Adding value for customers

July 2012 News

In today’s complex marketplace, to compete on something other than price you must focus not on what you sell but on how your selling adds value for those buying from you. Customer value does not solely reside in the product or service but rather in the manner in which they are sold, acquired, and used over time.

Adapting to these new business conditions requires that sellers move away from simply communicating information about their offerings and instead provide insights that customers cannot get everywhere else. These help the customer plan for the future, not just solve today’s problems.

To develop this visionary approach in the company’s global network of authorised partners, Milestone has been working with Connex International, providers of training and certification services on IP video surveillance, to develop a very comprehensive course on Value Selling for its network of global partners. The course is geared to the advantages of open platform IP video technology, and includes seven themes that make up the backbone of knowledge that is imparted when educating Milestone dealers and integrators:

* Defining the Open Platform.

* Communicating product value.

* Educating with solutions to problems.

* Leveraging the Open Platform ecosystem.

* Servicing demanded value.

* Shaping requirements.

* Closing on value.

Within each topic, numerous illustrative factors are covered to ensure that prospective customers are completely educated on the important benefits to be gained through the open platform approach to IP video surveillance systems. Attendees learn how to apply Value Selling practices by going through real-world sales situations so they can learn how to create consistency in the sales process, develop a sales coaching culture and model sales skill successes. The following are summaries of each part of the Value Selling Framework.

Eric Fullerton
Eric Fullerton

Selling the open platform

Informing prospective customers how an open platform provides value over time is illustrated by the return on investment (ROI) being retrieved many times over through a long system lifecycle, increasing its worth. More choices become available when a company is not put in proprietary jail – the term to describe choosing a limited solution with the constraints of one hardware-oriented provider. An open platform video management software (VMS) choice, on the other hand, provides freedom through the ability to continue to expand the system limitlessly, incorporating new innovations as they become available. This eliminates the need to forklift: the term to describe changing a video surveillance system from the ground up.

You can only go where your path leads. The set of choices available at any given time are limited by decisions made in the past, so choose wisely with a truly open platform to ensure the greatest number of options for the future. The concepts in focus are:

* Best-in-Class solutions: how to match the most effective technology with the most important operations for the customer.

* Extensibility: good architecture provides a road map for the portion of the road yet to be built.

* Lower TCO: single manufacturer offerings result in overall higher prices so teach the customers about total cost of ownership (TCO) in the long run.

* Interoperability: a true open platform VMS is the core of device and system interoperability that engenders maximum end user choice.

* Scalability: one size does not fit all, so the customer must be able to scale up or down as needs change over time.

Communicating product value

Here is where a salesperson must cover four main approaches:

1) Product – the features and comparisons to competition.

2) Functionality – relating to the buyers and users of the system.

3) Future – talking about product maintenance and new capabilities.

4) Price – how the costs are segmented, supported and serviced.

The open platform advantage is defined as a bottom-up approach to building a lasting foundation for the future. Long-term TCO is protected through the ability to add new features with software upgrades and standards-based solutions. Hardware from the widest choice of camera manufacturers must be available, with ongoing support for new models and brands.

Open platform IP video is scalable and future-proof as buyers needs expand. Another critical sales point is the graphical user interface, which should have the ability to provide documented ease-of-use in multiple languages, customisable operator skill levels and other best-in-class technological advances including support for HD and megapixel cameras. It is a big advantage to present documented third-party integration capabilities with many other systems such as access control, analytics, Point-of-Sale or building automation, as well.

Educating product value

Salespeople can educate prospective customers and demonstrate that they are the subject matter experts with the answers they can trust: solve industry super problems, especially those that currently exist in the transition from analogue to IP technology.

Define challenges that commonly occur, affecting real-world installations. This can include core infrastructure input and output, pre/during/post-install support issues, user interface friendliness and training requirements, security and other systems interoperability, potential scalability and flexibility scenarios, etc. Salespeople should learn how to ‘do the math’ and illustrate examples of how such problems are met and solved by the open platform approach. It is helpful to identify unexpected design issues and build consensus among the decision makers.

Credibility comes from being respected, likable and competent. Client focus is essential:

You have to genuinely care about the customer’s comprehension and collaboration. Articulation plays a strong role. It is not just what you are saying, but how you say it that is equally important. Leadership qualities influence a sales situation: the only way to command attention is to have a presence and be confident in knowing the subject and addressing it with the customer’s perspectives in mind.

