Scene: dinner hour, family in kitchen, nice evening, front door open.

The doorbell rings and I feel obligated to answer, since the open door makes clear we’re home.  Two young men – poorly-dressed, tired-looking, apprehension-inspiring – greet me.

“Hi, we’re from ADT.  Do you want to keep your family safe?”  It’s a good angle, but a tactless approach and sketchy presentation.  They proceed to offer a free security system install with a $15/month monitoring subscription.  Despite hearing the strongest brand name in home security and despite being a former ADT customer, I politely refuse the offer and send them off.

Rightfully curious about the odd encounter, my wife implores me to get a better understanding of the situation.

After they leave my neighbor’s porch following another unsuccessful pitch, I get their attention and we chat in the street.

I ask: “Let’s say I change my mind in a couple weeks and want to have that in-home consultation you described – how might I reach you?”  The main guy offers to set that consultation up right now.  I counter: “No, I’d prefer to have a business card or similar so I can contact you at my convenience.”

Important points: there are no ADT ballcaps, no ADT knit shirts, no ADT paperwork, no business cards of any kind!   Just two guys, far from “clean cut,” with a stack of Google maps on which they circle and cross out homes as they visit clipped to a neon green clipboard that opens up and holds a couple dozen pieces of paper.

I get “Derek with ADT” and a phone number scratched out onto a torn-off piece of a Google map print out and return to my home.

Inside, I find the phone number for the local ADT business office to ask whether there’s any scheduled door-to-door sales activity in my area.

The woman who received my call confidently asserts that they “never sell door-to-door.”  I alert her to the fact that they said “ADT” about a dozen times and wrote “Derek from ADT” on the torn-off piece of paper.

“Ooooh, I know,” she says, as a familiar situation becomes more clear to her.  “They’re probably from one of our authorized dealers.  We get complaints about them ALL the time.”  She proceeds to tell me about fly-by-night scenarios in which a dealer installs a faulty system, disappears, and leaves ADT with rightfully angry customers.  “Really frustrating,” she says.  I could not believe what I was hearing.

The point: if you’re maintaining a network of authorized dealers, go ahead and authorize them!

Provide them with logo’d gear, because they’re using your name – and your name only – with your full permission and authorization!  Provide a little training and some basic guidelines.  Your company has plenty to lose by actively permitting nomadic tribes of sketchy sales people to represent you.

Use your authority to protect your brand!