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Ask the Expert: Selling tips for a down economy

ImageEven in a strong economy, when security directors’ budgets are adequate, the job of selling additional video systems can be challenging. But when budgets get cut, a salesperson’s approach must be fine-tuned to ensure success. Here then are four selling tips for a down economy.



April 13, 2009
By Bob Moore

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Tip #1: Take a consultative approach

Getting back to the basics and taking a consultative approach is valid
in any economy, but when things get tough, it’s an absolute necessity.
Even if you’ve worked with an account for years, don’t presume you
completely understand their needs. Ask open ended questions like: “If
you started from scratch today, what would your ideal security system
look like now?” By determining where they’d like to be, you can develop
a game plan to get them there. Another important question is “What
keeps you up at night?”

Probing to find areas of discomfort will help
uncover vulnerable areas your prospect faces, and help you work
together to fix them. Always start meetings with customers by asking if
anything has changed since your last meeting so you can align yourself
with their situation. 

I have been through other tough sales environments such as being at a
venture-funded IT company during the dot-com bust of 2001. The best
sales people with the best sales preparation do well no matter the
state of the economy.  And taking a consultative approach has always
had high success.

Tip #2: Think long-term sell
Even though installing a complete network camera system provides the
most benefits to an organization, security directors can realize many
benefits through a gradual adoption approach — at less of an initial
outlay. Rather than swapping out a client’s complete analogue system,
consider an interim approach using video encoders that convert analogue
signals from legacy cameras to digital signals. Your customers will
also need to license software so that network video recorders can be
used with the analogue cameras. Immediate benefits of this approach
include increased scalability, distributed intelligence and often lower
cost of ownership since many standard IT components such as servers and
storage can be used. This becomes the base of the security department’s
new system.  As budgets become stronger, they can easily add the
network cameras, which will provide them with higher quality images. 
As well, they can incorporate higher resolution cameras such as HDTV or
megapixel.  Laying the ground work for a longer term sale this year
will pay off in the future when the economy and budgets improve.


Tip #3: Get other departments to share
the cost
A creative way to help security directors pay for network camera
systems is to encourage them to seek out other departments in their
companies that would benefit from network video systems. For example,
the IT department may seek surveillance cameras to protect its
infrastructure, marketing may wish to use network cameras for
merchandising purposes at retail stores (observe traffic patterns,
effectiveness of en cap displays, etc.), while operations may seek to
reduce safety hazards. Getting IT involved is particularly effective,
since they typically have larger budgets. In addition, many IT
organizations are in the process or have already put voice-over-IP
(VoIP) initiatives in place. If so, it is particularly good time to
piggyback onto this initiative and move completely from coaxial cables
to Ethernet-based systems used by VoIP and network camera systems.
I have seen this work in many different companies and remember meeting
a university customer for the first time.  He had set up a meeting with
all of the departments that had purchased my company’s camera systems.
At least seven departments were present at the meeting — a number that
shocked the security department. So, if this is accidentally happening
at your customer, surely you can purposely make it work to the security
director’s and your advantage.


Tip #4: Align your approach to cost  cutting goals

Implementing network systems offers a lower cost of ownership than
analog and can also help organizations save costs. So let security
directors know that you are aligned with their needs to cut costs. For
example, because video can be observed from central locations,
organizations can reduce travel costs. Consider the loss prevention
manager who travels regularly to stores to ensure camera angles are
correct and the system is working properly. Taking advantage of remote
management and high-quality images that network video systems offer,
that same manager can reduce site visits from three to two a year.
Likewise, many retailers have investigators travel to sites in order to
review exception reports. Your clients can realize tremendous savings
by investing in capital equipment rather than airline flights, hotels
and rental vehicles. A security director can use your ROI internally to
sell an upgraded security system.

A down economy certainly makes selling to security directors more of a
challenge. But by taking a consultative approach, thinking long-term,
finding creative ways for security directors to share the costs and
focusing on cost cutting benefits, you’ll be more successful while
meeting your clients’ important security needs.


Robert Moore is the Canadian Country Manager for Axis Communications.


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