What happens when you turn your customer into a sales ally? You close more deals. Collaborative selling puts the customer on your team, allowing them to share in the planning – and ownership – of how to address their security concerns. Here are four things security integrators need to do to put this powerful practice to work:

1. Ask Lots of Questions; the Answers May Surprise You!

The sales relationship is, first and foremost, about the client and his or her needs – not about you. When first meeting with a prospect, make sure to ask lots of questions to understand the challenges they face, and make clear that you understand their pain. Turning a sales prospect into a client involves displaying empathy and creative thinking.

Start each conversation with an open mind—no preconceived notions—so that valuable time isn’t wasted focusing on the wrong things. Meaningful questions can help the customer paint a picture of his or her office or facility, the problems that need solving, and the priority order for solving them. Also probe for budget and required timeline.

The best salespeople make a concerted effort to get inside the head of the customer and, unless you’re a magical mind-reader, that can only happen with a lot of Q&A. Once there, you can really understand the full range of issues that must be addressed and begin developing options that ring true.

2. Make Your Customer Feel Special; A Little Customization Goes a Long Way

Your company may serve a wide range of markets and have clients from large to small. That record can help establish your credibility, but ultimately, new customers want to know that your experience, and the solution you’re offering, is just right for them.

Even if the systems you’re recommending are relatively turn-key, be sure to explain how they can be set up and customized to cater to the customer’s specific needs. Together, agree on what would work well to achieve their particular goals. Just like a top-quality off-the-rack suit fits better with a little custom tailoring, the same goes for security technology. Let the customer help define the specifics of what the systems needs to do, so that together, you can decide how to leverage the technology to make that happen.

3. Selling Possibilities; Use Walk-Throughs to Collaborate

Develop a plan together as you walk through the facility, providing guidance and seeking customer buy-in throughout the process. Today’s app-based floor plan tools can be a huge help with this. Using photos, schematics, maps or floor plans imported into a tablet or laptop, you and the customer can walk their site, jointly identify locations for cameras, access control readers and other components, dragging them into place as you go. Some apps also let you make detailed notes about issues or concerns.

Talk about how the solution you’re designing together would affect users’ routines, and how managers would operate and maintain the system. You might also address remote administrative use, user-friendliness, and other issues. The goal here is that by the time the customer receives your proposal, he or she is convinced that the value your company offers extends beyond the technology you’ll install. It’s the peace-of-mind that your solution has been designed with a true understanding of how it will be used, managed and maintained over time.

Writing down additional notes, following any walk-through, about special considerations that should be incorporated into your quote. If something was a priority for the customer, highlighting it in your proposal could give your company the winning edge.

To aid with this process, some sales management apps allow users to record notes directly into the customer file through dictation over their mobile device, via a text-to-talk function. This allows note taking to happen quickly and easily from the parking lot, between appointments, instead of at the end of the day when conversations may blur together and are no longer fresh in your mind.

4. Show You Listened; Make Your Proposal “Their” Proposal

When it’s time to present a proposal, remember that the individual(s) you met with may not be the only stakeholders involved in the selection process. The insights you gained in jointly developing a plan must be on full display to all who review the proposal. Show ‘em what you learned!

Lead with an executive summary that hits the customer’s pain points and explains how you will address them. Reiterate the key concerns the customer has expressed so that the entire decision-making team appreciates the depth to which you understand their security objectives.

Back up the “meat” of your proposal with specifics that further demonstrate your attention to detail and knowledge of the site. Include those floorplans of the system design you worked on together, along with relevant notes. And be sure to present pricing options that respect the client’s budgets. If he or she has expressed concern about upfront costs, lead with financing options or a phased installation that places higher priority systems at the beginning of the queue. Your goal is to make your contact … the person you’ve been working with up until this point … a “hero” in the eyes of fellow stakeholders. Make it clear that because they have represented the business’s needs and expectations well, you have been able to deliver a proposal that’s on the mark in every respect.

The Payoff: Your Sale Becomes an “Inside Job”

When a customer has skin the game, when they feel that your proposal is best representing their own understanding of how their company’s security should be addressed, they’ve joined your team.

If two competing proposals have made the final cut, the solution that the customer feels more personally invested in will almost always win out. They’ve already spent time thinking about it, visualizing it and taking ownership of it. Of course, that’s the system they’ll prefer! By taking an active collaborative selling approach, you can ensure that that system is your system!