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North American Bancard
Success as a Merchant Services Agent is Easier Than Ever
Tuesday, April 14 2020

Being a merchant services agent is never a walk in the park. The experience certainly toughens you up, just as working in any kind of sales will. You have to be extremely persistent, flexible, and innovative. Many new merchant services agents find themselves humbled when they first enter the field and realize the true meaning of “easy money” for themselves. On top of all of the personal challenges, there is also a lot of competition in the industry, and it only increases more and more every day.

To make matters more complex, you have to constantly stay up to date on new technological advances. This can mean a lot of things, since the industry is quite wide. For example, you may have to learn about new software for the back-end that serve the merchant services agent, or about new POS equipment for your merchants. You may even have to stay on top of specific new payment technologies.

These rapid changes are actually an opportunity in disguise, however. You could say that the break-neck speed at which this technology is developing has divided the merchant service field into two camps: There are merchant services agents and ISOs who are jumping head first into emerging software, systems, and tools; and then there are companies that are dragging their feet, trying to pretend that the technology isn't there. You can probably sense who has a distinct long-term advantage here, and who might survive the rapid changes that are just on the horizon.

Back in dinosaur times—around the 1990's or so—sales agents for merchant service companies had to peddle their wares the old-fashioned way, by visiting every merchant in person, selling them the physical equipment to process transactions, and writing everything by hand. Even today, there are agents who take this inefficient approach, even though there is not much value in it now. The only thing that is really important nowadays is the ability to give your merchant a good deal that is customized to accommodate all of his needs—and the the best way to do this is to leverage the power of new technology.

At the heart of the merchant services industry, the most critical kind of technology is new payment systems. Customers demand has driven the need for a diverse array of payment options, including contactless payment. If a merchant services agent can't provide this to his merchant, then he is really selling his client short and making it difficult for the business to adapt into a long-term, future-proof plan.

The goal of a merchant services sales agent should be to find the client a user-friendly and fast POS solution that will serve him for years. No merchant wants to take time away from his business to deal with upgrades and technical problems, and no merchant services agent in his right mind wants to jeopardize his residuals by offering his merchant something that will become instantly outdated.

All of this may seem extremely obvious, but the truth is that the majority of merchant services sales agents out there aren't giving their customers future-proof solutions. They don't offer the latest payment methods, and are relying simply on what has worked in the past. This is increasingly becoming a problem because there is lots of competition from companies that are providing easier and cheaper solutions. Take for example Square, and how it has grown explosively among small business owners. This company, as well as emerging payment processing services such as those of Groupon and Amazon, offer online solutions, are extremely flexible, and are much easier to set up for merchants than traditional options.

More and more merchants are just cutting out the middle man when they choose a cloud-based POS system, such as those that are based on existing tablet hardware. This removes the need for expensive equipment and for lengthy training courses. Most of all, many of these systems offer all-in-one solutions, so that merchants can greatly simplify and integrate both their offline and online sales activities. This is great news for merchants, but it certainly makes it more difficult for sales agents to find a place in the industry.

Not only that, but these modern systems usually originate from companies that were born on the Internet, so they have a huge presence on the web, and a small-time sales agent would have an extremely hard time competing with that. Digital marketing is becoming more and more critical in this day and age.

People now use the Internet more than just about any other resource to find the information they need, and this includes when they are looking to buy a service of some kind. Merchants are no different in this regard, and one of the most efficient ways to find new businesses that need merchant services is to cast ones net on the web and capture leads through search engines, contextual ads, or social media marketing. Companies that sell POS software have grown hugely, and this is largely due to their huge presence on the Internet, which gives them a major upper hand when they are competing against traditional merchant services ISOs.

POS software companies are focused on the future and spend most of their efforts capturing leads that are already interested, which means they expend less effort finding prospects. In addition, they can offer all kinds of payment solutions for merchants. It's really no wonder that the industry is trending in this direction.

The only way for merchant services agents to respond in this brave new world is to adapt. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, either. Yes, merchant services agents will have to stay updated and will have to re-learn their industry constantly, but new advances in technology has also opened the door to a multitude of tools that can be used to make the lives of agents easier.

For example, new software for managing portfolios can make staying organized much more simple and paperless. There are also new and better methods for bundling services available, which makes it much easier to close deals with prospects. More and more POS software with apps and upgradeable features is emerging, and offering these kinds of dynamic solutions can make a sales agent extremely attractive to merchants. It really comes down to how willing an agent is to embrace new technology as it is born.

Even better, new technology is making the application process many times more simple than it ever was. There is no longer a need to make applications by hand, and getting your merchant set up and ready to take payments from his customers can happen in the span of hours instead of days or weeks. Free apps now exist that allow sales agents to track the status of their accounts, get notifications about any issues, and stay in constant communication with their merchant services ISO. All an agent really needs to take advantage of this kind of software is a modern phone or tablet.

Part of this emerging efficiency is a reduced need for merchant services sales agents to interface with merchants in person, of course. However, this kind of interaction will never go out of style completely, and giving merchants in-person attention when they really need it will give agents a competitive edge. Embracing the tech side of things and the human side of things are not mutually exclusive options, after all. In the end, though, a sustainable long-term plan for success in the world of payment processing must include new technology, and businesses who remain inflexible will be doomed to a slow death.

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