And What Security Integrators Can Do About It

Part I

ERP, an acronym for “Enterprise Resource Planning,” is the software backbone for most modern businesses. Visit the websites of ERP manufacturers and you’ll see a laundry list of essential functions their software can perform, from managing financials and inventory to handling a wide range of operational, sales and HR challenges. ERP software has truly revolutionized how modern businesses function by bringing together what were previously disparate systems, thereby optimizing efficiencies and streamlining workflows.

ERP, an acronym for “Enterprise Resource Planning,” is the software backbone for most modern businesses. Visit the websites of ERP manufacturers and you’ll see a laundry list of essential functions their software can perform, from managing financials and inventory to handling a wide range of operational, sales and HR challenges. ERP software has truly revolutionized how modern businesses function by bringing together what were previously disparate systems, thereby optimizing efficiencies and streamlining workflows.However, no solution is perfect, and there’s plenty that ERP software just can’t do…or do very well. By design, ERP software is generic, intended to support the widest possible range of organizations and business types. But as a Security Integrator, there are some aspects of your business that don’t fit a generic business model, particularly in the area of sales and sales management, and ERPs simply haven’t been designed with those needs in mind.

If you’re a security integrator, we’ve identified six key Sways that your ERP is probably falling short and why you should consider looking elsewhere to get those jobs done right. For Part 1 of this blog post, we’ll address two of them:

1. PROSPECT TRACKING and CRM

ERPs do keep track of customers, and many offer a built-in CRM component. But CRM, “customer relationship management,” is really a misnomer, because true CRM software needs to keep track of more than just customers. It needs to keep track of prospects too…those sales contacts that haven’t become customers yet. With conversion rates in the Security Integration industry of about 30%, more than 2 out of 3 of your prospects won’t become customers. ERPs don’t do well when their database is cluttered up with a bunch of prospects who have never bought anything and aren’t associated with any project. ERP software is, first and foremost, focused on the financial aspects of your business. Prospects have no place in that equation until they buy something, thus turning into a customer.

The lead cycle for security systems is long. It can take months, or even years, for a cold lead to become warm, convert to an opportunity, the proposal process to play out and for you to win the project. Throughout that whole process, you need robust software with a centralized database to stay on top of the lead status, maintain communication with the prospect, manage quoting, generate a top-notch proposal, and facilitate the creation of contracts and legal documents. Sales management software that handles these tasks, and then seamlessly passes them off to your ERP once the deal is closed, is a vital tool for growing any security integration business.

You don’t win a marathon by putting on your running shoes at the 12 mile mark. But that’s where you’re ERP software really starts doing its job; when the customer signs a contract. Make sure you’ve got powerful CRM and sales management software in place to get you through the first half of the race too; from contact to contract!

2. COMPLEX AND CREATIVE QUOTING

Because ERP software revolves around the financial aspects of your business, it must be somewhat rigid in how it processes data. It’s used to help you invoice correctly, file taxes correctly, do reporting correctly, and handle other highly regimented processes. By design, ERP must view your business in terms of black and white.

Quoting security projects is just the opposite. It requires flexibility and creativity to address the myriad of challenges a project may pose. Security integrators offer a wide range of technology solutions. Each one can include hundreds of parts. Labor is tricky to quote, with rates that can vary by region, system, project and even at the part level. Prices for parts may vary by customer, procurement options, quantities and other factors. Quotes may include recurring monthly or quarterly revenue for services, licenses and maintenance agreements. Customers may want to see quotes broken down in different ways; by system, floor, building or project phase. And, there may be miscellaneous costs for travel, permits, rental equipment and many other chargeable items. With all of these fluctuating variables, quoting security systems accurately isn’t a science; it’s an art!

Contrary to what some VARS will tell you, even expensive, customized programming cannot make ERP systems handle flexible quoting to the degree demanded by security systems integrators. It’s like trying to draw in color with a black ballpoint pen. Business owners or management teams who go down this route find that, tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars later, that their customized ERP software is painfully slow and simply not up to the task. Instead, security integrators should think like the “integrators” that they are – and opt for a combination of technologies best suited for the jobs at hand. This means integrating security-centric sales management software with ERP software and allowing each to do what they do best.

Be sure to check back with us at WeSuite.com/salesblog for the next installment of this topic, when we’ll address two more ways that security integrators need more than ERP to be their best, most competitive, most profitable self.