A recent article in the Wall Street Journal regarding a high percentage of false alarms has prompted

A media potshot aimed at the security industry appeared in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “A False Sense of Security?” by June Fletcher. The article featured statistics from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), which estimated that between 95 percent to 98 percent of home-alarm calls are false. It also stated that complaints about alarm and monitoring companies rose 9 percent to 1,375 nationwide, according to 1998 figures from The Better Business Bureau. Some clients explained how discontent they were with their security systems. 

The article represents a myriad of “industry exposés” that speak to the experience of the small percentage of home security system customers who are not satisfied with their alarms, rather than the much larger contingent who are satisfied. For years, the security industry has faced criticism from all ends of the public spectrum, including the print and broadcast media.

One featured survey in the article, by STAT Resources of Chestnut Hill, Mass., reported an increase in home alarm system sales since the mid-1980s, while the annual level of home burglaries itself had dropped by half in the time period. Given the significance of this data, it should be apparent that the industry is doing something right.

However, how can an industry maintain credibility while negative publicity, such as accusations of dishonesty and incompetence, occupy space in a nationally syndicated newspaper or fill airtime during network “sweeps?”

“The mainstream media is in the business of providing sensationalized stories,” contends Brad Shipp, executive director of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) in Alexandria, Va. “We as an association are constantly trying to provide the media with accurate information about security.”

Shipp adds that the media should work with the industry since the alarm dealers are the ones who talk to the customers on a regular basis and they are the ones who realize the alarm is what will help protect themselves and their families. “Unfortunately, if the industry wants to put a positive spin on security in the mainstream media, it will have to pay for it,” he asserts.

This focused attention on the sensational makes an article like the one in the Wall Street Journal more appealing to the masses, causing possible widespread damage to the industry. Consider that since the economic boom of the mid-1990s began, the Wall Street Journal has become a nationally recognized newspaper, much like USA Today, which means its content can have an impact on any prospective alarm customer in the United States.
Regardless of the sales-pitch model your company uses, your sales staff should always be ready to discover if the prospect’s view of our industry is a barrier to the sale. It’s a relatively minor tweak, but it’s an important one.

Media Coverage Is a Grim Reminder of Criticism
Most professionals in the security industry know what their customers are thinking because they are perfectly glad to tell their alarm companies. However, the people dealers should be concerned about are those who haven’t spoken yet—those prospective clients. Every time one comes across a negative security-related article or a television “investigative report” on, for example, “unscrupulous contractors,” the industry is reminded that it has no control over the public’s perception.

Educating New Clients Is Key to Help Seal the Deal
The sales force of any security firm is the first exposure prospects have to your company. And as such, it seems that the sales force is the best group capable of helping clarify the customer’s understanding of the security industry, as well as the equipment and services.
Spending a little time “educating” the prospect might make the overall sale easier.

Develop, Maintain a Media-Savvy Sales Staff

However well the industry is doing now, dealers always remember the ones who got away. It’s possible that some fine-tuning of your sales methods can help us do even better. A sales-pitch model takes time to prepare and takes even more time to update. And there are alarm companies that do not have one and get along fine without it.

Provide Media With Positive Industry Stories

Making an effort to work with the media and security associations can help put a positive spin on the industry. For example, customer success stories should be publicized.

Following Sales Staff Tips Can Help Ease Clients’ Minds

– Offer measures of protection in addition to the alarm system (e.g., cutting shrubs back, using outdoor motion detector lights, etc.).

– Keep the use of statistics to a minimum (fewer people seem to trust them these days).

– Remind yourself that every home alarm is a custom job.

– Mention other features an alarm system can do.

– Bring up industry false-alarm initiatives.

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