How to sell IP video

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"We have an enterprise solutions group that is able to show the benefits of IP and we lead with IP in our sales presentations," said Craig Summers, vice president of Allied Fire & Security in Spokane, Wash. "Selling IP is cost-driven for the customer. We show them how they can transition to IP and have the capability of handling both IP cameras and analog solutions while they migrate. Selling can be a challenge; we take a lot of time and map out the solutions and the product lines. We've also brought IP folks on board to assist with the selling. The IT department of the customer is a driving force and they are involved; they understand IP," he said.

Alternatives: It is probably unwise to showcase 'The One' solution. Prove your abilities and help your customer see the possibilities by displaying at least three different alternative specifications.

The right contacts: Make sure to approach the right people and decision-makers at the end-user facility. Typically, this means you need to get to know the IT side of your customer's operations. This can sometimes be sensitive, as your regular security contact does not necessarily have the right internal connections.

After-sales services: This is an area that has been slightly neglected in the past, but one that proves to be in demand, and an area of expansion for many integrators: How can we help our customers by offering maintenance, upgrades, operations and systems management?

Vertical differentiation: There are differences between the needs, preferences and willingness to pay, of bankers, retailers and others. Over time, make sure to accumulate experiences of the differences and demonstrate your differentiated knowledge to end users.

All these examples require experience and rarely are there shortcuts. Accumulating this competence takes time and don't expect or push things you can't deliver. Customers will see through you if you offer things beyond your competencies. This only goes to show the importance of getting started with your accumulation of experience and training. This is a trial and error process and you need to be prepared for the occasional failure, but don't wait for it to come automatically.

Quick Tips Get Contracts

The first obvious difference that comes up when making a decision to migrate to IP video is the slightly higher cost of an IP camera compared to analog devices. However, the customer should know the higher unit cost of IP video products is compensated by few factors:

- For new buildings and sites that do not have an existing IT infrastructure, once a reseller is in the door use that avenue to up-sell the value-add solution of voice and data. It is key to a sale to provide that differentiation. Promote and communicate effectively your company's value-add, as not all resellers are ready to sell the total solutions package-but you can be. If the infrastructure already has network wiring, there is a huge savings on the physical installation budget.

- IP video eliminates physical monitoring at each location and with remote monitoring the customer can view all sites, from anywhere in the world, without banks of viewing monitors.

- The final system will offer a lot more features than an analog-based system, including remote connectivity and multiple monitoring points.

- It is easier to expand. With IP video, it is, in fact, easier to start small and grow as needed. So salespeople can initially sell a smaller system and tout easy expansion as the business requires. This is not necessarily the case with analog video where central infrastructure (encoders, multiplexers, DVR, etc.) needs to be planned and sized well in advanced. (For instance, Grandstream Networks offers at no cost a VMS called Gsurf that allows users to monitor up to 36 cameras.)

Other Considerations:

- Work with vendors that offer video server/encoders that allow customers to keep existing key analog cameras while turning them into IP devices at a low cost.

- Peak the customer's interest by promoting industry standards such as SIP/VoIP that allow customers to integrate multiple network systems and management with one system.

- Stress the importance of using industry standards for products, fostering integration and ease of installation.

- Partner with a product vendor with easy access to superior support.

- Offer solutions that provide a unique proposition. For example, products which offer the ability to integrate video surveillance and telephony, making the total cost of ownership that much more attractive and cost-effective. Source: Grandstream Networks (