How to sell IP video

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Selling is, some would argue, the ability to communicate the value your company is creating. It is also the art of appropriating as much of that value as possible.

Many products and services in today's economy are designed and integrated with other products in a way that selling becomes consultative and informative, rather than transactional. It is no longer a matter of shifting off-the-shelf gadgets for cash--selling is ultimately about helping your customers out, regardless of the products and components included in the solution. This situation is even more prominent in times of technological change, when new products and techniques provide radically different services and functionality. One area that clearly resembles this new selling landscape is IP security products, such as surveillance equipment and access control.

The LUSAX team, Lund University, Sweden, has done extensive research on the challenges and success factors facing integrators who want to expand into the domain of IP security products. In terms of the specifics of the sales process, we have identified a range of issues that must be included and resolved.

Technology: Obviously the first thing is to decide on technology in the overarching sense. As is the case in many industries assimilating new technologies, there is a tendency to hype new solutions and inflate expectations. There are still instances when IP may not be the best option, and where analog solutions might be more economical. This depends of course on installation sizes, legacy equipment and general knowledge of technology. It is however the duty of an integrator to apply a sober perspective on IP, to understand what it can and cannot do and understand the value it can create. This is regardless of what the customer says.

Dave Hood, vice president and general manager of First Alarm Security Services, Aptos, Calif., said the company, a traditional security integrator moving into IP, had some great successes and some horror stories in learning to deploy IP surveillance systems and they are battling their own learning curve as they work to educate themselves on the technology. "Some IP products want to be 'friends' and some don't," said Hood. "When selling, we focus on performance-based specifications rather than product-based bids, and convince the users to stick to performance as well. We train our sales personnel on IP technologies and products so they know what's possible and this also expands their concept of what's attainable for the end-user. We also start with: 'Where are the cameras going to go and what do you want to see? What are you trying to accomplish?' Our central station manager is also much more involved with a video installation on the design side and once the project gets over a certain size or dollar value we bring in our two-person engineering team."

Real cases: Do not try to sell by referring to technical superiority or novelty. Rather than hypothetical or theoretical references, show hands-on what the products can do for your client and use only real cases if you refer to other installations.

That's just what Current Technologies did when it went to bid a high profile IP installation for the city of Naperville, Ill., according to Anthony Valle, an IT and engineering specialist for the company based in Downers Grove, Ill. "They were blown away by our presentation because we had an actual IP installation set up so they could see the end result and they were amazed," said Valle. "In addition, we brought in the deputy police chief from the city of Maywood, Ill., who recently decided to go with our IP and video management system for that municipality, which was a testament to our services."

TCO and ROI: Another basic requirement is to be able to show the expected total cost of ownership (TCO) of the products you market. This is often a simple process. What is perhaps more complicated yet still highly sought after among end-users are estimates of the added benefits of the new products. So, do not only compare the costs of different options but also the value of the effects on the performance of your new solution, e.g., the financial value of different functionality. This way you can offer estimates of the returns on investment (ROI).

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