your involvement and assistance to work. So roll up your sleeves with me and let's get started!

To share your opinions, to make sure we're discussing an issue you are passionate about, I need to hear from you. Please send your responses to: Your voice will be heard.

"A journey of 1,000 miles starts with one small step."

- Chinese Proverb

I'll see you next time where the rubber meets the road.

Ed Freedman is founder and President/CEO of Total Merchant Services, one of the fastest-growing credit card merchant account acquirers in the nation. Ed is the driving force behind all business development activity as well as the execution of Total Merchant Services' marketing plan, including recruiting and training independent sales offices and establishing strategic alliance partnerships with leading vendors so that Total Merchant Services can provide its customers with the highest quality and most reliable services available. To learn more about Total Merchant Services, visit To learn more about partnering with Total Merchant Services, visit or contact Ed directly at

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.
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