New security companies stay in business an average of three years. The average dealer will survive 18 months. You have the talent to do the job, you are getting referrals, and no question, you are busy. But it's time to develop a sales team; building commercial business can be challenging. It takes discipline and patience. The ultimate reward is great, but the sales cycle is long.

If you have hired a new commercial sales representative and you're in the field selling yourself, your time is scarce. If you want your new sales representative to achieve success, they must have specific strategies and direction. They must have a game plan every day.

Mark, a new commercial sales representative for company X has just completed his second month on the job. Although he was a sales representative for a telecommunications company, he has no prior background in the security industry. He has spent the past two months becoming familiar with the industry, and observing sales calls, installations and service calls. Mark is anxious to get started and doesn’t want to wait to get out in the field any longer.

MARK: I want to get started. I know I’m going to have a learning curve, but I feel like I’m wasting time.

GAIL: Mark, you may be surprised at this, but I’m glad to hear that. It tells me your company hired a conscientious, focused sales representative; but this is a very complicated business and you have to be patient. There will always be a lot to learn. What are you doing now to build your business?

MARK: I’ve gotten a few leads, but my boss runs them with me.

GAIL: That’s a good thing. There is a lot of competition out there and especially with your learning curve, you don’t want to miss out on opportunities.

MARK: I want to get out there and start to cold call, but most of my experience is retail. I have done some cold calling, but have no clue how to approach mid- to larger-size businesses.

GAIL: One thing I’ve mentioned to sales representatives in the past is “diversity.” It’s key. Until you have found your niche, multiple activities are going to produce the best results.

MARK: Where do I start?

GAIL: You mentioned that you ran a few leads with your boss. Were they small- or medium-size companies?

MARK: They were small businesses.

GAIL: After your appointments, did you check in with the neighboring businesses to see if you could be of assistance to them?

MARK: Yes, we did.

GAIL: That’s good. Make that a habit. It’s effective time management. Any time you go to an appointment or an installation, block out an extra hour before or after to visit the neighboring businesses. And commit to the process. One common mistake I see sales representatives make is that they go to an appointment, get a sale, and because they feel so good about the sale, decide to get back to the office and get the paperwork submitted. They feel so good about the sale, it’s no longer important. And that attitude will produce an inconsistent pipeline of business.

MARK: I’ll remember that.

GAIL: It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but you must think long term and continue to build your funnel.

MARK: Actually, I really want to focus more on the medium-size companies.

GAIL: I understand. But remember the medium-size businesses are going to take longer to close. The small businesses can keep you alive while you’re working on the larger companies. So don’t minimize these opportunities.

MARK: Good point.

GAIL: In pursuing medium-size businesses, what I want you to do is start to isolate industrial parks or key companies that you want to pursue in your area.

MARK: Should I do this even if they have a security system?

GAIL: Yes. At this point you have no clue if their contract is almost over or if they are unhappy with their current provider. A major rule-of-thumb in sales is “take charge.”

MARK: What’s a good time to hit these businesses?

GAIL: Any time, but if you cold call first thing in the morning, you’re more likely to do it. One common mistake I see sales representatives make is that they go to the office first and never get in the field. Customer issues, phone calls and meetings come up, or we seek out the opportunity to avoid field cold calling.

MARK: I’ve done that. It’s not easy to cold call.

GAIL: Then schedule your cold calling for first thing in the morning. What you’re going to do is go from building to building. When you walk in, observe what they currently have or don’t have in terms of security. For instance, you may go to a manufacturing facility and they don’t have an access system. You might walk right into the manufacturing area. This is a liability to the company and opens the door to a definite security need. One problem could cost this company in workman’s comp issues and raise their insurance premiums.


GAIL: Now, you may walk in and talk to the receptionist, and that’s OK. Introduce yourself and your company, and ask to speak with the person who handles security for the facility.

MARK: What’s the likelihood that I will get to meet with someone?

GAIL: It depends. Of course there are times people are unavailable and cannot meet with you, but there have also been many times I have walked into a facility and the receptionist gets the security manager and we meet with them. It will surprise you when this happens and surprise you even more when they tell you, “we are having some problems and do need to get a quote.” If the receptionist tells you that you’re going to have to call to schedule an appointment, get the card, ask the best time to contact them, and get a direct phone number or extension.

MARK: Anything else?

GAIL: Get the name of the receptionist. Remember, she’s probably the one who will pick up the phone. The more she’s on your side, the better.

MARK: Can I call them immediately?

GAIL: Why not? And don’t forget what you have observed. Did they have cameras or card access? Was their system older? Is it time to upgrade their system? Were you able to walk into the manufacturing plant or is their inventory something that would be of interest on the open market? These are all things that you can now mention on the telephone with the individual who handles security, because you have seen some of the facility. These are things that can get you an appointment.

MARK: How often should I cold call?

GAIL: Every day, until you have 10 to 12 appointments per week and then two or three times per week for at least one-and-a-half to two hours per day.

