Proper sales preparation and implementation is especially important in a market as lucrative as access control, which continues to dominate the electronic security market along with video surveillance systems.
SDM recently spoke with a cadre of thriving systems salespeople and asked them to share the secrets to their success and the inherent challenges of selling access control systems.
The FoundationIain Morton, an account executive with Intercon Security, Toronto, has tabulated more than $11 million in revenue over the last six years.
â€œThe basic reason that we have been very successful is that we have worked from the ground up in physical security,â€ Morton says. â€œWe have learned the fundamental methods of protecting people, property, and assets, and those methods are well ingrained; so we can look at any opportunity from multiple perspectives â€“ not just one. Some of our competitors can only look at it from the one product line that theyâ€™re proposing or the one side of security that they can do, such as systems or manpower. We can look at it from every angle. So it becomes easier for us to consult with clients and it becomes easier for a person like me to establish my credentials and expertise and then take that and build a security program for the client. Once thatâ€™s all in place, then we can bring in the technology, such as access control, to round out the solution.â€
Access control salespeople are especially effective when they have the ability to learn about all the related areas that impact access control. â€œRather than just being an expert on the system itself, I have a wealth of knowledge â€“ I wonâ€™t be an expert, of course â€“ but I have a wealth of knowledge in areas such as physical security barriers, environmental considerations, the use of security personnel in a building security plan, how to save money by integrating systems and security officers, and how to get them to effectively work together,â€ Morton says.
Additionally, the salesperson should understand the suitable use of complementary technologies, such as video surveillance. In this way, access control becomes an easier and more convincing solution when it is treated as one part of an overall security plan. Offering clients such a perspective allows you to come across as a security consultant â€“ not just a security salesperson.
Morton says that his company provides varied training and not only under that title. Some of it is in the form of product representatives coming in and speaking to the sales force, which is conducted in the course of regular, bi-weekly meetings.
â€œTraining is essential,â€ Morton says. â€œWe have to stay up to date with the new technologies as they come out. Our clients are so much more educated with the Internet, trade publications, and training courses offered by such groups as ASIS. So we need to be aware of all the advanced solutions that are out there and new strategies to communicate this information to the right people.â€
Training should be quarterly, Morton says, so that it does not detract too much from the time dedicated to sales. Training should also be one-third technical, one-third solutions integration â€“ how the technical products fit into the greater picture, â€“ and one-third marketing-based sales communication, which is meant to help salespeople improve their methods of delivering the message.
In addition to conventional sales tools such as cell phones, laptops, and remote connectivity, Morton also has administrative support and marketing materials, including a company web site, a company information and solutions CD, and sales support literature. The company provides periodic and specific industry advertising so that the Intercon name stays in front of the customers.
Sales Tools Help Draw out Client QuestionsTraining and tools are crucial, according to Craig Grochowski, systems consultant for the past 10 years at Vector Security, Pittsburgh. Vector Security was SDMâ€™s 2003 Dealer of the Year. (See www.sdmmag.com)
â€œAccess control software and hardware are always evolving. Software revisions are never-ending, and you must keep up with the changes to keep ahead of competitors and continue to keep your existing customers abreast of the changes. When major software changes occur we will go directly to the manufacturer for product training,â€ Grochowski says.
Gaining such superior product knowledge endows you with the ability to communicate to the business owner, CEO, controller, network administrator, human resource director, and facility engineer. Grochowski says that if you have not involved all of these types of individuals in the sales process, then you will not be successful.
Tools provided by his company complement this training and communication.
â€œWe have an actual door controller that has a modified door panel,â€ Grochowski says. â€œOn the door panel we have a card reader and a graphic layout of an office. LEDs are overlaid on the office layout depicting doors. The LEDs illustrate valid/invalid swipes, doors held open, doors forced opened, etc. We then have the controller connected to our laptops. When we demo the software we can simulate typical conditions on the controller as well as the software interface. This allows the client to see the relationship between the hardware and the software in a very simplistic setting.
