The only thing harder than winning good private security contracts is winning good contracts without being the lowest bidding price.
When you do win one of those solid accounts, it can be a major boost to company morale and the bottom line.
In the last 4 years she's won more than 125 profitable contracts and expanded the business considerably.
Take a dive into the interview notes below to learn how Erica has used technology, networking, and referrals to expand their business.
Our Interview with Erica Grabowski of Reliance Security (Las Vegas)
(The notes below have been abbreviated based on the original interview)
Johnny: Welcome Erica! Can you give us a quick intro to who you are, what you do and how you got into the security industry?
Erica: Perfect. Thank you so much. I integrated into the private security sector approximately four years ago when I started with Reliance Security.
My background is organizational security and management, so I focused on campus security, guard management, physical elements of security. And that's why I really became a believer in the accountability and streamlining guard management so we could provide metrics for our clients.
So when I was a member of ASIS, which I still am today, they worked with me through the graduation process. During that time I met an associate that introduced me to Reliance Security.
One of the reasons I took the position with Reliance was because they had Silvertrac. They said, "Hey, we have this program we call "RelianceTrac", and we're not using it very well. We think you'd be able to help us get more out of it."
So I did a lot of the research. You, Chris, and the rest of the team all helped me to work with it. And that was how it all started, and we went from may be using 10% of the features to now I think we use it at 90%+ of it's capacity.
Getting Into Business Development
Johnny: You guys are power users for sure! We get a lot of questions around prospecting and running the sales organization, so can you speak a little bit to how you got into business development?
Erica: So my primary objective in college was to go a thousand percent with the security director role. I did Homeland Security and counter-terrorism. But business development and sales is just in my nature. I knew that if you had an idea, a project, or you wanted to persuade someone to do something you had to know how to sell it.
When you believe in something I think that is the biggest difference. Reliancetrac is what I believe in.. In contract security it's any company, placing any guard.
But those who provide the metrics, provide real-time integrated technology, those are the companies that really stand out. I wholeheartedly believe in the use of technology and "virtual guard management".
When you understand the full capacity of Silvertrac and what it can do for your company and for your client, it's easy to sell.
Overall I just say that we're best for those who look for a stronger return on their investment.
Johnny: How do those early-stage conversations go, and how you position Reliance, yourself and the service as a whole to win the contract?
Erica: Absolutely...When I meet with my clients I sit right in their chair and I load up the Silvertrac and I show them examples of what we have. I give them a test drive. Once they see all the different filters, options, user profiles, they say something like, "Wow, this is what I want. I want to know where my security company is, who my guards are, and what they've done."
Once they see how we manage our team, it becomes a battle of their budget. We can only go so low. A lot of them will actually take down the amount of security hours and coverage they have Reliance on site.
How to Win a Contract When You're Not the Lowest Bid
Johnny: How do you guys win a private security bid when you're not the lowest?
Erica: We really emphasize transparency and accountability overall.
That is the difference when you are explaining the benefit that a client could receive from your services.
The reality is, there are men and women in their guard force who are negligent and aren't doing their job. You have to have a system in place that manages the fundamentals like who the officer is, what time they arrived, where they go, and whether they do their patrols.
Clients love that we offer daily activity reports with photos because it's like enhanced CCTV all over the property.
I like to call it reporting forensics because if there is an issue you can go back and determine where they were.
"Our client's invest a lot, so they'll pay more knowing that they have all those metrics to prove the value of the security service."
Prospecting and Mining Referrals
Johnny: What's your strategy for prospecting or adding more leads into the pipeline so you can grow?
Erica: It was spreading the word and using our connections in the industry at first. We chose to focus on apartment communities, the multi-dwells. We focused there first because we wanted to increase our volume and we wanted to maximize referrals.
Johnny: You guys have a culture as a company in the way you deliver your service that's really focused on what the customer needs. You're not just proving that there's someone there on site, but you're proving that there's value in the service. So can you share about how you bring on a new customer, what's your process for going through and identifying what they're going to see as successful?
