Never too Independent to Learn

The walk down the hallway led to a door, opening into a massive warehouse-like facility. There standing were these machines, upon what seemed like hydraulic stilts. I crossed the steel bridge to enter the belly of the beast that would be my home for the next 2 days. I had prepared with Ground school training so as to make friends with my new foe, would I be able to master what I had learned, would I be able to fly the Airbus A320. Well, not actually the real plane but a very expensive, Level D flight simulator at the Jet Blue University in Orlando Florida. I was here to see if I could learn to fly an airplane millions of passengers before me had flown in. I would be trained by the best, Captain Wayne Phillips, a seasoned professional who had a great way of making the complicated sound easy.

As I waited for my session, parades of other pilots entered the facility to receive their training too. It comes in many varieties. There are those there to switch aircraft or those that are new to the airline, but the vast majority are coming back for recurrency training. This is where they re-learn and are put through their pace every 12 months to make sure they still have what it takes. Each pilot receives that training from a professional instructor, where the pilot must pass before they can return to work. All of this got me thinking……..

Our Profession of Sales is quite different. And in the world of the Independent Sales Agent, it is as far from the Airline Pilot world as you can get. Imagine if an Airline took the belief that once you got your pilot's license, you were good to go. “Mr. Pilot, you are good to go, you learned to fly 20 years ago, just keep doing what you are doing.” Independent Sales Organizations have to address the reality of learning. It should never stop, because when it does you stop growing. By nature, the Independent Sales Agents are used to calling their own shots, doing it their way. That has worked very well for the longest time and particularly in the Business to Consumer space. Here there was an abundance of opportunity to keep the average ISO selling. Even with the “Race to Zero”, if you had enough activity you could make up for shrinking margins by signing a few more accounts to your book.

Then, unfortunately, the plague of our generation arrived, Covid-19. The ships, that had been up to that point sailing smoothly began to take on water. Businesses closed, leases lapsed, transaction counts fell, and residuals plummeted. The abundant opportunity ground to a halt, the game had shifted. The new challenge is Business 2 Business, (B2B). Unlike B2C, B2B Has been less affected from a payment’s perspective. By some accounts, it is a $10 Trillion opportunity, with only 8% of B2B Payments currently on plastic. That in itself represents an amazing opportunity for the ISO Community. Driving to capture this market is a whole host of “FinTech” companies, who essentially are positioning themselves as the new “Terminal Providers” with software to digitize the B2B payments at companies.

With as many as 30.2 million small businesses in the US, the opportunity to sell in this space has never been greater. Yet it comes with some perils. Selling into this B2B space with the same tried and trusted techniques of the B2C world will certainly meet with failure and wasted effort. Why? Because Credit payments are considered the costliest of all payment types like ACH, Check & Wire. Saving a B2B a penny or 2 when they already think 2.5% to 3% is too much, will lead to credit being suppressed as a form of payment and capping out your account. Price is not a value lever and if you are relying on Level III to save the day, think again.

B2B requires a different approach, which in turn requires the ISO to take a drastically different path. It requires the ISO to do something his friend the pilot has known for a long time. Training is the shortest path to success. It may be a hard pill to swallow for many ISO’s, you are a fiercely independent group. The key will be to avoid insanity, you know, doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting a different result. There are alternatives that can bring you in for a smooth landing because just like the pilot nobody wants to crash and burn.

Roger McNamara Bio:

Roger McNamara, President, Guide2Interchange LLC 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 sold more than $200 Billion worth of Card processing and now leads a B2B Merchant Sales Training organization. (561) 379-3151

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