The Quest for Trust

Sept. 10, 2015
Avoiding deception and long-term deals in door-to-door sales may be the keys to success

We are in the thick of door-to-door selling season, and many alarm dealers are finding the usual trust issues that are making your sales team’s job more difficult as an industry. Mixed in with your classic great salespeople are the scammers and others who care more about the bucks than the people. The fact is, high-pressure and deceptive sales practices are rampant in home security.  

According to Casey Callaway of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, home security systems, as an industry, No. 22 in volume of complaints out of 3,500 business categories in 2014. Last year, nearly 600,000 consumers turned to BBB to look up information on home security companies.

ADT has put itself on the front lines in the effort to combat deceptive alarm sales. Starting at ESX 2014 in Nashville, and again at ESX 2015 in Baltimore, the company publicized what it is doing to help, in Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Bleisch’s words, “stop this big black-eye plaguing our industry.”

“The national awareness has dramatically increased the number of customer complaints we’ve received so far this year,” Bleisch said during a press conference at ESX in late June. In addition to offering a cash reward for anyone who can provide lawfully obtained information showing how alarm companies are training employees to engage in deceptive sales practices, ADT now requires all sales representatives to provide their ADT ID number when asked by a customer. “With that information, the customer would then call ADT to verify the sales representative’s employment status,” Bleisch explained.

“Customers place deep trust in monitoring providers to ensure that their families, pets and irreplaceable possessions are protected, and when an alarm company deceives a customer by lying and misrepresenting itself, that sacred trust is violated,” added CSAA’s Jay Hauhn.

“It is our hope that ESA Members will make our Code of Ethics part of the sales culture and training within their organizations and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for any sort of deceptive behavior,” ESA President Marshall Marinace added.

ESA has, in fact, updated its Code of Ethics in 2010 to specifically addresses the need for its members to: carry identification, be properly licensed, respect the consumer, and of course, be honest. “We are NOT knocking door-knocking,” Hauhn added. “Door-to-door selling is a very effective tool, practiced for decades, but it must be done the right way. Companies must train their sales reps to follow the ESA Code of Ethical Conduct and take swift and actionable responsibility when they fail.”

Avoid Contracts?

While RMR is the goal of most alarm dealers and their salespeople, perhaps taking a cue from the successful efforts of industries such as mobile phone providers and fitness centers — and eliminating long-term contracts — may be the answer to regaining trust among the general public.

I am an avid reader of a popular consumer affairs reporter, and one of his recent headlines caught my eye pretty said (in big letters on my Facebook scroll): Beware of these dirty dealings in the alarm industry. He went on to describe a conversation between alarm salesmen he overheard that involved using scare tactics to lock customers into a long-term contract. In fact, nearly all of his tips for readers to follow for buying home security without being swindled involved the contract itself: 

  1. Security companies should earn your business and shouldn't require you to sign a contract. 
  2. Don't sign a contract — ever. 
  3. Don't let a security company representative into your home unless you have first determined that the company won't require a signed contract. 
  4. If a security company wants to charge you more than $20 per month for monitoring, don't do business with them and search for another company. 

This is a well-respected advisor to thousands upon thousands of your potential customers. And while his advice shouldn’t dictate your sales strategy, it should give you a clue on earning the public trust. 

About the Author

Paul Rothman | Editor-in-Chief/Security Business

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine. Email him your comments and questions at [email protected]. Access the current issue, full archives and apply for a free subscription at