Such tools also help to answer clientsâ€™ access control questions, which commonly include:
- How difficult is system management?
- What happens if someone loses a card?
- How difficult is the system to expand?
- How flexible is it (scheduling, exceptions to rules, etc.)?
- Can I have multiple system administrators?
- What affect is this system going to have on my network?
- Can it interface with my other systems (time-and-attendance, guard tour, etc.)?
- What about integration of a badging system with the access system?
Hector J. Sanchez, general manager, BCSE Network Systems, a division of Bonneville Construction, SE, San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been selling integrated systems for 10 years and has had sales of $1.5 to $2 million each year.
Jumbo-sized Swiss Army KnifeSanchez recently completed an access control and digital surveillance sale to the Puerto Rico Justice Department for $1.9 million. This sale was particularly important because it encompassed an enterprise system installed in judicial centers in six cities.
â€œThere was the mix of working in newly constructed buildings and doing retrofit in older buildings,â€ Sanchez says. â€œWe provided the local area network [LAN] in each building and connected it to the Justice Departmentâ€™s wide area network [WAN]. A fiber optic backbone was used for digital CCTV interface. Three other retrofit buildings will be put on the system in 2004.
â€œThe satisfaction from this project came from the fact that it was a long, hard sales effort that took a lot of time and effort. Many systems were considered, and many presentations were made, but we saw clearly how doing a good [job] would make repeat sales to the same customer much easier.â€
What makes such difficult sales easier is effective sales training. Sanchez says that his organization prides itself in providing total solutions that implement the latest technologies, but in order to do so, the sales staff has to be kept abreast of what is available and how it can be used. Sales training, presentation training, self-confidence seminars and the like are provided to the BCSE sales staff.
BCSE also provides its sales staff with engineering support. Project mangers and engineers will make joint calls with the sales staff if the salesperson feels it is necessary.
â€œWe have estimators and engineers who help put bids together. We also perform a bid review with sales, engineering, management, and finance before a proposal goes out the door,â€ Sanchez says.
The crux of BCSEâ€™s successful operation is total solution knowledge â€“ not just systems knowledge. The sales staff knows what it takes to complete a successful project.
â€œWe understand the TCP/IP infrastructure, the conduit and cabling, the electrical and civil work and the administrative work that has to be done to close out a good project. By knowing all of this we are better prepared to answer questions, deal with objections, and exude a kind of calm confidence,â€ Sanchez says.
Ultimately, Sanchez says that successful access control sales come from being prepared and knowing your companyâ€™s abilities, your clientsâ€™ needs, and the capabilities of the solution you are offering.
â€œIf you are going to whip out a jumbo-sized Swiss Army knife, you better know what each gadget does and how to use it,â€ Sanchez says. â€œThere is no such thing as luck; there is opportunity met with preparation.â€
Sidebar: Focus on These Techniques and Procedures for Closing More Access Sales
- Get the clientâ€™s mind off of price by suggesting that a scalable solution can be designed to fit any budget. If possible, donâ€™t be first to name a price; let the client name the price first.
- Make a goal to educate yourself about all the related areas that impact access control, such as physical barriers, environmental considerations, security officers, and integration of the access control system with other building systems such as video surveillance, time and attendance, and photo ID.
- Demand quarterly training from your employer. The focus should be not only on technical training, but on complete security solutions and marketing/selling techniques, as well. Training on networks and their operations is a must for your job.
- Create a role for yourself that stipulates that your main function is to satisfy the client. Get permission from your employer to make decisions independently, which will result in satisfaction for your client and more sales for you.
- Make it easy for your prospect to understand the relationship between access control hardware and software in a simple setting. An effective tool, for example, is a board-mounted door controller, which you can demonstrate the operation of by using the software on your laptop.
- Insist on help from your companyâ€™s estimators and engineers during a sales call, if you feel it is necessary.