Having been in distribution for more than 12 years, I have seen the channel ebb, flow and most recently, begin to evolve. To what can we attribute that evolution? I believe it is a credit to security dealers who have recognized the need to become more of the security integrator – to add value and provide a consultative, ‘total solution’ sell to their end-user customers.

I have seen companies struggle because they wanted to sell based on price and price alone. And I have seen companies flourish because they wanted to be a true partner to their end-user customers.

Security dealers are and will remain a valuable part of the channel. But security integrators continue to become more and more important, too.

The industry is changing – and so are the players. As security technologies migrate to the network and become more IT-based, the IT director becomes a key influencer and decision maker along with the security personnel. With this shift comes the need for a new sales strategy. The security dealer needs to evolve to understand the needs and challenges of the IT director. No longer is a security product a stand-alone piece. Today security systems potentially reside on the same network as other business applications. Because of this, it is crucial that the IT director has confidence in the security integrator’s knowledge of the network. Dealers must be able to communicate the benefits of a total security solution in order to be accepted and trusted by the IT decision makers and to gain their business.

But how do you do this when you’re focused on growing your current customer base or recruiting new customers? It’s not easy and it takes time. But that time and effort will help security dealers evolve into security integrators and their businesses, in time, will thrive.

In order to meet the changing needs of the marketplace, security dealers need to be in the forefront of learning new technologies – understanding their place in the market and the impact they might have on their end users’ businesses. They must do their research and present valid reasons to their customers as to why the customer should (or shouldn’t) adopt the new technologies, and whether these technologies can seamlessly integrate into the customer’s business network. Dealers also must change their sales strategy to fulfill the needs of these new decision makers and influencers.

Dealers must be proactive. It’s certainly important to focus on the current requirements, but dealers need to be ahead of the curve when assessing new security solutions. Oftentimes this means having a dedicated person on staff, who is responsible for looking to the future, researching potential needs and making a business case for their customers. Dealers can only afford to deploy so much technology, but by researching “what’s next,” they are proving value and commitment to their customers.

What if the technologies are outside of the dealers’ expertise? Find a partner. By working with a dealer or integrator who has a proficiency in another technology, such as wireless or networking, a dealer is likely to grow his business incrementally while enhancing his knowledge base. Another option is to acquire or hire a company or employees with expertise in the area; experts are out there. Dealers may have some upfront costs for acquiring or hiring and training new personnel, but in the end, that investment will reap rewards.

What’s more, security dealers should pick a distribution partner who can help them get to the next level, and who has a close relationship with leading manufacturers. Dealers should look for a distribution partner that has the sales and technical expertise that can help them speak the language, hone their sales strategy and understand how security solutions can easily become a part of their customers’ overall network – and find one who can help them evolve from dealer to integrator.

Dealer and integrators need to go to conferences, read up on industry trends, and be an internal champion so that the end user can’t imagine going anywhere else for their cutting-edge security solutions. Now is the time to solidify customer relationships, to be a true partner and to stay ahead of the competition. Evolution is a process of change in a certain direction. Dealers: don’t get caught heading the wrong way.