Merchants' technology expectations are constantly rising and to meet those standards, independent sales organizations and merchant acquirers should expect more out of their technology vendor partners.

ISOs need to work with vendors whose technology that puts merchants first. They should lead with technology that differentiates them and moves beyond the threadbare, "We are better for the same thing," or "Our rates are the lowest.”

It’s also important for an ISO to differentiate itself by having the right software to show prospects. An ISO that decides to set itself apart based on the value of the technology it offers can develop a highly effective approach to sales. However, that requires the ISO to present and translate the technology quickly and show how it benefits merchants. Be prepared to demonstrate and address the most common questions, those that revolve around cost, deployment and reporting.

ISOs must ensure that the software they offer has a quick and easy method to get merchants signed up and on-boarded. Online registration, submission and approval of new account activation is the new expectation and ISOs and vendors that still rely on submitting paperwork to get merchants up-and-running are falling behind technologically. It’s difficult for an ISO or acquirer to look like a technology leader if they expect merchants to dust off their fax machine to submit paperwork.

Other key functions include software that’s supported by sales automation, like interactive sales tickets to set up live demonstrations and expert collaboration to close business at a higher rate. If salespeople are on their own — with no expert support system that’s easy to access and use — then close rates will suffer. The sales force puts a lot of energy into developing merchant prospects, so the ISO should assure that the entire sales process enhances that effort. Find a source for merchant set-ups so quick and easy that they spawn testimonials.

The sales process should drive referrals because an ISO puts the merchant first and provides improved technology. But what qualifies as “improved?” For starters, built-in cost savings that don’t evaporate and payment acceptance methods that help the merchant streamline the process. ISOs and acquirers should work with vendors that develop and own the underlying software in their technology. This can make ISOs more competitive because the closer to the source of the transaction, the less diluted the revenue potential. In addition, a provider that developed the software can respond quickly to suggestions from ISOs and merchants.

Another path to differentiation resides in the nuances of fees and pricing. While basic card processing fees are tough to improve, many of the most desired merchants have an interest in riding additional payment rails, such as Automated Clearing House in the form of e-checks. If an ISO offers a product that streamlines the payments process for credit cards and ACH, agents should share some math that grabs attention and generates interest.

For example, ACH payments are normally offered as a flat-fee per transaction. When a salesperson compares those fees to the credit card basis-points model, it's easy to demonstrate the savings relative to the percentage of ACH payments that a merchant can expect to receive (20% is generally a reasonable estimate).

Technology should enable ISOs and acquirers to quickly move to new prospects with the confidence that new merchants will have a first-class experience.

As the payments world changes, merchants are raising the bar for what they want to accomplish through technology Likewise, the expectations that ISOs and acquirers have for their vendor partners should be higher so they can ensure that automation helps processes run smoothly and merchants aren’t left asking questions or seeking better service.

Richard McShirley is a board director and the chief marketing officer of ACH technology provider Transmodus.