How Is Surveillance Sales Changing?

I was reading an IT analyst report on "What Do Customers Really Think About Your Marketing Techniques and Sales Teams?" It raised a number of interesting points about how IT sales were changing and what IT buyers wanted. I was curious to see if those patterns applied to what you are seeing with surveillance sales. (note: hat tip to @kpainc for tweeting an article that linked to this report).

The key points were:

  • In preparing to purchase, buyers far more value interacting with vendor technical teams and reading vendor content than they do interacting with sales reps.
  • A majority of buyers are reading business and tech blogs at least once a month though they rarely blog or tweet themselves
  • Buyers are most motivated to respond to a sales rep if they have already provided them some value (like a webinar or whitepaper).

This slide shows preferences for pre-purchase decisions:

This ranks motivation for returning a sales call:

This shows how buyers are keeping up with tech trends:

So what do you think? Do you see similar or different patterns?

In the last chart (2011 vs 2012), I find it interesting that visits to technology based blogs went up, while visits to technology based communities went down. Because of the constant sales pitching going on in our 'communities' (i.e. LinkedIn), I bet the results would be similar for physical security responders to similar questions.

Technical product buyers who are making spending decisions (across all industries) want information, not to be pitched, imo...

And, of course, these results appear to validate the IPVM business model... :)

I don't know what they mean by 'technology based communities'. Maybe forums?

As for LinkedIn, the results show that LinkedIn use actually went up (though it did not specify for their forums or other purposes).

The other major issue is how much alike is physical security to IT. Are the patterns far different? Is it a fundamental difference, or as many argue, that physical security lags behind IT trends?

Great article. Yeah I agree, people want alot of information before buying, especially on something so tech related. Whether it be with pre-sales and interacting with a tech guy or by viewing written documenation and instructional videos. i find that the more information you provide to someone, the more apt they are going to buy. The information needs to be explained in an easy to understand format as well. The more information you give to someone about a product, the less you have to be a "salesman", because they feel more comfortable with the product and feel more comfortable implementing the product. Some people simply pass up tech related products because they #1) Nervous they wont be able to implement it #2) Arent given enough info to see the features and/or see if it matches up in quality to what they are currently using.

I have found this to be extremely true with some of our customers who have been hard core analog for years. Some of these customers are very good business people judging by their order quality and frequency of orders. I knew it wasnt budget that was holding them back from dealing with IP. After speaking with them the most common response was basically "we dont want to mess with the technical headache of implementing IP". We insisted that they try it out and even sent out samples to them. once they got it in their hands and tried it and saw that it was no big deal, that was a game changer. Now some of those customers rarely quote analog unless they really have to. You just have to break that barrier and get all the questions answered that are roaming around in there head as much as possible.

Informational guides and videos have also been very successful for us. So successful that I plan on hiring on a few people whose sole job is to just make guides and videos. You also have to have the best interest in mind for your customers. Sometimes I will refer people to other companies products because we dont have a product that fits their needs. People often ask how our products compare with other brands. I will often point out strong points of other products that will sometimes beat our products out in feature. This makes them feel like they are being taken care of and will often result in a sale. Really it all comes down to trust, that is the biggest thing.

Sometimes I will refer people to other companies products because we dont have a product that fits their needs.

Hey, it worked for Macy's and Gimbel's *smirk*

Sean, interesting feedback but let me play devil's advocate. Maybe people like you and I are just outliers.

Do the people who go to the desk at ADI care as much about information? Maybe they are just as happy to take what the special or product of the day is?

I am genuinely curious how big and resistant that portion of the market is to evolving into more informed / researched buyers. In the past, doing so was incredibly hard. Now, it's becoming easier but that doesn't mean that everyone wants to do so.

Sure, there will always be those people who are looking for a "quick and dirty" deal. Heck, I am guilty of it myself when considering certain purchases (non-CCTV related)

But I think the more serious people, and especially the people who are going to be spending alot of money will do alot of research before they buy. I would think that the level of information needed goes up as the price of a product increases. And since surveillance products arent really considered inexpensive products, I think most people will do alot of research before buying. And then you have to couple that with surveillance products always having some sort of learning curve with most people, and that also adds to the level of information needed as well.

But as far as ADI goes, I still think there is a level of information needed there as well. Im not sure how ADI deals with tech question issues, but since they are a multi-brand distributor, Im sure they rely alot on the brands that they carry. For example, a guy wants a high quality IP PTZ, or several of them, and since these cost quite a bit of money and its going to be a serious investment, he may do research from various different companies and compiles information given to him from these companies. Based on the information and level of service he gets, he will make his choice and ask them if he can buy those PTZ's, and then that brand refers him to ADI, the distributor. He ended up buying from ADI, but ultimately the brand who supported him benefits as well.

