Upselling: A Way of Business Life

Aug. 10, 2020
Do you know the one question that integrators should never ask their residential security customers?
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention @SecBusinessMag on Twitter and Security Business magazine on LinkedIn.

I know we are on “Phase X” with respect to going to work, shopping, eating, or just about anything else we do outside of our homes. Our life has seen some serious changes in just a few months…well, except for one thing, and it is really annoying. It often happens when I am shopping – as I wait at the checkout counter and finally make my way up to the cashier, the first words I hear are, “Did you find everything OK?”

My first thought is to scream, but I maintain my composure, look behind me to see five other patrons waiting patiently (of course, appropriately spaced 6-feet apart), and simply I think to myself, what if I told that check-out person that I was unable to find the Kerrygold Irish Butter that they usually have in stock? I can only guess that the cashier would shut down the line, declare Defcon 1 and go on a search to locate my butter. The people behind me would start screaming too, as their wait time has now been extended.

You may be asking yourself what in the world this has to do with an alarm technician or salesperson succeeding with a sale in a home or business, or selling the new way with a DIY or Do-it-with-me (DIWM) approach. The answer is everything!

Connecting the Customer Experience with Upselling

In any type of consumer sale – especially ones with multiple choices like our industry – consumers need to be guided through the process. Think back to to the grocery store scenario: Instead of asking me if I found everything OK when my purchasing decision process was over, the store should have started the process much earlier.

We need to return to the days of providing a superb customer experience. Having an advocate walking around the store before I get into the check-out line who asks me if I’m finding everything OK provides a level of service that customers want and need. When I relate that I am looking for the Kerrygold butter, the advocate could point me, actually walk me, in the right direction. Taking it one step further, he could suggest that I try the marionberry jam from Oregon, which pairs nicely with the Irish butter.

In one simple interaction, I was just upsold and had a great one-on-one experience with the store. They sold more and I left with a great feeling – which we all know translates to a better customer experience.

The typical grocery store experience is not uncommon for other industries – they have it all backwards. The customer is already engaged (thus the shopping), yet many businesses miss the opportunity for meaningful customer interaction before the consumer reaches the checkout line.

The antidote is upselling throughout – not only with the initial sale process, but also throughout the lifetime of the customer. I maintain that integrators who stage the upsell process early will make interactions with clients easier and more rewarding for both customer and integrator.

Case in Point: The Builder Model

Companies involved in the new, competitive community builder market are absolute pros at upselling throughout the process. Randall Duncan, President of Houston-based Datasmart Home Technology, along with Director of Sales and Marketing Jamie Garza, have figured out the perfect recipe for a meaningful upsell experience – most of which starts with Datasmart’s builder division.

The company approaches every homebuilder – whether a production builder for first-time homebuyers, a semi-custom builder for a different segment of the market, or a premier builder that serves an affluent clientele – the same way, with a developed, well-planned and systematic way of selling. In a prearranged agreement with the builder, Datasmart is given the contact information of the homebuyer, and that is when the magic begins.

Datasmart contacts the owner and invites them to come to its Design Center to test out a wide variety of smart home items that can be built into the new home. Using a robust CRM tool, the company keeps in contact with “pre-home close” customers and continues to offer additional products and services right up until the drywall is installed. Since the security company is tied into the builder’s job tracking system, they always know the status of the home building project.

The model has shown that participation, education and involvement with a potential customer leads to a seamless upsell experience. Even with the disruption of COVID-19, the Datasmart team didn’t miss a beat. “Fortunately, we have a process in place that has been honed over the years,” Duncan explains. “We were able to pivot from in-person meetings to a Zoom call where the customer could see items such as video cameras, connected home solutions, low voltage wiring and home entertainment.”

The Retrofit Model 

Stu Forchheimer, President and CEO of Maryland-based HS Tech Group, believes that consumers should be offered a comprehensive security review starting with the exterior of the home and working back to the inside of the home. This covers all perimeter points that are accessible from the ground.

Forchheimer says that upselling is simply part of his company’s DNA. “Homeowners may not always know how many doors and windows they have, but they do know the square footage of their home,” he says.

Armed with the square footage, the HS Tech Group team can explain that installing three door or window sensors in a 3,500 square-foot home would not provide adequate protection. “We recommend that 75 cents per square foot is a good rule of thumb to gauge what a consumer should spend on a full perimeter intrusion and fire system,” Forchheimer says. “Adding video cameras enhances the system with increased cost but provides a concentric-layered security approach.”

Forchheimer adds that potential clients usually like to come into the office, which also serves as the design center. The visit establishes credibility and adds an intimacy to the sales approach. Again, COVID would not stop Forchheimer and team either – they self-produced a series of videos to email to potential clients as an introduction to the company and why they should trust their security to HS Tech Group.

“It sets the stage for upselling,” Forchheimer says.

Make Upselling an Integral Part of Your Business

The awkward and annoying question, “Did you find everything OK?” is one that both Datasmart and HS Tech Group never have to ask. Instead, they provide concierge-level service through a defined sales process that lead clients down a specific path.

No matter how you choose to go to market – custom installations, DIY, or assisting a consumer with a DIWM approach – any security integrator can provide that intimate sales experience.

Upselling begins with training. Every employee in a company can be a sales agent and face to the customer, so it is important to make sure they have the knowledge to drive success. The more training you do, you guessed it, should be followed by more training.

One of the best training programs I have attended was on the “Customer Experience,” taught by the Ritz Carlton Leadership Center. It changed my leadership style, and it impacted how I operated my previous alarm company, my team, and, most importantly, how I treated people. The tie-in between creating a great customer experience and upselling cannot be minimized.

I am pleased that from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, the Stay Connected virtual version of the Electronic Security Association’s (ESA) Leadership Summit event will deliver presentations and workshops from the Ritz Carlton’s customer experience experts.

Insert Yourself in the Upsell Process

There are key times an upsell can take place. The first is at the time of the initial sale by educating and offering clients additional protection or connected home devices. The second, but not last is at the time of installation – where a trained technician leads the conversation about additional protection and IoT devices, to name a couple.

Take advantage of the latter by having installers walk customers through a risk assessment. This will create an understanding of where all the security components will be placed, while providing a unique opportunity for them to discuss what areas might have been missed or will become a future risk.

If your company has moved to a DIWM approach, have your sales agent perform a Google Street view of the potential customer’s location, commenting about, for example, how they could improve their own security by trimming hedges closer to the windows. These types of interactions and trusted dialogues can make upselling an organic part of the sales process – leading to increased sales and improved security and lifestyle for your customer.

It all comes down to providing stellar customer service – which will afford you additional upsell opportunities throughout the life of a customer’s contract. By establishing your company’s expertise early, it can also lead to decreased attrition.

A defined process that walks a customer through their entire journey leads to the best part: A satisfied client who is never asked if they found everything OK.

Kirk MacDowell is the founder and president of MacGuard Security Advisors Inc. (, a business consulting firm for the electronic security industry. For an in-depth analysis and an upselling program designed specifically for your company, contact him at [email protected]. Read his blog at