During a recent conversation with a sales leader from one of the big Merchant Selling organizations, I asked, “So what is the merchant value your people are selling in B2B? There was a bit of a pause, and then they said a little bit sheepishly, “Level II & Level III Data”. I probed a little further asking. “Anything else you guys talk about?” This time there was a much longer pause; I could almost hear the person on the other end of the phone searching for an answer, to which there was none. I know they wanted to give me more, but it was just not there. As an Independent Sales Organization (ISO) does this conversation have a familiar ring to it? Is this what you are leading with on your B2B sales calls?
The origins of Level II & III data go way back to 1986 when the first Purchasing Cards were issued in the US. Back then, it was the US Government that was essentially the testbed for Purchasing Cards before it was finally rolled out to non-government merchants in the 1990s. The issuers had a little bit of a problem in that they needed to pass on information that was contained on the purchasing orders (PO’s) they would now electronically be replacing. In order to get a supplier to pass that data, they offered a rate reduction to encourage the process. In theory, it worked really well. In practicality, it was not always a home run. In some cases, businesses had the data but failed to pass it. In others, they passed it to a processor who failed to pass it on, and in some cases, it worked as designed, but to say it was universal in the benefits it delivered to suppliers would be a stretch. Much has not changed despite the passing of time. Granted technology has assisted in some ways to make up for data that is not entered, but with a percentage of B2B spend on Consumer Cards, Level II & III data is a non-starter for this business volume.
In its simplest form, the more data required for a transaction, the higher the level assigned to that transaction. Level III requires the most data and can provide the largest rate reductions. The three primary factors affecting whether a transaction qualifies for Level III Interchange rates are if the card itself is eligible for Level III data, if you have provided all the information required, and if your Gateway actually passed all the data that was provided. Those are 3 Big ifs in my mind if you are leading with this as your main driver of merchant value in B2B.
As ISO’s, we are often engrained with the latest buzzwords from our industry. After a while, these words roll off our tongues with little effort, designed to give prospects the belief that we are experts in our field. But are we always sure of the deeper meaning and effect on our prospects? For instance, there are far greater value levers in B2B than Level II & III data rates for your B2B Merchant. The problem is that they are not the typical buzzwords we are always privy to, nor are they the “Easy Button” we sometimes seek to close business quickly.
Instead, the tools we need to close B2B Merchants are not housed in a gateway that will prepopulate a field or add a sequential invoice number to get a rate reduction. The real value is in explaining to a supplier how credit can accelerate cash and deliver surprising operational efficiencies to a B2B supplier, along with a little-known tax benefit. To be sure, in the right circumstances, with the correct information, eligible card, and correct Gateway, there is some additional value that can be realized for a merchant. However, one will be remiss if they rely on this as the foundation for conversation.
Yes, B2B can be a little more complex. Yes, the sales cycle can be a little longer than that of a typical B2C, main street merchant that all your ISO competition and others are calling on too. And yes, you may have to up your technology game a little to play in this space. But the size of the accounts and the transactions they move through for you will more than satisfy your monthly residual cravings.
Educate and train yourself and your staff on the real value you can deliver to a B2B Merchant Supplier. Paint a picture for them of the real pillars of value you can deliver, free from the smoke and mirrors or fancy buzzwords like Level II & III data. Getting outside of your comfort zone may take a little extra training, but when you do, you will find yourself in the $24 Billion opportunity that is B2B.
Roger McNamara Bio:
Roger is a 25+-year veteran of the Payments Industry, most recently as the Director of Business Development with American Express in the US. He has worked on the largest Acquisition targets for acceptance across multiple industries and across the globe that include: Airlines, Communications, Technology, Cruise Lines, Entertainment, Fractional Jet, Freight, Government, Healthcare, Insurance, Oil & Gas, Residential Rent, Restaurants, QSR’s, Retail, Services, Supermarkets, Travel, Vehicle Sales, B2B and Wholesale. Over that time, he has sold more than $300 Billion worth of Card processing and became an expert in Bankcard Interchange and Discount Rates, how they are calculated and what merchants pay to accept Credit, and how this is dramatically different from what they believe they pay. He is an expert in Merchant Statement analysis and payment processing and the rules and regulations associated with payments and associations. Roger has also developed the insight for Merchant Services Salesforces and salesforces, in general, to be able to better position their products and gain share, particularly in B2B. Let him show you how you can too. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.