Mike Lynskey

Author Bio ▼

Mike has been in the security industry for well over 36 years. He started with the family business as a locksmith and alarm engineer and fitted more than 1,000 systems before moving on to own and run his own company. He later sold out to a NACOSS company and became a self-employed inspector for the SSAIB. Alongside inspecting, he taught alarm installation and locksmithing for T K Consultants of Bolton. For the last nine years of his official working life, Mike was employed by the NSI, working with the marketing team. His main contribution to the NSI regime was to visit most of the new applicants and help them get up to NSI requirement. Since reaching retirement at 65 he does a little consultancy and has written an installers handbook. As Mike says, "The industry has given me a good living for a lot of years
February 18, 2016

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Sales Tips for Security & Fire Installers

Mike Lynksey worked for the NSI and SSAIB for over 20 years, in which time he witnessed countless terrible sales people in the industry. Are you one of them?

During my career, working for both the SSAIB and then for the NSI, I have heard the words “good engineer, terrible salesman” countless times — and, if I am honest, it once applied to me. So I started asking some questions, and the answers floored me with their simplicity.

Selling to the standard doesn’t work

Firstly, selling “exactly” to the European standards is a recipe for disaster. You have to admit, as a statement, that is a show stopper, especially from a man who has pressed the standards on other companies for 20 years.

For instance, in the standard CLC/TS 50131-7, which relates to intrusion systems, there are no less than 14 points that have to be included in the specification to comply with the standard. These 14 points are all technical items that the customer needs to be told. However, if you try to tell the customer during the survey, eyes will glaze over and you have lost the sale. So, tell the customer what he wants to know, then send him the technical specification later — but before you start the install.

Highlight your service levels

A domestic customer wants to be reassured that you are not going to gouge out his walls, forcing him to have new carpets and redecorate after fitting — so why do so few installers explain this to a potential customer? Put his mind at ease: Start by telling him that you carry your own vacuum cleaner; explain how he will not have to redecorate or get the carpet fitter in, and his house will be as good as new when you walk away.

For the commercial customer, explain that you will disrupt the office as little as possible and production will not have to stop. Testing and training will be done at the end of a working day to further minimize disruption.

Trust issues

If you are NSI or SSAIB you will have been through the vetting procedure. You can now tell your prospective customers that you are trustworthy to cross their threshold without them having to lock up their valuables. Why do installers get themselves vetted then never tell this to the customer — and then wonder why the customer has chosen an ex-convict with a smooth tongue?

Show your vetting certificate and challenge the customer to ask for a certificate from every other surveyor coming to quote.

Estimate on site

Do you walk away without giving a ballpark price for your system? It never ceases to amaze me how many installers say, “I will send you a quote” — and walk away, leaving the customer dazed and confused (to quote Led Zeppelin). You may as well say to the customer: “I’m just not interested. Give the job to the next guy.” It is a very good way to lose a sale.

If you are half the salesman you think you are you will have a good idea of the price before you have completed the survey, so why not give the customer a clue, a rough figure as a starting point? Then you can argue over the detail.

Ask the customer if the figure you started with is what she expected, get her talking (and listen very carefully). If there is a discrepancy between your figure and hers you now have an opportunity to justify your price or to argue and haggle. Many customers are not going to buy anything until they have haggled, so get used to it, go with the flow, and remember not to go in at your lowest figure. Give yourself room to let the customer talk you down to your original figure.

Talking to the customer makes you seem more human (which most of you, presumably, are) and she can quite get to like you. You know you are winning when she offers to put the kettle on!

Many a time the customer will give you the job there and then. Just make sure you send the full quote with all the requirements of CLC/TS 50131-7 Annex F before you start the job. Even if he or she doesn’t want to listen to the technical stuff, it is imperative that we follow the standard to cover our backs against misunderstanding.

Remember: If you are talking to the person who will be making the decision to buy, give him a price, let him ask questions, and if he doesn’t ask, prompt him:

  • “Is the price what you though it would be?”
  • “Have you thought about screening of installers?”
  • “Have you thought about choosing an approved company?”
  • “Have you thought about asking for recommendations or referrals?”

You can prompt a question for anything you can prove — just have your evidence ready.

The golden rule is to know when the customer has had enough. That is the time to shut up, drink your tea, and go. Selling is often not about how good a salesman you are — it’s all about capitalizing on your rivals’ mistakes.

