What qualifies as a convergence sales opportunity for your company?
Back in the good ol’ days, qualifying a sales prospect or a project wasn’t rocket science. You may have had some professional sales training process you followed to evaluate an opportunity. You may have relied on your “gut” feeling, which took years of trial and error to instill wisdom, or a sixth sense of which opportunities felt right to pursue. You may have had a mentor who was a sounding board and always offered sales analogies that helped make your choice more clear. Finally, it may just be faith in your own selling ability that engages or ensnarls you in pursuing a sales opportunity. You may even have had a bad experience with a type of technology, customer or size of a project that made you steer clear and utter “never again!” Your success rate was pretty easy to observe based on your quarterly/monthly sales numbers.
What wasn’t so observable? The effort, resources and time it would ultimately take to put a first-rate design, proposal and presentation together. There lies the great mystery or mastery of sales efficiency. This month, in the first of two parts, we will look at how this go / no-go decision-making process has transformed and how you can most effectively navigate through it.
Convergence Complicates Matters
The past was a simpler time with much simpler rules to observe than today. Your go or no-go decision may have been based on simply asking:
- Do we have access to the product line being specified or requested by the customer?
- Do we have a relationship at the prospect’s or customer’s organization we can leverage?
- Do we have a similar project to use as a reference of our capabilities?
- Can we deliver a competitive price?
- Do we understand who our competition is and what they will do to win the business?
- Do we know what a competitive price will be for labor, cabling and equipment?
Fast-forward to today’s convergence sales opportunity and your go / no-go questions may now include:
- Is this market really different or the same we have always sold to?
- Do we have to qualify and sell differently than in the past?
- Is it time to take a look at our selling process a little differently?
- What will happen if we continue with a status quo sales process in this converged market? (Hey, our selling pro-gram has served us for many years and will continue to work well in this security convergence trend thing, darn it!)
Facing Today’s Selling Realities
That last bullet’s parenthetical is not likely. First, selling strategies are different simply because there are more people involved in the decision process. Is that the case with your customers during the past five years? Let’s rephrase these questions in terms of the convergence selling realities of today:
Who has access to product lines in the converged security market? — The better question is who doesn’t have access? With new distribution channel strategies, the Internet security store is open 24/7 and has much more savvy customers. Simply having access to a specific product line is not the same competitive advantage that it used to be.
Who are your relationships with in this market? — If you only have a single con-tact point with a prospect or customer, they better have the letter “C” somewhere in their title. The market today demands deeper, wider and higher relationships of you and expects to use sales time wisely. Network-centric solutions touch multiple departments, so don’t assume anything and be sure to develop everyone!
Do you have an IT/IP project to reference of similar size and scope of the new opportunity you are pursuing? — This new market requires systems integrators to be able to demonstrate that it isn’t their first time to the dance. It’s important to progressively scale your project experience upward over a period of time.
I was brought in to do a post-mortem on a large lost project by a client. He wanted to know why it happened when all indications were pretty positive during the presentation phase. I interviewed the prominent, global general contractor who shared with me how they evaluate suppliers on IT/IP-centric physical security projects as subcontractors. “We want to see a company progress from smaller to larger projects over a couple of years,” he said. “We then know they have gained progressive technical, project management and contingency planning skills to manage a large project with our company. We don’t want to babysit or worry about a subcontractor; we don’t have time.” Good advice to heed. Can you demonstrate that type of experience on your next large project opportunity?
Do you have a competitive price? — If you are trying to compete in the IT/IP space on product pricing, good luck. You can do it if you do high volume, have very low overheads, and can live on 6%-8% gross margins. The more important question is, can you effectively identify and sell the many layers of products and services you offer? The bigger the pie, the bigger slice you may be able to share on a project. You may need to partner in new ways to win. You must also “share” projects to win.
Do you know who your competition is and what they will do in a bid situation? — I know this will date me a bit, but that is really “The $64,000 question.” The plot thickens as competition has evolved from different non-traditional suppliers and integrators. How do they conduct their business and do you understand how they will complete against your company? If not, you will be paying tuition to the University of Convergence with a major in Hard Knocks (worthwhile … just expensive and time-consuming). Having worked my way through college, like many of you, it is not anything I would like to repeat at this age!
Do you know what a competitive price will be that wins the project? — Can you lower your risk exposure and price? If you look strictly at the hardware/software delivery, you will be in a price war that you will be hard pressed to win. If you know your business, your customer’s business and how to develop innovative ways to save money, time or headaches for your prospect, you can change the rules of the game. So how does this work if there is a consultant involved in the bid process? Would this automatically register the project as a no-go in your eyes? You may want to reconsider, especially if you have been building your network-centric reference portfolio.
Persistence Still Pays Off
There are not a lot of consultants that really understand both traditional physical security risk assessment and the subtleties of riding a network to deliver physical security solutions. I know a couple dozen that do and others have access to alliances that possess this knowledge, but many do not. If you have experience with network-centric implementation, make sure the security consultant really understands what that means customer in terms of a successful implementation. Also remember that successful implementation reflects just as well on the consultant.
I hope this stimulates some dialog within your company about participating in the security convergence field. Making mistakes is a part of business. Not learning from them and uttering “never again” will keep you on the bench while others get to play.
If you want a little more help, send me an E-mail and I will share with you a tool I use with my clients as a reward for being a faithful reader! Next month, I will offer some suggestions on how to evolve your go / no-go decision process.
Paul Boucherle, Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Certified Sherpa Coach (CSC), is principal of Canfield, Ohio-based Matterhorn Consulting (matterhornconsulting.com). He has more than 30 years of diverse security and safety industry experience and can be followed on Twitter at firstname.lastname@example.org.