Best practices for door-to-door alarm sales

Alarm industry pros tell SIW about 26 tips that work for door-to-door sales of security systems

Door-to-door sales generally do not receive high marks from homeowners, and it does not seem to matter whether the salesperson is selling frozen meats, magazines, vacuum cleaners, vinyl siding or even burglar alarm systems.

The business model of door-to-door sales has drawn in unscrupulous sales people and been the target of negative media reports so often that even organizations like the Electronic Security Association have had to write up a code of ethics [download a pdf of ESA Code of Ethics]. Missouri's Attorney General publishes a website which advises consumers on how to respond to unscrupulous door-to-door salespersons and advises consumers of their rights. The website warns, "unscrupulous sellers try to victimize consumers in their own homes."

Google "door to door sales" and you'll find a plethora of forums, articles and videos where consumers rant about this practice. All too often, the subject of the rants is the alarm industry. But even with the slighted image created by bad salespeople, the practice of door-to-door sales will not be going away. It is legal in most jurisdictions, and in the alarm industry, it can be an effective way of marketing security monitoring services.

Two types of door-to-door alarm sales
First, let's explain that there are two different models to door-to-door sales.

The minimalist method is often referred to as a clover leaf approach, according to ADT's director of sales training John Strade. This model assumes that you have an appointment or an installation set up at a home in a neighborhood. The clover-leaf approach works in a way that the sales person would then go to reasonably adjacent or proximate homes and use a sales approach something like this: "We have installed a security system for the Smiths on Woodlawn Street, and since you are one of their neighbors, I wanted to make you aware that we are providing security monitoring services here and that we're offering a special in this neighborhood..."

The maximalist approach is full neighborhood canvassing. Typically this has been conducted in the security alarm industry by hiring temporary workers often for the summer and dispersing them strategically in neighborhoods. Their days are spent walking from the car or van drop-off point down the neighborhood streets and knocking on doors.

The direct, in-person marketing has proven very successful for a number of companies that have figured out a workable model. APX Alarm out of Utah is one company in the industry that has created a successful business from summer door-to-door sales programs. The company typically hires summer workers, often from colleges, puts them through a concerted training system and ensures that necessary licenses are obtained. The approach has made APX the 6th largest alarm and monitoring firm, and along the way the company was able to acquire its own central station, explained Shawn Brenchley, the firm's executive vice president of sales. It's been able to bring installation, sales, monitoring and even client billing in-house. It's a testament to what a company can build with door-to-door sales -- if they are well managed.

And that brings us to the main point of this article, which is to introduce some of the best practices of door-to-door alarm sales. We all know that homeowners typically have initial suspicions about door-to-door sales persons, and the door-to-door alarm business has taken such a prominent beating in the media that your sales people will often face an uphill battle. The goal is that if we, as an industry, adopt best practices, door-to-door alarm sales can be seen as a respectable method of attracting new business.

Door-to-Door Best Practices

Take ownership of the entire process. That means that you closely control not only the sales process, and the sales training, but also the monitoring, the installation, the billing and the customer service. You may not be able to bring all of those processes in-house like some firms do, but that doesn't mean you don't have to take ownership. It was a BP contractor working on the gulf oil rig, but that didn't stop it from being BP's problem when the Deep Water Horizon rig sank and polluted the Gulf of Mexico.

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