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Door-to-door sales — sometimes referred to as cold canvassing — is an outbound lead generation strategy in which you walk up to a cold lead's doorstep to introduce your product or service and qualify them as a prospect. B2B sellers visit leads' places of business, while B2C sales reps target residential areas. Door-to-door sales focuses on well-prepared pitches or demos, with a goal to make a sale on the spot or collect the lead's information for a follow-up conversation.
Door-to-door sales involves identifying your ideal customer, where they live or work, then knocking on their door to speak with them. Using a script and supporting materials, explain your solution and ask questions to gather insight including who the decision maker is, their interest, budget, and contact info. You may make an immediate sale to interested leads depending on your sales process, but most of the time, your goal is to schedule a discovery call or meeting to qualify them further.
Door-to-door sales has a high rejection rate, but it can be an effective lead generation strategy if done right. Reps that are successful in door-to-door sales typically represent B2C and B2B companies who prepare for and properly execute their interactions. They also effectively use the right navigation, contact forms, and CRM software. What your solution is, and how you sell it, determines if the effort door-to-door sales requires is worth it in the long run.
Getting in touch with prospects face to face requires more time, effort, and resources per prospect than most other commonly used sales methods. As a result, the scope of businesses that receive a net benefit from it is limited. Typically, door-to-door sales is right for salespeople or businesses with a concentration of valuable leads in a physical location, especially if you have a product or service that can be demonstrated.
Specifically, these are some of the best candidates for door-to-door sales:
If your business is focused on outbound lead generation and falls into one of these camps, door-to-door sales might be for you, and you should consider investing time and resources into it. If you're in an area that has a "do not knock" registry or enforces "no soliciting" signs, however, make sure you have enough houses or businesses to visit before diving in. To check this, google your city name plus "do not knock registry" and "no soliciting law."
The success of a door-to-door sales campaign is reliant on your level of preparation. You need to nail down your target demo; figure out where best to find them; and create the script, materials, and goals that will help you maximize quality. Then, once you've finished your preparation, it's important to know how to visit your leads properly. Let’s now dive into what these steps look like:
Every business needs to define its target demographic by taking the time to research and create a customer profile to visualize the customer you’re targeting. Use that profile to then define your buyer persona, by asking yourself two primary questions for door-to-door sales: Who is my ideal customer, and where are they located? The factors you consider in a door-to-door sales situation will also differ depending on whether you’re in B2B or B2C sales.
Your product or service will determine what kind of business you target, and with whom you need to meet in order to close a sale. So, take a look at your product and consider these questions when deciding if a business is in your market:
These questions will help you narrow down your target business and figure out where and when to find them. Now, there is always the chance that your target businesses aren’t located near each other or don’t have decision makers onsite, and that may mean that your use case could benefit more from cold calling, cold emailing, or another sales prospecting strategy.
Similar to B2B, your product will dictate your target audience. The questions you’ll need to ask here are a little different, and they have more to do with the type of homes you’ll visit and their location. These are some examples that may help you narrow things down:
These questions should help quite a bit when choosing between territories. Every layer of detail you add to your targeting should increase conversion; just be mindful that it can be easy to run out of ground to cover in certain industries. Don’t narrow things down so much that you sacrifice markets that may be just shy of optimal for your campaign.
Once you’ve properly narrowed down your ideal customer, it’s time to do some research to find territories to cover. Taking the following steps will help you narrow down some spots to canvass, focusing on lead quality and density:
Using this info, you can locate areas with a high concentration of your target demo in your target environment. This will maximize the number of doors available for knocking and opportunities to generate a lead or make a sale. Remember to consider lead quality and how likely the prospects are to be ready to buy instead of just going with the area with the highest number of doors.
In order to land consistent success as a door-to-door sales rep, you’ll need to make sure you have a solid script for door-to-door sales. Scripts don’t just increase your likelihood of conversion; they also maintain consistency among you and your fellow reps. You can start with a sales script template or write your own from scratch.
The key to preparing a quality script is to include an introduction, qualifying questions, a quick pitch or demo, and a call-to-action. Let's take a look at each of these elements in more detail.
The only things you need to include in your introduction are your name, the company you’re from, and why you’re canvassing. You can start off with a free offer, but there's no need to be subtle about the fact that you’re direct selling — trust us, they know. The goal is to have a quick sentence giving them the rundown so that you don’t waste their time.
Here are a few good examples of straightforward introductions:
Notice how we're spinning the door-to-door sales process as a benefit to the lead. Two of the three examples above offer some sort of free service, giving the prospect a reason to entertain the conversation. Not only that, but each service opens the door for a sale at the end.
