Idea of the Month
If you had just one really great idea you could share with the alarm industry, what would it be?
This month’s great idea comes from Ivan Scharer, former president of First Alert Professional.
Scharer’s great idea:
Winning in today’s alarm industry means you are managing the
entire sales process. That includes the control and monitoring of activities, as well as the detailed tracking of results.
Ivan Scharer earned his sales chops with Dictograph, one of the industry’s first marketing and sales operations, back in the 1960s. The arc of Scharer’s distinguished career includes the founder and president of First Alert Professional, an induction into SSI’s Hall of Fame in 2011, and today along with his son, Robert, he operates an industry consulting firm.
Scharer’s big idea this month drills down to a simple concept. If all of your marketing activities result in one lead, which converts to one sale, then your statistics are pretty straightforward. You have a 100% closing rate on all of your leads. That level of success may happen in the very beginning of your business, but as your organization grows and matures those statistics are going to change. The professional managers among us who understand this process are going to be the ones who will win in the new industry.
And what do I mean by new industry? Simply, with all of the new entrants in the industry and with all of the new products that are competing for space on alarm dealers’ shelves, it’s hard to track all of the elements of a sale. Where did the lead come from? Who was it assigned to? What kind of a presentation was made? What were the results of the presentation? How much follow-up was completed?
When there is only one lead coming in, those statistics are pretty easy to develop. But when you have 10, 100 or even 1,000 leads coming in, you better understand the entire process or it will control you, and you will find yourself running to catch up.
Pieces to the Marketing Puzzle
As Scharer points out, in the world of today’s alarm dealer we’re seeing a shift to greater technology, which often leads to higher and more stable RMR. Scharer feels that too many of us are allowing technology to drive the sale, rather than following the fundamentals of basic sales professionalism. I concur with him, and more importantly, the really successful companies in our industry are those that follow many of the same principals. Following are some of the factors that sales and marketing professionals agree should be on any “to do list” that’s designed to provide meaningful feedback: advertising/PR program (press releases, news releases, advertising schedules, direct mail activities, Internet marketing); sales process (lead development, tracking leads, appointment process, conversion ratios of leads/appointments/closes, referrals); and post closing (contracts, service contracts, add-ons, satisfaction surveys, continuing follow-up).
Of course, you can make up your own list of elements of the process that need to be quantified in order to give you meaningful information. At the end of the day, what you’re looking for are answers to the questions, “What do I need to do in order to be able to have a predictable and duplicable business plan?” While many of us think that the answers to these questions lie in our instincts or gut reactions, the reality is the answers lie in the information that you collect about all of the things you do in order to be successful.
I’m sure there are many software programs available that can help you track the sales process, as well as professionals ready to provide one-on-one help. The only thing that is not predictable about the process of selling is failure, although it always seems to follow a sloppiness or lack of dedication to maintain good records. Conversely, success always seems to be the byproduct of good record keeping and abstracting meaningful results from the activities that you conduct.
Ron Davis is a SSI Hall of Fame inductee and President of Davis Mergers and Acquisitions Group Inc. Also known as The Graybeards, the company is active in acquisitions and mergers exclusively in the alarm business.