Making a Run for the Border

A slowdown in domestic growth and the globalization of the business world have led many companies and industries to look overseas for new opportunities. While that has not been very common among security integrators, Intelligent Security Systems is breaking the mold. Learn how the company is establishing itself abroad, in particular Latin America, with sage advice on doing the same.

New Jersey-based Intelligent Security Systems (ISS), which specializes in video management services (VMS) and video analytic software, wanted to expand its operations in Latin America, but had few resources or leads with which to do so. ISS management saw a clear opportunity in a market where the larger companies often were not providing the hands-on customer service that has become a hallmark of their company, or offer many solutions with built-in analytic features.

Based on its technology and customized approach, ISS stakeholders knew they would likely have unlimited opportunities in such a market, but saw looming challenges involved in establishing such a footprint, notably limited resources to build a sales team. Also, at the time, IP video surveillance was not very widely adopted, and analytics was considered “technology of the future.” So there were hurdles to cross there as well, as far as convincing customers that not only was IP the wave of the future but analytics as well.

After much discussion about strategies and tactics among ISS’ key executives, focus was directed at three key areas: forming relationships with integrators that had already established great trust with customers in the region; partnering with some of the bigger companies that needed the solutions of ISS to fulfill their customers’ security needs; and once an income stream was established building out a strong, reliable sales team from country to country. In addition, ISS knew that evangelizing in relation to IP video surveillance and analytics was also going to be important, and it needed to show in clear, convincing ways how this was where the industry was headed.

Addressing Cultural Issues

Some of ISS’ executive staff have roots in Central and South America, which gave the firm a key advantage in understanding some of the cultural issues common in the Latin American business world. For one, the trust element is absolutely key in doing business in this area of the world, something some call “confianza,” or literally “confidence.” The ability to confide in one as a friend and not simply a business associate is often very important to a successful working arrangement.

In the security arena, this makes some of the bigger companies hailing from abroad more than somewhat suspect with a lot of customers in Latin America. The biggest complaint from country to country is largely the same: “They want our business, but they want it on their terms, and they don’t want to have to work to keep the business.” Day to day that often translates into a lack of presence in the region, so that when software issues arise — as they often do — it is difficult to get problems resolved in a timely manner.

To that end, ISS saw it as critical to develop relationships with integrators well regarded in the region. Once the company was able to convey some of the advantages of its SecurOS solutions, including why such automation would prove increasingly important over time, integrators that had already developed strong bonds of credibility with their customers were easily able to convince them of the benefits of ISS’ approach to security.

As some of its staff being recent college graduates with technical degrees from various Central and South American universities, ISS found readymade “converts” in former fellow students who understood how IP and analytics were the future of the video surveillance industry. Some of them had taken jobs in IT on the distribution end and found a place for ISS software in various solutions. Others took on positions as consultants with ISS. All of this spread the word throughout the continent about a new approach to security.

As ISS solutions grew in adoption throughout Latin America in a variety of applications — including traffic safety, government buildings, banks and transportation hubs — word got out to bigger companies in the region, which then began to express interest in working with the company and incorporating its features into their software.

Keeping a Personalized Approach

As a smaller company, ISS had some reservations about working with the security titans in the industry. Management wanted to be able to expand the base of operations without losing the hands-on approach that had been a company trait since its inception. This turned out to be something some of the bigger international companies realized they were missing, and relied on ISS to make up the difference.

With trusted integrators in place, ISS knew any projects undertaken with some of the bigger companies were in good hands and that follow-up with customers would be the rule, not the exception, no matter how small or large the project. This turned out to be a win-win for ISS as well as some of the larger companies it had worked with in the region. So while the products may appear under others’ names, clients recognize the service factor is the same and that the trust element is not being compromised.

Building a Sales Team

With some income streams in place, ISS set about building sales teams on the Latin continent. Management first had to decide which country to start with because while there was now income available it could not support efforts in several different countries.

For various reasons, the efforts began in Argentina. There were more ongoing projects there than any other country and the salespeople recruited in that region had many ties to other countries on the continent, along with strong connections to some of the bigger international companies that had expressed an interest in partnering with ISS.

As with its recruitment of integrators, ISS placed a strong emphasis on salespeople who not only had a strong security background but also proven trust with their customers and the ability to easily convince them of the viability of ISS’ solutions. In a region of the world where bureaucracy can also be a challenge, it was also important to have key connections not only in the industry but in government as well. The red tape factor has stymied more than a few companies in Latin America.

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