Working Efficiently in a Tough Economy

IS THE GLASS half-empty or half full? Is this a recession or a market correction? We’ve hit on a common theme among these well-known integrators—the perception of a recession, real or not—is causing users to keep spending to a minimum. SD&I went to five national systems integrators to ask them critical questions in dealing with sales goals and strategies in a downturn. Here’s what they had to say.

What are the biggest sales challenges you and your team are currently faced with?

Patrick M. Egan, president, Kourt Security Partners, LLC d/b/a Select Security, Lancaster, Pa.
Perception of the depressed market, more so than the actual market, has paralyzed decision makers. Because of this, project timelines have been extended and overall scopes of work have lessened. 

Martin Guay, president, Niscayah Inc., Duluth, Ga.
In a difficult economic environment, our customers need to find ways to meet their organizational objectives. In most cases, the primary objectives are maintaining a reliable security posture while validating streamlined and effective security operating costs. Customers will not have capital to expand or to replace their systems but will need to continue to expend operating expenses to manage their security systems effectively. We need to sell into the customers’ needs and challenges. This will take a long term attitude and focus.

Bill Bozeman, CPP, CHS and president/chief executive officer, PSA Security Network®, Westminster, Colo.
The overall downturn in the economy has obviously had a negative impact on capital expenditure spending. We’re dealing with customers who are tightening their purse strings. Although some analysts feel our niche, physical security, is recession proof, I disagree with them. I think we’re luckier than most but we’re not recession proof and I would say the majority of integrators have felt the pinch. 

Carey Boethel, CPP and senior director, Security Solutions, Siemens Building Technologies Inc., Buffalo Grove, Ill.
During down economies, companies tend to shift their focus toward managing sales prospecting activity rather than focusing on capturing quality revenues. However, managers need to be careful not to shift focus away from their longer-term strategic initiatives, creating value for the customer, and training, coaching and development of the sales force. 

Richard Rot, district sales manager for Chicago, Ill., Stanley Convergent Security Solutions Inc., Naperville, Ill.
Perception is the biggest sales challenge to overcome. In today’s business world, sales people are bombarded with stories about how bad the economy has become. At first, negative stories about the economy can appear to be an obstacle to a sales person’s success. However, the reality is that in challenging business times customers need security solutions more than ever. Customers need help to reduce their security risks, asset loss and operating costs. Whether the increased risk comes from staff reductions or external crime, companies want to collaborate with a security provider that provides cost savings and security solutions paired with outstanding customer service.

How do you think you can solve these challenges? 

Egan: Urgency and education are two ways to solve these challenges. Create urgency with “buy now” incentives and be more flexible with down payment and installation options. Educate the decision makers on the positive economic signs that still exist in their industry. (If there are none, skip trying to sell to that industry.)

Guay: We need to sensitize all of our personnel to work with our customers, in a consultative fashion, to reduce their spending. The only way to accomplish a “win-win” is to organize the solution differently. There will be little or no capital available to implement new or expanded systems. We need to help our customers rationalize their legacy investments and to reduce their spending on their systems operations and systems management.

Bozeman: We just have to be more aggressive than we’ve been in the past. When things are good, it’s human nature to take things for granted; you don’t have to be quite as disciplined or quite as tough. It goes without saying, only the strong survive. The current environment means we have to be disciplined, work hard and experience some pain in order to succeed. The strong will survive and the smart will adapt.

Boethel: At Siemens, we consistently focus on longer-term, strategic growth opportunities and continue to invest in the development of our people.

Rot: Differentiate yourself from your competition. Focus on the customer and their business needs. Offer products and services that positively impact the customer’s bottom line. Take the time to understand the custome’s business and customize your security solution to best fit their operations and security requirements. Being a true security provider is more than just securing buildings, it is becoming a true business partner to the customer.

What’s your biggest tip or two in getting sales folks to look for new business? 

Egan: Stop driving around aimlessly all day to find random leads. Get familiar with navigating the Internet and then make the phone your best friend. Your finger can dial much faster than your feet can walk or car can drive. Do prospecting activities that you have never done before. Step outside your comfort zone. The novelty of these activities will energize you and offset the negative feelings resulting from the most recent rejection.

Guay: Getting in front of prospective customers with problems is the key to growth. Listening to customers will provide us with the problems and working with them to create new plans will be the solution.  Since more spending is not the answer, creative thinking and strategies will be the future. Listening is key.

Bozeman: Change the compensation program. That’s it. Compensation pushes performance. New areas and venues need to be explored and we have to give our sales people new incentives to tackle these challenges.

Boethel: Demonstrating an ROI for security spending is key. Help your customers show the value of what they bring to their organization and how security not only can align with the business objective, but can also positively impact the bottom line.

Rot: ACT accordingly. Be Aggressive in your goals; Confident in your abilities; and Tenacious in your commitment. Customers need the help of top tier service providers who can add value to their business operations. Identify how you can help the customer make their security investment more productive. Develop your message, strategy and ACT on it. Do not sit and wait for the phone to ring.  Get out and meet with customers to understand their needs. If you don’t, someone else will.

Deborah O’Mara is the editor of Security Dealer & Integrator magazine, reaching  some 25,000 installers.


What We Learned
Perception of what’s happening in the marketplace is negatively affecting sales. Decision makers are reluctant to make an equipment and specification purchase, even though the need has been established. Focus on the value of the system over time (total cost of ownership versus an antiquated one) as well as the ability to upgrade and scale up as necessary (possible with a network and other systems) as key selling points.


Customer Service First
It still costs more to generate new accounts rather than to keep your current ones, no matter the state of the economy. Be sure your existing customers are happy and follow up with them regularly through telephone, e-mail or face to face. These customers are also a good source for potential upgrades and qualified referrals for new business.