KEN KIRSCHENBAUM, ESQ
ALARM - SECURITY INDUSTRY LEGAL EMAIL NEWSLETTER / THE ALARM EXCHANGE
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Contract Sale ends today / Comment on Trouble getting contracts signed
March 31, 2023
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Comment on Trouble getting contracts signed from article on March 15, 2023
You asked for someone to step forward on this subject. It’s long but it may help someone. Read it and you decide if you want to publish it. .
It is not a contract, it is an “agreement” or “paperwork”. You do not want them to sign anything or their signature. You want their “approval” or “OK”.
* Presentation is important. Do not put all the “paperwork” on the table at one time. And “never” offer to leave the paper work for them to “look over”. And if they ask you to do that tell them you will be happy to wait a bit until they are free to read the papers. Or you have some phone calls to make and then, if necessary, conveniently forget to leave it and bring it back again at another time “to review” it. Or say you’ll be happy to come at another time when they are not as busy as some the paper work requires some detailed explanation.
* Always strive to be there and go over the paper work with the client. Also, all the information that you know about the customer, such as address, telephone numbers and any other information that you have should already be written on ALL of the forms. You NEVER start filling out the paperwork while in the presence of the customer while they wait for you during the agreement paper work time.
* Take out only ONE form at a time when you are with them. The first one is one that THEY are going to fill out. This should be the one with the names and telephone numbers of the people on their contact list. Hand the paper and a pen to them and be very detailed by getting them to make note, for example, if any of the contacts are their son, business partner, father, daughter, sister, plant manager etc. Get them used to writing with that pen you gave them. (And always carry and extra pen) Also ask if any of the contacts are key holders and if they will have their own arm/disarming code and or password. Explain if everyone has the same pass word and arming code, if someone no longer will have access and the code has to be changed then everyone has to learn new ones. Explain how opening and closing signals work and if they would like you to provide that service with weekly mailed reports, emailed reports, texts and so on. If it is a business explain how this is like a secret time clock that can keep track of who comes in and out and when. Ask if they would like to have a “hostage” password in the event someone is forcing them to give their password to central station. Keep talking. Get the proper order of people on the contact list and offer that they can have a “vacation” list of contacts if they choose. Explain how important it is to keep the contact list up to date when people move away or leave employment, change their telephone number or whatever. How important it is to not have central station call people who are no longer around. That it causes the central station operator to waste time trying to reach someone when a serious event occurs. Next, ask your customer to give their “OK” (full signature) at the bottom of the form. If it’s a business, ask that they provide their title. Now you have them signing something and preparing them to sign some more “paper work”
* soft introduction: Now, it is obvious that all of the above information is needed on the Contact paperwork but also, speaking about it in detail shows your attention to detail and possibly gives them assurance in your professionalism and some indication that you will do a good job. You haven’t just plopped a hand full of legal paper with a million words on it in front of the client. But equally important, in addition, you have created a soft “introduction” in the process to follow by having them “approving” the simple paperwork first, leading up to the final “agreement”
* three day notice of cancellation gets presented next. I do this whether it’s a business or residential because IT’S A PROCESS. Explain that this is for their protection in the event they change their mind about the installation. Make sure they get two copies and explain why. Have them “OK” each of the three copies with a full signature and title. Now, at this point you have had them “OK” four pieces of paper and they still have the pen in their hand. You and they are on a “roll” By the way, make sure you do not start the job within the three day cancellation period.
* Get the idea? While all this this is happening, some talk about how there is so much paper work necessary now days. You can even tell them how much you have to pay for these “damn pieces of paper” that simply say that "you are not an insurance company!" Ridiculous! Right? “After all, that is why we all have insurance policies to compensate us for losses when they occur, “Right? If they question what their insurance company has to do with it, explain what the word subrogation in their insurance policy means. Most people do not know what it means or even that it is in their insurance policy.
* Also, by saying “Right” or “Isn’t that Right?” “Wouldn’t you? “ Couldn’t you?” “Won’t you? At the end of certain of your comments get them agreeing with you. But do not overdo it. By getting them to get hands on and “OK’ing" the simpler paperwork first, gets them in the “routine” of “Ok’ing” the more serious “agreement” coming up.
* There is a “process” and “finesse” that’s needed, sprinkled with a little bit of “banter” maybe a little bit of levity does not hurt if it is appropriate. Keep talking, silence is deadly in this instance.
