How do you win a battle against bigger, better known competitors? That was the challenge facing Jeff Robertson, a career public safety official and ex-police officer who was president and CEO of Tel Control, Inc. when he brought me on board as vice president of sales and marketing. Founded in 1969, Tel Control designs and manufactures systems that manage 911 emergency communications at the city, county, and state level.

My task was to participate in a company relaunch, lead the branding effort including the launch of a new product. As a result of the smooth selling system we put in place, the company was able to grow sales by 142 percent within the first six months and secure two multi-million-dollar strategic alliances.

In essence, this was a business restart. The situation was we had to introduce a new product that fit the needs of the market. The company was trying to do this with a direct sales organization competing against entrenched providers. That was a fight we could not win.

So instead of taking the competition head on with a herd of hunters, we tried a different sales tack. Rather than concentrate on direct sales, we changed the focus to selling through channels and building relationships with telephone companies and other 911 emergency communication system value-added resellers (VARs).

The first step in our strategy was to get mind share at these well-established telephone companies and VARs, and that calls for farmers. So we stocked our channel sales team with farmers willing to build and nurture relationships.

We put in a documented sales process, assigned quotas to make sure our revenue-generation plan would be covered, and made sure everyone understood the detailed sales plan. Each quarter we monitored progress to make sure we were on track.

The foundation of this strategy was recognizing that the telephone companies and VARs were already in front of the right prospects. Furthermore, they had the credibility we lacked. The number one job of our channel sales team was to prove to the telephone companies and VARS that going with us would be a safe decision.

Once we convinced the telephone companies and VARs of our 911 system’s worth, we became a value-added offering they could propose to their government clients that needed phone systems and upgraded 911 system capability. This did more than just get our foot in the door. These add-on sales helped our channel partners, and it reduced the risk to the governmental public safety organizations because we were vetted by a well-established, bigger brand.

Once we acquired two multi-million-dollar strategic alliances, it truly was smooth selling ahead.

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