For any entrepreneur, starting your own business is an exhilarating and, at times, overwhelming process. For those in the security industry, establishing and growing a systems integration business can be particularly tricky, given the dynamic and competitive nature of our industry.
Always remember: There’s a lot more behind sustaining a successful business model than the ability to close deals. To set yourself up for success, it’s important to build a strong sales foundation, right from the very start. Here are my top five tips for starting out strong:
- First things first, read “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber. This book is a great primer on the fundamentals required to build a business, so ideally this is prime reading material before launching your business. However, it can also be useful at any time and can serve as a great reference when the “growing pains” of building the business keep you up at night. One of the best takeaways for me involved how commonplace assumptions can get in the way of running a business.
- As far as getting started in the video surveillance industry, it’s important to develop a clear vision of “who they want to be when they grow up.” What will be your niche? Do you want to be “all things to all people?” Will you only service a specific market segment? Do you have the technical and customer service skills required to deliver the “ultimate customer experience?” Will you implement a strong project management philosophy that is required to under-promise and over-deliver?
- Invest in your people, ensuring every individual within the organization is properly trained and has a defined career plan with measurable and attainable goals. Training is everything, especially in an industry that evolves as quickly as this one. This being said, training and education must be a joint effort. Your organization has a responsibility to ensure each team member has a strong fundamental knowledge of the skills required of each position; the employee has a responsibility to take advantage of all continuing education opportunities, both in and outside of the organization. The team member must become a master of his craft and own the journey.
- Establish a firm understanding of your marketplace, customer base, product mix and, most importantly, the strengths and weaknesses of your organization. Know your products, know your customers, know your market, know your competition, know how to leverage the technical resources within your organization and, above all else, know how to LISTEN. If you’re too busy talking, you’ll never truly discover the customer’s needs. A successful sales professional achieves goals and meets quotas on the strength of her relationships. The strength of those relationships will be in direct proportion to the amount of LISTENING that takes place.
- And finally, do your best to keep up. This industry, like any other technology-based industry, moves at a mile a minute. From a sales perspective, you need robust multi-tasking and organizational skills, street smarts and a strong backbone. Knowledge of products and how those products integrate with each other is key as well. In other words, does the system you’re selling “work on paper,” or are you setting your installation and service teams up for failure? Are your proposed solutions replicable and reliable? Can your field teams deliver on what you have promised? Is your field staff equipped with the specialty tools and equipment required to deliver the projects you’re selling? Does your organization have a vetted discovery process to ensure you’ve properly captured the customer’s needs? Has your proposal considered preventive maintenance costs associated with the system you’re selling? A lot of questions that need to be answered.
Keep these important points in mind, and your business will start off with a strong foundation and will be well positioned for success in the years to come.
Keith S. Cottrell is the director of Global Support Operations at DVTEL.