Integrators, What Is Your Initial Appointment Sales Process?

Not sure if I should break this up into 3 different topics. The mods can decide that.

On your initial appointment/site survey, do you bring any demo equipment? If so, what?

After the survey, what do you generate? For us we do alot of wireless so we have to do a site plan that lays out the design, so we can quote properly. But that is time consuming. Is anyone doing full designs as part of the estimate process? Are you charging for it?

Do you leave any brochures, printed material or any other marketing piece (CD, DVD, USB drive, etc) behind at any appointment?

I'll leave this as is but changed title to make it a little clearer.

I don't think we will get a lot of answers here since it covers 3 topics but we will queue these questions up for a future survey where we can get ~100 integrators to respond to each one.

For new customers/prospects, this is normally the order of the process.

  • Make appointment. On phone, find out as much as possible regarding what they are looking for. Many times they do not really look at it from a "what is it I need to happen", but try to self design. If a call back, try to find out a little about what the customer is all about. (Your goal is to get them to trust and like you before the visit).
  • Show up on time. Firmhandshake (beware of weak clammy handshakes from user-practice your handshake-maintain eye contact). Do not let customer call the shots (and design). Find out what they want to do. If possible, try to get a budget guess (this is difficult, and requires years of experience. Become their "friend" first, before becoming a salesman. This meeting is 50%+ about gaining trust from the user.
  • Try to feed them some of your credentials, but do not try to appear as a salesman (appear as an honest engineer). Never lie. (Always say I will get back to them, or impress them by immediately calling someone that can answer the question).
  • Never, never, never design on the spot. (Go back to office and think on it for a bit). Never let the customer design it. By redesigning to another solution you gain confidence and a fried with the customer. (For example, they want CCTV and access control, but may only need a JF Aiphone).
  • Go back to office, think on it, and design and price (you do not charge for design). Do not use cut sheets, part numbers, and specfics in quote. You can provide that later. For example: 12 HD Cameras (at later time you can make bullet/dome, IP/Analog, 1-2-4 MP, etc).
  • If there is an IT department not part of the walkthrough/request, NEVER use the word Server at the walkthrough or on the documentation.
  • Always try to guess the customer budget. Do not go cheap for it to provide the function that they desire. For example: 8-4 facility. Need interior/exterior surveillance, mainly for after hours vandalism. You must use low light cameras that function in the dark (not cheap).
  • If you suspect that are looking for a free design, that they will shop around to other integrators, it is better to over price and refuse to provide data sheets (I walk away by overpricing gracefully). The 2nd estimate gains knowledge about you and your design/product selection. You can provide them general layout so they can get an "apples to apples" other estimate. (No specifics on layout, though).
  • Design it in a way that will accept future growth. For example, a school (that you figure should have 50-70 cameras eventually) wants and has money for 10 cameras. Do not sell them a 10-20 camera NVR (server) and cheap switches. Do not sell a system with a poor user interface. (Dahua/Hikvision). Sell them an upgradeable NVR (server) and POE+ switching (400 watt?) that will support yearly expansion. (80% of all sold product for me nowadays are upgrades/adds).
  • Most important. Know your product. If it is a system, get one and know the devices and software well. You being the top level expert of the product you sell is very very important. Very rarely do I do demonstrations. The trust from the customer takes care of their suspicions.

Go back to office, think on it, and design and price (you do not charge for design). Do not use cut sheets, part numbers, and specfics in quote. You can provide that later. For example: 12 HD Cameras (at later time you can make bullet/dome, IP/Analog, 1-2-4 MP, etc).

This is an interesting point. Giving a free, non-specific quote like this is probably the best strategy for cold prospects. But offer to give warm prospects a paid design.

In any case, if the customer asks for a full system design, charge them.

1) You are already carrying a powerful piece of demo equipment: your phone. Have a demo setup that you can connect to. If you can afford it, have at least one of those cameras be a PTZ and one be a pano. Then either ask the customer if you can connect to their Wifi, or pray they've got good 4G.

