Commercial Security End-Users Discuss Pain Points, Needs
SSI’s first Commercial Security End-User Forum gives decision makers chiefly in the K-12 education and hospital markets opportunity to tell systems integrators how to best address their critical security needs.
Putting Partners to the Test
These types of end users have come to expect certain capabilities from their integration partners. So how do many of them vet their go-to integrators to make sure they can get the job done with the level of expertise they require?
“First off, I want to know which product lines the integrator represents, because repping everyone isn’t necessarily good,” Slotnick asserts. “It means they’re trying to keep up with a whole lot of technologies. The second thing I want to know is that they’re a good listener. I need them to listen to me so they understand what my pain is. I want them to be collaborative, a trusted advisor and not out to just sell me what they want to sell me. And, I want them to have the proper industry certifications and, beyond that, even possibly a dedicated engineering department.”
It’s a lot to ask of a security integrator, but then it takes a certain type of firm to step up to the task of providing security and life-safety for a mission-critical environment such as a hospital.
“There are lots of smaller companies that can hang a camera and do some system integration, but can they speak the language and wield products to their maximum capability? And availability. Availability is so important. The last thing I want to do is call an integrator and get a call back a week later,” Slotnick says. “In addition, as with any other vendor, I want to know who else you work for and be able to check references.”
Schmelzer says that, “Oftentimes, integrators will tell him they’re interested in a partnership with Cardinal Health but, for us, that means they’re able to align what they bring to the table with our mission, our vision as a whole and our risk management strategy. The certs are important, as well. We’re highly standardized in terms of the security technologies we deploy and want integrators to have the highest level of certs in the product lines we use.”
He adds that integrators that demonstrate a level of progressiveness with today’s cutting-edge and efficient technologies also enhances their value proposition. “Keeping up to date with their certifications is a must, but we also like to see new adoption of technologies, and different project management tools, e-portal tools for account management, different proposal generation tools and system design tools,” Schmelzer says. “It just brings a better experience to the customer and having them align with our vision gives us the best overall experience possible.”
With workplace violence protection concerns weighing heavy on the minds of many hospital security directors, Reed explains, integrators dealing in healthcare should certainly be adept in areas such as video and access control but any regulations savvy or expertise is also appreciated.
“We have to do assessments and evaluate the risk factors for each area of the hospital to determine how we need to beef up our security in any given area” he says. “This may be adding cameras, better lighting, physical barrier, alarms, there are a multitude of different options to help mitigate the risk. If we had an integrator who knew that law they could help with that assessment and recommend solutions to be in compliance and create a safer environment.”
Among the integrator must-haves for Reed is having the certifications for the systems the hospital has in place, plus the scope and skills to meet the hospital’s growing needs. “We had a rapid expansion from upgrading our VMS and access control system to adding cameras, so we’re doing a lot of projects in a short timeframe. It stretches and challenges the integrator, and I need to know that they’d be able to handle that much.”
Working in the education sector, Hemet Unified SD’s Wynn notes a few requirements of his own that could serve other K-12 integration specialists. “It’s something people overlook, but we have to operate off the public bid rules so we require that someone be a responsive bidder. We also require the integrator to have five years’ experience installing cameras in a school district environment, and to carry the needed manufacturer certifications. We also do reference checks.”
Suggestions for Entering the Fray
So how can integrators equip themselves to serve education and healthcare end users and earn their trust and continued business? Schmelzer offers up this advice:
“It’s important from the integrator’s standpoint to recognize that partnerships go both ways. If they want one, they need to have a customer that thinks the same way, but I think finding that customer starts with their ability to establish trust and use an educational approach to their sales pitch,” he notes.“Learn how to help your customer sell the solutions you’re recommending internally. The technology can be very complex and IP-based and if your point of contact with the client doesn’t have a technical background, you have to give them the information and data they need to sell it to their organization,” Schmelzer adds.