* Some (me included) would describe this process as “smoke and mirrors sleight of hand” or “misdirection” even “deception” although there are few in this trade who would be honest enough to give it that label and destroy the myth that it is honorable as some try to convince us. Get it in your head that you are really trying to sell them something without letting them see what they’re buying. Just keep talking while you are handing them the paperwork with just the shortest and least detailed description of each piece. “This is the Contact list”. “This is the Cancellation Notice”, “Just need your approval "here", at the bottom”, Sometimes you, holding on to the paper in front of them while asking for their “OK” adds some sense of “urging” them to “OK” the “paperwork” quicker. Holding the paper and putting your finger on the line where you want them to sign works sometime also.
* Now at this point, it is time for the coup de grace. This last piece of paper is not a “Contract” or even an “Agreement”. It is just “This is for monitoring“ Just take the form from your case, folder, etc, It should be all filled out and slide the paper over, point at the bottom of the form where they are to “OK” it and say “This is for monitoring”
* From there, you are on your own to develop whatever tactics you find appropriate depending upon the circumstances that develop and the questions that are sure to arise. Be prepared in advance by practicing various responses to the obvious questions before hand, with someone at home or the office. By the way, residential is easier than commercial.
* You will get better at reading your client (s) after a lot of practice. Some need a different approach. You WILL get better at it. And if you have any “ethics” problem with the process as I did/do, think of it this way. Insurance companies, unscrupulous or inept alarm companies, and attorneys, and not you, have created the need for these convoluted contracts. You are the good guy who is just trying to provide them with a product and service that they want/need along with peace of mind. If you stick with it long enough, you will feel less and less “slimy” selling these contracts as time passes. And remember, you are not an attorney. Do not get too deep in explaining the minute details of the agreement. “Wow, I don't know. That's all attorney speak" “They write this stuff, not me". "But this is the standard alarm agreement in the trade that everyone OK's"
* as an afterthought, I must say that this is much harder for some people to learn then actually installing alarm systems. There are some really great installers out there who go out on their own who will never learn how to do this and those are the ones who usually wind up selling out of the business or working for someone else.
name withheld [because I don’t think this was supposed to be humorous, KK]
This email is being prepared the weekend before ISC and you’ll be reading it the day after ISC. Some of you, like me, will likely have spent a long week at ISC and will be traveling home today. This seemed like the perfect article for today. Let me start by stating that I am sure that JD wrote this in all earnest and no doubt he is sharing his salesmanship which I trust has led to much success. But, the above is a sales presentation on what not to do, for the most part.
The above advice is correct in one respect [at least], you do need to learn how to “sell” your contracts. It took you a lot of time and training to learn the alarm industry, how to install and service the alarms, and most of you, unless you came from a sales background, have little experience in the sale presentation.
The sale presentation is important because you need the security and fire alarm contracts to hold up, to be enforceable when tested and when they need to be enforced. The end of a trial is the wrong time to find out your contract won’t protect you and won’t be enforced. If you use the Standard Form Agreements the issue of enforcement is not going to be the contract itself, but how it was presented and executed, and that’s on you.
There is no reason for deception in the presentation and it’s likely to backfire on you if there’s a need to rely on the contract, which is when a dispute arises. You aren’t selling snake oil or an elixir claiming to heal all illness. You are selling and providing a service, sometimes required [commercial fire] and sometimes necessary [by lease, mortgage or customer’s insurance] and sometimes just wanted for peace of mind, and sometimes just a really good idea in some places.
I should also warn you that using the Kirschenbaum Contracts™ is going to work against you if deception is your primary sales technique and tool. These Standard Form Agreements are written to be clearly understood by people with ordinary intelligence [I know some of you think that may not include most of your competitors]. It’s kind of hard to explain away all of the “disclaimers” in the contracts when so many provisions drive home the same message: “alarm company is not your insurance company and will not be liable for any loss you suffer even if it’s the alarm company’s negligence”. Most of the time when a customer says they don’t “understand” a provision what they really mean is that they don’t like it. That is especially so when they are reading a Standard Form Agreement because it’s not written in legalize and confusing wording. I like to say it “screams its message”. That, by the way, is why the contracts are enforced.
Today is the last day of the contract sale so take advantage. Sale ends tonight.
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