Subscriber Discussion

Integrators: How Do You Get New Customers?

Besides the usual "word of mouth" referrals, how do you get your sales/installs? Do you have someone who pounds the sidewalk knocking on (business or residential) doors? Please spill the beans. Tell us how you get new customers.

Tradeshows, lunch-and-learns, bid work, posting on Discussions ;-)

I have just started with a new company so my sales strategies are a little different today. Previous to this company, I spent 10 years with a national integrator that offered a very large and diverse spectrum of products. Access control, intercom, mass notification, audio, life safety, nurse call, surveillance, intrusion – the list goes on. Within those categories, they offered 3-4 different large-name / industry recognized manufactures. Sales came from existing customer base (aprox 20%), word of mouth (aprox 20%), product partnership (aprox 10%), bids (aprox 30%), relationships with contractors (aprox 20%) and the occasional cold call.

Consultants – once we had a few heavy projects under our belt, we developed relationships with large consulting outfits. Once you prove yourself and your company, they will bring you to the table on future opportunities. Help them by lining up and suggesting products. Spend time answering questions. Consultants are often super organized and know how to put things together but what they often lack is practical product experience (how does product X really perform in a deployment?). This is where you can help them with your years of experience and really be a valuable resource.

The company I am with now is very limited in terms of product diversity. I am working with one single VMS (although extremely scalable and flexible), maybe 3-4 major camera manufactures and 2 access control systems. My current strategy has been 100% cold calling… just hitting the pavement and lots of email campaigns. I’ll be honest though – my success rate has not been great with this strategy. I am now back to the drawing board and revising a new strategy (secret though J )… I’ll report back in a few weeks if I am seeing some success…

Trade shows are great for networking and keeping your social skills / elevator pitch sharp.. but what I have found is that many of the people in attendance are there for the freebees and you are there to fund their conference. You will have potential customers talk to you like they are super interested in you and your product only to disappear from the map when you try and follow up… I think they are completely necessary… but I am learning not to expect too much.

"Posting on Discussions ;-)" Sean, you're a funny guy!

In the future, I do think online interactions will become increasingly important for local sales as more end users regularly participate (whether here or other online sites). Actually one feature I've been thinking about is an 'Integrator Finder' a map based interface where a security end user could find integrators in their region. It would list the integrator's credentials, etc. and we could review / moderate / monitor it. But I digress....

Undisclosed integrator, great feedback and color. The consultant point is particularly interesting. I think the challenge there is a lot of consultants look at integrators as riff raff trying to sell them something, so if you can differentiate yourself as a valuable technical / domain resource, I see the potential.

Some thoughts of my own:

  • The success of sales tactics varies greatly depending on the size of the deal - a $1,000 job is different than a 10k, 100k or 1 million dollar job. We all might be able to offer sharper feedback by narrowing the average job size down. For the rest of my comments, I'll just assume projects in the hundreds of thousands range.
  • Pick a half dozen to dozen top targets in your area. The reality is most will not be willing or able to use you immediately (i.e., they have a service contract with your competitor, they just finished a deployment a year ago and are not doing anything new right now etc.). You might provide value by educating them on new products (a lunch n learn or a 45 minute briefing on new technologies - e.g., summarizing or picking out top choices from our biannual new product reviews). Then when they need help or have an issue with their existing integrator, you are top of mind.
  • Use LinkedIn to see if you have any connections to execs at target companies. Have your connections facilitate an introduction or make a recommendation.
  • Establish relationships through participating at local ASIS meeting. While this depends on the quality and depth of the local group, this is a top opportunity to meet end users in a single local physical place.

Great topic!

'Undisclosed' gives a great answer, and my personal experience is similar.

Relationships with General Contractors and Construction Management companies are valuable. The sheer volume of small tasks that pop up in a normal construction project can be rewarding for a 'johnny-on-the-spot' technician. When those companies are working a project, and the bidded integrator named to the project flakes out or falls through, they immediately pick up the phone and call their trusted names that get the job done.

Here are a few of my random ideas on the topic on integrator marketing:

- John's idea of picking out some target companies in your market area and contacting them regularly is a good one. I use this one myself in selling consulting services, and now have a list of contacts that exceeds 1000 names. I reach out to the contacts on this list several times per year. But remember, this is a long term effort; it can take months or even years before it pays off, but believe me, it does work.

- My client's number one complaint about integrators is the lack of after-the-sale service. If you provide excellent service and don't mind cleaning up messes, offer to take over service on jobs that were installed by others.

- Consultants can be an excellent source of work for integrators. Some integrators feel that they are too small to work with consultants, but keep in mind that there are sometimes jobs that are too small for the big boys where a smaller integrator might just be a perfect fit.

- I think that events such as ASIS meetings are not a good place to market to end-users. Too many wolves and not enough sheep.

- Property management companies that manage commercial and residential properties buy lots of security and surveillance systems. Developing good relationships with just a few well-placed property managers can yield a lot of work.

- Network with other contractors and service providers in allied fields. This can include locksmiths, IT/networking contractors, security guard companies, and electrical contractors just to name a few. Often a client will have a need and not know who to call. As an example, I get a substantial number of leads from insurance brokers. Clients suffer a theft or loss and contact their broker to file a claim. The topic of how to prevent the same thing from happening again comes up, and the broker mentions my name.

- Reach out to your competitors. Although counter-intuitive, competitors can be a great source of work when they are too busy or run across an opportunity that isn't a good fit or is too large/small for them. I have gotten very choosy about the projects I accept and send lots of work my competitors way.

Michael, great points. Thanks.

I wanted to second the recommendation on cleaning up other integrator's messes. This is particularly useful if you are a technical integrator competing against a slick sales outfit that promises the moon. They are at their most vulnerable when it comes to commissioning and servicing because (a) they tend to be weak at technology (i.e., 'it's all about process/leadership/etc.) and (b) the big money has already been made.

This is obviously not a get rich quick strategy but if you are operationally and technically stronger than your rival this is a good tactic to slowly take over big accounts.

Thanks for all the advice... seems I am on the right track. I do however need to reach out to more contractors... that is one thing I have not been aggressive enough in doing. Again, thanks for the advice and please, keep it coming!