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The Life Of A Door-To-Door Sales Person

by Johnny Bravo · 11 comments

The Life Of A Door-To-Door Sales PersonThere are many types of prospecting available to a sales person. Cold calling, inbound marketing, email prospecting, sales networking, referrals, etc. All of which have varying degrees of success.

And there is one that can have great results, if you’re brave enough for it. But you’re probably not going to like it because it requires you to be right in the line of fire.

Think you’re up to the challenge?

I think so too. After all you’re here to learn about sales right.

The Challenge, Should You Choose To Accept It

Door-to-Door sales…a prospecting method that comes from the ages of vacuums and snake oil. Probably the most despised type of prospecting for prospects and sales professionals alike.

Not for the sales pro! I, and other sales pros, very much enjoy hitting the streets and knocking on B2B doors. I won’t lie, I’ve never done this B2C which is quite a bit different. So for this post we’ll strictly be talking about B2B sales.

Because of my experience, I have the highest respect for anyone who will walk into my office and start their pitch. More often then not I let them do their thing. Because I know it’s not easy to walk into a business and try to sell your wares.

Rarely is it something I’m interested in at the time. But hey I can spare a couple of minutes for them. If for no other reason than to learn how to prospect better from someone giving me a free lesson.

I remember when I was foot prospecting aka door-to-door selling aka pavement pounding selling copiers and document management services. It was like a game to me.

I’m serious. At the time my territory included Beverly Hills and the nearby neighborhoods. There are plenty of high rises to walk through and door knock on. I’d find a building I hadn’t hit yet, take the elevator to the very top, and go at it. 

Walking door to door, explaining why I’m there and why they shouldn’t call building security on me. 🙂

Would it surprise you to know that the easiest and most effective way to do that was to be honest? Yep it’s true.

Here are a few more tips to help you in your foot prospecting.

How To Get In

In Los Angeles, property management companies take their building security pretty seriously. There are often guards at the entrance to most high rise buildings. If you don’t know what you’re doing, getting past them can be tricky.

I’m sure there is a sales person every day trying to get in to prospect. So to get past building security you have to be smart.

The easiest way I found to get past them is to have a solid understanding of why I’m there. More specifically when I walked into a building I could answer three simple questions. A company in the building, their suite number, and the contact person I was there to meet.

Property Management SecurityThe conversation often went like this:

Security: Can I help you with something sir. 

Me: Not sure, I’m here to meet Sarah at ACME Corp. Suite 440 I believe. Do I have that right (reach to check my phone). 

Security: Yes, take the elevator to the 4th floor and it’s on your right.

Me: Thanks, I appreciate it. Have a great day. 

I have had many conversations exactly like that. Are they always like that? Heck no! But a majority definitely are.

They’ll even call up sometimes and say “Johnny Bravo to see Sarah”. And they still let me up.

…you know why? Because the receptionist doesn’t know everyone’s calender. They don’t keep a list that shows everyone’s meetings for the day.

They are very busy people and have much better things to do.

One thing to keep in mind, with Microsoft Outlook they do have access to this information. They just don’t often look at it before inviting people up.

If you do get stopped it’s often simply to sign in. I never worry about this. Unless you are being a menace (which you NEVER should be) there’s no reason for them to ever know you have visited once or multiple times.

By the way, if you’re already subscribed to my sales tips newsletter then you may have already seen my email about the essential accessories for a B2B Sales Pro. If not be sure to check it out so that you have an even greater chance of getting in to see your prospects. 

Making Your Way Down

Foot prospecting is a little different than cold calling. You are almost always going to walk in to be greeted by a receptionist. Unless it is an empty office, there isn’t much chance of calling (or walking in) directly to your target contact.

This is where I do something that most sales people would never dream of doing. I tell them I am a sales person.

I don’t do what an amateur sales person would do which is say “I’m here to speak with Mr. CEO because I have an amazing opportunity for him“. That sets off an alarm in their mind that screams SALES PERSON!

I do the exact opposite and beat them to the punch. Instead I say something like “Hi, my name’s Johnny Bravo. I’m gonna be honest with you. I’m a sales guy. I was visiting ABC Company and thought I’d stop by to see how you guys are doing.”

I want to point out a couple of things here.

Foot Prospecting TipsFirst is I was honest with them. I built trust and took away the opportunity for them to be annoyed with me for trying to be anything but a sales person.

Second I told them I was there visiting ABC Company. The ABC Company can be any other company in that building. This is true because you likely walked into that company too. So you were visiting them. You’re only lying if you say that to the first company you walk into.

