Dan DunkelQualify the Culture - "Transformation Changes Sales Cycles"

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

The traditional security industry is in a state of transformation. Convergence is a subset of this larger trend. Integrators need to clearly understand this dynamic when selling into both existing accounts and new customers: "Transformation changes the sales cycle."  

Transformation cycles in industries result in process changes - for everybody. Companies either adjust, or radically alter the way they do business. This process involves the manufacturing of products, along with the selling and supporting of end-users. A critical area that is impacted by transformation is the internal politics of end-user organizations. Transformation cycles shake up the internal power structure of the organizations that buy your products and services. Just as new companies come to market or adjust its product mix during these cycles (Google, salesforce.com, Apple, Cisco), so goes the executive chain of command. Middle managers who are quicker to recognize the trends are positioned into leadership roles, while other companies go outside the organization for innovative thinkers.  

Successful security integrators do not apply the same selling techniques to an industry experiencing a transformation cycle as they did to a mature, conservative marketplace.

Traditional sales cycles look for problems that their products can solve and qualify for budget. Transformation brings a totally new set of problems to end-users that (1) they may not understand, and (2) require a new "process" in how they execute their job function.  

In short, your customer is experiencing cultural change. This change involves people who may or may not want to embrace it. This is human nature. This last fact is also critical for the integrator to understand. Without the commitment of the people involved in process change, integrators will take the blame for unsatisfactory results. Bad references can kill you.  

I visited the security department of a "marquee" company recently that is looking to upgrade its limited command and control solution to better automate the emergency operations center. When I asked what was in all of the notebooks that accompanied the system, I was told, "You'll never take paper away from the security folks." - BIG RED FLAG. Fail-safe measures not withstanding, if the cultural mindset of this organization is that a "paper process" is an essential component of an automated solution, this is bad deployment waiting to happen. Who do you think gets the blame when the "software" does not work as expected? The sales professional needs to "qualify the culture." These issues need to be addressed up front, and not after the sale, when the chances of a "bad reference" (and bad blood) are increased substantially.  

Good reference accounts are not easy in transformation cycles. When process change occurs it involves people and impacts corporate politics. It is a more complex sales situation. Convergence involves the IT organization more times then not. (Yet another variable in the equation.) As the security organization goes global, its personnel will evolve to meet new challenges and the demands they place on the integrator will increase. They need partners that can guide them through a new security process and provide the tools and ongoing council (services) to assure their success.  

Professional sales people understand that it is better to have no revenue rather than a bad reference. Transformation cycles require that sales people must look closely at the "security process" and culture of the end-user organizations they are selling to. The best integrators will provide insight into what areas may prove problematic, whether technical or cultural. Finding an internal champion who embraces transformation in the security organization and sees you as a valued partner in that process is your best competitive advantage.