ESA Leadership Summit 2020 Builds Better Leaders, Salespeople

The virtual event made a strong case for pivoting from the ABCs of always be closing to always be consulting. Here are the top takeaways.

DALLAS  Adopting the mentality that the conference must go on, even in the face of a pandemic, the Electronic Security Association (ESA) admirably and ably pulled off its first virtual ESA Leadership Summit Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

Contending with the inherent limitations of the Zoom interface relative to in-person meetingsESA managed to retain most of the valuable elements annually offered during this event  namely Main Stage” management seminars, “Tech Talk” product-oriented sessions, private vendor discussions, a trivia contest and awards presentations.  

The format included a mix of live and prerecorded segments and the Summit was hosted by the personable Jillian Bateman, chief development officer for ESAAttendance at some of the all-attendees sessions reportedly topped 1,300. 

Those presentations consisted of a three-part series on building a culture of excellence featuring a Ritz-Carlton representative; leadership guidance from author Mike Staver; sales in the post-COVID world with expert Steve Bookbinder; and a best sales practices panel that also featured Bookbinder along with moderator Steve Firestone (Select Security), Gretchen Gordon (Braveheart Sales Performance) and Mike Dorrington (AMAROK Security). Following are some of the key operations takeaways for installing security dealer and monitoring companies. 

During his “Leadership Isn’t for Cowards” speech, Staver pushed the message of getting outside one’s comfort zone. “You can never feel too comfortable  that is the enemy,” he said. “The biggest fish are in the roughest water.” Here are other nuggets he imparted … 

  • Leaders need to be curious.  
  • Forget about long-term planning nowadays; come up with 60- or 90-day plans with a flag on the hill everyone is aware of to strive toward accomplishing.  
  • Certainty is critical for people to follow a leader. Have to lead by example and provide achievable, realistic but ambitious goals.  
  • Your people have to feel like you as their leader cares and has an interest in them.
  • Employees will jump through fiery hoops if they feel significant to you. They should feel better just by being affiliated with you and your company.
  • Maintain an optimistic and positive workforce. For every negative thing, three positives are needed to offset it.
  • Acknowledge steps toward progress and not just the ultimate goal being achieved. Foster a culture of people being responsible and not blaming.  

During “The World Has Changed – Selling Post Coronavirus,” Bookbinder shared insider knowledge that demonstrated why he has trained more than 50,000 salespeople and managers. During the session he offered an overview the changes security dealers and integrators need to make in their messaging, communication platforms and workflows to improve relevance in a post-pandemic marketplace and position their businesses for a successful future. Here were some of his cogent recommendations … 

  • Inventory your customers/prospects into A, B and C groups to better prioritize and allocate resources. 
  • Sales skills must be practiced and rehearsed regardless of ability, similar to athletes and musicians 
  • Salespeople have to not only be good, but better than the competition. 
  • Professional sales is about hitting ever-rising goals. 
  • Evaluate your sales pipeline by comparing actual vs. ideal; close the gap to somewhere in between. 
  • Especially in the post-COVID environment, you have to be both your own sales coach and cheerleader. 
  • Even if you call just one new prospect a day, that equals a couple hundred potential customers in a year’s time. 
  • Time management is critical! And you must take seasonal sales patterns into consideration. 
  • Regarding end-user decision makers, toplevel people may be needed for annual budget spending, and lower level for subsequent incremental sales. 
  • Avoid multitasking and instead cluster activities. Also allot the proper amount of time to tasks. 
  • Keep as busy as possible because it pushes you to be more intensively active with everything. 
  • Think like a marketer by being everywhere your prospective customers are; offer them relevant info. 
  • Make sure all outbound materials/electronic communications, website, anything front-facing to customer/prospect is professional, up to date, of value, etc. 
  • Connect socially first, then email, then phone. Welcome and have responses for objections, which are good because it at least means they are engaging with you. 
  • Research prospect company’s org chart and reach both managers and C-level with messaging to help indirect sales (“echo selling”). Think as a marketer to brand yourself. 
  • Four basic things a salesperson must be prepared for: Have an elevator pitch, be ready to explain how you are different (must be unique to what others claim), deeper details and how it fits into their ROI. 

The sales focus continued during the closing four-person panel (including moderator) “Main Stage” session, “What Keeps You Up at Night – Virtual Best Practices and Advice Sharing.” There were roughly a half-dozen challenges/questions posed, and here were some of the pearls of wisdom … 

How is selling today different from past? Security sales professionals have to be in the mindset of the buyer, urged Gordon. They have access to much more information today and get farther down the sales journey before you ever come into play. Dorrington added that due to the Internet those customers and prospects get overloaded with info and possibly misinformed, so you have to help them sort it out and customize that info to their unique needs/mindset/budget. Bookbinder recommended salespeople tailor their approach and messaging through all phases of the sales funnel, as closing occurs far down the line of the process.  

How do you get to the right person/buyer? According to Bookbinder, salespeople have to get to every possible decision maker to establish brand recognition or credibility, rather than practicing hard selling tactics. There is no single decision maker because no one wants to take that accountability/potential blame, stated Dorrington. We are talking about nurturing, that is the process. You must offer info/content that is relevant to all of them. To rise above the noise prospects are bombarded with, Bookbinder advised looking at which companies have some kind of trigger event (within 60 days) that makes them more likely to make a budget decision. That generates truly qualified leads) and helps better allocate time resources. Gordon noted that her firm tracks and analyzes actual security sales data from clients’ companies and has found that 76% of security salespeople are not good at narrowing down legit prospects. Creating a scorecard is one method of qualifying prospectsbasing it on history of past successes, recommended Dorrington. 

How do you optimize a sales team? Get your digital footprint in order with Glassdoor, etc., and spread word digitally through channels young people utilize, said GordonBut Dorrington countered that basic principles of what you value are universal regardless of a salesperson candidate’s age. So look for those who will fit into your culture and examine their methodology of what has made them successful along with a history of results. Bookbinder offered five key considerations: Administer assessment tests; thoroughly onboard and coach, and help them score a sale as fast as possible to learn the ropes and boost their confidence; set doable benchmarks; make sure they are good at learning new things; and they need to demonstrate strong writing skills. “Coaching, even if not great, has been proven to help salespeople succeed,” he stated. 

How do you manage older vs. newbie salespeople? Bookbinder pointed out that a new salesperson must be able to answer four questions before going into the field: What do we sell? What makes you different? What makes you better? What makes you worth the money? All the panelists agreed that roleplaying is highly valuable and that selling is a skill that requires ongoing engagement and practice. Dorrington likened it to acting in that they do table reads to rehearse and prepare for any scenario. Bookbinder recommended trying a roleplay in the hiring process, even though no salesperson likes to do it. Especially plan for how a conversation will get off the ground, prep openings. It also allows for experimenting, working out kinks, discovering new things, it can be fun. 

How do you differentiate? “It is about telling specific stories about solving problems for similar clients, how you created something better, saved them money, etc.” offered Gordon. Dorrington suggested doing video testimonials. Finally, Bookbinder hammered home how salespeople must not only perform at a high level but outperform the competition. “Ask customers why they went with you and then share that with others; help the customer reason what to do, which may not be a proposal or sale – bring insight. 

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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One response to “ESA Leadership Summit 2020 Builds Better Leaders, Salespeople”

  1. Strong leadership development is the competitive advantage to recruiting new talent to replace the 10,000 people born between 1954 and 1964. This a serious industry initiative that cannot be ignored for your growth. Sharing thoughts and experiences on virtual formats at SIA and PSA sessions this week. Engage or get left behind!
    Paul Boucherle CPP CSC

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