Selling Security Differently: The move to integrated systems changes the narrative

Published On
Apr 15, 2021

Selling physical security is not about hawking hardware and trying to convince the client that one product is better than the other. Customers are looking for ways to leverage technology to solve their challenges and a single contracting partner they can work with to integrate everything for a safer, more secure and healthier business or workplace.

Thanks to the digital transformation and the convergence of physical security with other disciplines, including information technology, operational technology and automation (Industry 4.0) and the availability of interconnected devices through the internet of things and IP connectivity, the selling landscape has changed. Coupled with the unforeseen, overshadowing pandemic, quarantines and travel shutdowns, the sales process has been turned on its head.

Customers want solutions to problems—whether it’s a back door constantly propped open or sensitive machinery that requires a keypad or biometric authentication prior to operation. They want to use the cloud and remote technologies to check in on the business from wherever they are. With converged, integrated systems, the user has an abundance of options, and it’s up to the systems integrator to collaborate closely during the sales process to design solutions that satisfy their needs.

Embracing change

Family-owned and operated Aldridge Electric, Libertyville, Ill., has recognized the shift, taking the conversation to consultative selling and focusing on delivering integrated solutions. The company has a nearly 70-year history in electrical contracting and in completing complex infrastructure projects in the transportation, power, utility and industrial markets.

Aldridge will leverage the cloud, IP connectivity, analytics, data networking and other leading-edge technologies with its deep contracting expertise to provide successful systems integrations for the customer. To reaffirm and facilitate this shift, Aldridge has made management changes, including appointing Jack Buckingham as vice president of technology and systems integration. Buckingham will guide a holistic approach to integrated systems contracting across all service sectors.

“There’s big change taking place, and in the future, more data will become available to the customer,” Buckingham said. “As we move to technologies like electric vehicles and charging stations, autonomous driving, analytics and more connected systems, there’s lots of data taken in that’s not being used as it should be. And that’s where the true value of systems integration contracting comes in.”

Buckingham said the sales process begins by developing a relationship with the prospect based on understanding the end-result the customer wants to achieve.

“It starts with a conversation and evolves into a formal strategy or plan. It’s about bringing everyone together in a casual atmosphere so they can talk about their experiences and pain points. In this way, they relay more detailed information, and we can move from conceptual idea to strategic planning,” he said.

Buckingham said, even before the pandemic, Aldridge focused on technology that benefits customers and helps make their operations more efficient, such as the cloud for remote systems management and videos with analytics.

He added that customers are looking for ease of use in systems, software compatibility, low-cost installation and maintenance and an after-market service contract from a single service provider they can turn to for all their technology needs.

“We become a trusted adviser to the client,” Buckingham said.

Changing the conversation

Relationship selling, especially for the systems integrator, has become increasingly important, according to Connie Moorhead, owner and CEO of the CMOOR Group, Louisville, Ky., an online training and industry-specific learning management system firm.

“Systems integrators need to develop a relationship with the security director that forms an alliance, and then the two can build a strategy and go to the C-suite together with a solid analysis to put into a plan,” Moorhead said. “You can’t be product-centric in sales; it’s more about developing a business plan than a product proposal. Customers want solutions that offer deterrence, rather than simply detection. The bottom line is the customer wants to feel safe and secure and know they are doing all they can to protect people and assets.”

Moorhead added that systems integrators who want to remain relevant by selling security into the future need to focus on continuing education and learning about smart automation, audiovisual, cybersecurity, the cloud and edge devices.

“Knowledge is everything in security, and critical thinking skills are important in sales,” she said.

Gretchen Gordon, CEO of business management consulting firm Boost Profits LLC in Columbus, Ohio, likens the shift in the sales process to “old-school consultative selling.”

“It’s not about the product,” Gordon said. “It’s about what the systems integrator brings to the table that will solve the problem or help the client achieve their goals. That’s how you differentiate your selling—by having a better conversation.”

Historically, the physical security industry has focused on the better mousetrap, she said, but with rapid technological development, even a product with a clear advantage doesn’t hold that status long.

“Systems integrators need to focus on the return on investment (ROI) and the overall value of the technology to the client,” she said. “Understanding the ROI and the cost of failure to the customer in compromised security and loss of business continuity is the way to differentiate your sales and tie into their emotion.”

Zoom overload or blessing?

Face-to-face conversations, which have dropped off during the pandemic, don’t seem to carry as much weight, but Gordon advises taking the cue from the client if an in-person meeting is desired. A walk-through of the site is also important at some point.

“With a virtual meeting, the CEO or decision-maker may be able to pop into the conversation or you may get the attention of additional people who you might not see in person. If you want to be successful, you need to be flexible and adaptable in the sales process. Change your attitude about change and embrace it,” Gordon said.

Ticket for growth

Maximizing success also means having the proper technology and sales management platforms in place, which increases accountability, visibility and profitability, according to Tracy Larson, president of WeSuite LLC, White Plains, N.Y.

Sales management software centralizes data, creates personalized plans for each salesperson to achieve company and individual goals and yields real-time, one-click data and electronic documents so contracts get signed on the spot.

“Technology is a must in sales today because time is in such short supply,” Larson said. “You should be able to push a button on the computer and have a good proposal and contract so the sales person doesn’t have to waste time in multiple tools and manual processes. It’s all in the proposal: the scope, bill of materials, pricing and with one click they present it to the customer. Not only does that save time but it builds trust with the customer.”

Larson said the pandemic reinforced the need for automated sales processes and approvals so integrators don’t have to “march papers around.”

“The process is touchless and that’s really critical for generating proposals and getting approvals. Electronic signing is also widely advocated and accepted today. An investment in technology and automated sales processes stop leaky gaps and the systems integrator is able to adjust and pivot quickly, a critical piece of sales success.”

About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer

O’MARA writes about security, life safety and systems integration and is managing director of DLO Communications. She can be reached at dlocommunications@gmail.com or 773.414.3573.

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