Constructive Advice: How to Sell to Homebuilders
Developing relationships with homebuilders is a great way for electronic security contractors to secure ongoing revenue streams. This is particularly true with the recent surge in structured wiring demand. Whether you’re dealing with a tract builder or a custom builder, you will find they can become your constant connection to the homeowner.
To help gain a better understanding of this market, Security Sales & Integration interviewed four dealers successful in working with builders. In addition, a custom builder was solicited to provide insight as to what is expected from security dealers on the other side of the equation.
Knowing and meeting the expectations and requirements, making your business conspicuous through targeted marketing and community activism, and demonstrating professionalism and the ability to smoothly interact with new homebuyers are the major keys to cultivating successful builder partnerships.
Builders Have Predetermined Expectations of Dealers
From tract builders to custom builders, each group has their own set of parameters when it comes to working with security dealers.
Marc Rose, director of Customer Relations for Rosemark DesignBuild, a high-end, Maryland-based custom builder, says: “Our criteria for contracting with dealers is based on two elements, each equally important. First, we evaluate their ability to design and install a completely integrated system. Second, their personality must work effectively with our clients. We need to partner with dealers who can ‘hold our client’s hand’ because it’s not within our paradigm to review all the security options and electronic upgrades available today.”
In addition to the personal criteria that must be met to work with Rosemark DesignBuild, security installers must also respect the custom builder’s policies and procedures.
For example, dealers are asked to forgo discussing pricing with the homebuyer. The dealer is instructed to simply uncover the needs of the homebuyer and then get back to Rosemark DesignBuild with a quote for the design and installation. This enables the builder to continue its financial relationships with customers and the security contractor to focus on system design.
All Rosemark DesignBuild homes feature some form of structured wiring, depending on the homeowner’s needs. “The dealers we work with are expected to offer our clients a full smorgasbord of services, ranging from security, home entertainment, home networking, automation and control, lighting, HVAC and central vac,” adds Rose.
“Dealers are not necessarily required to provide monitoring services; however, they must have a referral ready if they don’t offer it themselves.”
Designing, Installing Integrated Systems Provide Niche Business
All builders have their own sets of requirements. Understanding them is only the first step in the process of working with them. Another key is grabbing the builder’s attention.
California-based Secure Systems has successfully created a niche among builders. Most of the company’s business is based on referrals. But it took Secure a lot of legwork up font to get to this point.
“We developed a complete marketing plan that allowed us to effectively target builders. Of course we continue to implement it annually, only making improvements along the way,” says Secure President Bruce Busacca. “Some activities include direct-mail campaigns to builders, open houses, individual meetings at our showroom, and ‘lunch and learns,’ where we bring in presenters to address specific topics in technology.”
On the sales front, Secure’s sales representatives are required to visit their active customers at least once a week. When it comes to new business, sales reps are supposed to visit potential clients at least once a quarter.
To further expand business with builders, Secure belongs to local associations. “We contribute our time, service and money to support the community. The benefit is that we get to network and shake hands with builders. Builders are a big part of the community,” adds Busacca.
For new business, Secure finds new builders in town and sends them literature at least once a quarter. The firm sets annual sales goals, which usually include three new builders a year. Before working with them, Secure performs due diligence by checking out their credit to see if they pay on time and if they’re easy to deal with. “If they’re too difficult to work with, we’ll lose money trying to make them happy. So we just won’t work with them,” contends Busacca.
Getting Established on a “Preferred List” Is as Good as Gold
California’s Bay Security has earned “preferred status” with many builders, meaning that most of its business is referral-based. Company President/ CEO Patrick Conlon says, “We market to builders in indirect ways. We get involved with community events, which gets us a lot of visibility among builders because they are active in the community. We find that locals like to support locals.”
According to Conlon, all builders operate differently. Some have preset packages they sell to homebuyers. These usually include various security options, such as CCTV, fire and burglary, and other lifestyle upgrades, which typically include distributed audio, automation and control, central vac, networking and intercom. Usually, it’s the national tract builders who have these predetermined packages.
“On the other hand,” continues Conlon, “Custom builders generally have the dealer work with their client to design their personalized system. Once the package is identified, it is submitted to the builder, which then quotes a price to the homeowner and includes it in their mortgage.”
Bay Security is often asked by the builder to meet with homebuyers to analyze their blueprints. They learn how homeowners plan to utilize their house, such as if they want to work out of their home or if they will have a gardener who needs random access.
Builders Supply a Source of Ongoing Revenue Streams
Securicom of Illinois goes about generating new business in a unique way. The company exhibits at builder trade shows, where it can meet several builders during one event. This provides Securicom a great opportunity to inform builders about the latest technology and options available.
“If the builder is interested in security, we set an appointment to find out what they’re looking for,” says Securicom President/CEO Monte Wilkins. “However, we typically learn that the builder is not heavily concerned with security. They are more focused on building materials and traditional upgrades, such as granite countertops. So we remind them that security is one of the first options that homebuyers look for when considering upgrades.”
Securicom’s monitoring service is a little different than other traditional offerings. The company’s security system is designed to start operating during the construction phase, providing the builder an opportunity to monitor the property the house is being built. Securicom offers a wireless monitoring system, which can control the phone, lights, sprinklers and irrigation system.
“We know builders want to keep their costs down. Our wireless system provides them monitoring services at a very affordable price,” adds Wilkins. “The system can go in as soon as the shell is up and only requires 110V power. It takes approximately two hours to install and is a relatively transparent installation.”
Now with the system in place, builders receive a dual benefit: First, they can monitor their homes during construction, and second, they have an opportunity to sell it to the homeowner as an option. Once the builder approves the system, Securicom becomes part of the team as the security consultant.
Often, Securicom is asked by the builder to meet with the homebuyer and discuss the various options available. They consult with homeowners on a number of security iss
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