I have 3 left, do you want one?

Have you ever been approached by a door-to-door alarm salesman?

About 10 years ago I learned about this “revolutionary” new way to sell alarm systems. We (me and my team) were to go door-to-door with 3 alarm yard signs (at the time ADT). We were to identify a neighbor hood where the homes were close together so that we could hit as many homes as possible. Once we got someone who would listen, we would hit them with the pitch. The pitch went something like this:

“Hello m’am my boss was driving around the area, and realized that we didn’t have any customers in your neighborhood. He gave me some alarm systems to give away for FREE to anyone who wanted it. It is worth about $1500, but he is willing to bear the expense because it is actually cheaper than advertising. The only catch is that you have to put this sign in front of your home, so you become the advertiser for us! I only have 3 left, do you want one?”

Now, the pitch sounds moderately convincing at best, but we sold systems doing it. The idea was to hit middle-to-low income homes because 1) That’s usually where the homes were closer together- less travel by foot and 2) The prospects were more vulnerable for the impulse-buy. Of course the system isn’t actually Free; the equipment and installation are Free (as many companies offer)- there is still the monthly monitoring fee which essentially subsidizes the cost of the security system.

“I never did sell anyone who had a pink flamingo, but I would imagine it was just a way to keep the team motivated.”

The team had an installation crew in tow, so once the ink was barely dry on the paperwork, they would begin to install the system. We sold a LOT of systems this way, and there are many people who have made a very good living off of this model. I remember clearly that one of the bosses said “If they have a pink flamingo in front of the house it’s a guaranteed sale!” I never did sell anyone who had a pink flamingo, but I would imagine it was just a way to keep the team motivated.

This method of selling is nothing new. There was nothing revolutionary about it. Aluminum siding salesman had been using the same pitch for years. “If you let us re-side your house with this new technology, we will do it for a greatly reduced price because we want all of your neighbors to ask about it.”

Nowadays, you will notice that a great multitude of these door-to-door folks are actually from Utah. They are trained in the off-season (winter) and the companies unleash them throughout the country in the Spring/Summer. They are put up in hotels, along with the technicians, and make a great deal of money (if they are motivated). This type of alarm business is referred to as a “summer model” because of the time of year they are able to generate sales; you can only knock on so many doors in 20 degree weather- and the teams get un-motivated quick.

MormonMoonMissionariesThe reason why Utah seems to be the area or origin for many of these door knockers is because of the Mormon culture. Most of these salesman at one point had to complete an important part of the works-based faith of Mormonism, and that is their two-year mission. During this mission, they are to proselytize as many people as possible, so to acquire a population for the planet that they are said to inherit in the afterlife. OK enough about the faith- the point is that they are VERY good at being told “no” and having it roll off of their back as if it never happened. That is the key to their selling model. If you knock on enough doors, and get told “no” enough times, someone will eventually say yes. Of course there is the arbitrary element of personality and salesmanship that can increase the number of sales however, Mormons have a very thick skin and seasoned door-knocking knuckles.

Now the question: Should we trust these people?

Here are some good pointers to ask if you are considering buying a security system from someone who just knocked on your door:

1) What company are you working for? NOT what company does your yard-sign say; what is the name on your paycheck? You want to make sure you understand just who exactly is selling the system.

2) Where is your company headquartered? This is important because if they are in fact a “summer model”, just who is going to service the alarm system when something goes wrong?

3) Am I waiving my 3 day right to cancel by having you install it today? By federal law, any in-home purchase, you have 3 business days to cancel without any penalties. This is not a right that can be waived, but companies like to tell you that you are doing so in the event you have a change of heart (or your husband/wife comes home and they are upset with your decision). I would stay away from any company that says you have to waive this right. It just sounds shady. THEY are taking a risk by asking you to BUY today and INSTALL today. I have seen many companies forced to remove the security system because the customer was inside of their 3 day ROR (right of recision) and the parent company does not want the bad press.

4) If I sign today, how much equipment can you offer? TRUST me- they are excited that you are interested. They are incentivized by how many systems they sell, and they can really drop their pants. I would say make an extremely unreasonable offer, and stick to it. Usually they can budge more on the amount of equipment, and do not have as much room in the monthly monitoring. In other words if they are offering “3 doors, 1 motion detector and 1 keypad for $54.95/mo” tell them you would consider it if they offered 3 doors, 2 motion detectors (or image sensor) 1 smoke detector, a second keypad, all for $39.95/mo. There is room there TRUST me. I’m not saying you will get this deal, but it I have heard of worse.

Just a quick note, if they are from Vivint, I would be very careful. Vivint was created because their former company, APX, went out of business due to a very poor business reputation as a result of their door-to-door tactics. They have an awful BBB rating, and are very poor at servicing their customers after the sale.

The bottom line is, there are still some reputable door-knocking companies left, but you have to know what to look for. Don’t be fooled by the impulsive nature of their sales pitch. Make an informed decision, and do your research. If you want to have some fun, put a pink Flamingo in front of your home to make them try all the more ;).

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David has been in the alarm business for over 15 years and has done everything from installing alarm systems to managing a multi-million dollar alarm company.

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