In The Trenches

The Stampede To Help The Sales Representative
by Steven Pavent

   A little over a year ago an idea was formed. Well, the idea has probably been around for a while, but somebody decided to do something about it a little over a year ago. The concept was simple, a fair amount of the merchant applications produced today come from smaller offices and independent representatives. Yet, to date there was no association or entity to help and be an advocate for this group. Most existing associations in our industry are geared towards Acquirers, ISO's/MSPs and product vendors. So why not start a group or association that would have the best interests of the street sales representative in mind?
   A group of such salespeople came together in Tampa last year to discuss such an association. This is where the term merchant level salesperson (MLS) was coined and interim board of directors was elected and some generous ISO's and industry veterans pledged some seed money. Most of us left that meeting with high hopes, and I'm sure some left that meeting with great fears. Those fears were that the status quo could be upset. What I found interesting about that first meeting was that only about 20% of the people in the room were actually merchant level salespeople. The rest were ISO's/MSPs, product vendors and leasing companies.
   This new organization, the National Association of Payment Professionals (NAOPP), was born and began to move forward to help the MLS. One of the main foundations of NAOPP was to help the MLS's by providing education and information about how the payment processing industry works. It's been a rough and rocky year for NAOPP with some of the main and more credible members of the board resigning. That's not to say that there's not great and very credible people remaining, and that there hasn't been some progress and growth over the last year. NAOPP held their second annual main meeting and drew a fairly good crowd. But with NAOPP moving ahead some other players have jumped into the fray with their own ideas on how the MLS can best be helped.
   This article is dedicated to naming these different groups, organizations and associations and to the best of my ability letting everybody know what they're all about and what they're supposed to do for us.
   First we have the electronic transaction association (ETA) which rolled out a series of MLS level training shortly after the first NOAPP meeting. The ETA is on record to date as being the Association for our industry. To find out more about the ETA or their training called ETA University or you can go to

   Next, we have NAOPP, which is the National Association of Payment Professionals, founded primarily by Steve Norell of U.S. Merchant Services (USMS) and Brett Mansdorf a former ISO owner and industry consultant. Their web site, located at, and their mission statement is as follows; this organization shall exist for all those selling in the payment processing industry, by providing education, benefits, liaison/representation and certification. This is a not-for-profit organization.
   Next, we have a group formally announced in October 2003 called the Institute for Payment Professionals (IPP). This was started by former NAOPP board member Brett Mansdorf. Information on what they offer is a little sketchy because they are so new. However, you can find out for yourself at IPP's press release states their motto is "dedicated to a level playing field". This will be achieved with Web content, Web seminars and traveling training seminars. This is a for profit organization. Therefore, by utilizing sponsors, he expects to be able to cover a lot more ground in a shorter period of time.
   Last, there is a group being formed calling itself Merchant Services Advocate (MSA). MSA's driving force is a fellow named Michael Daly. He doesn't have a lot of industry experience, but that may be just what someone needs to accomplish something. Supposedly he's being helped by some larger industry professionals. At the time of writing the web site was not active but listed as This group is going to be dedicated to giving the MLS or the small office tangible information that it needs to run itself such as, access to recently filed lawsuits that affect our industry and identify the folks that might be in trouble, helping with legal and contract, human resources and tax issues. MSA is a for profit organization that will be funded by advertising.
   As you can see there are widely varied models, run by people with widely varied experience, attempting to achieve similar goals. The mix is interesting and the playing field pretty level. I'm sure the small office and the MLS can benefit from each of the groups and probably a few more. As for me, I'm thinking about starting an association that will help the small sales group and MLS decide which groups or associations are right for them.