ISOs and Agents and the Impact of Lies

“How do you tell if a car salesperson is lying? His lips are moving.”

This old joke has been around for decades. Some iterations target lawyers or bankers…and likely merchant-level salespeople. And like other jokes of this nature, although said in humor, many believe it paints a true picture of their industry.

Lately I have been thinking about the consequences of lies – specifically for an ISO or for an agent. Although politicians and others can tell falsehoods or “alternative facts” and suffer minimum impact, the impact of lying to merchants and our customers has lasting impact. And in some cases, causes permanent damage to an ISO or agent’s reputation.

For most of us, our livelihood is driven by relationships. Like the life insurance salesperson, the longer we keep the relationship (and the client!) alive, the more we make. Yes, you must sign new merchants to grow your portfolio, but maintaining a trusting relationship means you’re not signing new merchants to just tread water. And since merchants today are bombarded by offers, solicitations, and visits by competitors, that trust must be strong.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make a mistake, or there can’t be an error. Trust allows you to fix the problem, and once fixed, trust remains strong. However, one lie (no matter how small) creates irreparable damage to that trust and often results in the merchant listening to those hundreds of offers.

The Types of Lies ISOs and Agents Tell

There are two kinds of lies. First, there is the blatant, intentional lie. These falsehoods are told to intentionally deceive someone. The successful ISO or independent sales agent has no interest in lying, therefore, intentional lies are easy to avoid.

It’s the second kind of lie, however, that has made me consider the consequences of lying: the unintentional lie. There are also two types of unintentional lies.

Misinformation is often shared due to either unknown or undisclosed information. This happens when the ISO or agent has limited knowledge on the topic and translates what they know into an answer. This can be avoided completely. If you are not 100% sure of the answer, simply say, “I am not sure” or “I don’t know.” But follow that with, “but I will find out.” Merchants will respect that answer, and will respect you for your honesty.

quote-life changes for the betterThe second type of unintentional lie is when the salesperson is unaware of a situation. The most common occurrence is when discussing cost savings. For example, you analyzed a merchant statement, quoted an improvement in price, and signed the merchant. A month later the merchant calls wondering why he is paying more than he did before. He is upset and wants to leave because you said you would reduce his costs. Needless to say, the merchant feels deceived.

You know you did your numbers right, but it appears he is paying more. What you didn’t realize was that your partner padded certain fees, and that difference was more than the savings you promised. And now your merchant is locked into a contract, and is not happy.

This is a clear example of an unintentional lie. Yet, it’s a lie nonetheless. These are the types of lies that hurt the most because you honestly believed you were telling the truth. It’s still a lie though, and one that impacts you greatly, even though you were just passing on what you perceived to be the truth. Regardless of your intentions. you still deceived the merchant.

How to Avoid Unintentional Lies

If you want to avoid unintentional lies, you must do your own homework and have a clear understanding of what you are selling. Review your schedules and check your merchant statements. Ask potential ISO partners if they add anything to the number of fees charged. Do your homework first.

As I have said, lying kills relationships. Even the inadvertent lie. But, you can control both by telling the truth, admitting when you don’t know the answer, and fully understanding your offering.

Don’t help perpetuate the joke. Let’s make 2017 the year of honesty…at least in the payments world.

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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