Wednesday, January 27 2021
Do you know if you really own your credit card processing residuals? The best way to find out is to ask your credit card processor if they want to buy you out—that is, purchase some of your future income steams. If you need fast cash, this is a great way to go. Let's look at some of the details:
For example, what if you closed twenty deals in October, and each of those yielded $50 in profit. If you have a 50% split, then your residuals would be $25 for each account per month. This makes for about $500 dollars a month total in residuals, which is $6,000 dollars per year. Not bad, right? Especially considering that your portfolio will only increase from there.
Just like any other asset, you can sell your merchant portfolio, though. If you need cash upfront, you can sell the right to this long-term passive income to your processor. How much would they pay? Well, typically, they will pay the same as about 15 months of your residuals, which in this case is $7,500. And then they would pay you another $4,500 throughout the year ($500 x 9), depending on the retention of your accounts. That's a pretty handsome amount for closing just 20 accounts.
There are some rules to consider when you're doing a buyout, though, so let's take a look at some individual guidelines:
1.) First, the residuals need to be from a merchant account that has been activated for awhile—at least a month, but more often around three months. Why? Consider this: your processor will decide what to pay you based on the average income generated over the past three months. You don't want one or two of those months to be a 0.
2.) Selling your residuals shouldn't affect your upfront payment for closing the deal.
3.) You're more likely to get that second payment if less accounts cancel, so sometimes it's better to sell more accounts to your processor to increase your chances. Another thing you can do is to get a buyout that is 100% upfront, though usually this isn't as lucrative in the long run.
Do you feel like you're a bit more familiar with buyouts now? The above guidelines are good things to keep in mind, but how do you know when a buyout would be helpful?
1.) To break your fall when you're first getting started. Running a business can be a difficult challenge and sometimes this requires putting money upfront. It might be fine to work off savings and initial capital for a few months, but eventually you're going to have to start earning income from your business to be able to avoid running out of money. If expansion is happening slower that you thought and you need some money to put into savings or to invest in your business when you're brand new to the industry, a buyout may just help you find the liquid cash that you need without having to go into debt.
2) When you need stability. You might be tempted to go with a buyout as a way to pay for the cost of growing—for example, getting a fancy advertising campaign going, or moving to a bigger office—but don't do it. Selling your residuals is not a long-term strategy, so it should not be used to meet long-term goals like growth. You may have more money upfront, but it will obviously lower the amount of your monthly residuals. It is not worth it; the point of this business it to build your monthly income over time. Only perform a buyout when you really need liquid cash upfront to put out a fire and return your business to the status quo—not to add more complexities and growth.
When shouldn't you sell your merchant residuals? Well, there are a few situations where it's not recommended:
Monday, January 11 2021
In this industry, you will often hear the words “merchant services agents,” “Member Service Providers,” and “Independent Sales Organizations” used in a similar context, as if all three of these things are the same. The truth is that these terms actually refer to distinct roles in the credit card processing business. If this seems confusing to you, don't worry; all of these terms will be explained in this article, as well as their relationships to the credit card associations. We will also go over how you might go about becoming a merchant services ISO or an MSP.
After we've sorted all of that out, we'll go over what the advantages and disadvantages are of working in the industry as each of these roles. Getting an idea ahead of time of what each of these entails will hopefully save you from making a lot of mistakes early on in your business ventures.
What Every Term Means - First of all, let's get everything perfectly clear by defining the terms that we've mentioned so far:
ISO (Independent Sales Organization) – This is basically the credit card processor, the company that serves as the middle man between the credit card companies and the merchant. It will often provide terminals to the merchants, as well as tech support, training, and customer service. Another common term for this is “merchant service company.”
MSP (Member Service Provider) – ISO is a term often used by Visa, and so MSP is basically MasterCard's version of this. They both mean roughly the same thing. However, to make things a little more obscure, MasterCard also uses the term ISO, but it means something different. Basically, in their case, an ISO offers services that are not processing and transaction services, like customer service and lead generation. For our purposes, though, don't worry too much about these subtle distinctions. They are basically the same thing. For the sake of simplicity, let's just assume that we're including MSPs when we use the term “ISO” from now on.
Sales Agent – This role is completely different from the above mentioned roles. A merchant services agent is a third party that sells the services of merchant services ISOs and MSPs. Since merchant services companies often like to concentrate on processing credit cards and offering POS solutions, they will contract sales agents to find merchants to work with. A sales agent doesn't have to pay the high association fees like an merchant services ISO does, but he can't do business in his own name and have a merchant services ISO program with an ISO or MSP company.
