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Street SmartsSM:
Asleep at the Wheel

By Ed Freedman

I recently flew to Los Angeles on a business trip to visit the offices of one of our sales partners. Upon leaving the airport, I jumped into a limo. The driver, who was a very nice guy, informed me he was an independent operator who owned and ran the limo service.

When he dropped me off at my meeting, he took my credit card information using an "old-school" knuckle-buster. I didn't think much of it at the time, especially since I was running late for my appointment.

The following morning he picked me up for my next appointment. When we arrived at the location, I handed him my credit card. This time he swiped it through a Cardservice International wireless terminal. This stopped me in my tracks, so I asked him about the terminal and the processing agreement.

He told me the terminal had been delivered to him the night before. He had signed a $69.95 per month lease for 48 months with a Cardservice rep who, clearly, was on his toes. It all made me feel ridiculous.

There I was, riding in his limo for two days, and someone else made a sale right under my nose. Funny, yes, but not "ha-ha" funny, if you know what I mean.

There I was, Mr. Bankcard, Mr. "Street Smarts," asleep at the wheel.

If this could happen to me, I thought about others to whom it might have happened. Upon my return, I posted the following on The Green Sheet's MLS Forum:

"Have you ever been 'asleep at the wheel' and lost a sale? Have you ever realized you could have signed a merchant after someone else beat you to it?

"Share your experiences here, and I'll include them in my next 'Street Smarts' column, which will open our eyes to missed opportunities!"

The responses posted on the MLS Forum showed me I wasn't alone in my embarrassment. Here are a few:

"I just plain forgot about fleet cards recently and walked away from one. WEX, Voyager and others, although we don't make anything off of them, [help to] close sales in petrol[eum].

"I actually had a convenience store that was not taking them. Sold diesel and everything else. I did the best I could. He would not close. I followed up a few days later. The next guy, though, remembered the fleet cards." - bankcardrep1

"There is a furniture store 1.5 miles from my house. I drive by it at least six or seven times per day. A very good friend of mine owns a competing ISO. One of his sales reps set up an appointment with them. The rep leased them 10 wireless units, and they process more than $500,000 per month.

"That store is not impressive when seen from the outside, but they have a nationwide customer base and a multi-state delivery service. I have to drive by this place every day. It kills me to look. I should have pursued this merchant. I was lazy. It was my failure." - George C

"I had been in the industry for six months (over seven years ago now), and the plant nursery that we actually used for some of our landscaping and that I live almost right across the street from was not set up [with credit card processing]. I did talk with them, but because it was a neighbor, I gave them a 'soft sell.' "Needless to say, I didn't close the deal.

"I didn't really even think about it much until one day, after a long hard day of pounding the pavement, I returned home only to be greeted by a large metal MasterCard/Visa sign.

"I couldn't believe it. It was a pivotal point in my career. I realized that there was actually a bankcard rep that could present and/or close better than me.

"From that day forward, I decided to hone my skills, study my craft and become stronger, brighter and all around better.

"I found out it was much better to bring the merchant to a decision on the spot. If not, while they're "thinking it over" some other agent could walk in and close the deal!" - SalesAMS

I'm sure there are many more similar stories from your experiences as merchant level salespeople (MLSs) out on the street.

Just think of all of the phenomenal opportunities we miss out on because we're sleeping at the wheel. For all of you snoozing, this is your wake up call.

Consider the advice that I and other industry experts have given you this past year in "Street Smarts." We've talked about using the contract as a foundation, choosing the right compensation plan, generating leads, reaping the benefits of value-added services, effectively selecting partners and getting involved in the industry, to name a few.

Have you pulled your contract out of the drawer and sent it to your attorney for review? Have you set aside at least one hour a day for generating leads? Have you researched a new product and added it to your sales toolbox? Have you re-examined your vendor and ISO partners? Have you attended a regional association or Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) event this year?

If the answer to any of these questions is "no," then get up out of your chair and take some action!

For those of you who are wide awake, you probably already enjoy the success of that action. Congratulations. For those of you who are dozing, it's time to dig deeper.

Start with an online review of past "Street Smarts" columns at . Then, talk to the electrician or plumber who comes to take care of your next home repair. Walk into that store that you drive by every week and sell your services.

Chat with the cabbie you meet during your next taxi ride.

Remember my closing technique from Alec Baldwin's scene in the movie "Glengarry Glen Ross": Always Be Closing? Well, in this lesson, it's Always Be Selling!

How do you sell effectively? Ask a lot of questions. Get started by asking everyone you come in contact with (who accepts credit cards) the following simple question: "Who do you use for your credit card processing service?"

If you prefer, simply walk over to the POS terminal and check out the stickers on it. Walk away with the information, and call the owner back later.

We are all consumers. We visit doctor, dentist and chiropractor offices, auto dealerships, auto repair shops, beauty and nail salons and restaurants, and all types of other retail stores.

Take a look at your credit card bills. You'll see how many different places you spend money. It's a great hit list. The pitch is an easy conversation to start since you're face to face with the owner/manager at the time you're spending money.

If you want to contact them by phone, start the conversation by saying, "I was just in your place of business last week and confirmed with (XYZ person) that you process with [insert bankcard provider].

"I want you to know that my company provides that same exact service, and I'd like an opportunity to review your credit card processing statement to determine whether we can save you some money on your credit card processing fees."

Anyone capable of reading this article has the potential to write one more deal every day by following my advice. Let me translate how much money this can mean for you.

Worst-case scenario, you'll only write one additional deal per day. That's about 20 more deals each month. At the end of 12 months, you'll have more than $7,000 in additional, residual commissions. And, if your compensation plan includes at least a $100 upfront bonus, you can earn another $24,000 that year in upfront production bonus payments.

Finally, think about the referral system you can create from the people with whom you already do business. It will be much easier to get referrals from them. You see them all of the time. You're their customer, and there's no better place to get referrals.

Get hungry! Work smarter, not only harder. It's a proven fact that motion creates commission. And remember, opportunities are never lost; someone else will take the ones you miss.

My next column will focus on another hot issue. Watch for my next post on the MLS Forum.

As always, please send your comments on this and any other topic to . Your continued support is much appreciated.

"In order to be walked on, you have to be lying down."
- Brian Weir

See you next time where the rubber meets the road.

Ed Freedman is founder and President/Chief Executive Officer of Total Merchant Services, one of the fastest-growing credit card merchant account acquirers in the nation. Freedman 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 the Web site at . To learn more about partnering with Total Merchant Services, visit or contact Freedman directly at .

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