I don't mean 'quick and dirty deals' here. Rather, the issue I see is sales based on relationships, rather than information. There are quite a number of people who say, "products are basically all the same, what counts is my relationship / support / connection with my supplier." If my Pelco / Bosch / ADI / Northern 'guy' etc. says go with X, that person is very likely to go with X, without his own thorough analysis.

In preparation for our PR webinar a few weeks ago, a number of manufacturers raised this as a concern. Basically, their feedback was "Sure, the Internet is better for information, but we are not sure that a lot of senior people use the Internet / look deeply for information." Instead, they wonder how many of them base decisions based on long term personal relationships ('i've been buying from Jim since 1989") or what marketing gets them the most excited (why else would vendors fight so hard to run misleading marketing campaigns).

I think we are in the middle of a cultural shift, fueled by technology enabling far easier information access. However, I still wonder how powerful and how long the old school mentality will last.

Relationships definetely mean alot. But I am looking at it from the initial perspective. How does a company build that relationship initially?

Wild marketing claims that no one else dares make. Taking the dealer out to dinner / drinks / strip clubs, etc.

There are lots of ways to build an initial relationship that have little, if anything to do, with actual performance / facts / information. Obviously, I am not endorsing it, but it is quite common. My questions are: (1) how common are those? and (2) how much is the Internet changing that?

Well John, This depends on what your willing to do to get the customer account.

Example: Quite a few companies have what's called expense accounts and instructed us to wine & dine. There is a standard policy within the company structure for this. Companies Like Boeing, Martin Marieta, Raytheon, GE, Siemens all have large entertainment accounts & budgets .

I worked for many in past where we had such funds at our disposal as long as we showed results - ROI

Smaller companies, like security companies, have little or no budgets. That's where the relationships come to play. Buy your way in or smuse your way in. Good old fashion performance and relationship is a really hard way to keep them on board.

Trips, Dinners, Drinks, Coffee on a regular basis, visitation on a regular basis. All part of the process.

I was told by management many times, not to waste my time because the owners played golf with the other companies managers so they would not even consider other quotes or they would use them for comparison only.

My questions are: (1) how common are those? and (2) how much is the Internet changing that?

And thats kind of where I am coming from, I think it is changing it. I think the internet is just a large part of the information age and I think its changing the old fashioned wine and dine tactics of the past. Having good documentation, guides, and support on the web can only propel you and will continue to do so going forward.

But dont get me wrong, I am sure the wine and dine stuff still works and probably always will. It also just really depends on which type of customer you are marketing to.

But dont get me wrong, I am sure the wine and dine stuff still works and probably always will. It also just really depends on which type of customer you are marketing to.

I think for a large part (and I'm just guessing here, I've never been wined and dined as part of a sales pitch, although I'm willing to give it a shot ;), the wine and dine tactic works well with fickle or easily-swayed customers, who will be loyal customers until someone else comes along and wines-and-dines them at a fancier place with stronger wine and cuter waitresses. It's kind of like the old tale of the guy who leaves his wife to marry another woman, then that other woman is surprised when he cheats on her - like, did you expect you were the only one that would happen to?

The "tactic" of sending out sample equipment, IMHO, is far more effective long-term: people who are impressed by the freebies and start using them, are more likely to stick with them; the next "free samples" will have to actually be better products to sway the customer... compared to someone who can be won over with a good steak and nice Zinfandel.

Hi Matt, I'm sure you've been taken out for lunch or had a drink with the boss after hours. This is a form of wine & dine. This practice is very common in the industry.

I had a customer in the middle of negotiations on a project told me if we did not go out with the boys, we would not get the contract. So like a great salesman, I called in for a kitchen pass, and went to dinner & drinks - about a 6 hour investment for a 15k return and contracts for other work.

It create s a sense of trust & friendship, goodwill. Used to do it all the time in the past. Thats why I tell other s it has a cost - Family, Friends, Time.

I even had a very well to do client call on a regular basis after hours, always around bedtime for , project consulting & review. Bad Idea, Dont let it happen to you.

Some of the sales tactics are, Give Free Samples , Passes to games, Tickets, Trips, Weekend get aways for wife & gang. Really happens. It depends on what scale your on in the process. Companies own Boats, Cabins,Vacation Rentals, partnerships for this very reason.

Never been shmoozed by a POTENTIAL customer or supplier, although one current customer occasionally takes me for lunch if we have a meeting that runs up against lunch time. But then, I'm not in sales, so there's not much for a potential contact to gain from sucking up to me.

