Heather K Adams
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In this the age of texting, the idea of calling someone up on the phone just to chat has become nearly obsolete. Actually talking face to face? Get out of here! But wait: there's value to be had in conversation and opportunity in any in-person chat. And anyone in sales will tell you just how much good eye contact and a firm handshake still matter. Yes, getting yourself out there can be a bit scary. But when it comes to building your business, incorporating door-to-door sales into your marketing and advertising plan might just be the secret weapon you've been looking for.

When is door-to-door sales a good strategy?

You won't find a big-time ad exec incorporating door-to-door sales into her next campaign. Whom will you find out there hitting the sidewalks? The freelancer looking to get her first few sales, as well as the small biz owner out to do a little old-fashioned advertising. And, of course, the local politician doing some glad-handing with her constituents. Why? Because this technique isn't about reaching the masses. It's about reaching the individual. It's a hyper-local approach, one that connects consumer with producer with an immediacy you just can't buy doing anything else. Which is why door-to-door sales works. Just... maybe not in the way you might be thinking.

When you need to get the word out about what you do to your prospective consumer and want to know more about your potential clientele in a given area, hitting the streets is the best possible way to make that happen. This is why door-to-door sales is as much a marketing and research tool as it is a sales technique. So keep that in mind as you decide on and canvas a given area. Ask yourself, who lives here? What do they need? What can I do for them? Make answering these questions one of your goals every time you go out and start ringing doorbells.

The dos of door-to-door sales.

1. Maintain a service-oriented mindset.

The best way to approach door-to-door sales is by understanding (and believing) that you're here to inform and to help. All you want to do when you knock on that door is introduce yourself and your business, letting folks know what you're about. Because while you really do have something they need, you need to figure out how to explain that to them. So, find out what they think they need. How? By remembering to...

2. Ask good questions.

Door-to-door sales are, as noted, first about the introduction. Let folks see you, shake your hand, know who you are and what you do. The next step? Ask them if they're interested in what you do. Or, just ask them about themselves and the neighborhood. Get them chatting. And then listen. Listen much more than you speak. The art of the biz chat is to get this potential customer talking about themselves and their opinions, feelings and needs. The best way to figure out how to help someone is getting to know them a bit.

3. Offer to tell them more — but don't insist.

Once you get that conversation going, find a way to offer to tell them more about what you do, the service or product or sale you're offering and why you believe what you have can help them solve a problem or fill a need. You can offer to do this either then and there, with further conversation, or by getting their contact info. You can also give them a pamphlet or flyer with more detail (and an order form!) as well as your own contact info. But the offer should be smooth, simple and easily deflected. Forcing your point could shut down that lovely little window of opportunity you just created between the two of you. Respect that window. It can close up quickly.

The don'ts of door-to-door sales.

1. Don't go for the hard sell. 

You can't walk up to someone's door and start making demands. Unless, of course, you like the sound of slamming doors. Instead, focus on providing information, answers, how to find out more, how to get in touch and how to engage your services. Focusing on why they should become a client isn't as effective as explaining how you can help them. Demanding to know whether or not they want to buy right here, right now? Not a good plan.

2. Don't try to sell at all. 

Think of door-to-door sales like politics: it is, first and foremost, about shaking those hands and kissing those babies. It's about the meet and greet, the mingling and the chatting. So relax! While you may very well walk away with a sale, that doesn't need to be your goal. In fact, making that your goal will work against you. You're playing the long game here. The meeting is just step one. Done right, step one will lead to step two, the potential customer asking to hear more organically and with ease. The most talented salespeople can get the potential customer to ask those questions without obvious prompting so that it seems to the customer as if it was their idea. Which is truly some marketing mastery we can all learn from.

3. Don't linger!

Above all else, avoid holding someone captive on their very own front step. After all, they didn't have to answer your knock. They didn't have to return your greeting, shake your hand or take the business card you handed them. They've given you the benefit of sharing their valuable time with you. So, be kind with it. Run through your script, let them know what you feel they need to know and, if they choose not to pursue the subject further at that time, move on. Being able to close smoothly is one of your most important skills.

Sample scripts.

Walking up to a stranger's door is a really vulnerable position in which to put yourself. We get it. You don't know who's going to answer or what mood they'll be in. There's quite a bit of "we'll see what happens," and ad-libbing on the fly that you need to be able to handle. Sound stressful? It can be. Yet the only way to get comfortable with door-to-door sales is just to start to see what happens. But that doesn't mean you can't go in feeling prepared. Knowing what you want to say and how you want to say it is essential to keeping this thing running smoothly. So,here are three scripts you can steal, tweak and adapt to your own personal style.

1. For the new local biz owner.

Your door-to-door sales goal is, first and foremost, to introduce yourself to the community. You want them to have a face to connect with your business' name, and you want to become familiar with their names and faces as well. So when they do come into your new establishment, you can greet them with warm (and authentic) recognition.

"Hi! My name is Sam. I'm the owner of the new cafe about to open on 3rd Street. How are you?"

(Exchange greetings and offer to shake hands if that feels right.)

"I'm out talking to folks today to let you know about our grand opening on the first of the month. I'm really excited to offer fresh-roasted coffees and locally-made baked goods. We'll also serve a full breakfast and lunch menu. Would you like one?"

(Hand them the menu.

"Do you have any questions?"

(If yes, lovely! Chat away. If no... )

"Thank you so much for your time. Have a great day!"

2. For the local biz that's rebranding or redirecting.

Because you're canvassing for an established business that's moving in a new direction, your goal is to inform and engage. Chances are, the people you meet today will have at least a passing familiarity with your business. This means you can focus on what you'll be doing differently and how this new direction, service or product might pertain to them.

"Hi! My name is Sam. I'm with Byerly Accounting on Market Street. We're going to begin specializing in personal finance development. Are you familiar with what that entails?"

(If no, explain briefly. If yes, ask if they have a financial consultant or have ever thought of engaging one.)

"I'd love to tell you more about it and what we can do for you. Here's my card. Let me know if you'd like to set up a meeting to talk about your financial goals. Thank you so much for your time. Have a great day!"

3. For the freelancer.

Think the below looks too simple, too short and just... not enough? Think again! A sales pitch, especially when it comes to door-to-door sales, doesn't need to be lengthy to be effective. And canvassing means working your way through a given area at a fairly steady clip. You only really need to dawdle when someone actually wants to engage you in a chat — in which case, take all the time they want to give you. Otherwise, keep it moving.

"Hi! My name is Sam and I'm a freelance photographer. I specialize in family portraiture, and I'm letting folks know that I'm running a holiday special. Would you like a flyer?"

(If yes, cool! If not, say thanks and bye.)

Your door-to-door sales script outline.

Because, really, you're not reinventing the wheel here. Having a simple spiel, adapted to your own style, tone and needs, will put you at ease and let you focus on who you're speaking to.

I. Greet your new customer (always think of them in this way!), and introduce yourself.

II. Introduce the purpose of your visit.

III. Expand on that purpose.

IV. Ask a question.

V. Make an offer.

VI. Thank them for their time.

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