2) Obviously, your process will be different if your prospect is hot, warm, or cold, but here's a few general answers I can give. What I suggest is you give them a preliminary quote with just enough hook them, and then explain that you charge for systems design but give an equal rebate if they buy a system from you. If they object at this point, then run the other direction.

If it's a hot prospect, I suggest giving them the roughest of rough drafts, straight up. You're probably going to want to 'forget' to add some crucial component, but this level of kimono-opening builds a bit of trust on the part of the prospect, which may well be reciprocated by a purchase.

If it's a warm prospect, I'd give them a written quote and verbally give them your idea for how the system will function. Written quote should contain a major-parts list, plus accessories, consumables, and labor.

Cold prospects get a written quote with product types instead of a written list ("2MP dome camera" instead of a SKU, for example), along with a vague description of the system, plus an offer to do a paid system design.

Paid system design should include a major-parts list as well as a layout, including probable cable paths. It should also include items not on the major-parts list, such as EMT piping and gooseneck mounts.

3) USBs are awesome but too easy to lose. I'd give a USB with video clips, along with a trifold glossy and a business card.

I worked for an integrator who focused 100% on large city-wide deployments. Projects ranged from $500k-$3m. This may not be the right answer if you're working in other areas.

My initial appointment was usually gained through a trade show, a referral, or by email to a decision maker.

First meeting is at 10:30AM with a decision maker. Research for a few days to know where the crime hot spots are. Get in to town the day before, and drive around the hot spots. Get to know the street names, and the slang for them. Have a conversation about the issues they are struggling with "in The Charley" or "behind the T-Star Station" or "on Colfax" or "down on Sullivant" (bonus points if you can name those cities). Paint a picture of how life could change with my help - use examples of other cities with similar issues.

It's now about 11:45. A man's gotta eat, take him to lunch. Invite everyone. Know already where you're going. Have three options to offer up: a quick soup/sandwich place, a casual but regionally popular place (BBQ, Mexican, etc), and an upscale place. No chains. They will almost always choose the casual but regionally popular place. Eat, laugh, talk, and enjoy the meal. Even if you can't land a deal, you made a friend.

On the way back to their office, get your next steps out. By now, you should have established a rapport, so you're working together as partners. "We need to go ahead and set up a small pilot to see this really work in the field. How's your schedule next Tuesday to bring some engineers in?" Play the hand from there.

On your initial appointment/site survey, do you bring any demo equipment? If so, what?

I'm not technically a sales person though I fulfill that role more often than not. Honestly, I never bring demo equipment to the initial appointment. If they want to see demonstrations of video feeds or some specific feature I retain enough customer permissions to VPN in and demo their cameras to potential clients. As such I do not feel the need to lug around equipment. Some customers are just window shopping so there is a significant chance I am burning hours doing the door to door salesman vacuum demo. There is time for that after the quote is out and they show interest.

After the survey, what do you generate? For us we do alot of wireless so we have to do a site plan that lays out the design, so we can quote properly. But that is time consuming. Is anyone doing full designs as part of the estimate process? Are you charging for it?

This seems to be the biggest challenge... which I don't have a good solution to. Customers never seem to want to pay for design and integrators have to deal with the time investment/cost. My default is to provide safe budgetary numbers. If the customer responds positively, I then proceed forward with a more detailed design.

Do you leave any brochures, printed material or any other marketing piece (CD, DVD, USB drive, etc) behind at any appointment?

Only if there is product where the customer has to determine aesthetics such as security consoles. I am of the belief that marketing materials are tossed in the trash the minute I leave.

Thanks all very helpful.

Here is our sales process

  • We get a phone call, ask some questions, then schedule a site survey. We try not to ask too much, because we do not want to scare them off.
  • At our first appointment, we discuss any existing systems, what they are looking for, coverage areas etc.
  • We then do a site survey, looking at all areas, etc
  • Come back to office and do a site plan/map/design. We have used various methods for design and proposals. We have done simple PowerPoint maps with just cameras, and full blown designs with all infrastructure. We also tried a few proposals from JVSG with the 3d renderings. We are now using a program called ConceptDraw, mainly because our largest client uses it to design systems. The good part is it has layers so we can put everything on the design, but turn off all but the camera layer, and give the client a simple plan of where the cameras will go.
  • We used to email the proposals, we now try to schedule a time to go back out, go over the proposal in person.

