There are countless trials and tribulations a business will encounter when first starting out and establishing its footing. These challenges continue, or even become magnified, if left unaddressed. Sean O’Neil, chief operating officer of MerchantPro Express (MPX), has experienced this firsthand during the early days of the credit card processing company.
MPX began with just five merchant sales agents—company representatives who would sell merchant services to business owners seeking to accept card payments from their customers. Fast-forward less than a decade, and MPX now employs 150 sales agents across the United States. While most work independently, they are considered integral members of the MPX family who strive tirelessly to help merchants save money on credit card processing bills.
MPX certainly experienced tremendous growth in a relatively short amount of time, but O’Neil remembers several challenges along the way.
When it came to merchant sales agents, predicting performance was at the top of the list.
“Our biggest obstacles were managing cash flow and determining which agents to invest in,” O’Neil recalls. “We found that we were not very good predictors of agent success—some prospective agents looked like rock stars and failed, while others didn't wow us and yet wildly exceeded our expectations.
“What resulted was an internal commitment to limit upfront compensation in the absence of agent performance," he continues. "Our view evolved into a conviction that if they had the goods they claimed to, and they required a financial bridge to come to MPX, they needed to demonstrate performance almost immediately."
“While this may ultimately cost us some good people, it allowed us to invest in a wide variety of sales agents and take our guesswork out of the process,” adds O’Neil. “In addition, it allowed us to keep our aggressive percentage splits, better-than-average buy rates, and true lifetime residuals in place, which helped us to attract the best and most ambitious.”
MPX also wasn’t prepared to manage all the new sales agents joining the team, which proved to be another significant hurdle.
“We needed a more efficient way to onboard our new agents and help indoctrinate them into the MPX culture," explains O’Neil. "Without frequent, high-quality touches, we felt that we were losing productivity.”
As a result, MPX aimed to make the onboarding process more efficient. O’Neil explains how incorporating a step involving matching current sales managers with new hires helped facilitate this:
“We have since added a number of experienced sales managers whom we funnel the agents to based on personality, geography, and sales style," he states. "This has resulted in a steadier path to sales productivity by our new agents."
MPX also needed to distinguish the qualities to look for in a potential hire.
While there isn’t a specific type of “sales behavior” MPX seeks, “we look for self-starting, go-getters who know what they want and how to get there,” O’Neil shares.
Plus, MPX noticed from the beginning that the types of agents “who wanted to work with us tended to be more entrepreneurial and risk-taking.”
"They wanted more upside than the traditional industry employment opportunity allowed,” O’Neil continues. “In turn, we wanted to seize on these agents' entrepreneurial spirit, so we moved to a more aggressive agent model with attractive splits and lifetime residuals. We set up our compensation plans so that what is good for each salesperson tends to be good for MPX, and vice versa.”
This led to more and more people with knowledge of the merchant services industry to inquire about possible partnerships.
Furthermore, MPX identified and tackled three key action-items to ensure future success.
- Revamping sales compensation to attract better sales agents
- Proving MPX among industry stars by consistently getting excellent merchant and agent reviews online and by word of mouth
- Maturing to have sufficient cash flow to more aggressively recruit and market all MPX has to offer
“The results were staggering—we grew from adding an average of 65 merchant accounts each month in 2014 to 295 in 2017," explains O’Neil. "Through the first three months of 2018, we are averaging 325 a month.”
For other businesses looking to hire more talent and grow, O’Neil has several suggestions, including, to:
- Be a differentiator.
Especially in a fragmented industry like merchant services, figure out what differentiates you from your competitors, and market to those differences.
- Market well.
Invest in a first-rate marketing partner. HubSpot inbound marketing agency Morey Creative Studios has helped communicate the company's differences on the internet, and literally put the MPX name in front of merchants and agents that otherwise would not have heard of it.
- Keep your promises.
Do what you say you're going to do. Make good on the promises you make. This sounds obvious, but so many of MPX's competitors deceive their agents by touting comp plans that aren't sustainable. "We know this, because many of those agents come to us," O'Neil adds. "We're very proud to report that we've never lost a sales agent we wanted to keep. That's unheard of in our industry, which is riddled by agent attrition."
MPX is constantly looking at what's working and what isn't, and whether there's something MPX should be doing more of, less of, or differently. "If we didn't adapt, we would never have survived. And we certainly wouldn't have grown at the rate we've grown over the past several years," O'Neil concludes.
MerchantPro Express specializes in providing premier credit card processing services to merchants across various industries. Contact us today to find out how we can help you and your business!