The Apple of Your Eye

Polish your skills at consultative selling to tap opportunities

Community colleges have witnessed resurgence in attendance. With the financial crisis of the last several years, many older persons have returned to college for new job or skills training. Community colleges may also be the education venue of choice for high school graduates. With four-year college costs soaring, parents send students to community campuses for two years or as a launching pad to universities while saving big bucks in the interim.

As new schools are built, cameras are definitely added to the fold, according to Beverly Vigue, vice president, Education Markets for Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, Carmel, Ind. "For the lower grades, unfortunately, until they have an issue and unless they have budgeted for security prior they are waiting and deferring any security installations," Vigue commented.

She added that funding for colleges and universities is different. "The funding numbers did decrease because of fewer endowments," she said. "There is definitely an influx of people, especially at the local college level and these campuses are building and expanding."

Vigue said integrators should start with a personal introduction and a good understanding of the marketplace and how the facility is run. "It may not be one initial visit, but numerous visits," she said. "There are different budgets and responsible parties on campus so integrators need to talk to folks in security and facilities management to understand who is controlling what." Doing a 'due diligence' on the school is critical.

Do your homework well for high marks

"Before you call to set up a visit, find out who's responsible for what. Go to the Internet so you can be armed with knowledge and a better understanding of what the opportunities might be. There may be a lot of little jobs going on. Schools are looking for integrators who are reliable and provide professional services. It's not easy but there is opportunity out there. It is going to take some work and you'll have to go back several times. Find out if they have a one-card provider for vending and see who that provider is. There's no reason integrators can't work with one-card providers," Vigue added.

Messages wanted: quickly and accurately

Chad Lawrence, regional security & fire manager, Southeast, Johnson Controls, Columbia, S.C., said in the university setting, speed of communications takes precedence.

"It's a must, especially using reliable formats that allow mass communications to be exchanged in a timely manner," said Lawrence. "The goal is to communicate accurate and concise information to a wide audience. While complex in the technology, universities have the strong need for a simple interface. Executive leadership needs technologies to help them effectively communicate with their teams."

Johnson Controls, he said, networks with top universities and leverages these connections to get additional work. In addition, it belongs to many organizations and associations for directors of security within the education vertical.

"Politically, if the need is present and when no technology is available to provide a means for mass communications, schools often go to great lengths to secure the necessary funds," he continued. "Upgrades and improvements can be more difficult to fund, but the basic technology is standard in today's environment. Some campuses bundle security solutions with larger energy efficiency projects."

Finding the right solution

Lawrence said mass communications is in a distant first place as the top sell in the K-12 and higher education markets. The next most popular is access control, followed by CCTV.

The education market is ready for the integrator who can provide a risk analysis, consultative approach and the relationship the end user needs to effectively secure their building or campus.