Working Your Way to the Top

May 16, 2016
How to climb the sales ladder to eventually win over your customer’s C-Suite

It is no secret that in order to succeed in any business, you must be able to establish and cultivate solid professional relationships. This is particularly true for security system integrators, who often must earn the trust of lower-level team members and middle management before they can gain access to C-level leaders and help them choose the appropriate solution for their security needs.

Integrators must also be able to collaborate effectively with a wide range of consultants — from architects and IT to security specialists and manufacturers — if they are to successfully complete a project. They must possess the ability to foster communication and build strong relationships across all levels management and multiple areas of expertise.

Ultimately, the success or failure of any integration project will be based not on their ability to integrate a security system, but rather on their ability to integrate a variety of individuals with different fields of expertise into a cohesive team that will collaborate effectively.

Climbing the Ladder

Although C-level leaders have final decision-making power, it can be notoriously difficult to gain access to them. While some will give you the opportunity to make your pitch to them directly, others will instead rely on information and feedback from their team to help them choose the right solution.

Unless you have a C-level sales connection, your day-to-day contact is most likely to be someone in a middle management role rather than the CIO. This means you will need to first win over lower-level team members who will be more apt to do a deep dive into the project, focusing on things like software interfaces, project implementation steps and timing, user training and other details that will be critical to the project’s success. They will be looking at you and your company, as well as the solution you offer, and will want to know things like:

  • How will you relate to their location and their internal staff?
  • How will you bring a solution to them in a way that reduces their workload or is as effortless as possible?
  • How will you deal with bumps in the road?
  • How transparent are your processes?

Throughout this process, do not overlook opportunities to build relationships — having a strong ally can go a long way in solidifying a business relationship and ensuring that your message is received and understood by C-level prospects. It will also enable you to gain an insider’s perspective on critical issues, get familiar with budget challenges and understand who is connected to whom within the company — information that can prove invaluable as you move forward with the project.

Winning Over IT

No matter where along the corporate ladder you start your sales process, be sure to schedule time with the IT department early on. As more companies migrate to IP-based video surveillance and access control systems, IT is increasingly involved in physical security. Given the demands these systems place on bandwidth and internal networks, winning their confidence is crucial to getting a project approved and implemented smoothly.

Be sure you have someone on your team who can effectively communicate about your security platform, while also providing guidance on IT decisions, from both a technical and sales perspective.

“One of the biggest keys to success is being able to demonstrate to IT that you can speak their language at a basic level and that you know about the system being utilized,” says Matt Seymore, Sales Manager with M3T. “This shows them you are there to help them avoid problems, not create them.”

You will also need to become familiar with their IT capabilities by asking several questions, including:

  • What IT security policies are in place?
  • What access control points are available to use?
  • Can the system support security beyond PCs?
  • How is cabling installed?
  • Is the server environment virtual?
  • Do you maintain backups or do you want the integrator to do that?
  • How do you onboard a new application?
  • How do you want to handle maintenance of the security solution?

Finally, try to think long-term. It is important to view the partnership with IT beyond just installation and implementation, and even maintenance. Consider how you and IT can partner throughout the life cycle of the security solution to provide ROI protection.

Selling to the C-Suite

The larger the organization, the tougher it can be to reach a C-suite stakeholder. But once you have formed positive relationships with lower-level team members and done everything necessary to make them comfortable with your proposal, the opportunity should eventually arise to meet the C-level leaders face-to-face and present a solution.

Although it can be nerve-wracking, just remember that selling to the C-suite is just like any of the relationships you formed as you worked your way up the ladder — find out what their needs are and show you can fulfill them.

Keep in mind that these stakeholders have a strategic focus; they are paid to meet their business goals and are looking at you as a resource for helping them do so. At the same time, they do not want to make a mistake. This is your opportunity to ease that concern.

Here are several things C-suite leaders are relying on integrators to do for them:

  • Identify a solution that improves their business productivity;
  • Recommend future-forward technology that will be able to flex and grow as needs change;
  • Provide guidance on how to mine data to improve service, cut costs and create efficiencies;
  • Justify the costs of expanding their security technology system;
  • Offer an honest opinion on what will best meet their needs; and
  • Choose the right partners.

While all of these elements are important, the ability to bring the right partners to the table is crucial to a project’s success. Assuming you are successful in your sales pitch to the C-suite, you need to begin the real work of integrating several consultants’ ideas, concerns, needs and shortcomings into a cohesive team.

Building the Team

 A complicated security project —such as implementing a security or access control system on a multi-building campus — requires collaboration with professionals beyond the IT department. As an integrator, you will likely be part of a larger team of consultants, which could include security professionals, architects and even the manufacturer. 

Having a variety of consultant perspectives is vital, as one individual or company does not typically possess all the knowledge a project requires. Because technology, security hardware products and building codes change regularly — or have nuances to them — it is important that a large security project is approached from several angles. By combining the expertise and experience of each advisor, the consultancy team can identify and develop the best solution for a facility today as well as in the future.

The challenge lies in successfully integrating each member into the consultancy and ensuring everyone works collectively and collaboratively toward a common goal.

Integrators who build successful consultancy relationships:

  • Extend or augment their staff capacity and skill sets;  
  • Provide analytical horsepower to evaluate trade-offs, cost benefit and return on investment analyses;
  • Implement solutions quickly and cohesively;  
  • Supplement training for ongoing management of security solutions; and
  • Position themselves as trusted advisors who provide the latest security technologies.

Managing Relationships

Of course, it’s not enough to simply establish these relationships. Here are three steps that are vital to effectively managing them:

Step 1: Selecting the right manufacturer. There are many security products from which to choose, but integrators need to remember they are choosing more than a product —they are choosing a partner, and the right one will provide more than just a product. Look for a manufacturer that not only has a broad portfolio to meet the various needs of a facility, but also offers product training, code expertise, technical services and more. A solid manufacturing partner can help you compare the various products and technologies available in the market. Plus, they can provide extensive code knowledge — particularly important since codes vary by building type, industry and state. Best of all, some manufacturers offer services at no cost.

Step 2: Formalize the process. It is important to kick off a project by gathering the entire team together — everyone from the consultants, the end-user, varying trade contractors and more. The team of consultants should formalize the working relationship by developing an official statement of work that clearly outlines deliverables and expectations for each consultant on the team.

Step 3: Build a strong communication foundation. Before you even begin organizing a project, you should meet with the other consultants to:

  • Clearly outline the project scope;
  • Identify the deliverables you expect;
  • Prioritize the key elements;
  • Develop a preliminary timeline;
  • Estimate a budget range; and
  • Create a list of internal stakeholders.

If you have a security project and are seeking outside resources to provide assistance, remember to consider manufacturers as part of your team. They offer another unique perspective — and their counsel and advice is generally provided at no cost.

Integrators who advocate for a high degree of interaction and involvement are more likely to avoid the pitfalls that can hamper the integration process. No matter what level of the corporate ladder you find yourself working, your ability to collaborate and build strong relationships with others will be crucial to building and expanding a successful business. Always do what you say you’re going to do and provide what you say you’re going to provide, including the information that C-suite executives need to make the right decision. Your role may be implementing technology, but what you’re really doing is building relationships and integrating them into a solution.

Minu Youngkin in the Integrator Marketing Manager for Allegion. For more information, visit