‘Creative Integration’ Makes Selling Simple
‘Creative Integration’ Makes Selling Simple By Rueben Orr We’ve all been there. You need a new car. When you first start looking, it’s fun and exciting. Then you figure out what you want and compare it to what you can afford, and some of that excitement changes to nervousness and anticipation.
By the time you get to the dealership and the lot vultures, er, auto sales professionals approach, your blood pressure has gone up 10 points and you start muttering, “I’m just looking. I’m not going to buy today. I’m just looking. I’m not going to buy today.”
Upon returning from the test drive you undoubtedly hear some variation of, “So, what’s it gonna take to earn your business today?”
This example may seem a bit extreme for some, but the fact is making a major purchase is usually fraught with emotion. In our business lives, making the right decision about the right equipment at the right time for the right price can be a reflection on whether or not you’re the right person for the job. We all make emotional decisions every day, but in the workplace we are expected to make purchasing decisions based upon logic, not emotion.
With this in mind, it’s worth suggesting that the goal of any true sales professional should be to assist customers in making the product/service purchase a logical decision, not an emotional one.
Tried And True Value-Based Selling
Logic-based decision-making is important for long-term sales relationships because emotions can (and will) change from moment to moment, but sound logic will be as true tomorrow as it is today. A wise man once said, “Opinions will vary, but the truth will always be the truth.”
Most sales organizations choose to compete on quality and service first and price last. This is often referred to as value-based selling. The goal of value-based selling is to get the buyer to see the cost of purchase as less than the overall value of the goods and services being offered. This is still a somewhat emotional sale, though, since the buyer has to have the perception that your product or service is actually worth more than what your competitors are offering.
‘Creative Integration’ Is Better
Although value-based selling is a time-honored practice, there is an even easier form of selling. Let’s call it the creative integration method. The basis of this method is to make your prospect’s buying decision a purely logical one based upon a return on investment (ROI). This is accomplished by portraying the offered product or service as a tool that can be used to reduce ongoing costs and/or generate new sources of revenue.
Here’s a good example: A security integration company in Colorado has been providing various services to a resort property for many years. The access control system for the property was aging and in need of replacement. With multiple owners at this property, the integrator knew that providing a straightforward system replacement cost would cause long delays in the project as each owner had to approve the new capital expense.
It could also result in a bidding process with other companies trying to under-bid the project and make it an even more difficult sale for the incumbent.
To overcome these obstacles, the integrator used its intimate knowledge of the resort’s operations to present a simple proposal that prevented the competition from ever even hearing of the project.
No Room In The Parking Garage
Parking is at a premium in many resort properties and this property was no different. The 265 condo units are individually owned, rented out to thousands of different users throughout the year, and must share only 130 parking spaces. With the old access control system, owners and renters had no way of knowing how many spaces were reserved or available at any time. Renters arrived ready to enjoy their vacation only to find they had no parking space.
Owners could not guarantee parking spaces, so they could not charge renters for parking. Without a reservation system integrated with the parking control system, there was simply no way to know how many spaces — if any — were available at any given time. During the peak rental season, the resort property had to hire additional personnel to walk the parking structure looking for empty spaces and verifying parking permits.
A Unique, More Valuable Solution
Simply replacing the aging access control system with a new system was not the answer. Instead, the solution was to develop a unique piece of software that would enable all rental agents to draw from a confirmed inventory of available parking spaces. The new access control system integrated with this new Web-based software via an application programming interface (API). Although most access control systems offer an API for custom integration with other applications, the systems integrator chose to use a system with an API based upon Extensible Markup Language (XML).
XML not only accommodates software integration but is easily used with Web services. The advantage was the access control system could function as both a reservation and hospitality system — providing much better service and resources to the property managers and reservation agents.
The new system provided clear benefits: it automated access to the parking garage, eliminating the need for extra employees during peak season, and owners could charge daily rates for parking because spaces were now reserved and guaranteed.
These quantifiable benefits enabled the integrator to offer compelling logical reasons to buy its system. Rather than presenting a price for a new access control system, the integrator presented a price for a new access control system plus a new Web-based application built specifically for the property.
Consider Return On Investment
Here’s the interesting part: The approach actually cost more than a standard access control upgrade. The difference was that by spending more up front, the resort would reduce ongoing costs and generate a new source of revenue. Instead of a pure cost proposal, the owners were now looking at an ROI proposal. The integrator not only kept its client, but the client spent more money than they would have otherwise, and they were happy to do so!
In some sales circles the term investment is mistakenly used for the word cost. Let’s be clear: If your customer is not seeing a return then it is not truly an investment, or at the very least not a very good investment. This creative integration is not for everyone. It requires innovative thought and an intimate understanding of your customer’s daily operations, which is not easily acquired on a simple job walk or prebid meeting.
If you fit the above description, look to creative integration for the systems you are selling today. A good API and a talented group of software and Web developers are all you need to reduce costs and generate new forms of revenue for your customers. If you can do this, you are guaranteed to close more business and make your customers fiercely loyal.
Rueben Orr is director of business development for Bethesda, Md.-based Brivo Systems. He has more than 15 years of experience in the electronic security industry. Orr can be contacted at (240) 271-8158 or via E-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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