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How to make the IT manager your friend

To win a security sale just two or three years ago, all you needed to do was convince the top security guy or gal at a company – the Security Manager, Loss Prevention Manager, Facilities Manager, etc. – to choose your solution. But with the sharp rise of IP surveillance and its reliance on using corporate networks, a new breed of surveillance influencer has been introduced into the deal: the IT department. This critical person can be the IT Manager, Network Manager, or Chief Information Officer (CIO).


October 12, 2011
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One of the first rules of selling is understanding the motivations for each level of the sale. Let’s start by profiling the typical security decision maker.

At the end of the day, this person wants a system that works. They will look bad if they don’t have a reliable system. This group is generally more conservative about system changes (which may be one reason holding up the inevitable move to all digital).

Prior to the rise of network video, innovation in security systems for 30 years was painfully slow compared to today. The big changes they experienced were the migration from VCRs to DVRs and going from black and white to colour images.

The advent of network video with its corresponding acronyms and buzzwords can be overwhelming to someone who may have little experience with IT. So when working with the physical security group, you want to make sure any buzzwords or acronyms you use – such as PoE, H.264, NAS, port forwarding, or layer three switches – are well described.

Of course, as in any type of sales call, make sure to ask lots of questions. Questions like, “How fast do you see your system growing,” “What are your goals for this system,” and, “What would your ideal security system look like,” are examples of open ended questions that will help you understand what this person is looking for. These questions will also help you understand who the other influencers are. Not surprisingly, the IT department will likely be mentioned, often with trepidation.

It’s your job help your security decision maker gain acceptance from the IT manager.

I have heard from countless integrators how they dread having IT involved in the network video deal. Some believe the IT manager will do whatever they can to kibosh the network video system because of the fear that surveillance video on their network will cause terrible repercussions to the business systems. Others dread this person because their knowledgebase in all things IP is so vast that it’s very intimidating. Some ask, “How can I talk about virtual LANs with authority when the person across the desk can run circles around my knowledge?”

These fears are unnecessary. The IT manager has the same motivation as the security manager: “Make me look good within my organization and I can get on board.” Gain some understanding of how they operate. For instance, ask it they use VoIP (Voice over IP). If they have VoIP then they have already made an analogue-to-digital switch in telecommunications, which has striking similarities for the changes that physical security over IP brings to their role.

You must assure them that video on their network is safe and manageable. It’s vastly different than streaming YouTube and Teleconferencing video that they typically fear. You can appeal to their inner scalability needs of building a bigger empire – and IP security makes logical sense. IT has an easier time with budgets internally because of the reliance on this group to run critical systems. Getting them on board could result in a bigger budget pool, so it’s a win-win for all parties.

Note that they may test your networking knowledge in a game of one-upsmanship by asking more and more difficult questions. The point of their exercise is to test you for honesty while asserting that they know just as much (if not more) than you. It is perfectly fine to not be the IT expert in the sales deal. You show a lot of character when you say, “I can’t answer that now, but let me take that as an action item and get back to you.” If they require more technical information than you can provide, bring in your own engineer ally to go over any complexities the IT manager brings up.

Deal with the IT department as a generalist, but make sure you know basic terms such as DHCP, routers, and VPNs.

There is one last stakeholder whom we haven’t discussed but can sometimes be the most troublesome: the purchasing manager. This is likely the last stop for your deal. They may send your project out to tender allowing your competitors to join the bidding. Or, worse yet, they may try to nickel and dime your proposal by having you present it a la carte so they can search the Internet to make sure you are honest.

Make sure your client knows that the deal is all inclusive and a fair price – you don’t buy a car by getting specific quotes on mirrors or sound systems. You are selling a complete solution that also includes the most important component: your company’s integrity and service level.

Selling IP surveillance is similar to selling analogue in many ways, but the people involved have evolved. With IT acting as an influencer, you might even learn a bit about IP that you didn’t already know while making strong contacts along the way. Happy selling.


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