Third, I didn’t tell them what I sell. That is key.

The reason is because I want them to ask. If they ask it makes them interested.

I already told them I’m a sales guy. So natural human instinct is to wonder what I sell. Then, when they ask, I have a unique response ready to go.

“Well I doubt it’s something that you guys even need. It’s usually only the companies that need help with [value statement] who work with us. Now that I think about it I’m not even sure who would make a decision about [my product]. How is that handled here?”

Again, my response is crafted to evoke a certain response from the receptionist.

First I told them that they probably wouldn’t be interested. This again builds curiosity.

Next I mention a value statement. Something I might use right now is, “that need to cut their costs on property management software by 30%

And the last thing I do is ask a question. I ask for help.

When I walk in I may not know who the decision maker is so I give the receptionist a chance to showcase their knowledge by telling me. Because more often then not, they know exactly who handles something like that. Let them use that knowledge to help you.

This is especially important because often the CEO is in a meeting or otherwise “unavailable”. That’s OK. You can leave your business card for them if you want. Be sure to leave a note on the back with something simple like, “sorry I missed you, I’ll respond tomorrow between 2-3pm when I call.

A quick recommendation…do not leave marketing material. They’ll likely end up in the round fold…trash can.

Marketing material is only handed out if you get to sit down and talk with a prospect. Do not leave them to be handed off by the receptionist.

If the receptionist doesn’t do it, the CEO will likely throw them away.

You’ll be wasting paper and your companies money.

Fun On The Streets

I love visiting prospects in person. Like cold calling I often turn it into a game. How many can I hit in a single day? How many in a building can I hit before security escorts me out?

I wont lie, there are days when foot prospecting can be hard. If I’m “not in the mood” even I can be worn down by rejection. So to overcome that I try to make it fun. I set goals and challenge myself to reach them.

What other tips do you have for foot prospecting? Let me know in the comments below.

~Johnny Bravo

Image courtesy of chanpipat & stockimages & podpad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean March 12, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Thanks for this article. Really hit the nail on the head for me and hopefully will help open a lot of doors in the near future (literally). Also, my GF and future wife is a UCLA alum, so go Bruins.

Reply

Johnny Bravo March 13, 2015 at 8:43 am

Sean, I’m glad it will help you out! And always happy to meet a fellow Bruin. Congrats to you and your GF.

Reply

Dan June 15, 2015 at 7:34 am

Thanks,
I enjoyed this article. I am an accounting major at Eastern Connecticut State University in an internship. I am supposed to be providing bookkeeping services, but my company has no bookkeeping customers, so I am going out to drum up business to make myself a successful internship. My company has budgeted $25,000 in revenue from this bookkeeping service, so I have a goal! Have done sales as a Navy recruiter, but this is different.

Reply

Johnny Bravo June 18, 2015 at 11:02 am

Hi Dan, thanks for sharing. Yes foot prospecting is quite a bit different then retail sales. But I’m sure you’ll do great! Good luck!

Reply

Nannette July 26, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Hi Johnny,
Thank you for sharing your helpful tips. I was searching for a way to make my prospecting more fun.
I am a financial advisor specializing in tax-advantaged retirement income.

I especially like your verbiage that makes them ask what I do, and just coming out and saying that I’m a saleswoman.

Just this month I started a marketing operation where I walk into businesses offering a pension plan review. I found that I have been getting the interest of the employees, which is actually fine with me. What I have beats most retirement plans out there.

Fortunately in Las Vegas I have not yet run across having to get by a security guard. I HAVE run across something more insidious: not being in the right mindset, say after a rejection. That’s a show-stopper for me.
You know, an app that helps sales people get over rejection and onto their next call would be awesome.

Thanks again for some fresh ideas for the coming week!
Nannette

Reply

Edwin August 31, 2015 at 9:45 am

Hello, Thank you for this article! I have a question. How do you normally dress when you’re doing door to door cold calling? I’m in Miami and I hear different things. Some people tell me to wear a suit some other people tell me just to go casual. What do you suggest?
Thank you!

Reply

Johnny Bravo September 14, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Hi Edwin, it really depends on where I’m prospecting. If it was a large office building, I’d likely wear a suit but no tie. If it was mom and pop, single locations, then slacks and a dress shirt. At a minimum you would want to go business casual (as opposed to causal) but that really depends on the type of companies you’re prospecting as well as the standard of your area. I’m in Los Angeles and it is completely fine to be in a dress shirt or otherwise not wear a tie.

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