The Apple of Your Eye

Polish your skills at consultative selling to tap opportunities

Shootings, abductions, medical emergencies, fire incidents, break-ins, protests, concerts, rallies and more-schools and campuses run the gamut in risks and need a good security integration partner to deliver a tailored approach.

Some incidents can be planned for, others, like mass shootings, generally can't. But with all these scenarios a possible reality, the systems integrator has to be prepared to address any or all-through consultative selling and thorough risk analysis.

The education vertical market is a wealth of untapped opportunity but to really take a bite out of it you need to assess the risks and those depend on its geographical location, number of students and other key factors specific to the protected premises.

This vertical market has opportunities up and down the channel, but budgets are tight as is funding. Some schools have projects funded years ago and have just begun to break ground; others are in a constant battle to get monies for security. One good source of funding is:

Even with the tight finances of the market, Lone Star Communications in Grand Prairie, Texas, continues to focus on the consultative approach, according to Ronald F. Kruse, RCDD and senior vice president of Engineering. Lone Star (a PSA Security Network member) specializes in the K-12 market and often gets referrals from their in-house service group. "In addition, many times we are already doing work in their facility or get a referral from another school district," Kruse said. He added that Lone Star also assists in writing specifications for MEP firms, providing a source of potential customers.

What grade school customers want

Many of the components Lone Star installs in K-12 are public address systems and fire alarms. Beyond that, it depends on the customer and the nature of their operation and Lone Star targets the specification with the customer's end goals in mind, said Kruse. "Burglar alarm coverage is basic and we have seen a move away from door contacts to PIRs only," Kruse added. "Access control and CCTV with front door intercoms are popular for upper and lower grades. The difference is that it's mostly entrance and exit CCTV in lower grades and much higher density camera coverage in upper grades. We are seeing a move to all IP cameras for new installations."

One of the important caveats, Kruse said, is to know who you are selling to-IT or maintenance.

"You may start the process and be surprised by who has the real decision-making authority," said Kruse. Service and maintenance are not a given but nonetheless should not be overlooked.

"I was in the office recently of a maintenance director of a large independent school district in the area," he continued. "Even though we do a lot of business with them, he reconfirmed his commitment to service his own equipment. With the right staff, some customers can handle this. We still jump in for more difficult service items."

Different needs within these markets can't be underscored. For example, many upper level schools and universities are keen on emergency communications and mass notification. Cameras and CCTV seem to be a number one sell for universities and higher levels of education. Campuses with analog cameras now have a choice and a migration path; they can move to IP video and access control fully or have the infrastructure or plan in place to make the move when they are ready and have secured funding. Kruse confirmed he doesn't see that schools are reactionary any longer and instead, try to stay ahead of problems. "The main difference is the availability of funding in the smaller districts and in that case, minimum coverage may be all they can do," he said.

Community college growth boom

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