There are several opinions concerning the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of setting up tentative appointments. Some companies vigorously train their sales teams to schedule appointments with every potential client, while other companies prefer their sales reps to solidify each sale before reserving an appointment. From my perspective as a door-to-door salesman, here are the pros and cons for scheduling tentative appointments:
Ultimately, each sales rep and office must determine if setting tentative appointments is an effective tactic based on weighing the pros and cons. There may even be a happy medium that could satisfy both options.
For door-to-door sales reps, every second is critical when introducing a service or product. For me, from my initial approach to the time I get a signature on the agreement, everything I say has the intended purpose of helping me to sell or solidify the sale.
Although a conversational closing question after my initial approach such as, “How long have you lived in the area?” seems casual and possibly irrelevant to some, to me the answer to this question holds extremely valuable information. Once I know how long somebody has lived in their home I can customize the benefits of my service or product based on this information.
Even succinct and relevant ice breakers can assist in getting closer to making and solidifying a sale.
Thus, time spent asking questions or talking about anything other than items that will increase your odds of making the sale are like wasted movements jump shooters use to put up their shot. The longer it takes for the ball to leave the hand, the odds of that shot being blocked increase, thus a quicker, more streamlined shot that eliminates any wasted movement has a higher probability of scoring points.
As I’ve been on the doors training sales reps I often see wasted movements in the form of questions being asked to potential customers. If a question doesn’t get you closer to making the sale or help to solidify the sale it shouldn’t be asked.
The top five most meaningless questions I hear while training sales reps are the following:
You probably noticed that all of these questions are of the Yes/No variety, and for those that have read Door-to-Door Millionaire, you understand that these types of questions are the least effective types of questions because they are typically answered in the way you hope they aren’t answered.
“No I haven’t ever thought about buying that.”
“No I haven’t seen your trucks in the area.”
“No I haven’t heard of your company before.”
Not only are these five questions ineffective because they are Yes/No questions, they also don’t get you any closer to making or solidifying the sale.
Let’s examine each question:
Question 1: If you are closing properly and assuming the sale, you don’t need to ask if they are interested in buying…you should already assume that they are.
Question 2: What does it matter if they’ve ever thought about buying what you are selling? That’s what your job is…convince them they need it!
Question 3: This isn’t a horrible question but I would suspect that most people aren’t observant enough to recognize a particular service vehicle in their neighborhood. Thus, when the potential customer answers with a “No” what has this question accomplished…absolutely nothing! An improvement would be to make an assumptive statement such as, “I’m sure you have noticed our trucks in the area as we’ve been taking care of the Larson’s and Sorensen’s…”
Question 4: Whether you are selling for a brand new start-up or the most recognizably named company in the world, this question does not get you closer to making or solidifying a sale. The reputation of a company isn’t in its name…it’s in the quality of its products or services and it’s your job to convince potential customers that your company’s products and services are superior.
Question 5: Aren’t most people interested in saving money? This should be an assumed premise and not something needing to be asked. A more effective way to make this point would be to say, “I’m sure like everybody else you would love to save a little money…” And besides, if you are confident and engaging, you shouldn’t need to ask permission to talk with anybody.
Everything you say throughout the sales process should have an intended purpose and meaning. Eliminating wasted movements by streamlining your questions and only asking those that get you closer to making and solidifying sales will prove to save you time and increase your closing ratio.
A skillful sales rep will typically start with a relevant ice breaker that immediately transitions into a brief conversation, whereas less proficient sales reps give a forced ice breaker that awkwardly leads to their initial approach. Keep in mind, I’m not supporting a 5-minute ice breaker. Effective ice breakers can take place quickly. However, I do support a genuine ice breaker that shows you have interest in the potential customer.
As I like to say, “Emphasize how to customize, humanize and personalize the experience.”
Although you have several items needing to be discussed throughout the course of a sale, don’t forget to look for opportunities to talk with people during this process. For example, while talking with a potential customer who gets interrupted by their son who is dressed for a baseball game, you should pause your sales pitch and ask a couple of questions about the boy’s team. Showing interest in others builds trust with them.
During one encounter on the doors I observed a sales rep go through the exact protocol that I’d taught him…initial approach, qualify, overcome the concern and close…it was flawless. Unfortunately, he was missing the element of the personal touch and when it came time for the customer to give her credit card information there was some hesitation. So I interjected with a simple question,
“How long have you lived in the area?”
This question spawned the makings of a great conversation. We found out where she moved from and what she did for a living. Those two extra minutes changed the entire conversation from technical to personal.
She gave us her credit card number and even admitted that she never gives her credit card information out to anybody, but apparently we weren’t just anybody. We had built a relationship and gained her trust. A simple question was all it took to turn a sales pitch into a meaningful conversation.
Look for opportunities to talk with your potential customers…don’t just try to sell them!
