Being an insightful subject matter expert requires a specialized knowledge of the vertical market in which the customer operates. Each market has its own set of unique demand drivers—risks, internal and external threats, regulatory issues, competitive dynamics and profit formulas—and even the most accomplished sales professional would be hard-pressed to understand these drivers in more than a couple of industries. Value creation requires that you go deep, not wide, into a customer’s specific business model.
I often hear integrators lamenting about being forced to compete on price, or about certain manufacturers selling around them directly to end-users, or about customers using B2B commodity auctions for the procurement of security products and services. The hard truth in these instances is probably that the end-user doesn’t see the value in consultatively dealing with the integrator. Doing so creates more costs than benefits and, as a result, a value deficit for the customer. In this instance, costs would include not only price, but also the customer’s time and expense associated with the sales cycle.
If integrators are not creating enough value during the sales cycle, it is often a result of an undifferentiated approach to selling. Their focus is likely on transacting and responding to sales opportunities rather than working hard to create them. For these integrators, value may be created over the long-term as a result of quality workmanship or reliable service, but they will probably have to win the business based on price. If they cannot effectively compete on price and they cannot create value up-front through insight selling, they may never get the chance to demonstrate the long-term quality of their service.
Systems integrators who are unable to create value through insight selling will likely soon be relegated to the role of contractor and be forced to compete purely on price, or, even worse, face potential obsolescence. Consider the disruptive nature of Travelocity, Priceline.com, Trulia, Zillow, LegalZoom.com, or iTunes. All these innovative business models have significantly marginalized their respective service providers: Travel agents, real estate agents, lawyers and brick-and-mortar record stores. The Internet caused commoditization and the service providers were unable to create enough value to justify their price premium. Don’t think this can happen in electronic security? Try Googling “IP video camera.”
In order to avoid obsolescence, systems integrators must create value by educating customers through insight selling—not on the typical benefits of technology, but rather by explaining how security technology can solve their unique problems—independent of whether or not the customer knows they have a problem.