What is the Relationship Between an ISO / MSP / Sales Agent and the Processing Banks? - You probably realize that merchant services ISOs are not banks, and that these organizations need banks to ultimately perform the transactions. Every merchant services ISO will need a sponsoring bank, one who is a member of Visa and MasterCard's respective associations. In practice, these banks will usually not take on small merchant service companies, and actually most merchant services ISOs use larger ISOs as intermediaries between them and the banks.
A merchant services ISO program can also have several sponsor banks. Though this can be extra costly, it also gives merchant services ISOs the advantage of being able to take on different kinds of merchants. For example, some banks might be averse to what they see as “high-risk” businesses, while others are not (though these usually charge higher fees).
By the way, these sponsoring banks don't really need merchant services ISOs at the end of the day. They could cut out the middle men and sell directly to merchants if they wished, but most of these companies prefer to focus their energies on processing transactions and don't want to bother with customer service and other issues.
If you're curious about what acquiring bank a given ISO uses, simply check out their website. They are actually required to make this information public, and it will usually be apparent in the footer of the page.
Now, how about sales agents? Well, agents are indeed registered with the credit card associations, but of course it is much less complex and expensive than it is for ISOs. Sales agents are basically contractors and the ISOs that they work with usually take care of the heavy lifting when it comes to paperwork.
How Do ISOs Go About Registering With Visa and MasterCard? - If you're an ISO, you'll have to swim through a rough sea of bureaucracy before your business can start processing credit cards. First, you need to find a bank that is a member of the credit card associations—usually both, but sometimes one—and you need to show the bank that you know what you're doing.
The banks will have to put you through a vetting process before the Associations are comfortable taking you on. You will usually have to submit all kinds of information on your business, and what type of business you are running, whether it is a “high risk” business, and what sort of services you provide to customers can all be a factor.
Usually, the bank and credit card companies will want to see:
After all of that is squared, you'd be required to pay $5,000 for each of the credit card associations. This is a yearly fee, by the way, and your application gets reevaluated every year as well. By contrast, an agent pays a bit of pocket change—maybe $50 once a year—to stay in business.
Should You Be an ISO or a Sales Agent? Which is Better? - Now, you might be curious about what path to take when it comes to your merchant services business. Should you become a merchant services ISO, or take the safer and cheaper route and become a merchant services agent? Really, it comes down to your revenue. Do you have the sufficient merchant volume to be able to afford all of the crazy fees that ISOs have to pay? Then maybe it would be worth the trouble for you. If not, you should probably stick to the path of a sales agent, at least until you have more capital.
Becoming an ISO might seem really expensive and complicated to you right now, so you might be wondering why you would even want to become one. Well, basically you have the potential to make way more money. As a merchant services ISO, you are working directly with the processing banks (or at least with a larger ISO that is working with the banks), so you get a very low price in terms of transaction costs because there are less middle men between you and the bank. Your profit margins are higher than that of a merchant services sales agent. Merchant services sales agents get less of a share and they also have higher fees to deal with. It's like the difference between wholesale and retail, to give a somewhat awkward analogy.
However, not everything is rainbows and sunshine when it comes to being a merchant services ISO. There is a lot of responsibility and a lot of bank fees to dodge, things that sales agents don't really worry about. For example, you would need to watch out for so-called minimum processing fees. Basically, these are fees that the bank will charge you if you don't make a certain amount of transaction fees. Even worse, some banks will increase these fees year after year, and you will lose your residuals if you can't keep up. In fact, you might even have to pay a penalty out of your own pocket!
In order to avoid these minimum fees, you need to have a substantial portfolio of merchants. The minimum threshold that you are required to meet may be thousands of dollars, and since you're making pennies per transaction, you're going to need a huge volume of transactions. This is why it's not very wise to become an ISO if you have no experience in the business and no clients yet. It is just too risky.
As mentioned, the bank can also decide to increase the minimum every year, so that you're constantly trying to catch-up. This can be bad news for you because you can lose everything that you worked for. It's hard to escape having minimum fees of some kind, but steer clear from the kind of agreement that increases it every year if you can.
There are also some companies that will require you to sign up a certain minimum amount of new merchants per month, or you could lose all of your residuals. Don't sign up for such a deal, either, or you could see all of your income disappear quickly through no real fault of your own.
What We Have Learned - What's the best way to get started, then? Well, like anything else, that really depends on you and where you are with your business. If you're starting from square one, it's advisable to avoid the risks of becoming an ISO, and to simply stick to being a sales agent until you have decent enough income. There's something to be said about gaining experience and learning the business as well. No matter what you do, make sure to read every single contract before you sign anything so that you can avoid being taken for a ride. Don't jump into anything until you are ready. If you're not confident enough to negotiate with sponsor banks, then don't become an ISO just yet and spend some time as a sales agent building up your portfolio. Take things slow and you will avoid costly mistakes.
