From Credit Card Sales Agent to Payments Consultant

Jeff Fortney


After all the years I have spent in the payments industry you would think my family could explain what I do for a living. At a recent family gathering, my son's brother-in-law asked, ”So what do you do? I asked your wife and she said she didn't quite understand it.” My son gave a wry smile and said, ”I told him you sell credit cards or something.”

Truth be told, it is hard to define our profession. Some may refer to us as credit card sales agents and think that we solely sell credit card processing services. Yes, the latter is part of what we do, but it doesn't truly define what we do. Simply put, it's hard to define our profession and our industry.

If it's difficult for a family member to understand what you do, think about it from your merchants' perspective. They may understand the importance of our industry because without it they wouldn't be able to accept as many forms of payment, but most truly don't understand our role or how we can - and do - help them every day.

As a result, they tend to dread when a credit card sales agent or someone from the payments world walks through their door. After all, we are just trying to sell them something, right? We have all faced the blow offs, the avoidance, and sometimes even negative responses. At best we are seen as necessary evils, and at worst, some think we're just trying to take a percentage of their profit from all of their hard work.

Saying, ”I help you accept credit cards,” or ”I am an independent credit card sales agent” may be heard differently by a layperson. A lot of that perception is our own fault. It goes back to how we define who we are, what we do, and how we fit into a merchant's profit chain. This is where the old saying comes into play, ”Perception is 9/10ths of reality.” Well, it's time to change that perception, and to do so we must first change how we define ourselves.

Besides, facilitating credit card acceptance is only part of what we do. We actually offer services that can help a merchant grow and run their business more effectively. Statistically speaking, if a merchant can't accept electronic payments they are losing sales every day.

Helping merchants accept electronic payments includes so much more than simply taking credit cards.

  • It includes PIN-based debit, signature debit, gift cards, electronic checks, and EBT.
  • It means helping merchants leverage new technologies, like mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, and contactless payments.
  • It means making sure merchants understand EMV and chip cards and the impact they will have on their business.
  • It means accepting payments without having to issue a bill and collect the bill.
  • It means accepting payments and making sales over the phone or on the Internet.
  • It also means larger sales, as studies have shown that consumers spend more when using electronic payments as opposed to cash or check.

It's time we eliminate the term ”credit card” from our vernacular and start calling ourselves what we truly are, which is a payments consultant or payments expert.

Positioning yourself in this fashion creates a new perception rather than simply calling yourself a credit card sales agent. You are there to help the merchant make more sales, advise them on the best way to generate payment for those sales, help them increase their average sales amount and show them how they can get their funds as quickly as possible.

It also means that you are helping them manage the risk associated with electronic payments, such as by educating them about EMV, PCI compliance, and more. You also address their needs if they want to offer loyalty programs or gift cards. In essence, you are a partner in growing their business.

The new perception is not one of cost, but as an asset. You aren't there to save them money. You are there to help them make more money. You are their partner, their consultant, and (hopefully) their trusted advisor. All three lead to deeper, more profitable relationships for you.

I'm curious to know what you say when someone asks what you do. Do you say you're a credit card sales agent, or do you share how you are so much more than that, and how you are really more of a payments consultant and focus on helping merchants grow their business?