The Importance of Building & Maintaining Credibility

Are you credible? I daresay we would all answer this question with a resounding “Yes.” Any salesperson in any profession would probably quickly claim this response. However, their answer may not be 100% accurate.

It’s easy to see that credibility with merchant services programs has fallen, both at a global level and a micro level. In the past 18 months, the credibility of many independent sales agents has taken a hit, but it’s important to note that this is not completely their fault. Some agents have seen their ISO partners raise merchants’ rates as many as three times during this 18 month period. In other words, merchants have discovered that areas defined as “pass through” costs are actually marked up over true costs, hence making their rates artificially high.

In addition to these internal pressures, credibility has been under attack externally by competitive sales practices. Some merchant processing companies use less than credible approaches to educate merchants about EMV, such as using fear tactics that pressure merchants to buy potentially unneeded and often over-priced equipment. Or worse, merchants may discover after the fact that their new processing partner has both higher rates and a more strident contract.

The combination of both external and internal pressures has caused significant damage to many agents’ credibility. Unless addressed at the first indication that it may be in question the impact of this loss could be felt for months, or even years.

When discussing credibility the ISA or MLS has to first understand its importance, how to obtain it, and how to retain it. The importance of credibility is often just given lip service. What is typically forgotten is that being credible first comes with a level of trust. If you are known as being credible both by reputation and your actions, merchants will likely trust what you say.

Merchants must be able to trust their processing partner as they literally manage their flow of funds. If you are not deemed credible, there is no trust. Without trust, merchants will lose faith in your ability to deliver on your promises. The end result will be a lost sale. In essence, credibility has a direct correlation to your monetary gain, or loss.

That’s why obtaining credibility should be considered a key component to your success. However, credibility is not something that can be gained easily or quickly.

Initially, your credibility will be closely tied to the merchant processing companies that you work with. Your choice of a processing partner is based on many factors, ranging from potential revenue to support. It should also be based on how they are perceived in the marketplace. If your partner is credible, you can leverage that credibility. But if your partner has credibility issues, or has done things that could be perceived negatively, it will be very difficult to present yourself as credible.

While leveraging your partner’s credibility you should also strengthen your own knowledge base. No, you don’t need to know everything about a given topic, but you need to have confidence in what you do know, and in what you don’t know. Confidence in your knowledge presents you as a credible partner, as does having the confidence to admit what you don’t know. Many people respect someone when they have the courage to say, “I don’t know, but let me find out.”

As merchants come to trust you and your knowledge, you will gain personal credibility. Once gained you need to work hard to retain that credibility. It needs to be protected as you would protect one of your most valuable possessions.

The key is diligence. Damage to your credibility is rarely a sudden event. Events will cause erosion, and if not stopped, will lead to the collapse of your hard earned credibility. Therefore, you must keep a watchful eye on this asset.

Stay in constant communication with your merchant base, and listen to what they have to say, especially if they have a complaint. Make sure their concerns are addressed quickly and that they know that you care about them.

Also make sure your partner remains trustworthy and transparent. If they lack either of these qualities it may be time to find another partner.

Above all, avoid arrogance and that “know it all” attitude that sometimes creeps in when talking with prospective merchants. Even if you do know it all, inappropriately sharing this fact creates a lack of respect. Ask yourself, “Do you trust anyone you don’t respect?”

Remain credible to your client base and you will find that demand for your merchant services program grows by word of mouth. People will seek you out. Just remember building and retaining credibility is a long term, constant practice. Stay diligent and you will remain credible.

About Author

Jeff Fortney

Jeff Fortney

VP, ISO Channel Management

Jeff Fortney has 25 years of experience in payments, with a focus on helping ISOs and agents grow their portfolio. His experience encompasses all forms of payments. He has served on various industry committees and boards and is also an author in various trade publications. He and his wife of 40 years live in Plano, TX.

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