Before diving into your pitch, ask a few questions to get the lead talking so you can qualify them as a good fit. Choose a qualification framework to follow, then prepare some questions in the script that will help you uncover this key insight into your lead. A popular sales framework is BANT, which stands for budget, authority, needs, and timeline. Below are some questions you can ask using that framework to qualify the lead on the spot:
All of these questions will guide the conversation toward your pitch. They will also help you, as the salesperson, decide the best way to deliver your pitch or demonstration. If you don't have time to ask questions about all four factors, conduct a needs assessment at minimum by asking them questions solely related to their needs. That way, you'll know whether you can help the lead; if you believe you can, you can then plan a longer discovery call to get the other questions answered.
Refer to any materials you've brought — which we'll discuss in more detail in the next step — and deliver an elevator pitch. If your pitch includes an assessment of some kind, ask if they're okay with your conducting that free service, and go ahead with it.
Pitches will vary widely depending on the use case, but here are the details they should include:
For hard-to-demo items such as insurance and retirement products, you can simply go over your materials in depth with the prospect so that you’re there to answer all of their questions. The demo plus your explanation of your product and USP will work together to explain to the potential customer what you're selling, how it works, why it's worth considering, and why they should only buy it from your company.
After you give your pitch, most leads' natural reaction will be to try to end the conversation and return to what they were doing before you arrived. Plan to respond to their objections and get them to agree to a follow-up call. To learn how to do this, read our article on objection handling, where you'll find the common causes for objections, statements you'll often hear related to those causes, and ways to overcome those objections, including a script plus tips and strategies.
Just like any other pitch, you need to end with a strong call-to-action (CTA). In your script, sum up your CTA in one sentence and include a direct offer to take down their contact information or set an appointment for them. Something like “Let’s get your name and number down here, as well as a good time for a follow-up appointment" is short, sweet, and to the point and works well.
Depending on the way you’ll demonstrate your product, you’ll need to gather some materials. You're working with limited patience, as leads can be hasty to brush you off when you’re at their home or office. So, come equipped with everything you’ll need throughout your script.
Here are some examples of what you might need:
Finally, the most important material for the door-to-door sales process is a sign-up sheet or online contact form. Setting appointments and gathering contact info are the name of the game in direct sales, so make sure you're prepared to take down any information your prospect offers. One of the best ways to record this information is through mobile CRM software so their details go directly into your system; we'll talk more about CRMs later in this article.
Depending on the size of your door-to-door sales operation, set your goal for the amount of doors you’ll knock in a given day. Go through some dry runs of your door-to-door sales process, and time the simulations you run. Once you have an average time for the process, create a goal that makes sense and gives you enough leeway to stick with leads who ask a lot of questions. You can later adjust your goal according to your real-life experiences.
It’s common that door-to-door salespeople receive a lower base salary with added commission based on their performance out in the field. Because of this, metrics like houses visited, territory covered, or lead information collected can be tracked as a way to measure success. Consider using your CRM to not only track these metrics, but to also set daily goals to hit your commission target.
Now is the time to put your preparation to work. With your ideal lead in mind, start visiting the homes and businesses in your chosen region. When leads answer the door, utilize your memorized script and the materials you've brought with you, and try to make the sale or collect each lead's contact information and plan a time to connect. If leads say they're not interested or don't answer the door, leave a pamphlet and your contact information so they can reach you if they'd like.
Remember that you’re going to deal with rejection. It's just part of the process. When leads shut their door quickly or avoid answering it at all, don’t get discouraged; keep knocking until you meet your goal. At the end of each day, debrief and then adjust for your next trip. If you start to dread knocking on doors, read our article on call reluctance, where you'll find strategies to overcome the resistance to make cold calls — apply the same tips to your door-to-door sales career.
Finally, you'll want to add the leads you targeted to your CRM software and follow up with them according to their response. If your CRM offers a mobile app, you can add them while you're speaking with them; if not, carve out some time at the end of each day to do this.
Here's how to respond to a few common scenarios:
Even if you're not able to collect basic information about each lead, such as their name, you can add them as a contact to your CRM using their address. The details you enter about them will help you plan for whenever you return to that area. Next, let's look at the info you should collect if you get a conversation going with a lead.
Door-to-door sales is all about gathering the right information. Since you're usually going in with limited intel on your leads, the goal is to get everything you need for the sales process during the meeting. You need to know who is making the decisions, what they like about your product, how to contact them, and what the best next steps are.
Whether you're in a lead's home or a business office, there’s usually one or two people who make the financial decisions. Your first goal is to figure out who this person is, which you can do by following the script above. For the most part, you don’t want to spend too much time talking with people who can’t buy the product.
Once you’re speaking with the person who makes the decisions, it’s time to figure out why they might buy your product. Your prospecting questions should have a goal to figure out what parts of your product the lead likes and whether they fit your ideal customer profile. Focus on needs or frustrations they have that your product could fix.
