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How To: Upselling Is Key Strategy

A recent assignment by home integrator If Walls Could Talk to do some basic installations for a customer quickly grew into a much larger project, highlighting the importance of offering additional products and services to customers.

Todd Bunch is president and CEO of Lexington, KY-based home integrator If Walls Could Talk. A recent assignment to do some basic installations in a customer's home quickly grew into a much larger project, highlighting the importance of offering additional products and services to customers.

A recent install in a customer's home proved that integrators can and should try to upsell even the smallest of jobs. I was reminded of this strategy when a job to install a few new phone and video outlets in a two-story addition quickly became an $8,500 installation of security, control and video distribution systems.

During the first visit to the customer's home, I knew it would be a challenge. The home was built on a splayed design, like someone split the home in the middle, grabbed the front corners and pulled the ends closer together in the front. This design created a large foyer area in the opening and meant that few of the walls are square, which made it a pretty challenging retrofit wiring.

With the client we discussed placement of the jacks and how to lay out the rooms to handle the odd space. During the conversation I mentioned that we could do more if he was interested. Explaining possible expansions and creative ways to use products is very important, as it gives the client the most options. These talks led into a longer talk about everything that we offered.

This job became a true "design build" opportunity for us. As we started to install the cabling for the addition, the client and I talked more about updating other services. What was originally a contract for five video drops and five phone drops soon became a much larger install, and included 24-inch enclosures, video and telephone distribution systems, controllable thermostats, keypads, surveillance cameras and an HMS 950e controller, all from OnQ/Legrand.

The integration also included a complete wireless security system using a Linear SXR-64a wireless receiver and T-90 wireless transmitters.

Although there may be better products on an individual basis, the system as a whole is what we are selling. I chose the parts because they all fit together seamlessly in the same enclosure, work well and look very professional.

The client had certain requests on how to interact with the system. He wanted to be able to control his home's temperature and security from the Internet or from a phone. He also required three separate temperature zones and a wireless security system. These requirements moved me from the HMS 800 to the HMS 950e board.

The HMS 950e was released a few months back. It supports eight LCD consoles, four programmable thermostats and Internet access. Sixteen security zones including fire zones, internal sounder and external sounder, and expansions are available for the base board. The board also includes eight programmable hardwired voltage outputs, built-in digital and voice dialer and three serial interfaces. The serial interfaces support RS-232, the standard for connections to most PCs or related systems, and RS-485, which can support greater wiring distances. Support for the two standards means that the board can work with HMS-Link or Pro-Link protocols for connections to PCs and other interfaces such as touch screens, voice recognition and lighting and home theater controls.

Comparably, the HMS 800 has a smaller feature set, and supports homes of up to 2,000 square feet. The home we were working on is about 5,000 square feet, so we opted for the HMS 950e. The client will not outgrow this HMS system anytime soon.

We pulled cable to every location in the entire home for video, telephone, cameras and thermostats. For the security system we ran wiring from the basement garage to the attic and installed the Linear SXR-64a wireless security receiver. This receiver works very well in retrofit environments because you do not have to run wires to each window or door you want to secure. The Linear SXR-64a can handle 64 programmable receiver channels. We used external GRI contacts on all of the windows and doors, which helped to ensure reliable function from the transmitter.

The SXR-64a board can only transmit its signal a short distance, roughly 10 to 20 feet, while our wiring to the receiver was 70 feet away. We installed dry contact relays from Altronix to send the signal to our HMS 950e board. In such an installation it's important to pull as many wires as possible at a time. In the attic we needed eight zones of security wiring, one wire for power and one wire for arm. We measured the distance, had the vendor precut the wire in 70-foot lengths and pulled all 10 wires at the same time.

A few other important tips: Test your systems before you go to the site. There is nothing like looking foolish in front of the client to ruin your day. And the more you study and the more you get your hands dirty, the easier it is to grow your business through unexpected sales.


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