P1 Makes National Accounts Priority No. 1
Long one of the largest and best-known residential installation and monitoring providers, Protection 1 has had its share of ups and downs. Now an ownership change with celebrated CEO Tim Whall at the reins has P1 broadening its ambitions in the commercial marketplace.
What is your philosophy on balancing value or service with price?
Whall: Where in the market are you trying to sell has the biggest impact on the price you’re going to achieve for yourself. You can target things you know are going to be the very lowest price possible and they’re going to fight every dollar with you. You’ve got to find where your niche is and sell into that niche. For us it’s commercial buyers where you get to design the system with them. If I’m just going to do small businesses, it’s pretty hard to differentiate and show value. The more I’m able to design a s
ystem that meets your specific needs, the better I can position myself more as the security expert and a problem solver. As such, price is no longer the guiding principle.
Not all buyers are the same. We know when we get into a 1,000-account deal at National Accounts that price is going to be quite a big deal. These guys are working on a budget; they’re working on ROI [return on investment]. We know to ask if there are other little values we can bring that would give us the nod. So then the customer thinks, “The price is equal but I’m getting better value from P1.”
Then there is certain business I like to stay out of because it’s always going to be the lowest price win and it’s going to be the least attractive financial return for us. Knowing where you are in the market and who you’re selling into, and having a strategy consistent with that market is the key to balancing that out for yourself.
What are your top challenges on the road to growth?
Tim Whall: Clearly as we look at challenges, it’s got to be price compression and the economic challenges faced by the customers. They look at security more as a commodity versus a necessity. I don’t think you have a chance to go into any one of those verticals and talk about the new technologies and services combined with a statement and your price will go up. I think they can be excited about the technology and they can be excited about the services. I don’t feel under today’s economic climate if that combines with their pricing going up that you’re going to have a great call. People are very conscious right now of the economic challenges faced by the businesses, and I would say that your ability to create solutions that can take advantage of technology, if you will, and provide savings, now you’ve got something to talk about with the end user.
Are you more concerned about industry powers like ADT and Stanley or newcomers like telecom and cable companies or maybe some of the bigger regional guys? What gives you greatest pause or focus on the competitive landscape and why?
Whall: From a regional/national/local standpoint, you should know who your competitors are. If I go into one of my towns and pick any city that we have, I expect him or her to give me a good assessment of the people we compete with. What are their competitive advantages? What’s their value proposition? How do we compete against them? In many instances, we’re not the only person going in to give a sales pitch. If you don’t know what your competitors are pitching, you’re a little bit at a disadvantage. I don’t think any one of them concerns me more or less than another. You should know what your competitors’ value propositions are, and you should know how they go to market. You should know what their pricing looks like, and you should understand what their technology offerings are so you can position yourself in the best light.
Now, that said, if you take anybody, if I use a sports analogy, most of the coaches will just come on TV and say, “Listen, it’s about us playing our game. It’s about us getting the most out of our talent.” Far and away that’s the much bigger issue because if I have 500 sales reps out there, there is a difference between my No. 1 rep and my No. 500 rep in terms of skill set. If my 500th rep goes up against my competitor’s No.1 rep, there is a good chance that I’m going to lose that, even though both companies have a good value proposition and make a nice compelling argument because the better person is going to win. So, what can I do to limit the gap between my best person and my newest or lowest person on the totem pole? How do I get the best out of my team? That’s an issue all companies deal with out there that not all reps are the same. If you get somebody’s best, their company presents themselves much better. If you get somebody that doesn’t have as much training and hasn’t been around long enough or just haven’t been led properly, they’re not going to put your company in the light that you want it to. So, even though in the board room your story sounds terrific, how many times out of 100 does that story get told? We spend a ton of time here certifying our people on being able to go out there and tell our story, to present it in a way that we want, so the last dollar isn’t the deciding factor. We have a certain way we want to go to market.
We have a certain strategy toward telling our story and we spend an inordinate amount of time teaching and training. And if you’re going to get comfortable here at P1, you’re comfortable doing role-playing. You’re comfortable being certified that you can go through the skills that we have. Everybody’s got a little camera on their desk. I can hit the E-mail, and you’re in, boom. I click, scan how you’re doing and I’m looking at you and I say, “Now listen, it’s the third of the month and I want to make sure we’re going to go through today. How do you pitch our e-Suite services?” And he pitches me and I push back like a regular customer and we have a coaching session. I’ll say, “Hey, you did great on these three points. I’d come a little harder on this point.” Then he signs off and boom, done for the month. You’ve got to be able to do that. You need to have that level of quality control built in for your team to make sure that everybody that you have with your label on it, your logo, carrying your business cards, is doing it in the manner that you have designed with your best thinkers.
My view has always been let’s get all of our folks. Can you tell me that there are 500 reps and they all know how to pitch everything that we have on the menu at equal quality levels because that’s success for us? From just a pure math standpoint, I’m going to have more folks ready to do that than my competitors. Again, that doesn’t mean our stories are greatly different or I think that someone else’s story is far better. We obviously think we have the best story, but I feel the other companies feel that they have a good story to tell as well. So, how consistent can I get my team in delivering my story out there into the marketplace? If I do that, I’m going to have much better success than my competitors will, but at the same time, I like to know everything about the competitors.
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