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AgenTalkSM: Robert McBeath
The mindset makes the agent

Robert McBeath joined the payments industry over a decade ago because earning high income in a rapidly growing market appealed to his entrepreneurial spirit. As a business owner, he enjoys the flexibility and freedom of heading a small, merchant level salesperson (MLS) office while working with major ISOs.

In this interview he discussed why an MLS should look beyond the compensation package when selecting an ISO partner, when to pass on pursuing a merchant's business and the possibility of the card Associations someday bypassing the ISO/merchant service provider (MSP) system.

The Green Sheet: What do you like best about your career, and what's been most challenging?

Robert McBeath: I thoroughly enjoy the interaction with the merchants and helping them find effective business solutions. I take great pride in providing the very best and highest level of service possible. I also find it very frustrating when a vendor I'm representing doesn't show the same level of commitment to the customers as I have.

GS: What has kept you in the industry?

RM: I like to joke that after 10 years in the industry, I'm not qualified to do anything else. The reality is that I am very comfortable. It's taken many years and hard work, as well as mistakes and expense, to get to this point. I'm now reaping the rewards of those lessons learned.

GS: How has the industry changed since you started?

RM: When I started ... , the biggest sales challenge was getting the mom-and-pop shops to understand that accepting credit cards would increase their business and that their customers would use credit cards if given the opportunity. Now nearly every business understands it's a must to accept credit cards.

Leasing equipment used to be a huge profit center, with very little from residuals. Now, equipment sales make up a minimal amount of my revenue, but the major ISOs have done a great job of replacing that with fair residual compensation. Also, it seems as though there wasn't quite as much competition when I started, with local banks being the biggest competitors. I believe widespread use of the Internet has had a huge influence.

At times it's been difficult to adjust to the market changes, but I've been very fortunate to have great relationships in the industry that have made this easier. Overall, I think there is greater opportunity for the established representatives than there ever has been.

GS: What's been your greatest success as an agent?

RM: I consider it a success to have survived in this industry for so long when I've seen so many agents come and go. I consider it a blessing and a success to have made it through the first six months, especially.

GS: What types of merchants do you prefer to work with?

RM: I think everyone likes to work with people that they have something in common with. I work with people that I like and make friends with. ... I reserve the right to work with whomever I wish and can walk away from any sale if I don't feel comfortable. Most of my customers are local, mom-and-pop type shops.

GS: What's the funniest sales experience you've ever had?

RM: Years ago I had a subagent who would always come to my office after being in the field. He would tell me about how much he was loved by different merchants he'd seen that day and how they were definitely going to be doing business with him.

Meanwhile, I knew many of these merchants, and I kept getting calls from them saying to never let that man come to their store again. I had to end his contract before he got restraining orders.

GS: What's the strangest thing a merchant has asked or requested of you?

RM: I once had a merchant who wanted to date me because her psychic had told her the love of her life was a tall professional guy, of my age. She thought I fit the bill. I didn't get the business.

GS: Merchants are savvier now about credit card processing. How does this affect MLSs?

RM: I'm not sure that all merchants are savvier. I still do a fair amount of educating ... I think the MLS who takes the time to make sure the merchant understands the full terms of the agreement will do much better in the long run.

GS: What's unique about your sales style/method?

RM: I really don't think it's so unique anymore. I sincerely believe there are many great agents in the industry. Like many, I truly try to help out the customer first and believe that the sale and revenue that I make are secondary. I've had great success with that mindset.

GS: Do you have a surefire way to resolve conflict?

RM: Pass the buck. And if that doesn't work, I have a staff of attorneys. All kidding aside, there shouldn't be any conflict if you have the attitude that you are there to help the merchant to the best of your ability. Communication every step of the way is the key.

GS: Do you set goals for yourself? If so, what are your current career goals?

RM: I have detailed goals written to achieve a set monthly residual goal, for the short term and long term. Meeting my final residual goal will give me the freedom to pursue more altruistic goals.

GS: How do you generate leads?

RM: Referrals. I've established a great network through my association with Business Network International and being a volunteer with the local chamber of commerce as well as other professional organizations. Ongoing relationships with current clients also are a great source.

GS: How has The Green Sheet helped you?

RM: When I started in the industry, it was very difficult to get information. This was before the Internet. ... There was limited information passed on by the ISO/MLS organizations to the agent offices and even less information given to the MLS. When I finally discovered The Green Sheet, it was like the curtain had been lifted. I'll never forget meeting Paul Green at The Green Sheet seminar in Chicago, and his words, "Knowledge is power." I honestly don't know if I'd have succeeded on my own without the use of The Green Sheet.

GS: What is your experience with agent training?

RM: When I started in the industry, the company I worked for had a great sales training program that was specifically designed for this industry.

After learning the program, I became the trainer to new agents and continued for years. It would be great if there were an industry-accepted training and certification required for agents.

GS: Do you think there will always be street sales?

RM: I sure hope there will always be a place for the MLS. I like the way the industry is set up at the moment, but I'm doing my best to prepare for the possibility that MLS positions may be phased out. It's no longer necessary to sell merchants on accepting credit cards; it's a foregone conclusion. MLSs have helped establish the stronghold with the merchants for worldwide acceptance of credit cards. Now that that work is done and the merchants no longer need to be sold, I hope Visa and MasterCard don't change the system.

In all reality, though, I wouldn't be surprised if they bypass the ISO/MSP system and create their own Web-based system for merchants to sign up directly with them.

GS: What do you think about free terminal programs?

RM: As an established agent who derives income mainly from residuals, I think they're great. If I were a new agent who needed income from equipment sales to survive until I had an established portfolio, they wouldn't be so good. They definitely keep new competitors out of the field.

GS: How should an MLS go about choosing an ISO partner?

RM: Find a fair compensation program with a partner that you can have a relationship of trust with. It's imperative to find an organization that cares about the individual customers as much as you do.

There are a lot of attractive compensation programs out there, but that's not the most important thing in the long run. You have to look at the fine print and make sure the latest, greatest deal is really what it seems to be. Also, the relationship with your ISO/MSP has to be win/win; the ISO/MSP needs to generate a profit as well.

GS: Any advice for newcomers?

RM: Newcomers? You mean potential competitors? My best advice is to give up now. You're already working too hard. Don't make those extra sales calls. You shouldn't have to do anything uncomfortable to be successful. This industry is too difficult, and you can't make any money. It's the merchants' or your sales organization's fault if you don't make sales.

Sound sarcastic? You bet. Most potentially great MLSs I've seen have failed due to the voice in their heads that told them these things. In reality, if you want to be successful, you have to protect your thoughts and attitude.

Another thing that helps me with the independence associated with this position: I ask myself throughout the day, If I had a boss and he was watching me right now, would he fire me or give me a raise? It keeps me focused on the activities that I know are productive.

Many top-notch agents have inspired others by sharing their perspectives in AgenTalk. Will you be next? If you'd like to participate, please send an e-mail to

Article published in issue number 061001

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