In my 30 years in and around the payments space, I have never witnessed more disruption or opportunity, which is scary, yet exciting at the same time.

There is still a ton of upside, but there’s also as much risk, especially if you don’t select the right partner for your business upfront. In the payments industry, partnerships are core. And, while some may know the space inside and out, others are just beginning to explore what a reseller or integrated payments partnership might look like for their business. For those, I offer the following recommendations when choosing a payments partner.

Support: This is intentionally broad, but we’ll make it more granular. Payments is primarily a service-based business, but it’s also complex. Support is paramount, not only for you and your team as a reseller or referral partner, but also in terms of the merchant customer. When I reflect on support, I go back to a few of the words I mentioned earlier: trust, respect, and communication. To me support is really about the people.

Technology-driven payment options are expanding, putting a premium on finding an innovative payment partner, argues iPayment's O.B. Rawls IV.

From your business development and account management representatives to the customer support teams to the executives, people are key. Are they committed to you and your business success? Did you speak about collaboration, reporting, and joint success? Did you walk through the merchant experience? Is the support in-house? Did you do a site visit to meet their team? Have you asked for references? Are you confident that this group of people will be fair, transparent and progressive partners for your business? These are many of the questions you will need to ask to ensure that you have the right payments partner for your business.

Technology tools: It’s 2017. I would be remiss in writing nearly anything today without some mention of technology. We could put this within support, but I feel that this needs to stand on its own. Tools are key to collaboration and fostering a solid partnership. They add value to the overarching experience, not only for your team members, but also for the merchant customers.

And, in the right environment, they also provide your team with transparency into the entire experience, from residual reporting and payments to merchant service requests and resolutions to advanced portfolio analytics.

As you evaluate payment partners, it’s important that you dig into their existing tools and also gain an understanding of what the company’s continued investment (or road map) is going to be for the future. Whether its auto adjudication to streamline the merchant account application and approval process or a tricked out partner portal, I strongly recommend that you spend the time and get into the weeds with each prospective partner to understand what they have, what they’re building and how those tools will support your team and your merchant customers. And avoid the flash. Focusing on the tools you know you will use to help you manage and build your portfolio.

Products and value-added services: Selling just merchant services isn’t a valid business model today if you want to build a growing portfolio that will retain its value and continue to drive incremental revenues to your bottom line.

Today, agents and ISOs are becoming more like value-added resellers, selling a suite of products and services; ranging from point-of-sale business management solutions to merchant cash advance to gift, loyalty and a lot more.

Today’s approach needs to be consultative, which will be more taxing for your team upfront, but much more valuable in the long term. As you identify and interview potential payments partners, ask about their entire portfolio. What are their current sales for each product? What types of training and sales enablement tools to they provide to help you ramp up quickly and efficiently? Who is supporting/servicing these products? And, of course, how much can you make off of these ancillary services?

As with the technology tools, it’s important to look at the today and what’s coming down the pike. The marketplace today is not a "one and done" — it’s ever evolving, and new solutions will continue to enter our world, so you need a partner who is ahead of that curve rather than reacting.

O.B. Rawls IV

O.B. Rawls IV

O.B. Rawls IV is CEO of iPayment.