MARK: I was also told to pursue new construction. What’s the best way to get started?

GAIL: There are a few different things you can do. First, as you are driving, take note of signs for new construction. Make a note of the telephone number and contact information. With this, you can either call or stop by the construction site to introduce yourself to the general contractor. Something else you can do to pursue new construction is to stop by your local city or township offices. They have a list of all construction permits for additions and new construction. This information is available to the public most of the time. If you go there, they can either print the list or give you access to their log book and you can write the information yourself. The information usually gives contact names and phone numbers, as well as the addresses of the specific sites.

MARK: What do I do once I get to the site?

GAIL: Tell the general contractor who you are, where you work, and what you have to offer. Many contractors are involved in more than one project at a time so ask them about current and upcoming projects.

MARK: That’s good. What about forming alliances?

GAIL: That’s important to do. General contractors could be part of your alliance network. Contractors like plumbers or electricians are a great resource for new business. Other alliances may be businesses such as fire restoration companies, moving companies, realtors, glass companies, cement/masonry companies, or even painters.

MARK: How do I reach them?

GAIL: One thing you can do is stop by a construction site. General contractors can be a resource to other contractors. They work with them every day.

MARK: So if I ask them, they’ll tell me?

GAIL: It’s that easy. When you talk to them, ask them who is handling the plumbing, who is handling the cement work, and the glass windows. Often they know and can give you the names and a resource for the contact information.

MARK: So these people can all send me business? That’s great.

GAIL: Yes…and no. Mark, it’s not that easy. If you want successful relationships with these people, they have to see you often – if you lack consistency, you will lack sales. This is a common mistake I see with sales representatives. A sales representative meets an alliance and then hopes the business will come. The more often these people see you, the more likely they are to call you for business. Consistency is everything in business from your first “hello,” to staying in touch, to proposing, to follow-up. Consistency can make you or break you in sales.

MARK: How often should I stay in touch with alliances?

GAIL: You should have some type of contact with your alliance once a week. If this is a serious business relationship, they should want to meet with you, as well. Both of you have stated that you want to help each other build business and that warrants follow-up discussions and updates. Make a commitment to yourself that each time you speak with your alliance, you will provide them with some type of information – maybe it’s a lead, an idea to generate business, or recent information you have found about their industry. These actions demonstrate your commitment and will encourage commitment to you.


GAIL: You may also decide to hold a weekly or bi-weekly breakfast meeting. This will keep your alliances involved and excited.

MARK: How can I keep my alliances strong?

GAIL: One way is to remember them. When you are passing by, you might want to drop off a dozen donuts or a lunch certificate, or for holidays, you might want to send a gift basket. More important than the gift is the service you deliver. We often think we have to give someone something. Don’t get me wrong, it does make the person feel good about doing business with us. But there isn’t a gift that can take the place of doing “a bad job.” Exceptional service is hard to find today and when people get their hands on it, they don’t want to let go. Do what you say you’re going to do!

MARK: That’s good advice.

GAIL: What are you doing about your existing customer base?

MARK: What do you mean? Sometimes they call and need an extra window contact or motion sensor.

GAIL: That’s exactly what I mean. Existing customers are an excellent source of new revenue. Make a print out of your existing customer base and notice the equipment they currently have and how long they have had it. Do they have cameras? Do they have access? One sales representative I was working with just made a $25,000 sale. If it’s a small business, develop a small business camera package that allows them to stay current and monitor productivity and inventory issues. If it’s a medium to large business and they do not have cameras or access, it’s time you found out why.

MARK: Sounds good. Thanks, Gail.

GAIL: You’re welcome but, it’s what you do with the information that counts. You’ve got a lot of choices: cold calling in the field, pursuing new building permits through city offices, building alliances, and pursing your existing customer base. Remember, successfully building your business through prospecting revolves around four factors: diversity, consistency, resilience and working smart.

Prospecting Tip 1: Diversify Your Activities

Different activities keep your energy level and your skill level high. And high energy and skill level means stronger confidence, a productive attitude and more success. A variety of activities also opens new doors, which will give you a greater, faster return and increased results.

Prospecting Tip 2: Develop Consistency

Have a set schedule to cold call, to contact existing customers or to follow-up with alliances. If you establish consistency with your cold calling, it will become a positive habit and you will keep your funnel full and increase your revenues. And if you follow-up consistently with alliances and existing customers, their internal clock will start to anticipate your telephone call or visit. You will set yourself up for success.

Prospecting Tip 3: Be Resilient

Making sales isn’t easy. Until you get your business working for you, you must work for your businesses. If you start a task and it’s not working, don’t stop. Talk to someone and reevaluate your process, but don’t quit. Thomas A. Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Prospecting Tip 4: Work Smartly

If you don’t know how to do a task, ask someone before you move forward. Don’t waste time hoping you can figure it out on your own. Whether you are out in the field cold calling or building alliances, it takes time – time to get to an area, time to cold call, time to see an alliance, and time to visit an existing customer. Don’t leave without finding the opportunity and making the most of it.