Door-to-door sales can still be a lucrative position
if you know how to be a good door-to-door salesman

He dresses in his best suit, knocks on door after door commenting on cracked shingles or entryway insecurities, then casually forays into a sales pitch. Many others will fail, but he will succeed because he’s taken the time and energy to understand how to be a good door-to-door salesman.

Okay, maybe he won’t succeed all the time. But if you’re a door-to-door salesman, you know from the beginning that it’s a numbers game. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to increase the likelihood that one of the thousands of doors you knock on will translate into a new business relationship.

The skinny on door-to-door sales

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, door-to-door sales are expected to decrease by 7.5% by 2020. Yet the Direct Selling Association reports that direct sales, which includes door-to-door sales, make up for 74% of all sales, and that number has steadily increased over the last five years. The latter statistic shows that despite common belief, door-to-door sales can still be a profitable industry if you know what you’re doing.

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Ogilvy and his instruction manual

For the model on how to be a good door-to-door salesman, there is perhaps no better example than David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency. Before he became an iconic advertising mogul, Ogilvy sold AGA cookers door-to-door. He was so successful, his employer asked him to create an instruction manual outlining his techniques—a manual that is still considered to be one of the best for door-to-door sales tactics.

What did Ogilvy do differently from others? First and foremost, he viewed potential customers as intelligent, thoughtful people he needed to inform rather than convince. By becoming a product expert, he knew which buttons to push and when, as outlined in the manual.

Technical expertise aside, Ogilvy’s philosophy is what keeps his manual a timeless lesson in sales. “The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore,” he writes. Notice the ultimate problem isn’t with the product or the price, but with the pitch. So what, besides sidestepping boredom, makes a good pitch for a door-to-door salesman?

How to be a good salesman: The basics

While times have certainly changed since Ogilvy’s publication in 1935, he puts forth certain “universal rules” that might still be observed today. Always dress presentably. Mind the time of day you pay your visit. Never try to get in on false pretenses, and get to the point quickly. Handle rejection gracefully.

These may sound obvious, but like anything else, if you miss even one of the basics, the effectiveness of the pitch diminishes significantly. Door-to-door sales more than any other is about building trust with the consumer, and being inconsiderate or unkempt won’t help to do that.

How to be a good salesman: The pitch

The pitch, of course, becomes the most important part of a sale. Here is where you either capture your audience’s attention or lose it forever. Ogilvy says, “Perhaps the most important thing of all is to avoid standardization in your sales talk.” In other words, know your audience. Learn all you can about the people you’re going to pitch to before you pitch to them. That can be difficult with door-to-door sales, but there are ways.

Research the neighborhoods where you intend to sell. Observe the yards, houses, cars, etc. of the people to whom you’re trying to sell. Ask them questions about themselves before going on a tirade about all the great features of the product you’re selling. Expound on the points that will mean something to them. It’s no good trying to sell landscaping services to someone who is generally happy with their lawn; find out what they don’t like about it and sell them on that point. Use a CRM to keep track of who you talk to and what motivates them. If one product wasn’t the right fit, perhaps another will be in the future.

How to be a good salesman: The close

The close is not necessarily limited to actually closing the sale. Think of it instead as how you leave off. If you’re there for fifteen seconds and the customer is vehemently not interested, smile, don’t persist, walk away cheerfully. If you spend some time with a customer and still don’t make a sale, know when to quit and leave just as gracefully.

If you do make the sale, see if your new customer knows anyone else who might be interested in your product. Hold off on upselling right away, but make a note to follow-up at a later date with something else that might interest them. Make them feel as though they’re the ones who’ve been successful in closing the deal.

In short, be charming, respect your prospective customers, and stay organized. The first two are up to you.

lead-managerlead-manager Want to develop your sales skills with less work? Simplify your sales process now. Schedule a free demo of our lead management software and turn prospects into customers in no time!

Do you work in door-to-door sales? What sales tips have you learned that you can share with our community? Let us know in the comments!