Our results have been horrible. I will say that almost every proposal has been for apartment communities, and been initiated by the property manager.

  • Majority of the time the manager sends it to their boss and it dies on the vine. There never was a budget for it to begin with.
  • A couple times they chose someone else, based on lowest price, not really the best solution (IMO)
  • Once we never even presented the proposal because the client never responded to emails or calls afterwards.....
  • I do not think we ever had access or contact info for the decision maker

We have to do something better

  • We are trying to have more contact, more touches. Go out twice (survey, then proposal), with the proposal bring a laptop with demo videos, software, etc.
  • We are trying to determine if they have a budget for this upfront, trying to get the decision maker, etc.

Anyone interested in a sales position in Atlanta? :)

When do you demo your solution? I would say our close rate is 90% when we go onsite and do an hour long (goes longer when they ask questions) live demo with several hundred cameras. If we don't show them how the system works 90% of the time we don't get the project.

Ouch. That's a tough gig.

Are these large apartment complexes - thousands of units? Are these complexes upscale? I ask because I have a family member who is an apartment manager at a few hundred unit mid-upper tier apartment complex and they may only have enough budget for a Costco/Lorex special installed in their management office. I just don't see apartments having enough money for professional installation. You may be better off leveraging your apartment clients to switch to a different target demographic.

If it is a large chain of centrally managed complexes maybe you could offer to do their corporate office at reduced price or even at cost. That would put you in contact with the decision makers and could possibly be leveraged to access their full portfolio.

Hi Jay.

Forgive my presumption, but I'm guessing that your company is a small / new integrator. One thing I know - you're in one of the most saturated markets in N. America for integration companies. Taking this into consideration, below are some thoughts...

  • You mention that you try not to ask too many questions because you don't want to scare them off. You won't scare off a serious prospect with real questions. After asking two or three preliminary questions that you're comfortable with (the ones you're currently asking), you can use an easy transition statement of: "We've been able to help many other organizations in your situation, but I'd like to ask a few more questions to see if we'd be a good fit for you." Of course, tailor this statement to your customer.
  • Are apartment complexes the right market for your services?
  • If they're calling you and you haven't talked with them before, they're probably 60% - 80% of the way through their buying process. I don't know what your personnel scenario is, but you need to target a market and get in front of these opportunities.
  • It sounds like you've got talented people - you're not just another dealer. Keep putting in the time to illustrate that level of expertise. Save time by qualifying proposals ahead of time.
  • Don't fall into the awful trap of "you never know". You should know when to walk away. Make sure you do. Your time is critical to your success - don't give it away to some apartment complex trying to get a third price. Be bold and ask the right questions. The serious prospect will respect you for it.
  • Don't email proposals. When you're meeting with them pre-proposal, schedule an appointment to present the proposal. If that's not possible, email them a day or two before the proposal is ready, stating: "We'll have your proposal ready soon. Can you meet on Friday at 8:30 to review it?" Once you email it, they won't meet with you.
  • Don't worry about more touches unless they bring value. "More" was the key word in sales forever, but not today. "Better" is the key word today. Focus on a market or two, and make better, more meaningful calls.

One last comment - don't get caught up in the "We're a new business and need to take whatever work we can get." You mentioned a large customer in one of your comments, so I assume you're paying the bills. Stay focused on the right work for you - it's even more important to a company with limited resources.

A lot of shared recollections and reflections from experiences here in the comments. I hope more people take the time to tell their stories.

As an engineer I find myself reading business management books and accountant best practices to gain insight on those around me(the people selling solutions). Security design is pretty easy once you make it up that hill far enough. Keeping up with technology also comes naturally. I have sat in many sales presentations and construction meetings; now if I could only combine the logic, ambition and unique skills of both entities I may then understand how to take that experience and enlighten others.