Saturday, January 02 2021
Lead-generation is the heart of any business and importantly credit card processing leads. No matter what kind of line of work you're in, you're going to need some sort of plan or sales funnel that will allow you to capture leads and hopefully turn them into paying customers. Since you surely have competitors, you're going to have to have some kind of edge to make these customers yours, and usually that edge is a solid marketing strategy. Most good marketing plans that capture worthwhile leads cost money, though, so you have to be prepared to invest in your business first and foremost.
Just spending money isn't enough, either. You need to spend it in the right places and know what tactics work best for your specific business. You also need to know when not to waste your time and money on someone who is likely never to grab the bait. The ROI of your marketing efforts really depends largely on whether you are targeting people who are actually interested. This is why I recommend creating relationships first and understanding your customer's problems before you try to help them.
Here are a few different techniques you can use to get potential quality clients in front of you:
Pay Per Click (PPC) - Nowadays, when people need something, they search for it on the Internet. This is great for them because it gives them what they want, but it's also great for you because you can grab their attention on a search engine results page or on someone else's website by buying ads. You might be thinking: Why would I use PPC ads that run when people search for my business on Google, when I can simply practice good SEO on my website and rise to the top of the results for my chosen keywords?
This is a legitimate argument, but there are two main reasons you would choose PPC anyway, either alongside aggressive SEO tactics or instead of them: 1) hiring an SEO expert to rank your business website for your chosen keywords costs money, possibly more than simply buying the ad space; and 2) your competitors are probably running PPC ads on the major search engines, so even if you rank high organically, their ads will be all over the place when people search for the keywords that you are targeting. Ideally, you would use both good SEO and a PPC campaign to target leads.
The nice thing about PPC compared to other methods where you pay for traffic is that the conversion rate is usually pretty good because your lead is already interested in what you're offering. Unlike more traditional methods, you have a lot of analytics to work with so you can learn about your audience. It also tends to be more cost-effective than other common lead-generation approaches.
Social Media - People mostly go on social media to hang out and not buy, but you should have a presence here anyway because there is a good chance that some percentage of people who are interested would rather contact you via Facebook or a similar medium rather than via phone, especially if they just have general questions.
Call Like a Madman - Part of being a merchant services sales rep is being able to persuade people in a variety of context, and that includes over the phone. You can buy a list of prospects or look online for businesses that seem like they might be needing your services. It really is a numbers game because you will have to call a lot of places before you get any results. However, if you're willing to deal with rejection and having people hang up on you every once in awhile, this can be a great method, especially if you're just starting out and your capital is somewhat limited. It may seem cumbersome, but if you call dozens of people per day, 5 days per week, someone is bound to use your services at some point.
Go in Person - If you have the courage, then meet your prospects in person. You can do this by either paying other companies to arrange meetings between you and prospective merchant processing leads, or you can simply look up businesses in your area and visit the owner at their location unsolicited. This of course takes social skills and a certain amount of courage, but if you've been in sales for awhile, you probably have both. If you feel like this is too much of an intrusion, you can also call ahead of time and warm up your lead before you meet them in person.
The main thing to consider of course, is to play off your strengths, so if you're too awkward over the phone, meeting in person might just be the ticket. On the other hand, remember to challenge yourself to learn other methods of lead-generation, even ones that may make you feel uncomfortable at first. Always expand your horizons.
Focus on the Funnel - What do you do after you have used one of the methods above and you have an interested party? They might not always be interested in buying right away. Though you should do what you can to close the lead in the moment while it is “hot,” not all is lost.
One thing that you can do is use “bait” to create or keep your leads, by offering them free information or a newsletter via email. This is your “list,” and it will allow you to simply keep collecting prospects and remind them every once in awhile that you exist and that you want to help them. How you find these prospects in the first place depends, but you can use any of the methods above potentially.
The fastest way to build up a list is probably PPC, though. People are already at their computer, so it's not hard for them to go check their email and confirm when they sign up, and you are targeting people who are already in the “information-gathering” phase of their quest to find a credit card processor.
Using these tactics, it shouldn't be too hard to find some leads. All that you have to do from there is solve the client's problem consistently, and you will have a stream of income potentially for a long time. If you're still confused or curious about any aspect of selling merchant services, check out the Shaw Merchant group website and be enlightened.
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