Establishing credibility with merchants presents a major challenge for independent sales organizations, experts say.
Credibility requires complete honesty, which often includes a clear admission that an ISO may not offer the lowest price. It also takes a sincere dialogue that shows how an ISO can help a merchant increase profits.
To accomplish the latter, ISOs should specialize in selling to narrow categories of merchants – such as medical-services providers. ISOs also can specialize in certain types of value-added services, such as accepting payments at a restaurant table.
That’s consultative selling, says Jeff Connors, chairman and CEO of Intrix Technologies, an ISO and technology company based in Roseville, Calif.
“Consultative sales is not advertising your products. It’s not marketing to flaunt your differentiation,” Connors says. “Consultative selling takes time.”
Consultative selling often works best with sales agents who take a longer, broader view of the business.
Where does an ISO find such salespeople? Secure Payment Systems, an ISO in San Diego, found some almost by accident.
The company uses a job posting service and began picking up agents with insurance and real estate backgrounds—salespeople from outside the payments industry.
“They are not jaded from the industry,” says Steve Eazell, vice president of sales and marketing at Secure Payment Systems. “These salespeople understand the concept of residual income.”
As a result, they don’t focus on price in pitching prospective clients. “They focus on the value proposition much better,” Eazell says.
“We still recruit sales agents from the industry,” he notes, “but we have a multi-pronged approach. We try a lot of different sources.”
To encourage all agents to act as consultants in bringing in new merchants, Secure Payment Systems has changed the way it treats contract salespeople so that they look and feel more like employees. They receive draws on their sales commissions and get insurance benefits formerly offered only to full-time staff.