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Street SmartsSM:
'We're in it for the long haul'

By Amy B. Garvey

Editor's note: This is the final NAOPP "Street Smarts" article. Look for the next "Street Smarts" contributor in the April 10, 2006 issue of The Green Sheet (06:04:01).

Hello again, and perhaps for the final time. On behalf of all NAOPP board members, we've enjoyed sharing our personal experiences in "Street Smarts" over the last year. I hope that as merchant level salespeople (MLSs), you have found the information useful in your quest to acquire more accounts.

We've discussed everything from leasing, free equipment programs and networking to ISO agreements and liability. We chose this material because it incorporated much of what NAOPP is about. NAOPP's board members and membership strive to have a positive relationship with our clients; essentially, we're in it for the long haul.

Anyone who's been in this industry for more than a few months knows about sales offices that "turn and burn" sales reps. The offices recruit and hire reps using newspaper ads, which promise riches untold if "you're willing to speak in front of a crowd." At least that is how I was initially lured into the industry. In situations like this, problems arise from a lack of training and connection with the industry in general.

Case in point: I was first hired by a small outfit in Greenville, S.C., which called itself a processor. My training consisted of a single day of riding around with a sales manager to visit leads set by the company.

The following day, per the sales manager's instruction, I was to go to the office, collect my sheets of paper full of leads, and then drive over half the countryside to present merchant agreements and leases to potential buyers. Neither the buyers nor I were supposed to know anything about credit card processing.

When I closed the sales, I was paid on the equipment leases. The merchants received their credit card processing, and I gratefully moved on to the next appointment. With no prior sales experience, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew nothing about credit card processing, nothing about POS equipment or its cost, and nothing about my merchants (especially about being a small business owner).

Nevertheless, I succeeded. I was impressed by the income I was able to generate by simply walking into these businesses, telling them what they would pay monthly and where to sign.

Like many other MLSs just starting out, I did this for a month or two until it hit me: Money this easy to make would surely equate to more if I were to go out on my own. How many times had I used the lead sheets that I was provided, only to pass by multitudes of merchants proudly displaying their Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard International logos on their doors or windows? Why couldn't I stop in on these merchants and convince them to buy their new POS equipment from me?

I had no idea, however, that once I began speaking to merchants about contracts, I would put off so many people. I quickly realized that most merchants (at least those who had been in business for any length of time) knew far more about processing, rates, industry standards and the card Associations' "rules and regs" than I had even begun to imagine.

Heck, I didn't even know that the rules and regs existed. But thanks to the Internet and The Green Sheet, which I admittedly stole off my former employer's desk (who knew that virtually anyone could subscribe and for free?), I quickly became educated.

Without either of those tools, I imagine that we as MLSs may never have known anything at all about the fabulous potential in this industry.

What's sad is that my experience with that particular processor is the norm, rather than the exception. I trust that the other NAOPP board members agree with what I am saying, as I truly believe that we share a common vision: Integrity and respect can and will ultimately exist within an industry that has historically been fraught with, if not fraud, then at least blatant misinformation.

Although we are in a service industry, most MLSs would not advocate putting themselves in a position to run POS terminal paper out to a merchant on a holiday evening. By attending a few trade shows, you will quickly learn that the really successful do not put themselves on the line like that, at least not that often.

(That is not to say that you can't become successful by running interference for all your merchants. But do it for a period of time while trying to grow your business and you will quickly learn that there are simply not enough hours in a day.)

What sets the strikingly successful few apart are those who find a balance between servicing their merchants well and growing their portfolio. It does not mean that each of us can't become the next Jared Isaacman (founder and Chief Executive Officer of the ISO United Bank Card Inc.). But don't think that he and others like him didn't put in their time.

Isaacman studied how the industry operated, and he learned how to put that knowledge into action. He knows what it takes to succeed. The few MLSs who eventually become ISOs know that achieving success requires education, so they educate themselves and their reps. But they also understand that no amount of reading or research will compensate for a lack of time spent pounding the pavement.

Do they do everything right all the time? Of course not. If you work in customer service for any length of time, you will make some people angry. (As the saying goes, you can please some people some of the time, but you can't please all the people all the time.) The difference is in an underlying ethic. If you take care of those with whom you work and their merchants, your business will prosper.

This is the philosophy that NAOPP strives to espouse. Over the last year, we've accomplished much. Our achievements may not yet be apparent to the industry, but we have really worked to put into focus what our founding members envisioned.

For example, we've formalized our nonprofit status, undergone a tax audit, fixed an operating budget and revamped NAOPP's Web site. We also now send out regular e-mail blasts and newsletters that do not compromise our membership database.

We've prioritized our objectives, one of which was to ensure that members understand their importance to NAOPP, so we now deliver a tangible benefit in the form of a welcome kit.

NAOPP's board welcomes both your criticism and support. MLSs who are truly involved in the industry realize the need for a group of individuals who are willing to stand out. It's scary to be part of this group, and in terms of liability, it's risky.

But we on the NAOPP board comprehend the importance of such a force. We appreciate the publications and trade shows that are at our disposal, and we want to get them into the hands and minds of more amazing salespeople. We are currently focused on education; without education, no true ethics code will ever exist.

We want this industry to grow, but in a positive way. Credit card processing has become a necessary and growth-oriented aspect for most merchants.

Value-added services are just beginning to capitalize on the market, and MLSs are slowly realizing their potential in this seemingly never-ending marketplace.

NAOPP thanks The Green Sheet for providing an avenue to let our voice be heard. We want to speak for MLSs, and to do that, we need the entire industry's support. Thank you for your input, faithful readers, and please ... keep it up.

Amy B. Garvey is NAOPP Secretary. She works in the Upstate of South Carolina as a sales agent for New York-based Business Payment Systems. Call her at 864-901-8722 or e-mail her at .

Article published in issue number 060302

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