Knowledge is power and educating the customers teaches them to conclude solutions that the open platform provides. Informed customers make better buying decisions which results in more successful implementations and greater loyalty: word of mouth goes a long way towards building the customer database, and attracting new prospects.

Utilising the ecosystem

Another value selling parameter includes presenting a global ecosystem of hardware and integration partners who encompass a full circle of multiple choices in value-adding video surveillance solutions from access control, building automation and sensor systems to all kinds of analytics, retail transactions, ERP, RFID, PSIM and GIS, among many others. Today, open platform solutions are infinitely flexible, allowing interoperability with the installed systems – and the ones that can come in the future that are not yet known.

Here is where the Milestone Value Selling course teaches customers how to leave their options open for new technologies and innovations coming later down the road. Key ingredients affecting the surveillance technology ecosystem today:

* The microprocessor is the main agent of change in the market.

* Operating systems are very important.

* Commercially off-the-shelf hardware equipment is becoming more widely utilised and cost effective.

* Network camera devices comprise the fastest growing segment of the industry.

* Video management software (VMS) has become the key middleware of solutions.

* Solution partners represent significant growth opportunities through interoperability.

Servicing demanded value

Knowing and understanding a customer’s needs thoroughly is one of the most important aspects when selling value. What are the specifications, management issues and realistic project timelines? It is important to agree with the prospects on clearly defined expectations, especially since industry hype cultivates unrealistic customer expectations – salespeople must manage this by educating the customer on system capabilities.

Ongoing maintenance, regular support for the latest cameras in the market, flexible licensing expansions and upgrades are big advantages to present in a sales situation. As technology grows and changes, so do customer demands and expectations, so the future-proof framework is a core concept to explain – it points out the value of a true open platform VMS as the centre of a future-ready solution.

Shaping requirements

This topic in Value Selling covers objection prevention versus objection handling. Ensuring that customers’ perceived challenges are completely understood is necessary in order to offer their ideal solution – this is what shapes the final steps in selling open platform IP video. Salespeople must analyse the audience, where there can be different people influencing the sale throughout the sales process. Determine their interests and goals, positioning specific features based on what they need.

Knowing the buyers is all-important to closing a sale: a security operator wants optimised live video for fast response, security directors want remote access, and a company director watches the bottom line and wants return on the system investment. There may also be a risk prevention executive who is looking to cut shrinkage or improve employee safety, and an IT professional maintaining the network who is concerned about bandwidth or controlling user access with the ease of Active Directory. Stakeholders have their own area of responsibility and focus; if these are not addressed to the appropriate person, the entire deal may be lost. Uncover the customer’s pain through interactive listening and empathy.

Salespeople have to help the customer understand their problems and opportunities in a new or different way. They need to see a better solution than they could discover themselves, so it pays to act as their advocate to uncover the answer to their particular needs. Understanding their business is more important as a selling skill than persuasion. Today’s complex sales require providing insights rather than just presenting information.

Closing on value

Showing the absolute value in the open platform, and literally doing the math for a prospective customer makes a huge difference. At its simplest, it can be defined by the equation: Value = Benefits minus the Costs.

The objective is to shape the situations, problems and implications with the pay-off of the solution to the customer’s functional requirements.

Examples of the true value of open platform technology include storage savings, open architecture advantages for value-adding system integrations, efficient automated system maintenance, distributed centralised management or local, remote and mobile access – all of these help to ensure the deal is signed. Each buying phase must move the sale forward from passive to active to decision, negotiation, purchase and installation. Then the value of a true open platform proves itself.

Milestone Value Selling is designed for experienced sales executives looking to strengthen their ability to sell to IT professionals working with security directors on networked surveillance projects. Within this framework structure, selling strategies address both IT and security demographics in a consultative-based way.

The course targets skill improvements in open platform concepts, positioning tactics, key concepts of network surveillance, sales best practices and critical success factors of sales leadership decisions. The benefits of attending a networked security industry-based sales strategy course (compared to basic generic sales training) are that attendees learn how to excel in the sales field, able to demonstrate situational, interactive and competitive differences that lead to substantially more project and client wins in a shorter amount of time.

For more information contact Milestone Systems, +45 (0)88 300 300, cdp@milestonesys.com, www.milestonesys.com





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