This article was originally published on IFSEC Global in August 2013.

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19 Comments on "Sales Tips for Security & Fire Installers"

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safeNsane
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“If you are half the salesman you think you are you will have a good idea of the price before you have completed the survey, so why not give the customer a clue, a rough figure as a starting point? Then you can argue over the detail.”   This can not be said enough.  Even if you estimate 10% higher on site and send over final numbers later you need to leave the customer with a fair idea of what a job is going to cost.  You will almost never be the only company quoting a job and if you’re… Read more »
Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Great tip, and it makes sense, especially in the buy it now economy.

Electrosatcctv
Guest

Nice sales tips but more often,most technically biased people like me are poor salesmen. More so Rob,in the buy it now economy like ours in Africa-the price consideration is often primary concern.In our clime,most client would go for solution with the lowest offer and as we all know,lowest offer is often directly propotional to low quality.So these great tips from an experienced and veteran security expert may make sence in advance society but in the buy it now economy it could be different.

ITs_Hazel
Guest

Definitely, definitely agree. It really helps to be upfront with your customers. They’ll appreciate it and you might even win over their loyalty. Sometimes, that matters than the initial sale. And aside from that, yes, time really is a huge factor, so you have to be on top of your work to get the deals sealed.

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Loyalty is a great point there, Hazel. Anything that can build loyalty is positive. But you have to be careful not to rest on your laurels: just because a customer is loyal to you, make sure you keep doing a good job.

safeNsane
Guest
I think it says a lot about a sales person when they can come in and give me a ball park figure after sitting down to talk for an hour.  If they say they have no idea what it would cost then I assume they have no idea what they are selling and that doesn’t fill me with confidence.  Sure they might have to go back and add some bits and pieces that didn’t pop to the front of their mind but anyone coming in to sell me something should know what their products cost and be able to scratch… Read more »
Rob Ratcliff
Guest

True, it’s pretty basic. I work surrounded by sales people and they all know their products inside out. If you ask a salesperson how much something costs and they have to fumble around for their sales brochure, you’re not going to be confident that they believe in what they’re selling.

JonathanL
Guest

I agree that you should be able to give your client a ball park figure to work with but another point the article raises that I really truly agree with is to know when to quit.  We have had vendor representatives with a truly good product come on too strong or seemed like they were trying to promise whatever they could even when it seemed unrealistic and that drove us away from them in the selection process.  

gbrown
Guest

I think everyone likes paying for high quality services and as humans we seek alternatives of reducing cost and still demand the same quality services. I think salesmen know that  hence the reason for their marketing tactics

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Driving down cost is what the buyer should be trying to do, but eventually you’ll reach a cost that’s too low and the quality suffers. Tricky balance, but important.

Robert Grossman
Guest

Often times, in the process of driving down costs the buyer ceases to be comparing comperable systems. So the lower cost systems become a diffent beast entirely, and the higher priced options don’t get (or take) the opportunity to point that out. Sometimes the answer to that is to educate the customer on the key differentiators, even of it ventures slightly into the “boredom zone”.

gbrown
Guest

I also think not every salesperson is honest and they do not care about making sure they are providing the required services and products as they claimed during their sales. 

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

That might be true for some pure salespeople. With a security/fire installer you would hope and think that they are honest and do care about their customer’s security and safety. Otherwise, they’re not likely to have a business for long.

manshi
Guest

@gbrown: Yes being honest is not something which is there in the dictionary of the sales people but still I feel that when you lie about something or a service, there is high chance of you may not be able to do a long term business relationship with that particular customer.         

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Precisely, manshi. Honesty engenders long-term business.

gbrown
Guest

I agree that honesty with salesmen is questionable at different level of business engagements

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

That’s interesting. So an over-keen salesperson puts you off a product that you might actually have wanted?

JonathanL
Guest

Oh absolutely Rob, sometimes that over enthusiasm can come off as desperation and when a sales person starts to come off to me with that feeling I begin to doubt the product that they are selling.  I will admit some products on their own can be a tough sale and it takes a strong salesperson to get them out there and moving but if I feel like there is some desperation to move a product that I am interested in then it makes we wonder what is wrong with it or what aren’t you telling me…

guardsystems
Guest

I think they are the best https://guardsys.co.uk/business/

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