Consultative Selling

Until five years ago, successful surveillance deployment consisted of having a sales team with a line card (3rd party product and pricing sheet) of cameras and recording devices, a couple electricians and some installers to pull cable. Now with the recent push to networked video, the sales model has morphed from hardware and boxes to a consultative approach.

Selling technology is about listening to the customer, developing a strategy and collaborating closely. The risks of the user, what they want to accomplish and how the system can address security and related challenges is how consultative selling unfolds.

The success of Current Technologies begins with a 'sit down' with prospects: we listen and try to understand who they are and what they do, and then uncover what they need and their 'pain points.'

The development of successful surveillance solutions means creating the whole plan and not just the part prospects can currently fund. Particularly in working with municipalities, you never know when they will find a grant or reserve capital to apply to a project, so we always have each phase developed and ready for funding. We design the project top to bottom, starting with the infrastructure. This approach makes us the provider who can see the big picture-and when they are ready and do get funding we're often their go-to provider.

Develop the entire scope of the project

When developing these projects, think of it like a house. You would not contract with an architect, tell him or her to blueprint one room, and then once it's built go back and develop the next room and so on until the house is complete. Our job is to explain how critical each piece of the project is to another and that if we architect the whole idea, then break it into phases, they would be prepared in the future when grant opportunities emerge. The bottom line: make sure you understand the entire scope even if there are currently only finances for one phase.

Another important part of consultative selling is a model most security dealers struggle with; the hardware mentality. Current Technologies does not sell products. We design and build surveillance networks. However, in the process we sell millions of dollars of equipment a year. When you sell products/hardware as a mindset, you typically focus on your line card. This means you are counting your margins and thinking about which product makes the most money, not what is going to give the client the best system.

We stay product agnostic and separate sales and design processes, ensuring the client's final product fits their needs, not the vendor's. Approached in this manner, clients are more likely to contact us at the beginning of an idea instead of when the RFP is released. Working with a client on long term planning of a system enables us to become the trusted vendor, with a better understanding of what they are looking for and willing to spend.

Recruiting a good sales team that understands this philosophy is difficult. When recruiting, our goal is to find a balance between good listening skills and a strong technical background. We typically don't "sell" to our clients. We provide good technical ideas then assist in bringing them to fruition.

During the next three years, the most successful companies are going to be those that embrace the networking aspect of new digital systems and add networking engineers to their ranks instead of installers. The most successful companies will learn to embrace technology, not try to make do with outdated analog equipment.

The surveillance market currently is comprised of about 75 percent analog and 25 percent digital video sales, but I predict a transition to all digital in the next five years. The only companies that will be left installing surveillance systems will be those who embrace digital video systems.

Steve Daugherty is the president of Current Technologies, Downers Grove, Ill., an IT consulting firm providing network-centric wireless and video surveillance solutions.