Strategic Sales for Physical Security

June 9, 2015
How to build upon relationships to sell clients on a solution

A quick search at a popular online job placement site results in 1,046 open positions for security systems sales professionals. The skill sets required to be successful in selling security systems are as complex as the systems themselves. Anyone that has participated in a sales training course will tell you that historically the focus has been on positioning product features and benefits. This is a tactical approach to selling and does not meet the needs of the current security sales environment.

It is important to keep in mind that features are only benefits if they solve the customer’s specific acknowledged problems. Over-emphasis of features can create unnecessary objections and concerns with the solution. So in the sales process, especially the complex sales needs for security products, the sales professional must take a different approach. It is a focus on relationships — the strategic sales approach — that is a must.

The strategic salesperson is focused around the outcomes the customer is looking for. They are focused on getting the customer to think about the outcomes they need to succeed. Before diagnosing and offering how we can address their challenges, we have to ask more questions to make sure we will get to the root of their problem, and bring value to the prospect by supporting their true goals.

Relationship Selling

In any sales scenario, it is easier to sell someone something they want rather than a defense against something they want to avoid. It is a choice between a small sure loss — the cost of the security product — and a large risky loss, such as a breach in the prospect’s secured environment. All things being equal, buyers would rather take the chance that the attack won’t happen than suffer the sure loss that comes from purchasing the security product. Security is fundamentally a “negative sell” and requires a sales approach that is strategic. It requires relationship selling.

So how do we do this? First and most importantly, the sales professionals must do their homework and be a domain expert by truly understanding the prospect; thus, it is essential to do research and gather all necessary intelligence before putting together a strategy. For example, we need to find out what problems the prospect has experienced: Is there a problem with theft, vandalism, or other security/legal issues? Maybe there is a problem with their existing security provider.

So often and especially in the beginning of a relationship, salespeople think they need to be doing all the talking, when they should be listening and asking questions. Keep in mind, if a prospect wanted a rundown of your products or services, they could just visit your website. The sales process is about having an extended conversation. Over-educating the prospect when you should be selling usually gives poor results. The initial goal in selling is to find out why, and under what circumstances, the prospect will buy from you.

Find out what their concerns are with having an alarm system — one task a good salesperson must perform is alleviating any fears or concerns that a prospect may have regarding the purchase of an alarm system. The client wants to be reassured that the proposed purchase is a wise decision and in their best interests. Listening is the most powerful form of influence. We learn nothing while talking. People are best convinced by reasons they themselves discover. Problem-solving must occur before solution selling, and the size of the customer’s purchase order is directly linked to the size of the problem being solved or the opportunity being addressed.

If we take a look at the tactical sales approach, the goal is to make the sale; and the sale in and of itself is the end point of the relationship. However, in a strategic environment the sale is not the end point, and in many situations, is not the end goal either. In actuality, the sale is the beginning of what companies are looking for: a long-term relationship. Did you know that it costs more than five times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep an existing customer? That in itself should help you understand the value of building a relationship with your customers and turning them into repeat buyers. Not only is this a more efficient, repeat customers are essential to the longevity of a firm in today's competing markets.

How to Build the Relationship

A key to building a relationship is to find and influence the ultimate decision maker. This will be a senior person in the background, and they will only engage with salespeople if you present a strong personal value proposition. You cannot sell to someone who is unable to buy. Unless someone has a problem and the necessary money and the authority to commit, they are not a prospective customer. The most effective way to build this relationship is to understand the informal power-base and work within the prospect’s organizational politics; then, you can align your value with serious problems.

Before we can effectively perform solution selling we must work in problem solving mode. The size of the problem determines the size of the opportunity. Focus on creating value through delivering the best outcomes with the lowest risk. Never discuss price before agreeing on value. Price is only relevant if they want what you are offering and should be a slight piece of the decision in the buyer’s mind rather than the predominant determining factor. It is the salesperson’s role to teach their customers. The goal is to come to the table with new ideas for customers that can make money or save money — often opportunities the customer hadn’t realized even existed. Therefore, it is important to tailor the sales message to the specific needs of the customer.

In line with knowing the customer you must also know your competition and their methods of operation. Rather than allowing the competition to use your weaknesses against you, set traps for them and set an agenda focused on the unique solution and value you bring to the table. Be aware of the competition, yet not defensive or cynical. Respect the customer and their power of choice at all times. Confidence is an overrated emotion and is usually the feeling you have before you fully understand the situation.

Other Considerations

In today’s market, the strategic salesperson must grasp the rapid changes in physical security. From the use of RFID badges to improved video surveillance practices, physical security has changed quite a bit over the years. The biggest game changer in the physical security industry is that the industry is now IP-driven. Strategic salespeople win because they’ve mastered the resulting complex sale. Changes to the security industry are changing the sales process.

Finally, it is critical to ask the prospective client for referrals — this is a big key to building sales. Ask for referrals and offer an incentive to the prospect for providing those new potential opportunities. The idea of relationship selling is to extend the sales relationship beyond the immediate prospect and on to future sales through pipeline development.

Connie Moorhead is President of The CMOOR Group (, a provider of security training and education services. To request more info about the company, please visit