This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention @SecBusinessMag!
Coronavirus has and will likely continue to dominate the news – along with our personal and professional lives – for some time. While it is important, I will not dwell on or repeat what local, state, and national leaders are suggesting or mandating, as we all know those recommendations well; however, I will challenge security business owners to change the status quo at your companies.
To start, let’s address in-home selling. For years, security systems, for the most part, have been sold in one of three ways:
- Door to door;
- Through a DIY model, where a consumer purchases a system over the phone or internet and installs it themselves; or
- From a salesperson who responds to the home or office, performs a security survey, and processes the system based on the level of protection needed.
I would argue that in the current state of affairs, the first and third options are problematic; and, moving a traditional security company to a 100% DIY solution could be overwhelming at best – creating internal hurdles for your existing sales teams. My answer: Make them the solution.
The current DIY landscape is robust – just read the reports from Parks Associates. DIY security companies have been growing the past few years, and with the current pandemic, the thought of less people in the home seems very appealing. Clearly consumers could become increasingly concerned with anyone entering their home over the next few weeks or months. Make sure to consider the changes you need to make that will lead your company and employees through the crisis, or you may find yourself obsolete at the end of it..
Transforming DIY into DIT
True leaders will prosper in times of adversity. Notwithstanding the seriousness of the Coronavirus, you have a unique opportunity to transform your company, selling to the consumer in a way that they want to be sold to. When someone contacts your company for an alarm system, I might suggest asking them how they want to proceed. Let them know you can offer services in different ways:
1. Traditional, where a salesperson comes to the home, provides a security survey and designs a system; or
2. A “Do it Together” (DIT) solution, where your sales team is a remote consultant providing the same services.
With the latter, the consumer gets the best of both worlds while reducing the chance that you will lose the sale to a 100% online company.
The sales sequence could go like this: The consumer contacts your company and the call is transferred to the sales team. The team offers traditional or DIT options. If the client chooses traditional, take the normal, pre-Coronavirus approach; if the DIT option is chosen, then the client is asked a series of questions such as, how many accessible openings, how many touchscreens are needed, etc. This consultative approach should be the same one used in a traditional scenario, just performed remotely.
Keep in mind that the consumer may want a 100% DIY option, and I would encourage you to allow that. Many will simply call you back when they are ready to install, and just about every manufacturer now has tabletop touchscreen options for consumer use.
Making Everyone Feel More Comfortable
Security business owners need to face the fact that we are all feeling uneasy – and for good reason. As leaders, our most important role is to lead and mentor others. That means that we need to be present in the moment and think of how we can support our teams – which begins with communication, whether that’s in-person or via remote, electronic means. Here are some concepts to keep in mind:
- People must see your face and hear your voice.
- Communicate with your employees on how you plan to operate in this new (and hopefully, temporary) environment.
- Ask your employees to help. People rise to the occasion when challenged.
- Become a student of leadership. I would recommend some of the wisdom of Winston Churchill, available at https://servetolead.org/10-winston-churchill-leadership-lessons.
- Get in front of your team as often as possible in a format that meets the guidelines of your local and state government. Be creative by using platforms like Google Hangouts or Zoom to stay connected to teams. Ask everyone to observe the six-foot rule if you meet in-person.
After you stay in touch with employees, the job is not done. It is time to get in front of your customers as well. Your customers need to know that your company is up and operating and that their systems are being monitored 24/7. In that regard, check in with your central station on their contingency action plan.
Protecting Techs in the Field
Clearly it is your call – with governmental guidance – if you think your company should continue to install and service alarm systems in homes and offices during the pandemic. If you do, it might make sense to follow the lead of these companies in other markets, which have issued guidance for in-calls that could be modified for your business to help consumers feel safe:
UCHealth advises repair and service technicians to call ahead to discuss the details of the job in advance and to establish protocols specific to each customer so that everyone remains safe. The technician should also not feel pressured to do work if they arrive to someone coughing or sneezing. Not shaking hands and avoidance of touching surfaces in the home is strongly advised.
Other recommendations include accepting only digital payments, and of course, to maintain a six-foot distance and stay inside for as little time as needed. For more tips from UCHealth, visit www.uchealth.org/today/how-workers-can-stay-safe-from-coronavirus-in-other-peoples-homes.
Dominion Energy is letting their customers know that technicians will be asking a series of questions before they enter a home or business. Additionally, “They will wear rubber gloves…and in some instances special protective gear. If coronavirus is suspected in a home and we are required to enter, disposable coveralls will also be used. You can assist by maintaining a six-foot separation from our employees to minimize risk.”
I am a huge believer in adapting technology used in one segment and applying it to another. As an alternative to in-home-selling, check out System Surveyor, which was originally developed as a technology platform to help design, collaborate, and manage the lifecycle of commercial systems, but I think can also be used in the residential arena. All you need is a floor plan of a home, some ingenuity, and a desire to look at new ways to manage your company through a crisis. Visit https://info.systemsurveyor.com/signup-kmacdowell - where you can access a free 21-day trial for dealers wanting to try the application to see if it would work in helping them design a system for homes.
One last thought, and through the illustrious words of Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” At the end of the day, we are all in this together.
Kirk MacDowell is the founder and president of MacGuard Security Advisors Inc., a business consulting firm for the electronic security industry. For more information about the company, or to receive a free business consultation, visit www.macguard.com.