Most security integrators today agree that offering services to customers is more important than ever — both to create “stickiness” and the increase that all-important recurring revenue. But actually achieving it and being successful at selling services takes more than just deciding to do it. In many cases it is a whole new ballgame for salespeople, support staff and even customers. Service-based selling requires a different level of partnership, both between the integrator and vendor, and between the integrator and the customer.
At the recent Securing New Ground held in New York City in October, two interesting panels delved into some of these very topics. The first one, “Systems Integration Business Conditions,” featured Dee Ann Harn, CEO and president of RFI Enterprises, Jim Lantrip, senior vice president operations, Allied Universal Technology Services and John Palumbo, CEO of Unlimited Technology.
Here are a few key takeaways:
- Partnership is a two-way street. Harn shared a story about a long-term customer who was very loyal, but would never accept even the smallest price increases. “We finally said to them, ‘We are paying you to do business with you. It has been a wonderful ride, but we are going to have to step away.’” While the decision was tough, the end result was it didn’t take long for that customer to find out that other companies didn’t treat them as well, or offer the same kind of relationship. “It was a tough decision but they weren’t valuing us and treating us like someone they wanted to stay in business with.”
- Expand your definition of services. “We have always had a robust services offering from our central station, but every day we get a new request,” Lantrip said. “Things we might not have considered a year ago, now we will. Everything as-a-service is emerging.” Lantrip advised keeping an open mind to take on anything as a service as a “force multiplier” for customers. Palumbo shared that for his company cyber and network services are a growing offering. “We found managed services and cyber in particular is an emerging market for us. If we are already servicing that client, how can we offer more on the network side? Health-based monitoring for those devices is big for us.”
- Cultivate a service mentality culture. It’s not enough just for company leadership to decide to offer a service. As a leader you need to make sure your team is prepared for it. “Does your company culture accept a service mentality? We have had to shift the mindset and culture with which our people sell, install and service,” Harn said. “How do I think about the work we do from a customer-interfacing level all the way up. You can say it from above, but the actual implementation of it is not easy. I have phenomenal engineers that have to think differently now. But because it has been such a crazy few years this is something you do have control over. You can look to the future and see that technology is catching up and shift the minds that are out there talking with your customers. We are all going to be forced to do it; but we can ease the landing to where it is more readily accepted.” Lantrip added that training, particularly for mid-level managers that are talking with customers, is key. Palumbo shared that his company’s all-hands meetings have been a good place for this. “You have to talk about how to cultivate growth for those teams and give people a path.”
A second panel looked at partnerships from the other side of the coin. “Security Leaders Speak! Insights from Top Security Practitioners” brought together heads of security from Meta, Amazon and Major League Soccer to discuss their needs and challenges. Part of this conversation included sound advice for integrator partners, such as:
- Sell beyond the product. “Please don’t come to me with your product,” said Heather Warner, head of global physical security operations for Amazon. “Send me your engineers, not your salespeople. Take time to understand my problem, and don’t just sell me your solutions. … Big, big companies don’t move fast. We can’t. How many cameras do you think I have deployed? We could talk hardware solutions but that is not what I am looking for. Big data, aggregating those applications and making sense of things to make it seamless for our users — that is what we want.”
- Emphasize communication. Jeff Stonebreaker, senior vice president, safety and security for Major League Soccer, stressed that he wants to understand not just what is being proposed but why. “Communication only happens within relationships. When we sit down with a potential partner, let me understand how you got where you are. Let me understand the ‘why.’”
- It’s all about the relationship. Jonathan Aguila, global security director – systems and technology for Meta also valued relationships and echoed Warner’s dislike of product pitches. “Please no sales pitch. I genuinely want to be a good partner. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a good relationship.”