The Key to Selling Smart Locks

Nov 11 2016

Keypads, wireless technology, biometrics, networking and integration are placing more intelligence and convenience at doors. Gather sales and installation tips to pump up revenues and customer satisfaction.

By Patrick J. Bleser
The smart home, the connected home, the Internet of Things — these buzzwords have gotten a lot of play lately. But is it all hype?

Are homeowners actually taking the plunge and controlling an array of household systems with their smartphone? In a word, yes.

Most studies show slow but steady category growth in recent years, but predict an impressive growth rate over the next several years.

Mind Commerce predicts annual growth for the connected home market of 27.2% through 2021. And smart locks are and will continue to be a major component of that market.

Another forecast shows the global smart lock market growing at an average annual rate of 75.26% from 2016 to 2020. Those numbers mean opportunity for the installing residential dealer.

But to make the most of that opportunity, some dealers might need to change their perspective on smart locks and how they position them to customers.

Change of Lockset Mindset

Specifically, there are two areas where dealers might need to adjust their approach to smart locks.

First, dealers who are most successful in selling smart locks are those who no longer offer them as an a la carte item. Instead, they include them as a core component within a whole-house security system that comes with a monthly monitoring fee.

So rather than earn a one-time margin on a single product sale, these dealers build smart locks into the system as part of a security or home automation system and continue to generate income via the monthly fee.

Second, smart dealers no longer position smart locks as solely an intrusion device. While security has been the traditional rationale for installing deadbolts, more and more homeowners see a smart lock first as a convenience, and second as a security device.

Selling smart locks as nothing more than an electronic version of a mechanical deadbolt will severely limit sales.

Younger buyers especially are attracted to the idea of controlling their locks from their smartphone and integrating the locks with other smart components. They see it as yet another opportunity to abandon a relic of the mechanical age — the house key.

But there's no one-size-fits-all in smart locks. So it's important for dealers to know about the different types so they can direct homeowners to the solution that's best for them.

3 Types of Smart Locks

There are three general smart lock categories — standalone locks, interconnected locks and Bluetooth locks. And just to keep things interesting, there's overlap among these categories.

Most familiar is the keypad lock — either touchscreen or pushbutton — that's been around for many years. These can be used as standalone locks to offer a homeowner the option of using a numeric code to enter their home instead of a key.

These locks have traditionally also included a keyway, though most recently there are keypad locks available without a keyway. Homeowners like the clean appearance of the key-free locks and for installers it avoids the need to rekey.

Most current keypad locks can be upgraded with the addition of a radio module (e.g. Z-Wave, ZigBee) and integrated into an alarm or home automation system.

Specific functions vary depending on which system is installed, but possibilities include receiving a text message when a child arrives home from school and unlocks the door, audit trails so the homeowner knows who comes and goes and when, the ability to set "scenes" that trigger other devices and systems when a door is unlocked, and remotely allow maintenance or cleaning crews to enter the home.
Smart dealers no longer position smart locks as solely an intrusion device.
Bluetooth locks are a more recent development and for the most part are for those people who want a smartphone-controlled lock and nothing more — no integration with other devices. These locks open via a smartphone app when the phone is in close proximity to the lock.

Most Bluetooth locks also allow the homeowner to share digital keys with others, restrict access to certain time periods, and easily revoke access at any time. Bluetooth locks have generated a lot of interest lately, so it's important for dealers to understand what these locks can and can't do and guide homeowners in their purchase.

Homeowners need to consider how they'll operate the lock if for some reason they don't have their phone. Some Bluetooth locks offer a key override, but the user has to be sure to carry their house key or have one hidden somewhere — which tends to defeat the purpose of purchasing an electronic lock.

Others offer a keypad so all that's needed is a four-digit code. This option also allows the user to provide codes to family and friends who don't own a smartphone. And in the inverse scenario, the best smart locks have a failsafe option like a 9V battery override if the owner doesn't change the batteries when they're low.

As standalone devices, Bluetooth locks might not offer much of an opportunity for dealers, but there's another important consideration — upgradability.

Though most currently available Bluetooth door locks are standalone locks, some can be upgraded for use with home automation systems that operate using Z-Wave or ZigBee. This offers dealers an option that could be attractive to some prospects, especially younger homeowners who are very familiar with Bluetooth technology and products.

5 Sales Starters

The key to successfully selling smart locks as part of an alarm or home automation package is to present the full range of benefits, many of which could be a surprise to the homeowner.

Following are five approaches and tips:

1. Use the door locks to introduce alarm system prospects to home automation

Suggest that in addition to an alarm, they also install smart locks that integrate with the alarm. It's a quick and easy installation that delivers a clear benefit, and sets them on the path to adding additional devices and services down the road.

2. Leverage the fact that smart thermostats are a high-profile connected device

Customers who express an interest should also be shown smart locks and shown how the two can be integrated — lock the door and the thermostat is turned down.

3. For families, dealers should ask parents if they're comfortable with their children carrying keys or if they worry about the kids losing them

Dealers should note the convenience and safety of the kids using a numeric code instead of a key, the safety of automatically locking every door in the house so a toddler doesn't accidentally wander outside, and point out that systems can be set up to send parents an alert when the kids get home from school and use their code to enter the house.

4. Present the life-safety aspects of an integrated alarm/automation system

This includes smart locks in which, for example, a smoke detector detects smoke, turns off HVAC and unlocks the doors for easy exit.

5. Point out the convenience of an alarm system that includes smart locks

Leave the house, lock the door and the alarm system is armed; no panel to fuss with.

Unlocking Low-Hanging Fruit

Offering smart locks should be a no-brainer. Forecasts call for strong growth as interest in the connected home strengthens, and they represent a compelling opportunity for dealers to sell homeowners more sophisticated security and home automation systems.

Patrick J. Bleser is National Sales Manager for Yale Locks & Hardware (yalehome.com)