Now that you've verified both the decision maker and whether or not they're interested in your product or service, verify if they have the budget to actually purchase your solution. Even if they seem engaged, they might not be a monetary fit, so try and verify this before investing more time with the lead.
Aside from closing a sale right then and there, getting contact information is the focal point of your meetings. Get every point of contact you can, as successful sales campaigns often include phone calls, texts, and emails. This will help you set a follow-up appointment.
When getting a lead's contact info, you should be trying to set up a follow-up in the same breath. Always ask for a phone number and email within the context of setting up a future meeting. Asking “Can I get your phone number, email, and a good time for a follow-up appointment?” is a go-to way to get everything squared away at once.
If the lead is ready to buy, gather all necessary info for the order: payment info, delivery date and time, all key contact information, and exactly what it is that they’re ordering. Draw up an accurate receipt or invoice detailing the order details. Only leave once you and the lead are on the same page about the order and you’ve closed the sale.
Taking notes is a great way to keep this information handy for the future. Don’t hesitate to write down any other personal information you gather, as bringing these things back up can show that you’re listening and build rapport with your prospect. Feel free to take notes about the business-related information in front of the lead, but wait until you've left their home or business to jot down any personal information so it will seem more organic when you bring it up later.
Door-to-door sales is a complicated process, so there are a few different software you can use to make it easier. Consider employing a tool to help find leads, one to help gather contact information from them, and one to help organize that information. Let’s look at each in more detail.
Whether it’s Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Waze, use the same navigation app as the other door-to-door salespeople on your team. This'll make it easier to find and get to canvassing locations, and using a single app will make sure everybody works off the same estimated time frame.
If you carry a business phone, tablet, or laptop, you can use a free contact form tool to take down prospect info. These tools streamline the contact information process, and they even sync info to popular CRM software. Here are a few of the best free contact form tools to try:
CRM software is the lifeblood of sales-driven companies. You need a great CRM to properly organize, contact, and notate lead files. Consider using one of the tried-and-true veterans in the field, such as the following, all of which work on desktop and mobile:
If you only use one of the tools from the list, use a CRM. A highly successful door-to-door sales campaign, or any lead generation campaign for that matter, needs a CRM. Choosing a mobile CRM in particular can also eliminate the need for a contact form app.
After understanding the fundamentals, it's helpful to learn a few key tips to keep in mind. Check out the best practices below regarding consistency, listening skills, body language, eye contact, and even footwear for door-to-door sales:
Salespeople who focus too much on commission and not enough on getting a certain amount of hours or doors in often end up living off of each deal and coasting until they have no money left. If you want to really develop your book of business and make consistent money, work it like an hourly job. Don’t neglect your work because you feel your last paycheck was big enough.
Your leads are likely expecting a pushy salesperson, so pleasantly surprise them by asking quality prospecting questions, getting them talking, and really listening to their answers. When you make the conversation about them and show that you're a great listener, they often like you more, and their answers can inform your pitch. Reject the myth that sales reps need to talk a lot to keep the conversation going.
When you're speaking with a lead, watch their body, hands, and feet. If they're holding the door while you're pitching to them, they're likely not interested yet. If they create distance between you and them, you might be speaking too loudly or too quickly. If they seem relaxed and their body and feet are pointed toward you, you can assume you're making progress.
When you prioritize eye contact, you show respect to your lead and can connect with them on a personal level. You also communicate to them that you're an expert they can trust, and they'll be more likely to remember your pitch.
Invest in lightweight shoes with comfortable, durable soles as well as arch and ankle support. Comfort is a significant factor in successful door-to-door sales. If you wear the wrong shoes and are in pain halfway through the day, you won't perform as well with new leads, you'll be more exhausted in the evening, and you'll have trouble getting motivated to do it all again the next day.
For a full list of the best door-to-door tips from experts, check out our article on door-to-door salesperson tips, including how to optimize your strategy for great results.
Cold canvassing is a broad term that represents all sales prospecting activities that salespeople employ to contact and qualify cold leads. This includes in-person strategies like door-knocking or business networking, but can also include things like cold calling or cold emailing. For a complete list of cold canvassing strategies, check out our article on sales prospecting.
Door-to-door sales is a type of cold canvassing where salespeople choose a target area and then physically knock on doors to speak with and qualify cold leads. Conversely, cold canvassing represents all prospecting activities used to contact cold leads, including in-person and digital means. Further, cold canvassing can also represent non-sales activities like canvassing for a political candidate or nonprofit.
With this type of lead generation process laid out, now’s the time to start selling door-to-door. It’s important to keep hammering the fundamentals, ensuring that you’re coming up to every door with confidence, and adapting your approach when you notice things aren’t working. If you do all three, you’ll be in good shape when selling door-to-door and closing deals.