Alarm Sales: Find, Train and Retain

June 9, 2015
How to recruit and field a successful residential alarm sales force

In a perfect world, if you were to list the qualifications for any successful alarm sales rep, the first might very well be: Must be able to walk from door to door.

If only it were that easy. Successful dealers know that creating a profitable sales force involves much more than just finding people who don’t mind walking and knocking — it requires establishing a steady stream of candidates; careful selection of the right people with the right personalities; and finding ways to keep them from looking for greener pastures once they are established as productive reps.

Casting a Wide Net

Jason Johnson is national sales trainer at Monitronics, but as a former dealer he knows the challenges — and necessity — of consistently recruiting qualified candidates. “Dealers come into our program with a basic idea of how they are going to market,” he says, “but recruiting the right people to put that plan into action is essential to their success.”

There are many tasks that are part of running a dealership, Johnson says, and owners who wear too many hats often end up pushing recruiting to the back of the line. It often makes sense to hire someone to handle some of the lesser duties and let the dealer attend to larger issues. “Trying to take on all those roles can be overwhelming and counterproductive,” he says. “Recruiting cannot be viewed as just another task to throw on the ‘to-do list.’ It is difficult to do it well with that kind of approach, so a dealer has to take the time to focus on big-picture things like sales and recruiting.”

Johnson adds that successful dealers look at recruiting as a full-time, year-round endeavor, provided that their staffing levels and company size allow it. Monitronics encourages its dealers to use a group-based approach, with as many as 20 or 30 people in an interview at one time, as opposed to the traditional one-by-one model. “It is challenging, but companies should be looking for new talent every week,” Johnson says.

Group Interviews

“Some of our larger dealers bring in 200 or 300 interviews a month, while a smaller dealer might only need eight or 10 people in each group,” Johnson says. “It takes a lot of effort, but the benefit is greater. Why schedule a series of one-on-one interviews that might take five hours out of my day when I can meet everyone in a group setting in about an hour?”

Johnson uses a scene from the movie “Boiler Room” as an excellent example. The recruiter brings several applicants for sales positions into a conference room and uses the opportunity not only to size them up, but also to get them excited about the potential for working at the company. “I remember thinking how great it would be to recruit like that,” Johnson says. “Some people call it ‘shotgun-hiring,’ but when you pack a room full of candidates who know very little about the position, you can sell them on the opportunity you have available. That is important when it is a commission-only job.”

Johnson says that group interviews also are a great way to quickly identify candidates with competitive and persistent personalities who are likely to succeed — and less likely to be easily discouraged — when it finally is time to start knocking on doors.

Sticking strictly to one-on-one interviews can waste time in other ways, Johnson says. “You will have a handful of people who do not show up for their interview appointment, or it will be obvious that the candidate does not have the right attitude for the position when they do show up,” he says.

“There may be a few no-shows for a group interview,” he adds, “but when 15 others show up, you can take your pick of the litter. Each week, you will pick up a couple here and a couple there who will stick, and the next week you’ll have another group coming through. It is just a constant cycle of recruiting and incrementally growing your business.”

Finding the Right People

With so many people coming in for interviews on a regular basis, how many are going to actually have alarm experience — or for that matter any kind of tangible sales experience at all? Bruce Mungiguerra, Monitronics Senior Vice President for Operations, says it is a classic case of attitude over experience — it is important to have individuals who are competitive, extroverted, charismatic and not easily discouraged. “They don’t have to be people who have sold alarms in the past,” Mungiguerra says. “Look for younger, talented individuals who don’t mind hustling and can be trained relatively quickly. They can be guys who are hungry for a job or just hungry for something new.”

That approach has a number of advantages. For starters, they will usually require less in commissions, while being more likely to adapt to a team environment since they share the same motivations. Best of all, Mungiguerra says, they are fresh bodies who open to any guidance they receive.

Recruiting typically involves the usual channels — advertising, networking or job fairs — however, Mungiguerra says there is one source of potential talent that is usually overlooked: college students.

“A lot of kids have to put themselves through school, particularly if they are going to a junior college,” he says. “If you can get them to work even a couple of days a week at four or five hours a pop, and they get one or two sales a week, it is more than they are going to make at any job where they make 10 or 12 bucks an hour. You may get a couple of years out of them, and you really don’t have to invest that much time, training or effort. ”

Training, Development and Retention

Regardless of where you find them, there is only one thing that truly counts: Can they make the sale? Monitronics encourages its dealers to give plenty of training, mentoring and support, rather than just throwing them out into the field and wishing them luck. “I don’t care how good of a salesperson you are — you have to get in the door first,” Mungiguerra says. “It is important to get a new rep off to a good start and put them into a position to succeed. If you put somebody experienced on there with them to help, you will get some sales.

“It’s a numbers game,” he continues. “Get new reps out there consistently and show them how to get in the door. Once they learn that, you get them to knock on the right number of doors to make a sale. The more knuckles you have going, the higher the probability of making the sale.”

Once you have successful new reps in the field knocking on doors, naturally, some will either drop out or be weeded out, since not everyone is cut out for the fast-paced action of going door-to-door. Chris Soda, Monitronics manager of Dealer Development, says that while the numbers vary, it is typical to find anywhere from one to three productive reps from a group of 20 candidates. That’s why it is so important to keep productive reps who emerge from the recruiting process.

“Not all reps will be successful in the long term, and there is always the potential that they could leave for a different opportunity,” Soda says. “That’s why the initial recruiting process really matters. If you concentrate on candidates who are inexperienced but talented, train them properly and show them success, they are more likely to be loyal.”

It also helps to be treated well. Seemingly simple things like commission checks that are accurate and on time — and of course making sure that checks don’t bounce — mean a lot when it comes to keeping a rep happy. It also doesn’t hurt to have an environment that makes you look forward to coming to work each day. “If reps are successful, but the environment is not fun or positive, they may not enjoy success for long,” Soda says. “Selling is hard work, and there is adrenaline and excitement involved in it. That’s why a positive environment that emphasizes friendly competition and sales incentives can go a long way toward keeping reps motivated and satisfied.”

Robert Ogle is a corporate communications specialist for Monitronics. Tp request more info about the company, visit