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Courtney Capellan

Door-to-Door Sales Lessons for Digital Marketers

Courtney Capellan
Door-to-Door Sales Lessons for Digital Marketers

Quick question: When was the last time you purchased something from a door-to-door salesperson?

A ) Can’t remember. Over the years you’ve acquired chocolate, magazine subscriptions, knives, encyclopedias… You’re thinking, didn’t door-to-door sales go out of style a long time ago?

B ) Never. You’ll never switch cable providers or sign up for solar. In fact, you’re considering never answering a knock at the door again.

C ) Does Amazon Prime delivery count as a door-to-door sale?

It’s safe to say the average consumer is increasingly wary of door-to-door salespeople. But it would be shortsighted to undervalue a door-to-door salesperson’s strategies.

Take it from me. Before going digital, I went door-to-door selling TV, internet and phone. I was told “no” about 2,000 times in six months. Out of nearly 2,000 conversations, I was told “yes” 70 times. Statistically speaking, that’s a lot of rejection.

An important version of me was born out there – canvassing assigned territory, chasing after leads. I developed unwavering confidence in my sales pitch, unshakable faith in my product and a cunning ability to overturn objections. And if I didn’t execute, I knew to adjust.

Turns out, door-to-door sales offers important lessons for online marketers. It didn’t take long for me to realize this when I first entered the digital world of marketing.

It doesn’t matter whether you answered A, B or C. Maybe you need some fresh perspective about your work or inspiration as to how previous job experience relates to what you do today. Here’s a look at some important lessons that all digital marketers can take a cue from door-to-door salesmen.

It’s Not About the Perfect Pitch

It’s fascinating how many people will buy something without any real need or reason for it because they were charmed by the salesperson. They’ll also reject a great opportunity if they don’t trust the salesperson. But there’s a lesson here that goes deeper than being conversational.

I’d spend hours rehearsing my pitch. I memorized word for word what I was supposed to say when the door opened. I spoke nervously at first and months later I was still messing it up. On good days, I somehow managed to sign up people for the service I was peddling on their porches.

It’s not about the perfect pitch but the fact that you throw yourself into it. It is the most important lesson stays with me wherever I go.

Just knock. Show up. Work hard. Start a conversation.

Anticipation and Rejection

Even top sellers get the occasional door slammed in their face, also known as the ‘hard no.’ In sales, you learn that rejection is part of doing the math. The law of averages upholds that you must take a lot of ‘no’s’ in proportion to getting a ‘yes.’ 

It’s easy to see why email marketing has high ROI potential. Whether it’s a batch of proposals or a newsletter blast – you can witness the numbers game in action. Sending 10 outreach emails has less potential for a “yes” than sending 20 outreach emails. To scale growth, you must grow your list of prospects.

Sitting behind a computer screen doesn’t make you invisible. Nor does it eliminate rejection. It’s true that digital marketers don’t get doors slammed in their faces but unanswered emails and requests contribute to their own brand of discouragement. If you are feeling rejected from prospects – vary your approach. Ask a colleague what’s working for them and try it on for yourself.  

Understand outcomes ahead of time. In SEO, it might take months to move the needle. SEO professionals understand the time it takes for their work to generate results and are wise to communicate these trends to their clients from day one.

Being transparent about expectations eliminates potential rejection down the road when the client’s webpage isn’t climbing the SERPs. Anticipating and explaining the process also establishes trust.

Product Knowledge

Specializing in a product or service means being an expert. In addition to extensive knowledge about what they’re selling, the savvy salesperson is also able to answer questions about what their competitors are offering.  

Regardless of your role within it, the digital marketing environment involves handling many clients in many industries. It’s crucial to understand their businesses in a broader scope. This goes beyond being able to explain, ‘why it’s better than the competition.’ 

Build on your product or service with every interaction. Every correspondence email, every social media post, every ad is an opportunity to elaborate about your product or service. Let’s say a potential client is thinking about hiring someone else. Each time you follow up, reassert your initial value proposition as well as a few new details as to why you’re better and what more you can offer. Don’t leave the email for later. Defending what you’re market or accomplish should be done in a timely fashion.

Reading and Relating

People have choices. Your job is to usher them towards the best one.  Arm yourself with analogies and testimonies. Tell a story about your brand rather than just relaying the facts.  Once you build a rapport, you can offer something that rings a bell. In the door-knocking domain, this tactic is known as ‘reading and relating.’

When I sold TV and internet contracts in residential neighborhoods, I’d tell stories all the time. It took practice but eventually I could weave information about broadband internet into any story. Reminding people of their choices can be as subtle as a sentence in an email or as enticing as click-bait.  

Remarketing is a strategic component of digital advertising and a great example of how gathering intelligence about a targeted audience can be used to steer customers back to your business. The same is true for person-to-person encounters.  “I know that you’ve had bad experiences with agencies in the past. That’s exactly why hiring a freelancer is a great alternative.” The trick is to overturn skepticism by acknowledging (formerly expressed) feelings. It goes a long way.

So, what’s the takeaway? You decide:

A) Can’t remember.

B) Always answer the door.

C) Open more doors and get to work.

Courtney Capellan is a “technically creative” freelance content writer and digital analyst. She has a B.A. from the University of Washington in international studies, foreign policy and diplomacy. Her specialties include digital marketing, hospitality management and teaching yoga in San Diego, where she currently lives.

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