For security dealers anxious to jump into the fire alarm industry, many see it as an opportunity to open up another revenue stream. Because the fire alarm business is promising for recurring revenue—think of the annual tests and inspections—it’s a great option if security dealers are looking to expand their business. Even when the economy hits a downturn, a good stream of fire alarm income is still possible.
But for security dealers eager to enter the fire alarm industry, they need to understand more than just the revenue component. Security dealers are always coming up to me asking what they need to know about this space, so I’ve come up with a list of the top three tips to keep in mind before making the switch to fire alarms:
- Learn about the fire alarm industry: “How much about the fire alarm industry do you actually know?” I ask security dealers looking to jump into this market. Dealers should conduct research on the field to understand the nuances and specifications of this market—particularly in their area. There are plenty of resources out there today, including training classes and seminars that will teach them about particular segments of the industry. For instance, Fire-Lite Alarms provides more than 50 hands-on courses throughout the US every year, as well as online tutorials, how-to technical videos, monthly Webinars and valuable information via fireliteblog.com. What’s more, security dealers can reach out to their local chapter of the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA), a good source of information on new codes, as is the local AHJ, who will be ensuring system compliance. Remaining up-to-date with code requirements is crucial in the fire alarm market, and training is one of the best ways to keep up with the changes.
- Aim for negotiated work in the beginning: When many people enter the fire alarm business, they immediately want to jump into larger projects. However, my best advice is to start with negotiated work; security dealers should utilize their current customer base in the beginning, instead of reaching out to the unknown for spec projects. Negotiated work has better margins, and dealers will be working with customers they’ve known for a long period of time. Security dealers can begin with the service, testing and inspection side of the fire alarm business, which will help them steadily learn more about codes and regulations. This gradually pulls them into the market, and then they can start conducting installations for their customer base.
- Get into a different frame of mind: Because security dealers are not used to code-regulated business, they need to change their selling strategy with fire alarm customers. In the security business, they can sell customers whatever they want and as much of it as they want. On the flip side, the fire alarm business has a code minimum, which mandates what a dealer can sell. As a result, there’s a different selling approach; the fire alarm business has an “educate to sell” aspect, in which dealers help customers understand the local fire marshal’s code requirements. That is completely different from what security dealers are used to—a “what do you want?” selling environment.
What else should security dealers know before entering the fire alarm business? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
About the Author
Dan Sammons is a Midwest Regional Sales Manager for Fire-Lite Alarms and Silent Knight by Honeywell. Dan has been with Honeywell for the last 19 years and in the fire protection industry for 30 years. He has NICET II certification and an Associate Degree in Fire Protection Engineering and Fire Science. He has also worked as a field technician, system designer and project manager.