In a move that one analyst said could be tied to poor results following a change in sales strategy, Heartland Payment Systems Inc. has transferred its chief sales officer to a regional director position.

The Princeton, N.J., processor announced the shift Friday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Heartland did not say in the filing why it transferred Sanford C. Brown, who was named sales chief in 2006 and has worked at Heartland since its founding in 1997. A Heartland representative said Monday that the company had no additional comment.

However, the action may be because of "ongoing weakness in sales metrics," said David J. Koning, a senior research analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.

In a research note Monday, Koning said that the "gross margin installed," which measures the 12-month profitability of new merchants each quarter, has fallen by "double digits for five quarters, and we believe Brown's" reassignment "is an indication that management is focused on improving this metric."

Heartland reported $12.1 million in new margin installed in the second quarter, down 20.4% from a year earlier.

It has been banking on a new sales structure to gain more merchants. Until late last year, a Heartland representative could sell just about any Heartland product or service.

Now they sell to specific vertical markets, such as health care or campus products.

Koning said he does not consider the shift a sign that Heartland's sales overhaul is falling short.

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