How to Work with Municipal Clients

Dec. 12, 2014
Utah systems integrator shares his experience and best practices for sales and service in this challenging market

Michael Saltzgiver, Chief Operating Officer for systems integrator HEI Security, learned most of what he knows about selling to and servicing municipal clients fairly close to home. Two and a half hours by car from his Salt Lake City office is Duchesne County, Utah, where his team has installed a number of security solutions.

“It’s a very rural county, known for its surplus of pristine, open spaces and great fishing reservoirs,” he says.

While the geographic spread of the county is 3,256 square miles, its population numbers a mere 18,000 (by comparison, Los Angeles County, home to millions, is 4,752 square miles). The relative shortage of people leaves a lot of room for reservoirs, two national forests, quarries where it is not unusual to find dinosaur bones, Starvation State Park and the Nine Mile Canyon.

Many of the empty spaces, however, are quite profitable: The county is oil-rich. “Oil drilling is a major portion of the economy,” Saltzgiver says.

Over the past year, he and his team have been working with various entities of Duchesne County to upgrade, or in some cases install video surveillance solutions, giving them a uniquely up-close view of the area and how it works.

Inside the Duchesne Project

“They wanted us to take a look at the cameras they were using to monitor a landfill because they weren’t working very well,” Saltzgiver recalls. “HEI’s strength is both IT technology and security, so we recommended using cameras controlled by sophisticated video management software (VMS).”

Before the bid for the landfill project was even approved, the county asked Saltzgiver to bid on installing a system in the jail, which it rents to the state of Utah. “We did a bid for 86 cameras at the jail,” Saltzgiver says. “They awarded us that. Then they approved the bid to install four cameras at the landfill. Then they said they needed a system in the libraries, so we bid on installing cameras in the library in the town of Duchesne and more in the Roosevelt library. That was approved.”

HEI’s winning streak in Duchesne County was just getting started. “Once the library systems were up and running, they called and said the juvenile justice center needed cameras and audio in the interviewing rooms so everything could be recorded,” Saltzgiver says. “So we installed in all three of the rooms. Then they called about the fairgrounds, where we put in a bid to deploy multiple cameras, which was approved.”

It was at the fair that he was approached about the county’s administrative building, which was in need of an upgrade. “We were contracted to install multiple cameras in the admin building,” Saltzgiver says. The fair project also led to an inquiry from the mayor of Duchesne, who had more opportunities for upgrades and installations.

Tips for Municipal Projects

Saltzgiver concedes that a lot of what guides his work with municipal clients is equally applicable to projects in the private sector. Regardless, he believes these four key tips are worth revisiting at the beginning of every engagement.

Tip #1: Know your strengths. His first rule is perhaps the most obvious. “Play to your strengths,” he says. “At HEI, our strength is the fact that we’re experts on both security and IT.” Saltzgiver explains that HEI started as a security company but expanded into IT when it became apparent that technology was becoming the center of the industry. HEI founder Dan Pearson, for example, has more than 25 years experience in IT. HEI’s solutions have become more deeply integrated with software such as open platform video management software (VMS) offered by Milestone Systems, which is the foundation of HEI’s (video) offerings, Saltzgiver says.

“We have retained 96 percent of our customers,” he says. “They keep coming back to us because our combination of service and IT skill enables us to do a lot of things for our customers that others cannot.”

With a total of 18 employees, Saltzgiver estimates that the split between IT and security expertise among the tech staff is fairly even.

Tip #2: Control costs. “One of the biggest concerns of a municipality is finances,” he says. “It is their job to make sure taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck. That’s where our expertise comes in: We can keep the prices down but, at the same time, deliver a high level of quality.” One of the ways HEI controls costs on behalf of municipal customers is to take care of testing and training before the solution is deployed. “We test every camera and every system here in our facility before the sale,” he says.

Tip #3: Do not treat customers as guinea pigs. Another of Saltzgiver’s guiding principles for working with municipalities is therefore to never to use the customer as a guinea pig. “We work with our vendors to make sure we have the personnel trained appropriately,” he says. “Before we are there with the customers, we make sure we know what the optimal camera settings are, how to achieve them and numerous other things. Milestone has a well-developed certification and knowledge program, for example.”

Being familiar with the products and the vendors that sell them is important not only before the installation but after as well. “That’s yet another way our blending of IT and security is valuable in how we sell to and service municipal clients,” Saltzgiver says. “We send the right people on service calls, based on what the job requires. That way our clients aren’t getting a tech who comes to their location then learns the job by sitting on the phone with someone. We don’t build in extra hours, which is hugely important when costs are scrutinized by taxpayers.”

Tip #4: Choose vendors wisely. Saltzgiver says one of the keys to winning business with municipal customers is to be highly selective when choosing vendors. “We pick up systems that are good and that we are good at, such as the Milestone VMS,” he says. “We take the same approach to cameras.”

That approach, he adds, saves municipalities money in the long run. “Our lines are limited, but what we do we do right,” he says. “Without our depth of experience in IT, we might just over engineer an expensive server that’s available in order to meet the minimum specifications. But drawing on our knowledge of IT, we’ve specialized in a platform that’s open and flexible enough to handle not just traditional data but video as well. That saves our customers money, because when we sell them a solution we sell the right solution.”

Courtney Dillon Pedersen is Communications Manager with Milestone Systems. To request more information about the company, please visit