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Street SmartsSM:
You Are Not Alone

A Merchant Level Salesperson who can read is dangerous. Think about all the resources available to the MLS - and that is exactly what my next series of articles will showcase. "Street SmartsSM" will examine and evaluate such valuable resources as acquirer associations, trade publications, educational institutions, conventions and conferences, industry associations and related industry Web sites. We'll discuss which resources are most effective as well as those that may not be worth your time and effort.

This column begins the series by highlighting the phenomenon of regional acquirers association meetings, a resource well worth your time and effort. I just returned from the first Midwest Acquirers Association (MWAA) meeting, which took place July 30 to August 1, 2003 in Chicago. It was an extraordinary experience to witness the birth of a resource forum for Merchant Level Salespeople.

The organizers of the MWAA should be very proud of what they accomplished at their inaugural event. Nearly 400 industry professionals were in attendance. The buzz at the registration desk was palpable. I overheard one person on a pay phone telling another, "Hey, you got to come down here and check this out."

The event was well run and well organized. Kudos to the founding board of this organization, which includes President Mark Dunn of Newtek Merchant Solutions, Vice President Caroline Marino of Ingenico, Treasurer Jim McCormick of General Credit Forms and Board Members Mistee Spry of General Credit Forms, Lisa Lenczyk of VeriFone and Lori Carney of First Data Merchant Services.

Highlights of the MWAA conference included panel discussions on such timely topics as electronic processing, gift cards, check conversion, smart cards, ISO rules and regulations, online payment security and future trends. Keynote speakers included Holli Hart-Targan and yours truly. It was during my presentation that I found out how well received this "Street SmartsSM" column has been by the bankcard acquiring industry. It was heartwarming and much appreciated. Thank you, readers.

Marino said the response to the event "verified our belief that there was a great demand or need for regional conferences. Many sales reps cannot afford to go to an ETA meeting, so bringing the meeting to them is a terrific solution."

The highlight for me was Bob Carr's presentation during the "Vision of Payments in 2004 & Beyond" session. Although it was a bit controversial, I thought it was right on the money.

We all know that Bob has made invaluable contributions to the industry through his Green Sheet column, "Knowledge is Power." What many of you might not know is that he's also a great speaker.

Bob graciously accepted a Life Achievement Award at the conference and stood up and shared his honor with another pioneer who set the standard for educating Merchant Level Salespeople, Paul Green. It was a sincere and heartfelt speech. (For the full text of the speech, see the August 25, 2003 issue of The Green Sheet, 03:08:02.)

I extend my personal congratulations to Bob for a well-earned award and imagine it will give him even more energy and enthusiasm to continue his valuable contributions to The Green Sheet and our industry.

If there was anything negative about the MWAA conference, I noticed it during a panel discussion. One of the speakers asked the audience of nearly 400, "Who here is a Merchant Level Salesperson?" The response appeared quite low for an event that was put on specifically for salespeople. It makes me wonder why so few sales reps were there.

This was a fabulous, informative event. All of the vendors with whom you need to set up relationships were in attendance to help educate you. The problem was that not enough of you showed up to take advantage of this opportunity. You can lead an MLS to water, but you can't make an MLS drink!

Industry leaders are going out of their way to make events like this available because they are responding to sales reps' pleas for locally hosted trade shows/conferences and training events with great vendors and great speakers. The vendors, meanwhile, are looking for opportunities to meet with the people who drive the business - the Merchant Level Salespeople.

It is evident that vendors are willing to provide the resources to make these events worthwhile. The problem is that if you do not show up, these types of opportunities will disappear.

To stay ahead of the curve, the MLS needs to stay informed about new products and services available in the marketplace, at least on a semi-annual or annual basis. Successful sales reps need to ensure that they have the most updated and accurate information to compete in the marketplace.

The only way to achieve this is to attend these types of conferences. If you don't heed this advice, your business will slip while your competitors' businesses will grow.

The next MWAA event is scheduled for the end of July 2004. All of the details will be posted on www.midwestacquirers.com.

Two sister groups on the East Coast, the Northeast Acquirers Association (NEAA) and the Southeast Acquirers Association (SEAA), have been putting together educational forums for several years. These organizations are not-for-profit, non-membership, independent forums dedicated to you, the hard-working MLS! Their mission is to provide a regional opportunity for training, education and networking in the bankcard acquiring community.

The SEAA's third annual meeting is scheduled for October 9, 2003 at The Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Fla. Encouraged by the feedback from attendees at last year's highly successful event in St. Augustine, Fla., the SEAA will expand the number of available vendor spots to 40 and also will increase vendor hall time. An exciting and informative agenda is planned for all participants. For more details, visit www.southeastacquirers.com.

As always, I'd love to hear from you. Please send your feedback on this topic (and any others) to streetsmarts@totalmerchantservices.com. My next column will discuss valuable Web site resources you can and should be taking advantage of, including the offerings of the new Green Sheet Online Web site. Please continue to look for my posts on The Green Sheet MLS Forum. I welcome all your responses and will include them in my columns.

"Opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss."

- Anonymous

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 www.totalmerchantservices.com. To learn more about partnering with Total Merchant Services, visit www.upfrontandresiduals.com or contact Ed directly at ed@totalmerchantservices.com

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