If you're ever in Vancouver though, you're more than welcome to buy me lunch :)

My man! Christopher Freeman! Where is the like button! :)

Unlike those goody two shoes, Matt and Sean, Christopher tells it like it is. So much honesty there - I especially liked this example:

"I was told by management many times, not to waste my time because the owners played golf with the other companies managers so they would not even consider other quotes or they would use them for comparison only."

IPVM is dominated with 'nerds' who care about performance, quality, ROI, etc. The real world has far more people who make decisions based on golf buddies.

I hope this changes and the mission of IPVM is to empower this change by making it easier for honest people to identify the best quality solutions but I don't think we should underestimate the good 'ol boy network.

Some Day I will, and will make it a trip as BC is fantastic on the inet and nat geo channels.

I love the mountains, west coast to Alaska, some day will make that trip for about a month. Had friends make the train ride, and one took the highway from us to Alaska , great trips. Send me a email & I will send you some of my terratory I get to work in , Absolutely beatiful. Can send pictures of sites , but scenery is beautiful. Driving is hectic, but on top of the world most of the time .

I have some clients that told me their budgets for entertainment, a must for their job. My budgets are just dinner, lunch, fishing trips .

Christopher, BC is indeed spectacular... and expansive. In previous employment, I made several road trips to other parts of the province on a rollout project, including a two-week stint driving to Terrace and Prince Rupert. That was two looooong days' driving... and you still only make it halfway to the northern border of the province. I'd mentioned to the customer's Telecom manager at one point always wanting to take the Inside Passage ferry up to Rupert, and she actually tried to book that for us for one leg of the trip... only to find out bookings needed to be at least six months in advance.

As for the technology... I don't think we're too far apart in age; I remember my school getting a Commodore PET when I was in 6th grade... by the time I was in 9th grade they had a few Apple //c's. Moving on to high school meant a whole lab(!!) equipped with over a dozen Commodore 64s - now THAT was great stuff! :)

Hi John, I try to control my thoughts, but the good old boy network is a lot of the industry tactics.

Good or Bad, it is what it is. I like this industry and wish I had gone other directions earlier in my career. So Many Great Technologies and so many Great Places to see them. I love to go to places where you don't usually get to see and work on systems.

It gives a great satisfaction to see the new State of the Art Systems. Can't talk about them, but they are great to see.

Im older so My retention, learning ability is not as great as the 20 year olds. Cant retain enough fast enough. I believe we are just about in the information overload era. Too Much.

When I went to school we learned algbra in High School. My kids learned it in grammer school. The computers we learned on were apple 2c,Trash 80, When the 8080 was a state of the art system and the Z-80 processor ruled the world and we used TI chipsets and just invented the Eprom chip, Gold Chips. The Dec 1134 with Stacks of Winchester drives, was the gold standard

So when I read the information on these site Im Impressed and see it as the minimum standard to succeed in this industry. Hope Im not to brutally honest, not everyone can handle it.

I suspect Matt and Sean (and many other IPVM members) simply don't operate in that world (nor do I). However, I certainly saw enough earlier in my career and still listen closely to the feedback / criticism from the other side on this point.

Ultimately, I think the old boy / old school tactics are going to die - simply because the advantage of good information is so financially significant that those who have it and use it will win most deals. Plus, those who take the opposite approach, increasingly risked getting exposed.

That said, the question still remains how big it remains and how long it will last.

Schmoozing will always exist, no doubt about it. It works great for the larger corporate customers where politics come into play.

But the internet has changed so many industries including surveillance. It will continue to do so as well, especially as the younger generation continues to enter into the workforce and become business owners. In my opinion, any company who doesnt have a good web presence with good supporting documenation, is not setup for long term success.

Schmoozing will always exist, no doubt about it. It works great for the larger corporate customers where politics come into play.

I suspect that's the primary dividing factor.

With smaller companies, actually putting together the PROPER systems with GOOD equipment is critical to staying in business - screw up once, and you could lose a major contract. When you're big enough, just making that monster bulk sale is sufficient - it looks good on your bottom line, and by the time the shit rolls all the way back uphill (after multiple long-term projects, endless troubleshooting, incessant finger-pointing, and plenty of deflective wining-and-dining), it's been sufficiently filtered (through people on BOTH sides of the equation) so it's stuck to everyone BUT you along the way, or you've already moved on to something better.

My experience with large corporate customers is the opposite. Large end users are some of the most heavy users of the Internet for research. IPVM, for instance, has a who's who of major Fortune 500 end users (though we never cite or identify specific organizations). Often, their internal people are equal or superior to the average security integrator as they can dedicate resources to learning and evaluating systems and care less about margins and more about performance.

The bigger resistor to the Internet and research is the old school integrator - the security company who has been in business 20+ years and does this the 'old school' way. I am not certainly not saying everyone in this group acts this way but a significant number certainly do.

