July 7, 2014
Home Security 101: Selecting an Alarm Company by Sales Approach
I’m going to get a bit ahead of myself here, and talk about one of my favorite topics: how alarm companies sell.
We are not quite to the point of designing the system for your home - that is always an interesting and informative process – but a recent article about the current status of the sales process in the U.S. alarm industry caught my attention, and sparked the choice of topic for today’s post.
Once you get serious about protecting your home and family, and also about gaining access to the cool interactive features and home automation services we’ve been covering in these posts, then you’ll need to choose an alarm company to work with.
And frankly, that will be one of the most important decisions you make in your quest for peace of mind. That’s because it’s not just about what your system costs, and what it does: it also matters who you are working with.
Shopping for Integrity
If you have to focus on only aspect of an alarm services provider, it should be whether you trust the company or not. After all, this is a relationship that can (and should) last for years, so you had better feel good about the company you pick – not just today, but five or 10 years from now.
And there is no better way to assess the trustworthiness of an alarm company than by how they sell and market their products and services.
Transparency is Key
Let’s start with how the company markets. Here are some important questions to consider:
- Does the company explain fully how the system works? I am often surprised by how little information is provided, even by some of the major providers, on such critical issues as the type of monitoring provided, and your options. And yes, cellular is safer!
- Does the company provide complete information on pricing for the equipment and services, including the cost to add devices to a basic system? This is important, since many alarm companies offer a basic “teaser” system for $99 to rope you in. That does not provide adequate protection for the average home. Expanding that system to get what you actually need may cost a lot more.
- Does the company have good reviews? It’s easy to check out any company you might consider even before you contact them – just search for their reviews online. In this day of active social media and review sites, you should be able to get the full rundown on a company before you even engage with them.
“Push” vs. “Pull”
After marketing comes the actual sales process – and this is equally important.
In the alarm industry, companies are divided into the “Pull” and “Push” categories, and a few companies do both. Here’s the breakdown:
- The “Push” sales approach targets the general consumer who may have no interest in home security. Examples of approaches that use this methodology are door knocking, telemarketing (cold calling of purchased lists, such as new homeowners) and direct mail. In other words, the companies using these approaches are simply relying on convincing enough people to buy, even if they were not looking for an alarm system in the first place! And some of these folks can be remarkably aggressive.
- The “Pull” approach is entirely different, and usually involves some form of advertising, such as yellow page directories (yup, some folks still use them!) and online marketing. Either you are calling the company after reading an ad, or you are providing your information so that someone at the company can contact you – but you are the one initiating the contact. In other words, you are in charge.
You Should Be in Charge
As a general rule, customers who started the ball rolling themselves are a better investment for the alarm company: the odds are greater that these shoppers need, want and understand what they are buying to a greater degree than someone answering a knock on the door.
The better informed customer will stay around as customers longer, which is important. Not surprisingly, most of the door knocker companies use a five year initial term of service, instead of the industry-standard three years, since many of those door knocker customers try to cancel - once they find out what it is they were talked into.
Beware Aggressive Sales
And while it might seem logical that companies using the “Pull” methodology are more likely to use a consultative sale approach, meaning they should not try to pressure you into buying, sadly that is not always the case.
Some of the more aggressive sales tactics are in fact used by online companies, once they have you engaged. You need to listen to the tone and the approach, and end a conversation once it starts moving in the wrong direction.
If a company relies on pressure instead of their reputation and consultative selling to make the sale, that often tells you a lot about their service level, and their customer satisfaction.
Back to That Article
Remember that article I mentioned at the beginning of this blog? It’s a good read, and talks about how some alarm companies (primarily door knockers) are not just pushing the envelope of ethical sales behavior: they are tearing that envelope in half. I suggest you read the whole artcle, but here is a telling excerpt.
Tom Davis, community chairman of the North Murfreesboro [Tennessee] Alliance, a homeowners’ association in the Nashville area, says that at least eight homeowners in the community have fallen prey to the scams. “These are very likable and personable young men,” he says in reference to the alleged scam artists. “In one instance, the salesman arrived at the home at 8 p.m., the contract was signed at 8:35 p.m., and someone was there starting the installation at 9 p.m.”
As part of the scam, Davis says the homeowners are told that that they have a ‘one-month trial period’ on the alarm system, which purposefully is designed to let the homeowner miss the three-day right of rescission clause in the contract. In North Murfreesboro, the city does not have a door-to-door sales license requirement, so there is no municipal resource available for a homeowner to help them.
In other words, you really do need to be careful when choosing which alarm company to work with.
The best companies invest the time to Build Trust– which happens to be one of our Core Values. We want you to know not just about the latest and greatest technology, and how it all works together, but also how to go about finding a reputable service provider who will give you the peace of mind you deserve. The more you know, the better and the more prepared you will feel to make the right decision. See you next Monday!