While knocking doors yesterday in Minnesota I was reminded of 3 questions that I’ve heard sales reps ask repeatedly that almost always result in lost opportunity.
“Is this something you’re interested in?”
As a salesperson you should always assume the person is interested in what you are selling. Asking this question gives the potential customer an easy way out. They simply have to answer “no” and at that point your chance to recover is slim to none.
“Do you have pests?”
Suppose you are selling a house cleaning service instead of a pest control service, the question might be, “Does your house need cleaning?” Rarely will potential customers readily admit to needing the very thing you are selling. This type of yes/no question is a surefire way to lose the opportunity to make a sale.
“Have you ever thought about getting a ______ (insert service or product here)?”
It’s likely the potential customer will not answer affirmatively and if that’s the case, where does a salesperson go from there? This question essentially paints you into a corner and gives the potential customer an easy out.
These 3 questions are all of the yes/no variety and should be avoided. Nevertheless, when salespeople get nervous or lazy, the yes/no questions seem to surface ad nauseam. If you find yourself asking yes/no questions, write the question down and figure out a way to ask it in a manner that will help you find out or assume something.
For example, “Have you ever had a cleaning company perform a deep clean on your house or do you typically clean your own home?” Or, “During the summer, do you see more spiders or wasps in the eaves of your home?” Or, “How do you think a home security system would benefit your family the most?”
By mastering the art of proper questioning you give yourself the opportunity to facilitate discussions with potential customers which ultimately results in an increased opportunity to sell them the product or service you are offering.
In door-to-door sales there is an obvious distinction between putting in the physical hours and logging the mental hours along with the physical hours. In sales, the mental hours must accompany the physical hours in order to maximize success.
Before my introduction to the world of door-to-door sales, I worked in a warehouse earning a meager hourly wage. My daily routine involved pulling, packaging and shipping orders. After a short time in the warehouse I became very familiar with the location of the products and the process of packaging and shipping orders. The monotony of each day was draining and oftentimes my brain would completely shut down. Before I knew it, my shift was over and I had little recollection of what took place the previous 8 hours.
I have observed door-to-door sales reps falling into the trap of mindlessly going from door to door and hoping that somehow sales will fall in their lap. Unfortunately, these types of sales reps are often disappointed with their production…or lack thereof. Sales reps must log mental hours to be successful. What exactly does this mean? It means constantly looking for ways to improve communication with others. It’s not about improving from day to day but it literally means making improvements door to door.
Sales reps who initiate an inner dialogue while walking from door to door can find ways to improve their initial approach, how to overcome customer concerns, closing techniques and a number of other sales skills. The time it takes to walk from one door to another should ultimately be used to make improvements and ensure physical hours are accompanied by mental hours.
On July 4, 2000 I sold a career best 23 accounts in just over 12 hours! I was totally in ‘The Zone’ and it seemed like everybody I talked to wanted to sign a service agreement. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever, once described ‘The Zone’ by saying, “The basket appears to be six feet across. The nine other players on the court seem to be moving in slow motion! I know exactly what everyone’s going to do even before they know.” Getting in ‘The Zone’ doesn’t happen by luck. It takes hard work, mental focus, skill and planning…even for Michael Jordan.
The day I sold 23 accounts was incredible, but it was a few days prior to this day that made it possible for my success on the 4th of July to be realized. While selling on a full time basis I made it a habit to drive my area and develop a weekly game plan as to where and when I would knock certain streets. A few days before the 4th I happened to find the neighborhood I knocked that day by chance as I had never noticed it beforehand. It was a small, three street neighborhood that was hidden behind a strip mall and a dense row of trees. Although I worked my tail off that day, only taking two small breaks to devour a sack lunch and stock up on service agreements, my epic success was ultimately made possible because of the game plan I had going into the week.
Sales reps can waste a lot of time driving around looking for places to knock doors and unfortunately, this is often done during optimum knocking hours. Having a game plan eliminates unnecessary drive time and keeps sales reps in the best position to make sales, which is standing in front of potential customers delivering their pitch. Make it a point to develop a game plan before starting each week and increase your chances of getting in ‘The Zone.’
Selling door to door isn’t an exact science but it is a science nonetheless. There are certain techniques and skills that work better than others and guarantee a greater probability of success.
Beyond what you say, there are other factors that lead to being successful. One of these factors includes how you work at certain times of the day.
For example, knocking doors after 9:00pm might not lead to many warm responses especially if you happen to wake a sleeping child after ringing a doorbell. However, being able to extend your selling day by closing deals after dark is a vital trait of successful door-to-door salespeople.
At dusk it’s important to only knock doors of homes that show signs of life. Open front doors and/or garage doors, lit porch lights and/or house lights, all give indications that the home owners could be approached. You might even consider knocking doors a bit more softly in the evening than you otherwise would.
It’s also appropriate to acknowledge the time of day when approaching people later in the evening. When the potential customer opens the door you might say, “I know it’s getting late, but I just finished talking with the Smith family and I wanted to make sure you knew what was going on in the neighborhood tomorrow….”
In the morning and afternoon it’s important to talk with as many people as possible. Door-to-door sales is unproductive and boring if you aren’t having conversations with potential buyers. Therefore, the best types of neighborhoods to knock during the morning and afternoon are areas where there are signs of life. Car(s) in the driveway, kids playing in the yard, open front doors are all good indicators that a homeowner is home.
Whatever the time of day, as a door-to-door salesperson you only make sales if you are talking with potential customers. Make an effort to manage the various times of your day to be doing that which will give you the best opportunity to put yourself in front of potential buyers whether it’s first thing in the morning or later into the evening.
As I met up to train one of our first year sales reps he had been knocking in his self-described ‘prime-time’ area for about an hour. Unfortunately he wasn’t having a lot of success so we talked for a few minutes about what people were saying and how he could address their concerns. During the course of our conversation he mentioned that he had sold 2 accounts earlier in the day in his ‘afternoon’ knocking area. Upon hearing this I responded, “It appears that your ‘afternoon’ area is much more prime than your ‘prime-time’ area.” I asked how long it would take to drive back to his ‘afternoon’ area and explained the benefits of knocking in neighborhoods where sales have already been made. Although we were 15 minutes away, I figured it would be worth our time to drive back and continue knocking that area. Within minutes of knocking doors in this sales rep’s ‘afternoon’ area we made another sale…his 3rd of the day, a personal best.
This experience reminded me of several things:
•It’s dangerous to get in the mind-set that only certain areas should be knocked at certain times of the day. If you’ve made sales in an area, it’s best to stay there despite the time of day.
•Sales can be made in any area. Everybody wants to maximize the number of sales they make, but everybody should have the confidence that they can sell anywhere. I recommend knocking in areas out of your comfort zone at least weekly.
•When you have made sales in an area, show the service agreements (briefly) to the neighbors you are approaching. This gives you a legitimate reason to be knocking doors in an area.
•If you plan on bouncing around to different areas throughout the day, make sure the areas are within close proximity to one another. This will cut down on time spent following up with return appointments.
At the end of the day, when sales reps pigeon-hole themselves into thinking they can only be successful knocking certain neighborhoods at certain times of the day, they are limiting their potential and suffocating their growth and development as a well-rounded salesperson.