This article originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, be sure to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.
There are many market approaches and sales strategies in the security industry, but the one that has gained momentum over the past two decades is the vertical market approach. Whether manufacturers dedicate strategic business development managers to markets such as government, healthcare and transportation, or systems integrators align their vendors to verticals such as retail, industrial and hospitality, the security industry has a strong focus on vertical markets.
I think most people know the general benefits of specialization. Examples like being able to speak their language, being known in the market and understanding their most common situations are all advantages; however, there is a timely reason to focus on verticals in today’s environment.
From the beginning of B2B sales, customers relied on sales people to know about technology and solutions because they didn’t have easy access to learn more about those solutions. They might attend a trade show once or twice a year, but that was about it. Customers knew their problems. The sales people knew the solutions. That was it.
Not today. In today’s market, customers can easily access all the information they need on virtually any topic. Today, customers know their problems and can find solutions online. They may not be able to finish the designs or do a job as professional as an expert, but their perception is that they can come close.
In this market, a salesperson who only knows their solutions – no matter how brilliant – will be reduced to a proposal architect and an order taker (maybe).
Three keys to selling in the vertical market
Today’s sellers need to know their world (security) and the issues, trends, people, politics and requirements of the markets they serve; in fact, most customers expect their salespeople to know their industry almost as well as they know security.
The most effective way to find out these things is to focus on one or a few verticals. Here are three essential factors that every seller must know to win sales in a vertical market:
1. Reputation. The foundation for success in a vertical market is having an outstanding reputation, and one of the most important things a seller can do is build and protect that reputation. Sometimes that means turning down sales opportunities that could put the business at risk or breaking bad news early to customers in a professional manner. In the short term, these practices can be very difficult, but reputations are not built in the short term.
2. Problem solving. Vertical sellers need to understand common issues affecting organizations in their markets – not only know the solutions, but also understand at such a level that they can identify problems before customers know about them.
Salespeople who understand the root cause of these problems and can wallow in the world of problems with their customers will win friends and engaged customers. By spotting problems early, illustrating the magnitude of the results for your customers, and then delivering unique solutions, you can do more than Google can do for them. It’s a lot of work, which is why you can only focus on one or a few verticals to be able to provide such quality service.
3. Relationships. Finally, sellers who dominate verticals need to network and market themselves. You may be the smartest professional in a vertical market, but that happens if no one knows or trusts you. Participate in industry associations, contribute to industry LinkedIn groups and write for trade magazines.
Once you are well known in a market, your clients will feel comfortable going forward and working with you and opportunities will start flowing your way.
Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (www.vectorfirm.com), a sales consulting and training company specifically designed for the security industry. Use “Security Business” as a discount code to get 10% lifetime discount on www.vectorfirmacademy.com. To request more information about the company, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/12361573.