Convergence Challenges Sales

What do you do when your sales force sends in its monthly reports and says, “IT executives are making security buying decisions — and I don’t know how it’s going to affect my sales quota”? Is such a circumstance coming as a shock to sales management? Did we not know that convergence was going to become a sales factor, and that IT people were attending security buying meetings and getting their hands on purchase orders? After all, the success of any security operation is predicated on pairing up a calculated sales quota with production and inventory forecasts. If the sales team doesn’t know how much of a particular product model can be sold, the entire production/inventory schedule can be tossed into a cocked hat. And what does that do to product pricing in a highly competitive market?

Five years ago, research by J.P. Freeman Co. showed the beginning impacts of IT when Internet protocol (IP) cameras were gaining an initial foothold. But there is no denying that it can be difficult to change sales techniques when new buying cultures, new people, new disciplines, points of view and objectives upset the buying environment.

So, what are manufacturers doing about this while 2007 sales budgets still had three quarters to go toward accomplishment? We posed that question to manufacturers in new research for the 2007 report on the convergent security market. Slightly more than half claim to have taken some form of action about this important buying trend.

Sales Teams Receive New Training

According to research results, 41 percent of respondents — mainly video manufacturers — claim to be currently training their sales forces in how to deal with IT managers.

Whether this training extends to all agents, including sales reps, integrators, dealers and distributors, as well as salaried sales forces is not clear. But if salaried forces are primary in receiving new sales presentation direction to address the convergence of security and data networks, at least some of this is spilling over to commissioned agents and middlemen.

This largest group consists of 41 percent of suppliers who are presently implementing this training, plus another 15 percent that claim to have developed, and are now employing, new sales techniques to address this new audience. Underneath that combined 56 percent, however, are 20 percent of all manufacturers that simply deal with the problem ad hoc on a day-to-day basis without any formal preparation — possibly because they field small or completely commissioned sales organizations that rely on their own devices and strategies to reach this new group of buyers. The remainder, 1 in every 4 manufacturers, is made up of: 10 percent of suppliers that are still evaluating how to handle the convergence situation; a very small percentage (2 percent) that claim not to be affected at all by the convergence trend; and a catch-all group of 12 percent that are doing yet something else about convergence buyers. Most of these manufacturers say they have a middle-market buyer that handles the matter, or that they are not sure just how their product line relates to convergence buying considerations.

In sum, the security industry by and large is doing something about the training and presentation capabilities of its sales forces. Only 10 percent remain in the still-evaluating mode, and only 2 percent of all industry manufacturers claim that the powerful convergence trend of 2007 has no effect on its business.

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