Erica: It starts when you're building the security plan. So even at an apartment building, you're talking about the basic elements of the security plan. It's observing.. mitigating.. detailed reports.. those are all the fundamentals of security.
You discuss what is to be watched, what assets are at risk, what is the client looking to protect, what's their cost-benefit, why are they creating a security budget to guard these certain areas, amenities, assets or people?
When you have a full understanding of that security plan, depending on the perimeter, the building, all of that, that's where you can integrate the real-time guard management tools.
A project manager at a construction site loves it because he can have it on his laptop in the trailer and see everywhere that the guard's going, it can report fence breaches and equipment failure, even heavy loaded trucks that have a flat tire that will delay the next phase of construction.
So you talk to your client or your prospect about all of their needs and wants. And there are some that say, "Hey, I just need a body, and he's just going to sit here." Okay, well, I can prove that he hasn't left , we don't have to have all the bells and whistles.
Standing Out in a Crowded Market
Johnny: How do you stand out in such a saturated market and continue that growth when there are so many competitors?
Erica: It starts with strong business relationships, but it's a combination of everything. You can't just have technology, put the information on your website and expect to be competitive.
And you have to maximize the referral process. Once you win a contract you work from there and say, "Hey, can I get this out to any of our colleagues?" And they will... If you're doing a good job for your clients, they will refer you out. But if you drop the ball or fail to get the job done, they'll terminate you just the same.
Johnny: One thing we've seen over the years is that the good security companies address their issues head on. They make the customer aware, and fix the problem.
The bad companies either don't know about it, they wait for the customer to call them with the problem or a complaint, or they sweep it under the rug and try to hide it from the client. None of those approaches are really contributing to long-term success for the client.
Advice to Those Getting Started in Security Sales
Johnny: What would your advice be to someone to take to begin formalizing the sales process rather than just waiting for the phone to ring?
Erica: Number one, know every aspect of Silvertrac before you start off, because you don't want to go and only sell some of the features. You want to be fully experienced and you want to be a subject matter expert.
Number two, have a case study built and ready to show. Use the checkpoints, use the task alerts, have photos in there. We provide real time and tangible metrics that they can look at.
It's just like buying a new car. You go in and give them a test run.
Johnny: How did you find new accounts when you were just starting out?
Erica: For me it was different, I had associates and business partners from other industries. Being a member of BNI (Business Network International) and knowing how to network was huge. I just reached out to everyone I knew.
So use your network. You're going to get one or two, and then from there get the referral.
You're going to have to go to your trade shows, you're going to have to do all of your standard marketing, have some business flyers.
I have done lunch-and-learns where you educate and pitch a large group. We've done a little bit of everything.
Johnny: You mentioned BNI and that's something I want to ask you about specifically.. When I was a business developer manager I was a part of BNI as well and I think networking is something that a lot of people miss out on.
If you're going to grow by word of mouth, focus on networking and other formal organizations, whether it's your local Chamber of Commerce, BNI, or other networking groups.
Can you talk about maybe some industries you've been successful networking with?
Erica: Networking is really how we started... My very first client was a client I met through networking and to this day they are still one of our best clients.
When you're networking there are a lot of other vendors that work with property managers. There are landscapers, contractors, painters, janitorial, building services, etc.
And it's not just them.. it's who they know, who their spouses work with.
So it's constantly networking and sharing and educating.
Women in Security and the Global Security Exchange
Johnny: Erica, I really appreciate you taking the time to share with us. I hope that everyone got a lot out of the conversation here. Before we go, I wanted to give you a chance to share about your involvement with ASIS and women in security.
Erica: Yes, I was very, very grateful to ASIS because they really mentored me. So I wanted a way to give back and they said, "Hey, would you like to be on the chair?" So I am now the Las Vegas chapter's women in security liaison.
Johnny: That's awesome. So you'll be at the Global Security Exchange in September?
Erica: Yes, absolutely.
Johnny: Well, we look forward to seeing you there. Thank you so much for coming on. Again, we appreciate your support and your willingness to share.