Can end users trust advice from security salesmen?
Salesmen may face pressure to “seal the deal,” but might an overemphasis on the ABCs of selling (“always be closing”) actually work to the detriment of an unsuspecting customer coerced into buying too much (or the wrong) technology to meet his or her needs? Not likely, according to our Expert Panel, who this week address the topic of salesmanship in the security market. We asked: Can an end user trust a security salesman’s advice? Our responses are overwhelmingly in the affirmative, and there is also some interesting commentary about how effective sales processes should work to the benefit of all parties involved
There is an old expression – "Fool me once; your fault. Fool me twice; my fault." Nobody understands this saying better than salespeople. Here is what to look for. If the salesperson is with a reputable company, the chances are that the person can be trusted. Good, helpful and honest salespeople don't end up at good companies by accident. They get there and stay there by having a following of customers who can trust them to provide the right solutions at the right price. If you are not sure, always feel free to ask for references or look for and call the vendor's customers on your own.
Any reputable manufacturer or service provider that is interested in maintaining or building a sustainable business and a good reputation would under no circumstances hire a salesperson that would give incorrect or spurious advice just to win a sale for the sake of making quota. That's a surefire way for the salesperson to ruin their standing with that client and possibly jeopardise their position with their employer. If the service provider or manufacturer is running their business effectively, they'll be building a pipeline of opportunities at various stages of gestation to ensure sufficient business is generated to sustain and grow their business, whilst providing exemplary and trustworthy services and products to the end user. To do otherwise would be commercial suicide as the organisation would be looking to make short-term profit at the expense of its reputation, which is vital in building a professional and successful business.
A security sales person is no different than other sales professionals in various fields. Some can be trusted and are knowledgeable while others are self-serving and lack the knowledge necessary to make decisions that are in the best interest of the end user. As with any important decision, the end user should qualify the sales rep and the company behind the salesman. Getting a second opinion dos not just apply to medical opinions. End users may want to request certifications such as CPP, PSP and CISSP. These certifications prove the sales rep takes his occupation seriously and has gone the extra mile to gain industry certification.
As with any profession, there are a lot of great, trustworthy security sales professionals in our industry and then there’s the other guys—the trunk slammers — just trying to unload what they have. Security is a vital element for any business and should not be taken lightly, but the chosen security system should be appropriate for your application. Sometimes an overzealous salesman will try to sell you more than you need. When I have purchased security, or made any major investment, I always look to see if the salesman is asking the right questions. Any sales call should start off with, “What problems are you trying to solve?” There is no way you can make a good investment decision if you don’t know what you need. A good and honest salesman will spend the time understanding your needs and propose a solution that satisfies those needs—nothing more, nothing less.
From a standards perspective, establishing and adhering to international standards can make the process of choosing products much easier for both salesmen and buyers of security systems. By their very nature, standards specify minimum operational requirements, so the conforming devices can guarantee interoperability at the most fundamental level. If specifications that cover basic functionality and interoperability are already defined and used universally by manufacturers; sellers and buyers can concentrate on matching specific feature sets with specific end user needs. Whether it is ONVIF’s profiles or broader technology standards, the end user can usually verify compliance or conformance through the established standards organisation. For example, a product’s compliance with ONVIF’s specification can be confirmed by visiting our website and searching for the product. That is actually the best way to verify conformance, if there is any doubt, whether you are a dealer or end user.
This is a great question. From the industry perspective, our industry has been steadily moving away from the role of traditional "salespeople" to what is commonly referred to as "business development" professionals. This new breed of customer-facing professional is highly skilled in the art of "consultative" selling. They understand that their company's technology most likely doesn't fit every application, so they focus on markets they are best [able to] serve. These professionals also understand that end users are highly educated, technology-savvy and incredibly well-informed. Today's end users are not easily blinded by smooth-talking sales masters who know just enough to be dangerous. Yes, there are still a few "used car" types out there, but our industry does a good job of weeding them out quickly. It’s the end user’s duty to do plenty of due diligence before and during any sales presentation. Reference checks are also a must.
Even though selling a product might drive business value in the short term, we believe that true partnerships between salesmen and clients are crucial to create long-term value for both parties. Helping a client find the best solution not only satisfies him, it will build a strong relationship in which the client gets what he actually needs and the supplier could potentially look toward more business in the future. Companies might expand or need to add extra measures in the future. Only those clients that are happy with the services provided will go back to you then. Moreover, especially in security, trust is key. That is why we are happy to have created many case studies with our satisfied clients. We could help them take security forwards whilst they help us by being an ambassador for our products.
Salesmen who can’t be trusted don’t stay in business very long. Neither do the companies that employ them. In many respects, the security marketplace has learned these lessons well. Generally, the sales process has become much more professional, befitting a high-technology sector that deals with issues of life or death. Beware of the few exceptions, but mostly end users can trust the industry’s sales professionals. Or better yet, in the words of Ronald Reagan, they should “trust, but verify.”
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