Leveraging liability to increase sales

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Commercial real estate managers and owners in the United States post-9/11 are becoming more concerned with security as terrorism events around the world continue to impact the American psyche. Property managers and owners increasingly have the difficult issue of recognizing the risks associated with their real estate holdings. No longer can they bury their heads in the sand, since they are now mandated by legislation (remember the Homeland Security Act?) to recognize and reduce risk at their properties. The entire concept of SAFETY Act designation on technology, and its liability reduction, should have been a great boon to the security industry. However, few are jumping at the directive, as both integrators and property managers fail to see the upside.
When selling a security system, integrators don’t often talk about liability reduction as a benefit of the system. For a building owner, installing SAFETY Act designated products, and working with a SAFETY Act designated integrator, provides substantial reduction of liability in case of terrorist attack.
Of course, many factors influence security system purchases, but mandatory recognition and reduction in risk causes anxiety and cost to building owners. Sometimes, that anxiety is only increased by security companies issuing assessment reports that are “all inclusive” and contain outrageous recommendations which can never be achieved regardless of budget. Moreover, clients are obligated to action once the identified risks are delivered.
Technology continues to improve rapidly, putting even more pressure on property managers to equip their facilities with the latest devices. Having a working knowledge of basic integrated systems is fine, but it becomes overwhelming when building managers enter the sophisticated area of WMD detection capability, for example. The debate of the effectiveness of such technology is ongoing. The downrange fallout of a building being evacuated due to a false positive from a detection device can have devastating effects for property managers. When the first responders go home, how does the client deal with the public relations nightmare? How do they convince the tenants that the building is still safe?
There is also an element of distrust within the industry. Is the amount of equipment offered by integrators really needed or is the salesman simply running up the numbers? The other element at work here is the issue of current systems not being used to the fullest capability. How frustrating it must be for a client to call the integration company to come to the property to simply have video downloaded after an incident? What happened to the user-friendly system that was sold?
A crucial part of selling to cautious property managers is to provide ongoing training on the systems that have been sold. With turnover in staff, and the lack of daily use of some system capabilities, procedures are simply forgotten. While getting a service order call does produce revenue, it does not promote good will for future sales. We all can alleviate frustrations by offering a quick refresher on the system as staff changes.
How do you best sell a system to property managers who are very cautious and apprehensive based on all of the above?
Making assessments more reasonable is a good first step. Reductions in recognized risk commensurate with the threats property managers truly face are reasonably achievable. Integrators offering products and services certified by the Department of Homeland Security under the SAFETY Act designation will also reduce liability. While this may take some time and effort, the results will be well worth it. Building managers using certified products will decrease their liability, and thereby reduce costs. Integrators can leverage “certified” products as a competitive advantage to help increase sales as well as reduce their own liability. The reduction in liability goes both ways, creating a win-win situation.

Sal Lifrieri is president and founder of Protective Countermeasures & Consulting, a full-service firm specializing in threat and vulnerability assessments, personal protection, counter espionage and counter terrorism, and offers canine explosive detection services. He can be reached at s_lifrieri@protectivecountermeasures.com.