(Note: This challenge was one of 100 items on “the list”, which is now complete! I have a new, much more challenging and next to impossible list of goals to complete over the next 10 years. Check it out by clicking here.)
This past summer, I took a job as a door-to-door sales rep. After getting back from South America, I went straight to work on Canadian Free Flyers and my blogs but really wanted to get out of the house and learn something new. It had been a while since I truly challenged myself and it was time to get out of my comfort zone.
One thing I’ve been wanting to get more comfortable with is sales. As an entrepreneur, it’s a pretty important skill to have. Actually, sales is a decent skill for anyone.
Most people at this stage would buy some sales books or sign up for a course. I decided to do something different. I went out and got a job in sales. Not just any sales but the most uncomfortable sales I could think of – door-to-door. I figured that by getting a job in sales, I’d learn more than I ever could from a book or a course and I’d get paid for it. win/win!
To find a job, I started some simple research on Kijiji (similar to Craigslist in the U.S.) and some other job boards and eventually emailed a lawn care company. This company had a really good track record in the city so I knew I wouldn’t be selling garbage.
After an interview, I had the job. The first two days were simple as I was just following other sales reps around, learning from them and getting paid a flat training rate. On the third day, I was on my own and made zero sales. My spirit was crushed. I knew this was going to be one of my biggest challenges ever but making no money for a whole evening and being rejected 50+ times was really painful.
Knocking on doors to sell something out of the blue was (and still is) a big challenge for me. I would sometimes sit in my car, thinking over and over about my finger ringing the doorbell and trying to sell a stranger on our service. My chest would get tight and I’d continuously try to talk myself into it. I knew I just had to get over the first 100+ doors but part of me really wanted to just stay in my car and listen to music.
On day four (my second day alone), I bought a large Red Bull and forced myself to get out there and enthusiastically knock on more doors. I knew I didn’t have the ability to be as aggressive as some of the other reps but I did have the advantage of being kindly assertive, having a friendly look and a very tenacious spirit. I ended up selling six lawn care packages that day and being top salesman. It was a $400 day. My courage was renewed and I was ready for the following months.
As the months passed, I continued to have a few zero-sale days but I also had plenty of days when I was on fire. I did much better than I thought I would and made much more money than I imagined. When I started, I was simply hoping I could make it long enough to learn some things.
But then I started making sales and it felt good. After two months, I still occasionally felt the tight chest before knocking on the first door for the evening. After all, it isn’t something I particularly enjoy. I’m not really an extravert. At the same time, I’m super proud of myself for getting into a completely foreign and challenging situation. Not only did I break through the barrier of knocking on random doors but I actually crushed it and made a lot of money.
I don’t know how much of a “sales” guy I really am but I certainly learned some things over the summer months.
What I Learned from Door-to-Door Sales
Tenacity Pays Off
One of the last guys I sold to before the season ended complimented me on my tenacity. He was one of few people who didn’t buy directly at the door but wanted me to call him back. After a second and third phone call and a second visit to his house, he made the purchase. He was really impressed. Even with little sales skills, if you keep your head up and continue to knock on door after door, you will make sales. Most people stop knocking after too many no’s or they take too many breaks. If you knock on 50-100 doors you will make a sale. Don’t give up. Be tenacious. Keep going. you will make sales.
No’s Will Become a Yes
Rejection is a hard thing to deal with but it’s a natural part of life and business. If you can’t handle rejection, you are going to get crushed very quickly. This is another benefit of door-to-door sales. The rejection is often and you need to learn how to overcome it. Some nights were really difficult on the phsyci but I always tried to tell myself the age-old advice that every single NO is just one step closer to a YES. This is 100% true. You can’t let a NO get you down. It’s just part of life. If you never ask, you will never get a yes. If you do ask, you will get a NO – but eventually, you will also get a YES.
When you’re selling someone face-to-face, appearance matters. If you look like a grungy kid or an untrustworthy person, people won’t buy from you. If they feel uncomfortable or see you as an amateur, it’s over. I have the benefit of looking like a good guy. People have even told me that at the door. They’ve told me that I look honest. Although I am an honest person, having that look helped me out. I always dressed nice and simple with khaki shorts, a company t-shirt and styled hair. I kept good posture at the door and acted confident. Never underestimate a good appearance.
If you try selling with a shitty attitude, you may as well go home. People sense this at the door. During the final few weeks, some of the younger sales reps stopped selling. They would literally make no sales for a whole week, which meant no paycheque. They would come in with a bad attitude and basically say that they weren’t going to make sales that day. Some of them would bring their personal lives to the job with them. If you start with a bad attitude or a bad mood, you’re finished. It radiates from you. People don’t want to buy from someone in a bad mood. You’re bad mood makes them feel bad. They get in a bad mood. Then they say NO. Even if you’re having a shitty day, you need to think happy thoughts and tell yourself to make sales. You need to be confident and positive. Otherwise, take the day off.
Sometimes after I’d make the sales pitch, the customer would stand there thinking. The worst thing you can do is just let everything stay silent. Usually, they are thinking of an objection to make and silence is kind of awkward. It’s good to let them talk when they want to but when it goes silent, make conversation. Remind them of the benefits. Tell them a good story of someone else who bought the product. Repeat the sales pitch or repeat the closing line. If they seem unsure, keep talking. You need to sell them on your service and remind them why they need it. All of my top sales days were when I had the “talking spirit.” I kept making conversation and kept selling the product.
Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
After a week or two, I started pre-flling out sales sheets before the shift. I always had a minimum goal of two sales so I would fill out the date, my name and the city on two sales sheets, triggering a positive effect in my mind that I was going to make two sales. This is when things took off for me. I don’t know how this stuff works but I almost never made less than two sales once I started doing this. Whatever little thing you need to do to give yourself a positive mindset, do it.
Kindness Pays Off
I’m certainly not an aggressive sales person but I do persist and I am very kind and polite with people. I didn’t think I was going to make it with this attitude but it turns out, people like it. I’m sure an aggressive nature can work as well but when I showed up at someones door with a smile and a friendly attitude, they dropped their barriers. Some of them told me that normally they would NEVER buy something at the door but because I was very kind and polite, they gave me the chance. I guess nice guys don’t finish last.
Don’t Take it Personally
This is one of the biggest challenges in sales – especially door-to-door. I got rejected right to my face hundreds of times each week. Some people were nice and some were rude. Rejection after rejection. It can really kill your spirit. Sometimes I would take it personally and get pissed off. Then I would get in a negative mood. Then I would make no sales. It became a vicious cycle. Other sales reps did the same thing. Some of them would get mad and get more aggressive, leading to aggressive customers and a really bad night. It can be tough but you need to realize that it’s just business. They aren’t rejecting you, they are rejecting the service. Sometimes they are simply having a bad day. Maybe they are having troubles at home or had five other sales reps from different companies knock on their door that same day. Sometimes they really don’t want the service and sometimes they just want to be left alone. Either way, they don’t know you. They don’t know who you are or what your values are. They aren’t rejecting you. They are just rejecting the sale. If you make it personal, you’re going to get down on yourself and the day is over. It’s not personal, it’s just business.
Do you have any experience in sales? What have you done to challenge yourself lately? Share below.
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Photo of doorbell by Darwin Bell.