A door to door salesperson was just here and screwed up in 8 different ways

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Image by Aunt Owwee via Flickr

I was working on a project when I heard someone knocking at my front door; I had to run to answer it in order to catch them before they walked away.

Damn. Didn’t recognize him and he was wearing a t-shirt with a logo and holding a clipboard. That could only mean a few things… and since I didn’t see that he was a courier carrying a package with my name on it, the alternatives were not positive.

For the record, I have worked in sales (and I’ve done it all: Phone sales, door-to-door, B2B, you name it) so I’m not about to slam the door in his face. I may not like what he’s selling but I will be respectful.

But he didn’t make the sale. He was fairly good at his pitch but it didn’t work. Here’s why:

  1. He disrupted my day with his pitch. Rather than shopping on my own terms, he launched into his pitch. It felt disrespectful that he would just railroad over my time.
  2. He forgot to tell me what he was selling. He referenced his company in a way that made it seem like I should know what they did. I didn’t.
  3. He forgot to qualify me. He was selling house alarms and forgot to ask me if I had one. (Owning one may not necessarily mean that he stopped his pitch, but it should have changed it).
  4. He forgot to get agreement from me that his product was valuable. While I like house alarms, I didn’t like his: I had some privacy concerns over the two-way communication system that would connect me to the monitoring company.
  5. He asked some impertinent questions like “where do you keep your valuables?”, “what floor of your house is your master bedroom on?”, and “when are you not at home?”. These questions aren’t things I would tell someone I’ve never met. He could have been a nicely-dressed thief casing the place.
  6. He continued to ask impertinent questions. Discovering that I was married, and wanting to pitch both of us at the same time (so I couldn’t say “let me talk it over with my wife”), he asked if my wife was home (she wasn’t), where she was, and how long I thought she’d be. He was going to wait around for her!
  7. He insulted my work. In trying to build rapport, he asked me what I did for a living then observed that it sounded boring.
  8. He basically said he was screwing his customers. He “confessed” that he only worked 4 months of the year and made a boatload of money which was enough to take the rest of the year off.

I sent him on his way.

I can’t believe I’m writing this. Okay, so first, avoid door to door sales. It doesn’t respect your customer’s time. It invades the only place in life that they feel safe and in control. It feels pushy.

The problem is: You’re trying to cram your sales funnel into one meeting. Knock knock. Hello? Bam: Lead, Prospect, Customer. It doesn’t work like that. Ease them through the sales process.

If your product or service is more successfully sold through face to face sales (as some products tend to be), don’t make door to door your one single point of contact. Don’t jam your entire sales funnel into one ten minute meeting on their front step.


Create a sales funnel that, if necessary, includes door to door as one part of a larger funnel.

Start by warming up the neighborhood with information. An advertisement in a community newspaper as well as a flier distribution will help to get people thinking about what you’re selling. In your distribution, add the words “One of our service professionals will be in the neighborhood this week. If you have further questions, feel free to ask them.”

Then, send someone with a company logo on the side of a vehicle and a company logo on their clothes. In other words, brand them. Make it seem like they are in the neighborhood anyway. Give them something to give homeowners. While it could be a letter to pop in the mail, it would be more effective if you gave them an attractive package. (Think this sounds expensive? It is… but it also gets more people answering the door and more people opening your literature because people open packages). While at the door, do not sell. Do not pitch. Offer the package, thank them for their time, mention that you were in the neighborhood and only have a brief moment to drop off the information. Of course you should connect who you are with the flier or ad that earlier softened the market. And mention that there is a code inside the package that earns them a free gift.

In the package, make sure that there is a wealth of good information that not only talks about your company but also enables comparison shopping. If you want people to read your stuff in order and not get overwhelmed, put it into a booklet. Give them a website to visit or a phone number to call and a code to find out what their free gift is.

Use the website or phone number to have them set up an appointment.

Follow up your door to door with another advertisement or flier distribution that hits the key points of your pitch.

Here’s why this should work better in most door to door scenarios:

  • People feel more in control and the steps you are laying out for them are small.
  • They don’t feel that you’ve interrupted them or were disrespectful of their time
  • They don’t feel sold — you were a service person who happened to be there versus a salesperson going from one house to the next.
  • You’re empowering them to make a decision.
  • You’re enticing them with something free.
  • You’re tracking them with a code.

Does the cost scare you off? Test it in a single marketplace. Consider the time you pay a door to door salesperson for and what their door-knocks-to-sale ratio is against the cost of a market-softening flier distribution that can result in faster door knocking (less time at each door) and more closes (because the customer is in control).

If you’re doing door to door sales, stop. It’s a lot of effort for a few, resentful purchases. If you have to do door to door, make it part of a larger sales funnel effort.

Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.

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