This article originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.
There are many market approaches and sales strategies in the security industry, but one that has gained momentum over the past two decades is the vertical market approach. Whether manufacturers are dedicating strategic business development managers to markets like government, healthcare and transportation, or system integrators are aligning their salespeople by verticals like retail, industrial, and hospitality, the security industry has a heavy focus on vertical markets.
I think most people know the general benefits of specialization. Examples like being able to talk their language, becoming known within the marketplace, and understanding their most common situations are all advantages; however, there is a timely reason to focus on vertical markets in today’s environment.
Since the beginning of business-to-business sales, customers relied on salespeople to know technology and solutions because they did not have easy access to learn about these solutions. They might attend a trade show once or twice a year, but that was about it. Customers knew their problems. Salespeople knew the solutions. That was it.
Not today. In the market today, customers can easily access any information they need on virtually any topic. Today, customers know their problems and they can find solutions online. They may not be able to complete the designs or do as professional of a job as an expert, but their perception is that they can come close.
In this marketplace, a salesperson who only knows their solutions – no matter how brilliant they are – will be reduced to a proposal architect and order taker (perhaps).
Three Keys to Vertical Market Selling
Today, salespeople must know their world (security) and the problems, trends, people, politics, and requirements of the markets they serve; in fact, most customers expect their salespeople to know their industry almost as well as they know security.
The most effective way to know these things is to focus on one or a few vertical markets. Here are three critical factors every salesperson must know to win sales in a vertical market:
1. Reputation. The foundation of succeeding in a vertical market is to have a remarkable reputation, and one of the most important things a salesperson can do is build and protect that reputation. Sometimes this means turning down sales opportunities that might put the company at risk or breaking bad news early to customers in a professional manner. In the short term, these practices can be very difficult, but reputations are not built in the short term.
2. Problem Solving. Vertical salespeople must understand common problems that impact the organizations in their markets – not simply knowing the solutions, but also understanding at such a level that they can identify problems before customers know about them.
Salespeople who understand the root cause of these problems and can wallow in the world of problems with their customers will win friends and committed customers. By spotting problems early, illustrating the magnitude of the outcomes to your customers, and then providing unique solutions, you will be able to do a lot more than Google can do for them. This is a lot of work, which is why you can focus only on one or a few vertical markets to be able to deliver such a high quality of service.
3. Relationships. Finally, salespeople who dominate vertical markets need to network and market themselves. You may be the smartest professional in a vertical market, but noting happens if nobody knows or trusts you. Participate in industry associations, contribute to industry LinkedIn groups, and write for trade magazines.
Once you are well-known within a marketplace, your customers will feel comfortable moving forward and working with you and the opportunities will start flowing in your direction.
Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (www.vectorfirm.com), a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. Use "Security Business" as a coupon code to receive a 10% lifetime discount at www.vectorfirmacademy.com. To request more info about the company, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/12361573.