Taking significant steps to protect students and teachers is so important today that analyst firms such as TechNavio predict annual school expenditures on surveillance and access control systems will top $1.1 billion by 2018. And spring is a critical time to get in front of education buyers as they begin formulating their spending plans for their next budget cycle.
To capitalize on physical security opportunities while helping safeguard humanity’s greatest asset, Ingram Micro senior technology consultant Jason Destein suggests honing your approach. “It’s critical to understand security from an educator’s perspective,” he says. “Owning the latest technology is far less compelling than having the right equipment in place.”
Destein offers several critical do’s and don’ts for education partnership success:
DO Be a Positive Listener
Education customers face a variety of pain points including budgetary, infrastructure and staffing challenges. “Ask thought-provoking questions about security needs and truly listen to the answers, rather than filtering based on the products you want to sell,” Destein says. “This will help you propose the best fit.”
DO Speak the Client’s Business Language
Learning to speak an educator’s business language is as important as positive listening. A school superintendent or a university provost will use terms like “engagement” and “student loyalty.” Understanding the meaning of such terms, and how they impact an institution’s security pain points, will help you translate solution options into your audience’s vernacular. Using a common language will build credibility and trust.
DON’T Focus on Selling a Specific Product
The best security camera on the market won’t supply the required protection if a school’s staff is unable to operate it, or it doesn’t work with underlying systems. Letting go of your favored products and focusing on customer needs will assist with devising the right solution. Here’s where positive listening can really pay off, because the right fit will net the sale.
DO Propose Integration Capabilities, Mobility Features and Automated Alerts
Schools are increasingly interested in integrating their security technologies with other platforms, making open and flexible solutions highly desirable. For instance, integrating human resources and student management systems helps automate and streamline credentialing processes. Similarly, student management systems contain data required
to provide various types of access, such as after-hours credentials for high-school athletes.
Another key capability is remote connectivity, such as viewing a live camera feed on a mobile device and sharing the stream with colleagues or law enforcement officers. Such features can be vital for helping school officials respond to situations properly and use digital video as evidence, if needed.
In addition, propose solutions that offer automated alerts for system or component malfunctions. This seems basic but is frequently overlooked. In educational settings, schools rely on their security systems but frequently lack staff to monitor them 24/7. Automated email or text alerts bridge this gap.
DO Present Solution Options
Given all the constraints, it can be a challenge to present a single security solution. Instead, use a tiered “Good, Better, Best” approach. Naturally, the “Good” solution will address basic needs, while “Better” and “Best” will add features, functionality or automation options. Although it’s tempting to offer only the solution with the best commission, a tiered approach assists with building the trust necessary to net future sales.
DON’T Forget Infrastructure and CPTED
Discussing a school’s existing infrastructure, as it relates to proposed security solutions, helps educators identify areas requiring attention. Infrastructure considerations can also impact how you develop the Good, Better, Best solution tiers.
Similarly, keep Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles in mind
as you consult with clients and devise solutions. This is particularly important in urban environments, where such principles help deter crime by increasing the perceived risk of being caught. For example, ensure lighting is appropriate for the deployed surveillance system to eliminate flares or blind spots.
DO Expect a Phased Deployment
For many educational institutions, a big-bang rollout will simply be incompatible with available funds. Assist your customers with prioritizing buildings, or types of access, and rolling out a solution in phases.
“To install a $100,000 surveillance solution with 100 CCTV cameras, spread it over four years in manageable $25,000 bites,” Destein says. “Address the 25 most critical areas during each year.”
DO Start Now
Unlike corporate environments, education budget cycles can be much longer to accommodate grant applications or fundraising campaigns for raising capital. The sooner you begin engaging with a prospect, the more likely you are to receive funding in their next budget cycle.
K-12 vs. Higher Ed: Know the Nuances to Make the Sale
Although K-12 and higher-education security needs are similar, there are key exceptions.
Knowing the differences can be critical to making the sale.
Campus Configurations. While K-12 schools typically lock all doors other than main building entrances, higher-education institutions are similar to small cities with multiple access locations and complex landscapes.
Indoor/Outdoor Surveillance Ratios. Smaller building and campus sizes mean K-12 deployments require predominantly indoor equipment. On the other hand, the indoor/
outdoor camera ratios for higher education is more balanced.
Student Credential Complexity. Generally, K-12 students have only a few types of credentials, which can include physical access, meal-purchasing accounts and, in some cases, specialty admittance for extracurricular activities on a single card. In higher education, the types and levels of student credentials are more complex. Some students will have advanced credentials to specific buildings, or building locations, plus use their cards for other functions such as library, laundry and bookstore needs.