Last week two unrelated events took place that got me thinking about switchover etiquette in door-to-door sales. First, my wife called to let me know that a salesman knocked on our door and tried to sell her a pest control contract. She told the sales rep we already had a service to which he replied, “Who did you sign up with this year?” She explained we’ve had the same provider for several years and without hesitation the sales rep thanked her for her time and proceeded on to our next door neighbor’s house.
I appreciated, and can relate to this sales rep’s approach of moving on quickly when discovering somebody has been with the same company for an extended period of time. I’ve witnessed in the past sales reps that will slander their competitors and/or offer absurd discounts to get them to switchover. However, this sales rep graciously moved on to the next door. In fact, he didn’t even ask what company we used, he just assumed since we’d been with them for several years that our needs were being met…and he was correct.
The second event occurred while meeting with the owners of another pest control company who are competitors in the same market as my company. Our discussion included knocking strategies, area management and scope of service. We shared candid information with the hope that both companies would be able to achieve their goals by working symbiotically. In fact, we even agreed to walk away from one another’s customers in order to preserve the integrity of our relationship as well as the profitability of the pest control industry.
In contrast to this meeting, I’ve heard of situations when competing companies deliberately seek out each other’s customers and offer them absurd discounts (in some instances they even offer free services) to switchover.
So what’s the big deal? After all, it’s not personal, it’s business. I abhor this cliché and couldn’t disagree more. These predatory tactics are personal…and unfortunately when they are used, industries as a whole can suffer.
Think about it, if companies lower their cost of service (thus lowering their margins) to switchover accounts, they end up hampering their own industry. First, as prices are lowered, competitors may be forced to do the same thing which could result in margins being compromised across the board.
Second, oftentimes business owners will make up for these lost margins by cutting corners on their service. For example, in the pest control industry a company may choose to purchase cheaper products. By doing so, the quality of service decreases as does the value customers place on the service, which once again results in the industry as a whole losing value.
Another effect of lowering service costs could be to force business owners to expect more from their employees without increasing their compensation. Of course these things could result in higher employee turnover, less satisfied customers and/or less qualified personnel to do the job.
The reality is this…employers, employees and customers all lose when companies lower their service cost to switchover accounts.
So why do companies continue to do it? From my experience it oftentimes boils down to pride. Business owners want to flex their muscles and do what they can to discourage competition because they think it will make it fade away into oblivion. However, the reality is that this behavior can actually enrage competitors and force them to employ similar switchover tactics. Nobody wins when this happens.
And how much is really gained by using these predatory switchover measures? Generally, competing companies will switch over roughly the same amount of accounts and by doing so are only affecting their own bottom line which makes no business sense whatsoever. What a foolish game this is.
Companies and industries have far more to gain if competitors set and follow parameters that will enable them all to prosper. Companies and consumers all win when industry prices and margins aren’t compromised and the quality of goods and services meet the needs of their customers.
If you are knocking doors and come across somebody using your competitors service, it might be in your best interest to ask if they are satisfied and then move on to the next door if that’s the case.
Last month’s D2D Millionaire Conference was well attended by participants from all over the continent. It was enjoyable for me to have such talented and proven individuals in one room to teach and learn from. Several industries were represented all of which have and will continue to succeed as they implement the proven principles of recruiting, hiring, training and managing door-to-door sales teams.
There were several takeaways from the meeting, 3 in particular I will highlight:
#1 – Anything can be sold door to door
A well-trained, managed and dedicated sales team can be successful selling just about anything door to door. I was flattered that all participants had read (some multiple times) my book, Door-to-Door Millionaire: Secrets of Making the Sale and found that the sales principles taught were working superbly for them and their sales teams. In fact, one participant at the conference was using my sales techniques in a business to business setting and was excited to apply them in an e-commerce setting for his party supply store. Regardless the service, product or setting, the understanding and proper use of proven sales techniques is a guaranteed way to increase sales production.
#2 – Door-to-door biases can be overcome
Door-to-door salesmen don’t have the best reputations, thus it’s vital to debunk these biases by being the anti-salesman at each contact. Two of our attendees employed year-round sales teams for the HVAC industry. They mentioned that their sales reps started to notice a big change in how they were being received once they altered their approach and came across as messengers instead of salespeople as taught in Door-to-Door Millionaire. Potential customers will be much more inclined to hear you out if your approach describes how you are simply sharing information their neighbors have deemed valuable.
#3 – It’s not easy running a business
Business owners have to make important and sometimes critical decisions every day. The juggling act of pleasing clients, employees and managing expenses are just a few of these all-important decisions. The fact of the matter is that door-to-door sales have been and will continue to be a means to increase revenue with a limited amount of risk. The challenge becomes how to do it? That’s where the D2D Millionaire Conference and D2D Team come in. We teach business owners and managers how to make door-to-door sales a valuable piece of any company’s landscape.
I wish nothing but the best for those in attendance at January’s conference. I’m encouraged by their passion and desire to take their companies to the next level. If you wish to do the same, please join us for the next D2D Millionaire Conference.