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Tricks of the Trade

By Kathy Harper

When speaking with a new agent the other day, it dawned on me how very little he knew about this industry. He had started out, like so many of us, as an agent of an agent. The only training offered to him was the usual "Don't bring back anything under $39.95" that so many of the "turn 'em and churn 'em" offices preach.

This agent had figured out that he was not getting all of the "pie"; he wanted to take the next step, but didn't quite know how. I tried sharing some of my own knowledge with him, but it was still too much information for him to process. He only had more questions. Anyone who has trained agents can relate to this situation.

In the end, I referred him to The Green Sheet, encouraged him to join NAOPP, and provided him with the names of several ISOs that I thought would be willing to take on someone so "green."

A few ISOs offer comprehensive training, the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) offers ETA University and The Green Sheet in both print and online, as well as GS Online's MLS Forum, provides extensive information. I began to think about all the other tricks of the trade that many merchant level salespeople (MLSs) have had to learn through trial and error or through the kindness of other agents. I posted the following question on the MLS Forum:

What are some "tricks of the trade" that you wish you had known when you started out in this industry? We're not looking for any secrets that you wouldn't want to share with your competition, just some of the basics that help you make more money or keep more money in your pocket.

Following are some of the replies:

"Don't start in this industry just because you think you can 'sell.' For your own sake and ultimately for your merchants, start by figuring out interchange and all the intricacies." - Osha Piuma

"There are no tricks, just hard work. The knowledge is there for the reading on The Green Sheet. The only thing I wish I had starting out was a mentor. Seek out people who are smarter and more experienced than you and learn from them." - John McKee

"The number one most important thing for a new MLS to know is that their residuals are only as good as their contract and the company that's paying them. Just about everyone in this business that started as an MLS has had a bad relationship with an ISO/MSP/acquirer. You can't be successful ... unless you have a good acquiring relationship. ... And that acquirer should provide the necessary tools and resources for the MLS to succeed." - djniglio

"When I contact a prospect I try to take some time to explain to them ... how credit card processing works, what their responsibilities are, tools that we provide them such as help desk, 24 x 7 support, etc. and how that benefits them. I explain when and how fees are charged and when they receive their funds. Usually if they are half-way listening, they are happy that you have taught them something for free and are grateful to you.

"This is the beginning of trust, which immediately precedes a close. ... Remember that you aren't selling T-shirts or MP3 players. You are offering professional solutions to a business person who needs the services that you say that you can provide in order for their business to function and thrive. ... Empathy goes a long way in this field." - cashorcredit

"For me, it was a matter of finding out the best companies to work with (ISOs, processors, gateways, equipment providers, leasing companies, etc.) Although word of mouth is undoubtedly the best resource, it would have been nice to have some sort of guide that summarizes the different ins and outs of the various service providers." - chrdusa

"We all start with zero knowledge in this industry. If the tricks were readily available, it wouldn't be as rewarding when you finally gain a few 'tricks of the trade!'" - Desdinova

As you can see, there is a lot of experience and knowledge in this industry, and much of it is shared on the MLS Forum. Now, here are some of my tricks of the trade:


A basic way to keep more of the profits from equipment sales or leases is to obtain your own relationship with vendors (e.g., equipment vendors and leasing agents). Talk to your ISO or processor to find out if they have negotiated good prices on equipment through any particular vendor. Check out other vendors to see if they can beat that price. Even if you only save $25 per piece of equipment, if you place only four pieces per month, that's a savings of $1,200 per year.

Most new agents don't realize that they can negotiate with vendors. From leasing, to equipment, to check services and ISOs, you can always ask for a better deal. You may think that as one person you won't be able to get a better deal, but this is not always the case.

Before you get too entrenched in this industry, take some time to check out companies that offer products and services related to processing such as gift cards, prepaid, check verification and guarantee, check recovery, ATMs, cash advance and recurring billing.

Once you have signed with an ISO that already has a relationship in place with these companies, you cannot go around the ISO to work directly with the company, so make sure that you are getting the best deal for your company beforehand.


I recommend that you only purchase factory refurbished equipment or brand new products. I have had many problems with equipment that was "rebuilt" in the back room, so to speak. Not all vendors are alike; check with other agents and search the MLS Forum for recommended vendors before you buy.

Another tip: Find a good product and stick with it. The advantages of this are that when merchants call because their terminals aren't working, and you told them you would provide a temporary replacement if needed, you don't have to keep three or four different terminals in stock to fit the needs of your different merchants.


When working directly with a leasing company, keep in mind that getting the lowest "score" for "A" credit is not always the most important thing to negotiate. Not all leasing companies score credit in the same way, so an "A" score for one company could be a "B" score for another.

Since your commission is based on the lease factor rate, this can dramatically affect the amount of money you earn.

Most leasing companies require that you submit a good mix of credit every month. This means that they only allow you have to have so many "D" clients in one month. You have to maintain more "A" and "B" clients through the month than "C" or "D" clients or they will not approve that lease for you until the next month.

For this reason, if you are writing less than four deals per month, you might be better off sticking with a processor that offers a flat lease rate and submits all its ISO office deals through the same lease company. The entire office sending in deals lowers your chances of a lease being turned down.


Depending on your processor, you might benefit from the Discover Referral Acquisition Program (RAP). This program usually pays more of a bonus up front than other programs; however, you don't receive residuals from Discover on the back end.

Other benefits: You can order free supplies for your merchants (no purchase necessary), which means you don't have to depend on your processor to supply them. Have you ever wondered where some merchants get those big metal signs? Find out on .

In addition to using Discover's RAP, many agents have found that seeking out the Discover agent in their region is a great way to produce new leads. You refer new clients to the Discover rep and in return, he or she provides you with leads on new and existing businesses.

I hope that you have found this information helpful for your business. Good luck in discovering your own tricks of the trade.

Kathy Harper of Griffin, Ga. is an MLS and President of NAOPP. E-mail her at or call her at 770-843-3399.

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