MOUNT SNOW, Vt. -- After a frustrating year of knocking on doors, Sandra Young still couldn't persuade merchants to sign up for transaction services.
Then, in her time of despair, she had what she calls an "aha moment." She decided to dedicate herself to a chore not many independent sales organizations or sales agent relish – convincing gas station owners and managers to accept card payments at the pump.
"This is my new task," she vowed nearly a decade ago.
With that vision and lots of persistence, Young began making daily visits to a certain gas station until the manager finally handed her off to the owner. Then, she called on the owner until he finally relented and signed a contract.
And that was just the beginning. Today, as owner of Boston-based Petroleum Processing Solutions, Young's helping other acquirers sign up gas stations. It's a tale she shared at the recent Northeast Acquirers Association annual conference.
The way she sees it, the bad news is gas stations are a complicated sale that requires a long sales cycle and technical expertise.
However, that's also the good news because it eliminates competitors. The complicated sales process discourages most agents from trying, the long sales cycle convinces the few who try it to give up before they succeed and the technical expertise that's required narrows the field of competition even more.
Once an agent lands a gas station as a merchant account, the station's really unlikely to change processors because so few agents have what it takes to poach in the segment, Young says.
With the high price of gasoline, the transaction volume's healthy, and it stays big even in economic downtimes because most consumers have to buy gasoline to drive to work, she notes.
To face down the technical challenges of the sale, Young looks to none other than Albert Einstein, citing a quotation from the master of time and space.
"I don't need to know everything, I just need to know where to find it, when I need it," Einstein once said.
ISOs and agents should concentrate on what Young calls "unbranded independent stations." Big names, such as Shell, Mobile and Citgo, aren't listening to small players.
"Don't waste your time," she warns.
Still, the small stations make a good addition to any merchant portfolio, Young maintains.
To get that business, ISOs and agents should learn the language of the petroleum industry, know the technicalities well enough to present themselves as petroleum specialists, exercise persistence and earn success, she says.