For decades, door-to-door salespeople were a staple in neighborhoods across America. Then came the rise of telemarketing and email marketing, which took some of the bite out of canvassing neighborhoods. But with national do-not-call lists gaining steam, it’s possible that door-to-door sales will experience a revival.
Door-to-Door Sales Remerges
The National Do Not Call Registry is a government-sponsored program that’s supported by the FTC and makes it illegal for telemarketers and salespeople to call a phone number with a sales pitch. Anybody can register their phone number on the list and instantly be protected from spam calls and telemarketers. And while customers love it, it’s created a challenge for businesses that depend on cold calling and telemarketing for sales. In response, many companies – small and large – are returning to old practices, including door-to-door sales.
According to AT&T spokesman Bob Nersesian, the telecom giant is one company that has reintegrated door-to-door sales back into its marketing mix. SBC Communications, a New York-based organization, has done the same throughout the Midwest and is assessing the viability of implementing this approach nationwide.
In an age where customers are standoffish online – email marketing numbers are hit or miss – businesses believe that door-to-door sales could re-energize sales efforts and allow for greater personalization through face-to-face contact. However, there’s still one major stumbling block: People don’t want to be bothered.
If people are hesitant to allow telemarketers to make unsolicited phone calls, they’re also hesitant to let random salespeople show up at their front door unannounced. In residential neighborhoods, there may even be posted restrictions disallowing door-to-door sales. Some towns require permits or have other restrictions in place. This can create friction.
If door-to-door sales is to reemerge as a viable sales mechanism for businesses, it can’t be abused. It has to be treated with great care and viewed through the lens of the customer. The customer’s best interests must be accounted for. Otherwise, hostility will emerge, and this sales channel will be cut off with the same swift intensity as telemarketing.
Seizing the Opportunity
Door-to-door sales requires finesse. It’s an art form that commands a certain approach. If businesses aren’t careful to use the right techniques (and the right people), this strategy can quickly become ineffective and costly.
Here are some key principles that must be followed:
- Disarm and Reassure
Always think about the situation from the perspective of the prospect. You’re a total stranger and you’re on someone’s property. If you stand any chance of being heard out, you must quickly disarm the individual and reassure them that you’re (a) not a threat, and (b) worth listening to.
Never ring a doorbell without having a clearly identifiable badge/nametag/lanyard with your name and the company name affixed to it. The first words out of your mouth should be an explanation of who you are and what you’re doing. Don’t do anything without first explaining these key details.
- Get to “No” Faster
Door-to-door sales close ratios are always going to be low. Anything above 10 percent is considered extremely high. Some of the best salespeople will only close around 3 to 5 percent. The key is to maximize your time by getting to “no” faster.
Many people are polite and will let you talk for a while before telling you they’re disinterested and shutting the door. This is costly. If you spend a couple of extra minutes at each house, you’re wasting an hour of your day on every street. This is inefficient and expensive. Learn to read people’s eyes and don’t be afraid to cut a conversation off prematurely if you know a prospect is disengaged.
- Always Leave Something
A salesperson should never depart without leaving something behind. Even when customers seem disinterested, there’s always the chance that they’ll mull over what was said and reconsider. Supplying the customer with a brochure is a cost-effective and useful way to encourage future communication.
In some industries, product samples are an excellent and tangible way to leave something of value and give prospects a chance to try your product and determine whether they like it.
- Optimize the Pitch
Sales pitches should be tailored to the customer and continually optimized based on feedback and firsthand experience. You can’t develop a one size fits all approach and expect it to work. Instead, salespeople must be able to assess where a prospect is in the sales funnel and deliver a personalized message that reaches them where they are.
Back to the Basics
It’s unlikely that door-to-door sales will ever regain the popularity that it once enjoyed – there are simply too many convenient modes of modern communication – but don’t be surprised if it enjoys some degree of revitalization. And as businesses learn how to tackle this method within the context of modern selling restrictions, new opportunities will arise.