iPads take to the field for security sales

At the ESX tradeshow a week and a half ago, I had the pleasure of participating in a presentation with Gerrit Brusse, regional sales manager for U.S.A. Fire and Burglar Alarm, and Donald Natale, vice president of sales for Alarm.com. The topic was how the security industry was taking advantage of new technologies for the sales process, and I thought I’d take this week’s blog to share some business ideas with you that the speakers shared in the presentation.

According to Natale, there are an estimated 5 billion mobile phones in the world, and over 1 billion of those are smartphones. That means that your potential customers, he said, are likely to be accustomed to instant access/remote access technologies. He said that in the past, your same alarm customers might have only interacted with the system when they armed/disarmed the system at the front door, or when they picked up an alert that the battery was low. Today, they have the ability to grab their smartphone or tablet, and look over the usage history, check in on the status of the system remotely, turn down their A/C, even check video clips of their security system. Customers don’t tend to “go back” in terms of technology adoption, Natale said, so it’s a requirement that your security company is offering the newest technology with all of the remote service options. One thing’s for certain – if you’re not offering these technologies, your competitors will be, and your sales prospects will be wondering “Why does this company only have yesteryear’s technology?”

Even more important than remote access via a web browser is creating a custom app experience that both simplifies and encourages engagement with the security/automation system. “When you get a customer engaged with a mobile app [for their security system], they are less likely to be an attrition statistic for you,” Natale said.

And while the app and remote services environment seems to have blown up in the security industry, with most of the cutting-edge intrusion systems offering app style interfaces for your tablets and iPads, Natale and Brusse said that the industry still has a lot to learn about using tablet computers for the sales process. From purely a sales management perspective, Brusse said the iPad is a dream come true. Unlike the old sales binders that many alarm sales professionals know so well, the iPad allows him to remotely update sales material if there is a special promotion or an offer change. He says being able to remotely sync sales team members’ presentations creates a consistency of messaging that is important in the sales organization. It’s even more powerful than the binder, Brusse said, because you can load all of the data sheets and information for the products you sell so the sales person rarely has to say, “Let me get back to you on the specs for that product.”

On the sales side, the security industry is taking advantage of tablets and iPads with the ability to demonstrate products. Remember the old boxes you used to carry with the demo equipment set up? Didn’t you like lugging that around? Those units are becoming history, said Natale. His firm will soon roll out a sales demonstration app, and we’re seeing similar demo apps appear throughout the industry. The beauty of such an app is that you can put the system in the hands of your customer, letting them “touch” the system and customize the settings – it’s no longer just a page in the old sales binder where you have to verbally explain to the customer how the interface works; instead, your customer actually touches the system just as they would if they were a subscriber! That change in engagement, he said, is powerful.

Brusse said that you can get really creative once you put a tablet computer in the hands of your sales team. He cited the example that one of the sales staff had used the basic camera on an iPad to take a photo of a loading dock with the door open on a bright sunny day. It was the perfect photo to explain to the customer the difference between a standard security camera and wide dynamic range (WDR) camera. It helped sell the value of upgrading to WDR, he said. Other tablet benefits include GPS tracking for managing a sales force, and having access to a contact management app that allows the sales team to enter the info right there and then, rather than jotting it in a notebook.

In terms of the future, our panelists and audience members also see the tablets/iPads as being used for the actual contract process. While none in attendance said they were using it yet to sign sales contracts with clients in the field, all agreed that this is right around the corner. Brusse and other sales managers at the ESX seminar agreed that legal teams would probably have to approve the audit trails of contracts signed on a tablet device, especially since these contracts have to hold serious legal weight. In terms of the logistic process, digital delivery of contracts could allow for automated routing to ensure that once a contract is signed, the project is instantly delivered to the installation team, to the accounting team and to the monitoring operations team for all the follow-ups that are needed.

One thing’s for sure, if you’re not taking advantage of tablets and iPads for your sales force, you need to at least start testing how it can help you. Put a unit in the hands of some of your top performers. What I’m hearing is that the cost of the iPads usually pays itself back in 1 or 2 months because it helps deliver extra sales and higher efficiencies.

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