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As a business owner and a longtime observer of the pest control and lawn care industry I have seen dramatic changes over the years, but none more dramatic than the change brought on by the door to door pest control revival, especially here in Utah.  I know the subject is a little controversial but I think it is worth examining.

The Beginning

In the 1990’s and early 2,000’s Utah became the epicenter of a tidal wave of door to door pest control salesman.  Sales companies, capitalizing on Utah’s population of highly trained returned LDS missionaries, hired in mass and sent them across the country selling pest control door to door.  In most cases they sold for established national brands like Orkin or Terminix.

What followed was a flood of salespeople returning to Utah and with them came an abundance of new start-up pest control companies, each founded by salesmen and each focused heavily on door to door sales.  There has to be more pest control salesmen per square foot in Utah than in any other place in the world.

A new culture

There is nothing inherently wrong with door to door sales (D2D). Without a doubt it has been a successful strategy for many of these companies.  But it has changed the nature and culture of pest control service across the state of Utah and across the nation.  Many of today’s pest and lawn companies have become “Hyper Sales” organizations, where every employee is encouraged to be a salesman.  Commissions, upsells, leaderboards, and sales training are their primary focus.  They often see themselves as sales organizations first and foremost; the service becomes a secondary concern, a simple commodity to be plugged into the sales process.  Pest control today, alarm systems tomorrow.

High sales and low satisfaction

Sales of pest control in the State have never been higher and satisfaction with the pest control industry has never been lower.  The Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Protection Agency has been flooded with complaints about D2D companies.  Several companies have closed their doors only to re-open later with a new name, all in an effort to escape a bad reputation.  Some common complaints include:

Aggressive sales people

Utah’s population is very polite, and it can be hard to say “no” to a persistent salesman.  Salesmen are frequently trained to collect 3 or 4 “no’s” before they will leave.  They will often smile, flatter and joke with you until you push them away, putting you in the position of being the “bad guy” or the rude one.  The end result is some people will feel pressured into buying services they don’t really want.

Binding Contracts

Because of the way they pay their commission salespeople, most D2D companies require a signed year-long service contract.   If you don’t like the service after signing up, sorry, you are stuck with it.  Attorney’s letters and a collection agency will follow anyone who disagrees.

Up-sell overload

Many consumers complain that when the sale is completed the upselling begins.  Telephone calls, drop-by solicitations, asking for the names of friends and family members; when a company’s primary purpose is sales, often the selling never stops.

Sales culture

Sales are an important part of every business.  Without healthy sales a company won’t last long.  But a predominant sales culture, as is now common in the “new” pest control industry, fosters an attitude that is often callous and unfriendly to consumers.  If you research sales culture online you will find 100’s of friendly articles advocating for this type of business model.  They use terms like “smell the blood, go for the kill” And other predatory phrases that sum up the sales culture perfectly.

The alternative

Service culture is an alternative to sales culture and it is very different indeed.  With service culture, customer care, technical competence and craftsmanship are the primary daily focus.  Companies with a service culture employ more service managers than sales managers.  Training meetings focus on customer concerns and are not simply sales coaching sessions.   With a service culture, customer retention and a good reputation drive the business forward; they are not problem areas that need to be offset by increased sales.

Conclusion

I would never suggest that companies with highly competitive sales cultures are all bad and can’t deliver a good product.  Car dealerships, stock brokers, and real-state companies are almost all sales culture driven.  But when I have a choice, I prefer working with service culture companies, for me it usually makes for a better experience.   

Rick Stewart
Stewart’s | Lawn · Pest · Tree