About a year ago, I wrote about the bad publicity our industry was getting with the summer sales programs where alarm companies hire college students on break to go door-to-door to sell their systems. On the surface, it makes a lot of sense: you have eager, bright young people for your sales force willing to pound the streets. However, there's always a downside in that there is a lot of competitiveness that can, in the wrong sales person, breed somewhat unethical, or at least unsavory, practices. Sales people can get pushy, perhaps don't respect their customers' ability to say "No," and sometimes don't identify themselves properly. Some are known to try to "pirate" away other company's accounts (many times the customer doesn't know that their contract may have a "pay-to-exit" clause.
Case in point: I received an email from an irate gentleman who had to deal with an over-the-top young salesperson on his property. He recounted his story as follows:
At about 3 p.m. today, a man ignored my 'No Trespassing/ Keep Out' sign, opened the gate, and started pounding on the front door. I work at home, and I told him to leave, but he pretended not to hear me and continued pounding on the door. I finally went out the back door and walked around the house to confront him. He claimed to be a representative from [two of the bigger alarm product manufacturers]. I told him he was on private property and ordered him to leave. He stayed where he was and asked my name. I told him it was none of his business, and asked his name; he said it was 'Luke.' I threatened to call the police if he didn't leave, and I walked toward the gate. I asked if he was able to read the large yellow 'Keep Out' sign, but he did not reply or leave. Instead, he asked how long I had lived in this house. Once again, I said it was none of his business and ordered him out.
I have a firm manner, but this one refused to leave -- until I informed him that he had been on our webcam ever since he arrived! I told him it would make a fine ad for his company. He finally left, after writing some notes on his clipboard. Was this person really an employee of [one of these large equipment manufacturers]? Whoever this guy was, he will give your industry a bad name unless somebody reports his behavior to his employer."
The gentleman reported that the sales person didn't identify which alarm company he was with, instead only stating he was with two big equipment companies (which don't have door-to-door sales programs). He expressed his frustration to the equipment manufacturers, not knowing that they weren't involved in this sales process. Ok, so what can we set up as some standards for door-to-door sales? How about these simple parameters:
â€¢ Make sure your sales people identify themselves and provide their name.
â€¢ Provide shirts with logos clearly identifying them as with your company.
â€¢ Include a hand-out that helps verify what they're offering and includes contact information for their superior.
â€¢ Teach your summer sales staff to understand how to properly accept a "No" and how to politely accept a refusal.
â€¢ Spot check their performance (call on a customer they talked to and assess your sales person's manner).
â€¢ Don't allow sales people to pose as reps for equipment manufacturers. Let them tell the prospect what equipment they offer, but don't allow them to try to confuse the prospect as to whom their employer is.
Obviously, these are things you're probably doing if you're an above-board company, and the ones who are not probably also are not reading this column. But if we can set standards on what good door-to-door sales staff do, then our industry's potential customers will be able to quickly identify the honest, above-board sales staff from the bad ones who are dropped off to pirate away a neighborhood.
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