Providing a businesslike, easy to understand yet comprehensive proposal along with a bill of materials can be instrumental in driving the sale forward, he says.Wynn recommends not trying to change a system entirely. With 28 sites to secure within his school district, having someone come in and try to change the systems and put in what they’ve already designed wouldn’t work.
“The sales pitch is not what I want,” he states. “Don’t try to sell me something you have a higher margin on. We don’t have time for that and are already working with specific manufacturers. I’d say get all the certs you can because we do pay attention to that and look for a high level of certifications.”
Reed advises integrators to focus on some bread-and-butter products that they know inside and out for these markets. “That way, you become expert on it. I feel more confident with an integrator who knows the product they’re selling and how to service it, as opposed to one who wants to sell me whatever they are and isn’t in tune with what I really need. Rather than saying they sell everything, they’re better off selling a select few lines and really knowing them.”
He adds that word of mouth and reputation are key, particularly for expanding in a smaller specialty area such as healthcare. “Make sure you’re doing the best job you can with your existing clients and get their references for new clients, as many end users are looking to make a switch for someone who can do a better job. I’d also recommend getting involved with industry associations, that’s where they’ll make a lot of contacts and gain deeper knowledge,” he says.
Meanwhile, Slotnick believes integrators should look at an end user’s system design in the way the name “integrator” suggests — how will everything work cohesively?
“We need to look at physical security systems holistically and what the entire system is capable of doing. Even in our assessments, we don’t do feature-based design, we do quantitative assessment,” he says. “The issue is not that simply that I have 12 cameras that make my system efficient; I have firmware, policies and procedures and am concerned with how it reports and if I can trust those cameras. That’s a systems-based and not features-based approach.”
The integrator needs to understand upfront the client’s pain points and how a specific product feature is going to help against their greatest threats.
“In risk management, what’s needed is a comprehensive risk threat and vulnerability assessment to define the threat and then recommend mitigations that are valued by the client to stop those threats,” Slotnick says.
Segueing to this type of end-user clientele is attainable for integrators willing to do a deep dive into understanding their needs and challenges. Given the myriad security concerns these particular customer segments face, opportunities abound to be more profitable while delivering better security in the process.
Follow the Book for Tips on ‘Securing Trust’
There’s an easy-to-read guide written with today’s security integrator in mind from the side of their customers.
“Securing Trust: A Guide for Security Technology Sales Professionals Written From the Customer’s Perspective” is packed with the useful information for integrators. The book, authored by Pegasus Security Coaching Founder Daniel Schmelzer, helps equip security sales professionals with exactly what they need to forge and enhance their customer relationships.
Schmelzer, director of security at Cardinal Health in Ohio, has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Toledo, and Master of Arts in Security Management, American Military University. He has six years of experience as a security sales professional and seven years as a security technology director at a Fortune 20 global company.
He wrote “Securing Trust” to empower security technology professionals to advance their careers by taking a knowledge-based approach to convey the value of security to an organization. The book is based on real-life security selling techniques that have helped senior leaders understand why investing in security technology that’s designed correctly is the right approach, according to Schmelzer.
The chapters cover key topics to enable integrators to develop trusted relationships with customers and increase their value in the marketplace. Here’s a peek:
- Chapter 1: Meeting Preparation
- Chapter 2: Understanding the Fundamental Role of Security in an Organization
- Chapter 3: How to Help Your Customer Identify Risk
- Chapter 4: How to Discover Sales Opportunities Through Supporting the Customer’s Business Continuity/Emergency Preparedness Plan
- Chapter 5: How to Sell the Benefits of System Integration
- Chapter 6: How to Sell Cross-Functionally
- Chapter 7: Selling Convergence
- Chapter 8: Selling the Value of System Design Standards
- Chapter 9: Selling Your Project Management Proficiency
- Chapter 10: How to Help Your Customer Sell Internally
- Chapter 11: Understanding the Buying Cycle
- Chapter 12: Overcoming Objection
Erin Harrington has 20+ years of editorial, marketing and PR experience within the security industry. Contact her at email@example.com.