Residential Security Focus: How to Sell Home Automation

Dec. 2, 2013
Strategies to help security dealers be more than “just an alarm provider”

As an independent security dealer, you have no doubt observed the increasing prominence of home automation services. By definition, home automation is the bundling of life safety and lifestyle services into one solution that allows an end-user to manage his or her security system and basic household functions via pre-sets or by controlling them remotely.

The appeal? Home automation means that the homeowner no longer needs to worry whether he or she has left the A/C running all day, or that the back door is locked, or that the kids have arrived home safely from school. In the fully automated home, uncertainty is a thing of the past.

Given those obvious benefits, one is tempted to say that home automation “sells itself” — but we know that is not true. If you are an independent security dealer — i.e., if you’re not one of those large telcos or cable providers or home-improvement retailers that’s now dabbling in home automation — then it falls to you to sell these new technologies to your customers. Doing so not only increases your recurring monthly revenue (RMR) but also ensures that your customers know you can give them anything those telcos and cable providers can — at least as far as their home environment is concerned — which, in turn, increases customer loyalty.

Impediments to Making the Sale

First, and most fundamentally, your customers must know that you offer such services. Those within our industry know that the security dealer offers much more than “just” alarm services, but the rank-and-file customer may still be prone to some limiting assumptions. So, the first priority is to reach out to your customers in the manner that’s most appropriate and cost-effective for your particular business and let them know that you are fully equipped to provide them with state-of-the-art home automation products tailored to their needs.

After customers learn that you offer such services through a trusted provider, the resistance to the sale typically comes in one of four ways:

  • The customer doesn’t perceive a need;
  • They see it as being too expensive;
  • They doubt they will use the services enough to justify the cost; or
  • They find the technology confusing and off-putting.

Obviously these very legitimate concerns must be overcome if you, the independent dealer, are going to reap the RMR benefits native to home automation. Fortunately, the concept of the “use case” provides an easy and effective way to do just that. Simply put, use cases are relatable vignettes — or brief stories that present simple and commonplace hypothetical scenarios — which all potential customers can understand and have almost certainly experienced first-hand.

Making Use of Use Cases

When it comes to selling customers on your suite of home control products via use cases, a three-pronged approach is useful because, broadly speaking, home control involves three primary market innovations: monitoring the household and surrounding property in new ways, using emergent technology to reduce utility bills and bringing keyless-access solutions to the home environment.

When you are conducting an initial sales consultation — likely for a customer interested in alarm servicing — you will be presented with many opportunities to demonstrate the appeal of home automation with a use case. For example, counting up the number of sensors needed to protect the front entryway? Mention that a camera targeted on the front step would provide another layer of certainty, not just with regard to potential intruders but also with package deliveries and, say, the comings and goings of a teenage daughter. Perhaps the customer would even be interested in replacing or foregoing alarm sensors in favor of cameras. This would mean more RMR and more lucrative hardware sales for you.

Once the customer is thinking of the benefits of front-door surveillance, then it’s a simple transition to quick talk about back-door monitoring and even full-perimeter monitoring. Pet monitoring is also a useful way to overcome the customer’s natural reluctance to camera placement inside the home. With some home control service providers, once the first camera is in place and set up for monitoring, there’s no additional charge for the monitoring of additional cameras on the property. Needless to say, this makes hardware up-selling much easier for you.

The same conversation about that front entryway and ways to enhance the customer’s sense of control over it naturally lends itself to a use case regarding keyless access. Did that teenager coming home from school or practice forget his or her keys? He or she can access the home with a combination, or the end user can unlock the door remotely — from work, for example — to allow access, and then lock the door once again. Repair professional scheduled to arrive at an inconvenient time? The end-user can grant access remotely and then lock the door once he leaves. Lost your keys? You, the dealer, are now the customer’s “spare key” — your customer will never again pay for a locksmith.

The customer’s inevitable concerns about price naturally lead to a discussion of automated control of thermostats. The automation of locks introduces Z-Wave technology into the home, and thermostats also function on Z-Wave. As with the addition of more cameras, some service providers do not charge for additional Z-Wave devices added to the system beyond the initial one. Moreover, programming heating and cooling levels — either ahead of time or instantly and remotely — will significantly reduce utility bills for the end-user. As such, this facet of home automation can be framed not as a purchase but rather as an investment in a more controlled environment. At the same time, it is also an investment in “green” efficiency that will provide the customer with a sense of stewardship, but most of all, save money going forward — often enough to defray the cost of installation and service.

The wonder of the use case insofar as the usual business of the independent security dealer is concerned is that the typical alarm sales consultation seamlessly lends itself to a discussion of the benefits of home automation. At a fundamental level, you provide the customer with control — after all, they are your customers (or soon to be your customers) precisely because they desire more control over their home environment — and home automation is nothing if not a greater and more advanced level of control. As such, even the briefest discussion of home automation possibilities gives you the opportunity to include the relevant estimates in every written price quote you provide after every sales consultation you conduct. That, along with the home automation brochure you leave behind, reinforces the message.

Picking the Best Provider

The other key to leveraging the sales power of use cases is to work with a service provider that pledges standout customer support and the sales tools you need to make inroads with new clients and to upsell your existing customer base. For instance, Telguard’s HomeControl offers four packages that both satisfy customer needs and increase your RMR: EntryWatch, which increases front door awareness regardless of whether or not the end user is at home; PetView, which allows the end-user to monitor in-home pet behavior and safety from a remote location; ThermoSync, which allows the end-user to synchronize thermostats via pre-sets to their life style; and BoltControl, which allows keyless locking and unlocking of the home’s entry doors on-site or remotely. The advanced nature of the system is couched in a simplicity that appeals to the customer.

To maximize the effectiveness of these use cases and, by extension, the effectiveness of the 45 minutes or so of face-to-face time you have with the customer, you should work with a provider who can equip you with field sales tools like quick-hitting use case video clips, which you can call up on your tablet computer to show the customer how home automation works in every-day life. It is one thing to describe the use case; it is something else for the customer to see the scenario and to see the home automation system at work.

That’s the use case in action, and it is the key to helping customers think of you as being more than “just” an alarm provider.

Shawn Welsh is vice president of Marketing and Business Development for Telular. To request more information about the company, visit