3 Surefire Steps to Better Impress Fire and Life-Safety Prospects

Expert tips to successfully woo prospective fire and life-safety customers.

3 Surefire Steps to Better Impress Fire and Life-Safety Prospects

Before a fire system is designed and installed, it needs to be sold. Before a system can be sold, the installing firm will need to perform some level of marketing so that prospects will call for a proposal.

Now, I am not a sales and marketing expert by any form of imagination, but over the years I have seen various sales and marketing methods for fire and life-safety systems that do breed success.

Figure Out Target Audience(s) & Develop Relationships

The first step is to determine your intended prospect. Is it the developer, the general contractor, electrical contractor, the owner or the tenant?

Your services should be properly marketed to all of these various entities. I have seen fire alarm firms that are the sole provider to a particular developer or general contractor or building owner.

These relationships do take time to develop and you will need to be able to do more than “talk the talk.”

The next question to consider is depending on the requirements within the state or region that you may operate in, can you propose a design build, or is the initial design of the system to be performed by a registered or licensed design or engineering professional?

Make yourself available to these firms for “lunch and learns” so that you may go over the products and services that you provide. There is one note of caution in that regard, however.

Do not get trapped into providing design drawings for projects that a design professional or other involved trade may then use and leave you out.

The specifications should state XYZ fire alarm system, as provided by Your Company.

Get in Good Graces With the Local AHJ

I mentioned “talk the talk.” When you are contacted by a prospect, hopefully they are calling you to provide advice and not just a low bid on a predesigned system.

As you grow your company and make business contacts, you should move from the bid room to negotiated bids. Know the local codes for each geographic area in which your firm operates.

Know the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), and what their requirements may be. Build a reputation as the local fire alarm expert, but make certain that you are knowledgeable on the most up-to-date requirements of each AHJ.

How you manage your projects and your submittals will go a long way in gaining additional business.

While AHJs cannot openly offer recommendations, most will direct an inquiring prospect to those firms that they have a good relationship with as opposed to those they do not.

This measure of professionalism you should aspire to includes the format of the shop drawings, the workmanship of the installation and the closeout of the project and the final acceptance test.

Project Your Professionalism at Every Turn

Most fire alarm firms now have a web presence in one form or another. Make sure to keep it current.

Few things can reflect more poorly on your business than a website that contains out-of-date information or the posting of the latest newsletter from 2007, for instance.

Describe your services in clear and understandable terms. Avoid the use of trade terms or acronyms. You may know what a “vane flow switch that we can connect to the FACU through a Style 5 SCL” is, but almost everyone outside of the fire alarm industry will not.

“We provide fire sprinkler system supervision” may work better. Proposals are also part of the sales process, and here too you must avoid missteps.

Do not overstate the capabilities of the system. “This system will instantly detect any fire that may occur in your building” is not a statement that you should be making. Yet I have seen this.

Keep in mind that any statement you make on your proposals, contracts and even your web pages and printed marketing material could be used by an opposing attorney in a litigation case.

Have your material reviewed, perhaps by your legal counsel, to make certain that you are not overstating or misrepresenting your services or the features of the systems that you sell.

Lastly, please do not make some of the following errors that I have seen in printed material from alarm companies:

  • “We work with local fire marshalls.” There is only one “l” in fire marshal.
  • “We provide duck detectors.” Perhaps, but most of the industry provides duct detectors.
  •  “We are members of the National Fire Protection Agency.” This agency may exist somewhere, but most of us in the industry are members of the National Fire Protection Association.

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About the Author


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

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