The Alternative Business Lending Worker Shortage
“You open 40 accounts, you start working for yourself. Sky’s the limit.“
Is the dream getting harder to sell? The alternative business lending industry is booming and so much so that many job openings are going unfilled. I am asked on almost a daily basis if I know any experienced sales people that are looking for work. There really aren’t that many people out there with a strong merchant cash advance background and I think it’s impacting how fast this industry can grow. On the one hand, the industry is a lot less sophisticated than it used to be. Hold on for a second and allow me to explain myself. There was a good chunk of time in this business where saying the word, loan could get you fired. Loan?! Are you kidding? We buy future receivables at a discount!
Anyone could sell a prospect on working capital but only a select group of people could explain the purchase of future sales properly all while justifying the relatively high cost. And an even smaller group of people could take the deal to the next step and discuss the merchant’s current 3 tiered or interchange based rates, pick out the junk costs, and sell them on a better deal with a new payment processor. And an even smaller group of people could sell the merchant on the idea of using a new terminal due to PCI compliance issues or acquirer compatibility. And an even smaller group of people could sell or lease the merchant a new terminal instead of swapping out their current one or lending one for free with a multi-year contract. And still an even smaller group of people could convince the underwriter to approve their file in order for the 5 closed sales to even go through. Merchant cash advance in the traditional manner was and is a highly complicated multi-layered sale. The men and women that churn(ed) these deals out month after month on a consistent basis are nothing short of pros. Let’s not forget that payment processors have underwriters too so even after 6 closes, the payment processor could decline the approval of a merchant account, nuking the entire deal from start to finish.
Do you have any idea how comical it was when the mortgage brokers invaded the industry as the housing market neared collapse? They had no idea what they were doing and some of them barely lasted for 90 days before saying “I give up, this makes no sense.”
In today’s market, there’s a faster learning curve. I’d estimate that 55-60% of all new deals being funded with daily repayment in this country are using direct debit ACH to collect. Some funders and brokers lean towards this model so much so that they report funding more than 90% of their deals on ACH. That’s good news for new account reps because there isn’t much to learn about the product. There’s the amount being funded, the cost, and a daily debit to pay it back. Pretty simple stuff. This isn’t to say it’s not a tough sell or that it’s not competitive, because it is both of those things. Companies that swear by the ACH product have a hiring advantage because they don’t necessarily need salespeople with MCA specific experience. Almost any financial sales background will work or even no experience at all.
The smaller part of the industry is a mishmash of the old school sophisticated reps and the newbies that rely on the old schoolers to help them out with anything technical. When companies post ads saying they are looking for MCA sales reps with experience, they’re implying that they want people that can handle the multi-layer sale. A good craigslist ad should say:
Are you hungry?!
Must be able to do the following in a single phone call while driving at least 65 MPH on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway regardless of whether or not traffic is backed up:
- Convert a Micros POS system
- Lease an additional wireless terminal for off-premise sales
- Shave 12 basis points off the non-qualified tier (but make it back up by adding a $15 monthly statement fee)
- Close a 150k deal on a 1.40 (but know that the reduced factor rate is coming out of YOUR end)
- Write in a 6% closing fee
- Cut off 47 cars in traffic without hitting them
- Eat a slice of greasy pizza with your left hand without getting a single drop on your lap
Oh and below it will be a note that says “THIS POSITION IS COMMISSION BASED ONLY, NO DRAW, SELF-STARTERS WANTED, HOURS ARE 7-7 Mon-Sat“. Don’t laugh. This was the MCA industry for a time and a lot of people did very well in it. If you wanted to make money, you had to be able to do it all. For some of you, it’s still this way.
And let’s face it, the split-funding market may shrink but it will never die. Split-funding’s advantage is the ability to finance businesses that have poor cash flow. The risk of a bounced check is removed when payments are diverted to the funder by the payment processor. You hear that kids? You should be brushing up on your payment processing-ology.
Even as the ACH market boom continues, there are whispers of woe as funders deal with ACH rejects and closed bank accounts. It’s no surprise then that some companies are looking for pros, not just bodies to put on the telephone. It seems as the product has become less sophisticated, merchants have become more sophisticated. In 2007, I’d be willing to bet that more than 90% of small businesses had never even heard of a merchant cash advance and that was basically the only alternative available. In 2012 I actually did a presentation to a large room of business owners about merchant cash advance and none of them had ever heard of it until I taught them about it. That’s astounding!
Now I don’t think that many more people know about the purchase of future credit card sales in 2013 specifically, but I am inclined to believe that 90% of merchants are at least aware that alternatives to bank loans exist. And when they encounter somebody offering an alternative, they do their homework and check these companies out online. They get 2nd opinions and question why they have to switch processing when four other account reps said they don’t have to. They ask for better deals, longer programs, and they look you up on facebook to see who you really are. This is a different sales environment than what there used to be. The lowest price, the fastest process, or the most charming personality won’t guarantee you’ll win anything. Seeing that you’re backed by Wells Fargo or learning that Peter Thiel is on your company’s board of directors might be the hook, line and sinker for a business with a full plate of options at their disposal. Yes, it’s a different world, a different sale, and even a different product.
Funders and brokers need human resources to keep up with the fast pace of growth and there’s not too many of the old school guys looking for work. Not to mention that fewer people are willing to work on a 100% commission only basis these days. During and after the financial crisis, the herd of out-of-work financial service people flocked to whatever opportunity the could find. It was like you could throw a fishing net in front of the Lehman Brothers entrance and use it to scoop up 50 brokers as they all ran out the door for the last time. Newly minted graduates wanted to build their resumés instead of remaining unemployed. Some people were willing to work all 31 days of a month just for the opportunity even if they walked away with zero dollars at the end of it. Although the economy hasn’t recovered much, that hunger has relaxed and job seekers are being a bit more selective of the opportunities they choose. They want a base salary (even if small), benefits, and vacation time. Somewhere out there in another universe, Ben Affleck’s younger self is crying at the thought of this. “Vacation time?”
So when you put up an ad on LinkedIn or Craigslist and say you’re looking for 10 guys with MCA experience, just know that breed is in short supply and high demand. If you’re heavy on ACH, you can train new guys quick but they’re not going be equipped to take on the multi-layered sale if the tide turns back towards split-funding. There are tons of job openings out there for sales reps but those spots aren’t as easy to fill as they used to be.
“You become an employee of this firm, you will make your first million within three years. I’m gonna repeat that – you will make a million dollars.”
Happy hiring.September 28, 2013
Sean Murray is the President and Chief Editor of deBanked and the founder of the Broker Fair Conference. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter. You can view all future deBanked events here.