The secret to security is accepting you are in sales

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Accept and embrace that your success in security depends on how well you sell, says leadership columnist Michael Santarcangelo. (oatawa/iStock via Getty Images)

Over two decades ago, I lucked into a key insight about what it takes to be successful in security: accept and embrace your role in sales.

In the late ’90s, security was a nascent field and you could count the dedicated security vendors on one hand. A smaller industry with fewer chances to get together meant sometimes a vendor would host small gatherings. Early in my career, I represented our firm at a gathering of the “Big 6” consulting firms and some additional guests.

We met in an expansive suite, sitting around a huge polished wooden table overlooking a Major League Baseball field, in high-backed leather chairs. I was the youngest person at the table, with some folks easily twice my age. I remember little of the conversation, but I recall a conversation that shaped my career.

During a break, I walked out and took a seat in the stands. That’s when Bruce, the leader of a competing practice, walked out and took a seat next to me. He cocked his head, smiled, and said: “I’m impressed you figured it out already.”

I wasn’t sure what I figured out, and lucky for me, Bruce continued to explain.

“Most people don’t figure out that the key to security is sales. Once you accept you are in sales and embrace the role, you can get anything you want.”

Back then, my role was to help people in our company better understand security and our industry make better decisions. I got tapped to lead internal marketing efforts and learned to work with non-security partners to build proposals. I didn’t realize it until Bruce pointed it out, but I was in sales, and embraced the opportunity.

Accept and embrace that your success in security depends on how well you sell.

Did you bristle at the suggestion you are in sales? Sales carries a negative connotation for many because of previous terrible experiences. Those poor experiences “being sold” are often the result of the person in sales working to convince someone else to buy using tactics, games and pressure. That’s no fun for anyone.

Reframe sales as the opportunity — even the responsibility — to help someone make a better decision. This view of selling requires good relationships and a desire to serve.

In security, the decisions we help people make require change. Success depends on the support of the business and our colleagues and their willingness to change. Our part in sales is helping them “buy” the right solution for them.

It feels less like convincing and more like serving when we help them do what they already wanted to do.

The more connected with the business, the better we get at understanding their needs. We learn how to help figure out the right problems to solve to deliver value faster.

Most problems have multiple solutions, creating our sales opportunity. We need to help others make the right decision for them to solve the problem and improve security.

Even without Bruce to guide you, accept and embrace your role in sales to help our colleagues make better decisions for their benefit and ours.

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