I have a story about a large client corporation that is about as opposite as it can get from that, John... but as it's late, that will have to wait for tomorrow.

I am looking forward to it! Btw, I am not saying all large clients are research and fact oriented, just that they tend to be more so than smaller ones.

One time, I had a large end user tell me "Why would I pay for your stuff when manufacturers give me information for free?" I thought that was funny and quite a negative sign for his evaluation process. That said, that was literally one time in years.

John, thanks for the props above.

What's being reported in that article and recent others shouldn't be a big surprise to anybody. For instance, back in 2007, I did a digital marketing presentation at ISC West and the research from even back then showed roughly 60% of buyers use Search as their first point of reference and 80% of that group used Google. So if you weren't ranking on Google, you were losing out, and now social media is gaining that first point of reference, etc. as you've discussed.

This trend is impacting buying decisions for every industry; obviously on the consumer side for a lot longer and now that it is being felt more and more in the B2B side, it has some experts declaring that the traditional B2B sales process is dead (see Forbes article).

My firm represents Pelco, owned by Schneider Electric ($32B), and the theme of "digitization" is being heavily promoted throughout all of Schneider for 2013. The latest stats I've read show a buyer today has 57% or more of their purchasing decision made up BEFORE the sales person ever reaches him. This is huge, and should be impacting how EVERY manufacturer in this industry goes to market, yet I haven't seen tangible evidence of a major shift - yet. Sure, as others stated above, people still do business with people, so some of the good old boy dinners and golf games are prevalent.

Questions to ask longterm, what impact will digitization have not only on the sales and marketing teams, but what impact will be felt by trade shows, conferences, road shows, demos etc.?? There's a lot of money spent here. Digitization could fuel faster change in our industry, especially since social media is word-of-mouth on steroids. For instance, there's no faster way to kill a bad product than with good marketing.

Loved to see you do an analysis of future financial trends and outlook of this industry, similar to an IMS kind of report. Honestly, from what I see my gut tells me, a lot of changes are coming for everyone as we continue into a new era of a post-9/11 world and how fast technology is changing. See this tweet from this morning.



Kyle, thanks, I wanted to call out this statement:

"The latest stats I've read show a buyer today has 57% or more of their purchasing decision made up BEFORE the sales person ever reaches him. This is huge, and should be impacting how EVERY manufacturer in this industry goes to market, yet I haven't seen tangible evidence of a major shift - yet."

Both points make sense to me. Indeed, a lot of manufacturers seem shell shocked at these changes. I assume some are in denial, others cannot figure out what to do, etc.

As for an analysis of future financial trends and outlook of the industry, such reports are typically either opinion of the author or aggregated survey results of what industry people say. We could do either though I am not sure how accurate they would be. Thoughts?

John, yea, I agree; I don't think a number of them know how to respond? It represents a paradigm shift in how a lot of companies traditionally go to market in this industry. Ironically, I just got an email newsletter from the Executives Club of Chicago on a "Retail and Supply Chain 2.0" shortly after posting my comment and, for the RETAIL industry, they report $917 Billion worth of retail sales last year are "web influenced" and Moto has this report on 61% of retail managers believing consumers are more informed they they associates.

As for the future trends/ outlook, that makes sense. Part of a different topic and longer discussion for sure.

- Kyle

"61% of retail managers believing consumers are more informed they they associates."

Must resist making joke about security RSMs! Too hard!

Personally, I hated getting spammed by a sales rep with "White Papers" and webinars.

So many times, it was like 'trying to cram a square peg in a round hole'. Just because you successfully deployed analytics in a port doesn't mean your offering works in a dust storm in my land-locked state. Unless a piece of literature had firsthand and direct scope covering my problem, it was recieved as advertising.

Words that integrators/end users never say: "Hey! I'm in the mood to read your company's junkmail! Bury me in it!"

To Brian's point (and actually that would be marketing, not sales, doing the spamming) if a manufacturer's offering is relevant and usesful to the recipient, than said person may be more inclined to give permission to be contacted and not see it as an intrusion. To rise above the clutter today, you definitely need a value-add or differentiator. I believe another reason why social media is gaining popularity as the manufacturer should/could be providing a platform that others care to join and be a part of,versus a lot of outbound marketing.

Data mining your customer base will allow you to have a better sense of what the customer's needs and wants are, and to communicate in a revelant manner. For example, messages or platforms created for certain kind of vertical markets; A&E specific, or distribution specific would provide more revelance than the one-size fits all outbound email marketing we often see. Drilling down further should allow a manufacturer to understand customer's buying habits and schedules. This data could help coordinate sale's efforts on when they should be calling upon specific customers. It's a lengthy discussion.