Mark Dunn
January 26, 2023
min read

Is it worth it? Is it worth your time and effort to learn how to sell merchant services? When I look at my Zoom call screen and see fresh faces in a sales training class, I can almost see the question forming on their lips. My answer reflects the last ten years in merchant services sales and training.

In 2012 I wrote an article called the Joys and Jabs of Merchant Services. Whether you’re selling merchants, software developers (ISVs), or business-to-business (B2B), the list is very similar. I’m revisiting that list because most of it still applies.

The Joys of Merchant Services Sales

Commissions and Residuals – a check every month

One of the things I’ve found out about myself is I like getting paid. And getting a nice check when you close a sale is fun. Getting a residual check on the 25th of every month makes me smile. The secret to making good money in merchant services is this: keep selling and keep building your portfolio. You build it up, and you keep it up through merchant retention and new sales. And if you need to, you can even take a few weeks off. The whole portfolio won’t go away because you took some time off. And you’re building something you can sell for cash – see the Second Payday below.

Closing a deal – the rush

I found out I get a massive rush from closing a deal. It doesn’t matter if I’m selling one mobile terminal or closing a consulting deal, same exhilaration. “Hi, my name is Mark, and I’m a sales-aholic.”

Mastering a puzzle – many moving pieces

To be really good at merchant services sales, you need the mind of a chess player. You can be good at merchant services sales, but it takes years of work to be great. If you enjoy a challenge, this is for you.

Setting your own pace – be your own boss

This is the joy for which so many people strive. It sounds really good. From direct experience, I can tell you the practical effect is you work your butt off. You have to be constantly building new sales pipelines. To compete with the big players, you have to go the extra mile and a half. But you don’t mind it because you’re calling the shots.

Selling your residual – the second payday

Some months you grow, and some months you just survive. You earn some nice residuals along the way. After a few years, you’ve built a good little merchant portfolio. You start to wonder what it’s worth. The answer to that question is surprisingly difficult to answer with any precision. The best you will probably get is a range of values – that is, until you have an offer in writing. This is what I call the second payday for merchant services. It can be very sweet, provided you’ve avoided some minefields along the way.

The Jabs

Learning curve – ouch!

You can learn merchant services sales on the job. If this is the route you take, you’ll need about two years to form a reasonably complete picture of merchant bankcard services and master the skills you need. You had better have another source of income in the meantime. If you start with an agent program or sales team with good training, you’ll get most of the critical information you need in the first ninety days. Sadly, there are few good training programs in our industry. Check out the training before you sign on to a merchant services program. And look for a great sales manager to work with. She or he can make all the difference.

Being taken advantage of – the dark side

I have seldom worked with a sales agent in this industry who does not have a story about getting ripped off by someone for whom they were writing deals. Here’s how they usually go: ‘I didn’t know anything about the business when I started. I met a guy who said he’d get me started. He taught me what to say and how to close a merchant deal. Eventually, I found he was ripping me off. And I lost all of my first portfolios.  

Experience is a tricky teacher. First, you get the test; then, you learn the lesson.  

Competition – throats get cut

We sell in a saturated market—thousands of merchant services salespeople combing every inch of merchant locations and virtual stores. New fintech companies offer easy deals to merchants looking for simple solutions. The business is tough.

You won’t survive if you’re not persistent. You will take some rough competitive jabs. The majority of new merchant services salespeople give up in the first six months to take up some line of work that’s perceived as easier, less complicated, less punishing, and has a consistent paycheck. Can you take it?

Merchant attrition – the hole in the bucket

An average rate of merchant attrition in our industry is 1-1.5% per month. At that rate, your 100 merchants (without factoring in new sales) will become 82 merchants within 12 months. How are you going to fix that hole in your bucket?

I would advise you: Sell more and keep more. At an average cost of sales of $400-600, each new merchant is expensive to bring in. It’s easier and less costly to keep a merchant you’ve sold. To do this, you must be wholly committed to doing whatever it takes to exceed the expectations of your merchants thoroughly. This is what the best ISO’s and PayFacs in our industry do.

To sum up: Survive long enough to get good at selling merchant services. The joys will surpass the pain of the jabs. It’s not an instant success, but it can pay off handsomely.

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