Trust is a Foundation to Building Sales Partnerships, Selling Cash Discounting to Large Merchants 
By James Shepherd & Patti Murphy
 
A successful merchant sales team is built on a foundation of trust. The merchant, of course, needs to trust that the services provided will reliably meet their needs. Before that can ever happen, however, there must be a strong bond of trust between the provider and its sales agents. This is especially critical when building 1099 sales teams.
 
This week we go in-depth with John Buchanan, VP of Sales at Rev19, on how the Texas-based fintech has been building its network of outside sales partners. And a successful agent, Calvin Francis, explains how he leverages the trust factor to sell cash discounting to larger merchants.
 
Familiarity, Trust, Go Hand-in-Hand
“There’s a certain degree of trust, a leap of faith if you will, that you’re taking in this business whenever you partner up with somebody,” said John. “But honestly, it really just comes down to the fact that I trust that our agents know what’s best for their merchants more than I do.” And the agents need to trust that their partner can provide customers with what they need, at the time of the sale and consistently thereafter.
 
“Agents understand the value and the complex nature of the business, and they need a company that can support them” with pricing, applications, equipment, statement analysis, etc. “These are all critical things to helping your independent sales partners go out there and acquire business,” John said.
 
Merchants are looking for partners they can trust, too. “They’re no longer Googling for a sales rep to find the best credit card processing, the lowest rates. They want somebody who an essentially partner with them, who can make their business run as efficiently as possible,” John said. Not someone who is going to disappear once the merchant signs a contract.
 
“Merchants need somebody that’s there for them every step of the way; someone they know is just a phone call away. Somebody who is checking in with them every couple of months. Someone who is a familiar face. You need to bring that level of expertise and that value every single time,” John said.
 
Agents also want to be well compensated, and they want assurances that their merchants won’t be blindsided, such as with rate increases or new fees. 
 
Easier for Agents to Sell ISV Products than Vice-Versa
Many ISVs fall short of success in merchant services because the lack the breadth of experience. A fintech, or a large ISO, has the advantage of being payments experts.  
 
“It’s that level of expertise that ISOs bring to supporting their independent sales reps and those reps under them that ISVs lack,” said John. “I think it’s easier for an independent agent ISO support model and sales model to adapt to selling ISV products than it is for an ISV to adapt to supporting an independent agent ISO sales and support model.”
 
Building Blocks of Partner Network
John believes outside sales partnerships are more important now than ever before. “It’s definitely where I see the growth going,” he said. That’s the way Rev19 has been building out its partner sales force. 
 
But John cautioned that building and sustaining these partnerships can be a tall order. It takes substantial investments in technology, recruiting, training and support staff. And good agents can be a demanding lot. “None of this is easy, or else everyone would be doing it,” John said. 
 
Backend support is especially crucial. “Although that sounds really simple and obvious, it’s really difficult to build,” John said. “It’s really important to have highly experienced support staff, which itself is very difficult to find. Good quality people are hard to find no matter what industry you’re talking about. But to find them in our particular business is especially tough.”
 
The best way to keep agents from bailing is to provide everything they need to support their merchants. “If you can provide the right solution for your agents to go out there and sell, then it’s no longer a commodity,” John said. 
 
Also, the provider must be nimble. “You want to be ahead of any trends that are happening, but if you’re not, you had better be able to adapt to them when they happen.”
 
Finding Partners: Networking, Referrals, Recruiting Sites
A big part of finding the right partners is referrals. For example, vendors who work with merchants in the verticals your targeting, trade associations, merchant services trade shows, even friends and relatives. “If you’re doing things right, the referrals tend to come it.
 
“If you’re a salesperson chances re you relate to other sales people, maybe even outside our business,” John said. “You want to target those folks as well. Be active on your social pages, on your Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Tell everybody what you’re about and what you’re doing and at some point you’ll gain their interest.”
 
You can also pay to find capable sales folks, such as using Sales Navigator and recruiter websites. “You can target specific prospects based on who they’re working for now,” John explained. “For a very low investment you can get thousands of leads from job boards.
 
Once candidates are selected, there needs to be a vetting process. The best candidates will have these qualities:
·         Proven sales experience
·         Experience in the target industry
·         Self motivation – someone who knows how to drive their own leads and sales
·         Ethical Standards – responsible for their own behavior and activities
 
Then once they’re on board, keep tabs on how they’re doing, using various metrics, such as how many sales they submit on a monthly basis, and over longer periods of time. Keep open channels of communications, too. When they’re doing well, congratulate them; when they’re doing poorly talk with they to find out what’s going on and how you can help, John counseled.
 
Selling in Time of COVID
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic impact, most companies are seeing significant declines in sale. It’s important to have a strategy for supporting agents and merchants through this difficult time.
 
“It really comes down to supporting your existing merchants, because you obviously want to keep the revenue stream intact once things start cranking again,” said John. “You also have to keep agents motivated to go out there and close more deals through this as well.” For example, Rev19 has a promotion under way, with cash prizes for agents who meet sales goals.
 
Rev19 also is encouraging agents to reach out to customers with new offerings, such as online ordering for restaurants, social media advertising and cash discounting. “Go back to your existing base and offer cash discount. It’s going to help ease the financial burden on merchants,” John said. 
 
Cash Discounting for Larger Merchants: ID Pain Points, Sell on Value
Cash discounting is one trend that every merchant sales organization needs to stay on top of, John and Calvin agreed.
 
Calvin has built a successful book of business selling cash discounting to large merchants – a market that many agents selling cash discounting seem to shy away from. Larger merchants are definitely open to cash discounting, Calvin said, adding that when he explains the value proposition the service tends to sell itself. He related the story of one merchant who was paying $7,000 a month in processing fees; moving to cash discounting saved them $84,000 a year.
 
“I actually have more fun speaking with larger merchants because they’re business folks. They understand the bottom line,” Calvin said.
 
The trick to selling cash discounting to these merchants, of course, is getting to the decisionmaker. Calvin accomplishes this through extensive networking. Then it’s a matter of listening, which foments a sense of trust and leads to the service selling itself. 
 
“The first thing I do is listen to the pain point they have,” Calvin explained. Those pain point generally involve P&L statements, lack of inventory and/or the need to add staff. This foments a sense of trust. “I don’t use a script. I just listen,” he said. Then once they agree to try cash discounting as a way of addressing these pain points, it’s important to educate them and their staffs.
 
Pricing is not an issue, Calvin added, because he positions it as a value play. “I generally keep it at 4%.” But he also puts some of his own skin in the game, whether its donating to a charity the merchant is invested in, or a revenue share. “Merchants love the transparency. I’ve never had any type of objection – like can we lower it? – even with certain merchants, like those in the restaurant space,” Calvin added.