I know there are varying opinions among security business owners on “door to door” or direct sales. And I know that not everyone will agree with my point of view on everything. But I have a real issue with how some alarm companies go about direct door to door alarm sales, at least how they did it in the case of a particular remote small town. I’ll say this right up front: Direct sales methods have their place, but it has to be done Right. It has to be done ethically.
In this post, I want to tell you a story. A true story about a town that now has a bad taste in its mouth every time someone mentions alarms systems.
It was a dark and stormy night…just kidding…
A couple years ago I moved back home to my hometown. A small relatively isolated community of about 8500 people. I noticed there wasn’t an established alarm systems company in town or even nearby for that matter. So I did what any entrepreneurial minded nut would do and set out to start an alarm company of my own.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who noticed the gap in security services, nor the only one to recognize the opportunity.
Just a few months into my new venture some people from the community alerted me that there was somebody working their way through the town selling alarm systems door to door. This being a small town, it didn’t take me long to track them down and find some information about them. Actually, it was just a few days after I found out about them, that the “owner” of this alarm dealer came knocking on my door, looking to sell me a system.
Here is what was happening: A group of door to door “salespeople” had flown into town with a plan to hit up every single house and business up with their alarm sales pitch. By all accounts, they weren’t only smooth and quick with their words but very “positive and bright young men”. As a result, there were a lot of people who bought in and signed up.
The group consisted of the owner of the “alarm dealership”, three or four of his college buddies, and a “technician”. Yes, I put the word technician in quotes for a reason. The alarm dealership was little more than a corporation setup to sell alarm systems for a large security monitoring company.
The problem was that the dealership program, like so many others for various monitoring companies, allowed for authorized dealers with very low standards and sometimes no experience or expertise in security technology, design, or even basic security principles, to sell systems and sign customers up to for the monitoring companies services. This particular group was smooth and fast talking, used high-pressure tactics, and questionable methods to get a sale at any cost. Some people in the community told me about blatant lies the salespeople told people, like telling them neighbors had signed up when they actually hadn’t, and that the system was completely free when in fact it was financed over the life of the contract.
Some of these dealer companies are little more than a sales organization that could be selling toasters without any changes to their business or tactics whatsoever. To make matters even worse, in this case, was that it was painfully obvious that they had flown into this remote community to make as much commissioned sales as they could, with little thought about after sales support. They achieved their goal only to leave at the end of the summer without leaving so much as a qualified technician behind to support the alarm systems they sold.
My heart broke, not just because they were a competitor at the time, which they were, but also because I kind of love sales and this was the type of behavior that gives sales a bad name.
The market reaction
It wasn’t long before people began having problems with systems that were poorly installed. Almost immediately after this alarm dealer had flown home so the “sales people” could get back to their next semester of university, the local newspaper ran a story about these poorly installed and designed alarm systems tying up the local police with nuisance alarms. People began to hit social media to complain that they could not get the dealer to send a technician because the dealer didn’t even have a technician in the area. It was so bad at one point that the police refused to respond to alarms if the alarm came from an alarm system installed by this company. The nuisance alarms were a result of poor design and install as well as a lack of end user training.
Several people I know managed to get out of their three to five-year contracts after threatening to take legal action, but even more were told that they wouldn’t be let out. To this day I still get some calls and requests to service those systems, Unfortunately, I have to tell the person that I can’t help because this dealer won’t give me an installer’s code. From what I understand some of their customers have to wait upwards of six months until there is enough money making service calls to warrant the dealer flying in a technician from another Province.
These door to door alarms sales tactics have had an unfortunate effect on local alarm installers and the security industry in general, in this region. The public has been burnt. What I mean by that is, there is a very large segment of the local market that has this whole debacle seared into their memories and won’t even consider the merits or real benefits of a security alarm system. They’ve been inoculated.
Should we do door to door alarm sales at all?
I am not against direct sales as a tactic if it is done with some integrity. If the salespeople and technicians are industry professionals, who don’t use high-pressure methods, are certified to provide good quality solutions, and the dealership or alarm company they work for are committed to providing ongoing support, it can be a viable tactic to drive business. But if these temporary sales only organizations using students to pressure and sometimes scare people into buying something they don’t believe they need and they get no support when they have a problem it does irreparable damage to our industry and its reputation.
Honesty and integrity in sales
One of the most important things we need to do to avoid situations like these is, to be honest with our market about what an alarm system can actually do and what it cannot do. An alarm system will not protect a family or its home by itself. It is not an end all be all for home security. It is, however, an effective tool and one component of a security solution that can pay for itself by deterring break-ins and bringing peace of mind to homeowners. Besides being an effective deterrent it can notify the home owners, the police, or security responders that the property has been compromised. That way police can react accordingly and the property can be resecured.
If we, as security business owners, don’t do our part through industry associations and public education to protect against instances of bad practitioners taking advantage of people to make a quick buck, it makes our job more difficult and it makes the community less safe.