Compete by Zeroing In on Your Best Attributes, Not Following the Crowd
Finance expert Gretchen Gordon explains why security companies must focus on what they do best, gives sales advice and much more in this month’s SECURE Perspectives.
SECURE Perspectives is a monthly column by the Security Industry Association (SIA) profiling women in the security industry. This column is part of SIA’s Women in Security Forum, an initiative to support the participation of women in the security field through programs, networking and professional growth events, and thought leadership opportunities.
For this edition of SECURE Perspectives, SIA spoke with Gretchen Gordon, president of Braveheart Sales Performance, a privately-held sales effectiveness consulting firm headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, that provides resources, tools, training and coaching to mid-market and small businesses.
One of the primary markets the company serves is the security industry. Gordon provides the leadership for all business activities and directs the overall strategy of the firm.
How did you get into the security industry?
By accident. I was a lender, and our company financed a few security companies, which I had nothing to do with. I moved to a different finance company, and we decided to buy a small struggling lender in the industry. The managing director knew that I had had some exposure to the industry via my prior employer, and he tapped me to grow and drive the business. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity 16 years ago. During this time, I grew to love the recurring revenue nature of much of the industry so much that I bought a PERS franchise and ran it for a couple of years before selling the accounts to a larger provider. Then, in 2009, it wasn’t such a great time to be a lender, so I left the finance industry and started Braveheart, specifically to help companies struggling from the economic downturn.
How does your organization serve the industry?
We help security companies grow their sales through training and coaching, establishing repeatable sales processes, hiring more precisely and creating systematic onboarding programs. What I am most excited about is that, while we originally only worked with sizable installing companies with well-developed sales teams, in the last few years, we have branched out and begun working with manufacturers to help them help their dealers. We have also created tools and services that are affordable for the smallest of security companies. I am proud that we have helped numerous companies and individuals in the industry achieve greater success.
What is your current role?
My title is president, but my function is to lead the vision of the company, help develop business through speaking and writing and consult with client companies on their sales problems. I am also the chief instigator of changing things up by creating new tools and resources to help our clients grow. Additionally, I interact with our various coaches and trainers to ensure client satisfaction.
What types of job functions do women fill in your company? Is there diversity of roles in your company, or do women gravitate toward certain job functions?
Our company is very small, with only seven people. We are a little bit unique in that five of the seven are women.
With more and more data that shows diversity makes a better workforce, what opportunities do you see for women in sales roles serving the security industry?
There is tremendous upside potential for women in the industry via sales, and companies would be smart to actively add women to their sales teams and sales leadership roles. There is significant benefit to the company in terms of a more collaborative problem-solving mentality, which is generally consistent with women’s leadership styles. Additionally, women come across as more trustworthy to prospects. The impediments seem to be that people hire people who are like them, because they are more comfortable with people similar to themselves. So if men keep hiring men just like themselves, that impediment will continue; however, if company leaders put in place a more systematic and predictable process for hiring, then those biases will be diminished, and they will improve their sales growth results.
What do you see as important trends in the security industry?
The ever-changing technology advances will continue to push companies and individuals to stay abreast of those changes. Rather than providing a stand-alone security system that is installed to do one thing, security professionals need to understand all the technology that a consumer or business is relying on. This isn’t new information, but it is important to embrace and potentially look for ancillary ways that a customer can be helped. The individuals and companies that will thrive, and not just survive (or not survive), need to constantly be growing, adapting and developing to meet the needs of their clients.
More specifically, what trends are you seeing in your company’s area of security sales and sales performance?
The most obvious trend is that of prospects not really wanting to or needing to talk to live sellers as much. The access to information allows prospects to bypass the seller; therefore, salespeople and teams need to become more than product pushers. They must seek to understand their targeted prospects needs, wants and problems and become trusted advisors to those targeted prospects. Unfortunately, we see a lot of companies with the “me-too” attitude, where they attempt to be all things to all types of prospects. I believe that companies would be smart to really zero in on what their own competitive advantages are from the client’s perspective and target those prospects that will appreciate those attributes. They must be clear in their value propositions and be laser-focused on who makes a great prospect for them and why.
What are the top challenges your company and/or the security companies you serve have faced so far in 2019?
Because of my past experience as a lender to the industry, I am acutely aware that there is some turmoil in the industry in terms of performance by some companies, which may impact other company’s ability to access capital. This challenge makes it even more important that company leaders are focused on their sales and marketing efforts being as efficient and effective as possible, especially with the economic conditions being ripe for another recession.
What are the biggest opportunities your company and the industry are seeing?
The biggest opportunities relate to the fact that technologies continue to converge, which makes security more attainable for a number of potential customers and requires greater expertise by the service providers. The opportunities for the industry are immense by thinking bigger than just traditional security. For our company in particular, the opportunity exists to help individual sales teams and people improve their ability to connect with potential clients and be seen as problem solvers and valuable resources to their clients in making sense of the ever-broadening technology landscape. The opportunity really exists to upgrade the trust factor, and that is sometimes missing from seller-and-buyer relationships.
What do you hope the Women in Security Forum can achieve for the security industry?
I hope the Women in Security Forum will draw more women to positions in the security industry and help support the ones who are already in the industry. The industry is such a rewarding, meaningful industry that I hope more women will be drawn to it.
What advice would you give women who are in the industry?
Be yourself. You don’t have to be “one of the guys” to be effective. Women tend to be more collaborative problem solvers and encourage input from the entire team; this is a positive trait. Since our focus is on sales performance and excellence, I would encourage more women to move into sales roles within the industry. Sales can be a great career that can afford extra freedom to those that are effective while having a significant positive impact on the company and the clients served.
Who or what was the strongest influence in your career (e.g., a mentor, an event that inspired your career decision)?
I had a female mentor early in my sales career. She was tough and smart, but all female. She didn’t use her sex appeal in business, and she didn’t act like a man. She taught me that what really matters in sales is what matters to the client.
How do you define success?
The sense of accomplishment from working hard toward an important goal, even in the face of adversity or obstacles. Never giving up and never resting on yesterday’s past success.
What would you say to new upcoming women in the industry?
Get involved in the broader industry. Make friends, and have fun doing it. Most importantly, always grow and develop yourself.
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