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This article appears in the August 27, 2009, issue of ISO&Agent Weekly.

Agents need proper training to sell well in the payments industry, but some ISOs forego sales-skills training and focus instead on emphasizing products. Regardless of the training format an ISO uses–whether it is Web-based technology, in-person workshops or another training method–every company should ensure their agents are equipped with basic sales skills, observers gen erally agree.

Some ISOs "want production [from agents], but they don't want to put in the training work," says Jae Haas, executive vice president of TransNational Bancard LLC, a Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based transaction processor and ISO. "It's a Catch 22. How will you take a naïve person and expect them to sell deals properly if they haven't trained?"

Some ISOs that undertrain agents may want to avoid the costs associated with training, while others avoid training for fear agents will take what they learn and move on to work for a competing company.

What such ISOs forget, however, is "the only thing worse than losing a salesperson is keeping one that is not trained," says Haas.

Basic Skills Necessary
Much sales-agent training emphasizes products but lacks in basic sales skills, contends Marc Beauchamp, CEO of Bankcard Boot Camp, a Houston-based agent-training company. "Where I see a gap today is on some of the intangible skills or softer skills, such as teaching them to communicate, to develop a sales strategy," Beauchamp says.

For new sales agents, "lack of knowledge often times turns into fear or doubt, and fear creates call reluctance," Beauchamp says. "Many times they just don't have the confidence to make the sales call if they don't obtain training on at least the basics."

Without a training emphasis on sales basics and strategy, newer agents may find it difficult to compete effectively with sales veterans. "Some employers don't want someone without a base level of training," notes Rori Ferensic, director of education and professional development for the Electronic Transactions Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group. "Employers do want people to obtain" base sales and industry knowledge, she says.

Competitive Fears
Part of the reason for meager training programs is concern from ISOs that agents they train well will leave to work for competing companies, note observers.

"There is a ton of concern among ISOs of training agents and having them leave," says Henry Helgeson, president and co-CEO of Merchant Warehouse Inc., a Boston-based ISO. Merchant Warehouse strives to give agents fair compensation to keep them happy and working with the ISO, he says.

"It's better to invest in a person and you treat them fairly so they want to stay," agrees Haas. It is inevitable, however, that some agents will choose to leave, he notes.

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