(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.
Annika S says
Wow, good on you for persevering Matt!
Door-to-door sales really are tough, but you learn ALOT!
For anyone looking to try something like this as a way of learning sales – absolutely make sure you find a reputable company to sell for. There are a ton of companies out there promising easy money, and taking advantage of the sheer numbers of naiive sales wannabe’s that come through the door.
I worked for a water-cooler company for all of 2 days, door-knocking in the poorer parts of my city. They took advantage of people’s cluelessness around financing, getting clueless sales people to lock clueless customers into 24 month payment plans. I was promised a job in a call centre if I completed the “sales training”, and later found out the call center didn’t exist.
I learned a lot in 2 days though – rejection sucks as! You also get very very good at reading people, and making instant connections with them.
Thanks for sharing your story Matt – I’m glad there’s reputable sales companies out there, and there’s nothing like learning-by-doing! 🙂
Hope all is well. x
That’s true. It would be extra horrible to work for a bad company. Luckily, my sales were one-time fees and not contracts so it was a fairly simple process…I can’t imagine trying to sell vacuum cleaners 🙂
Hi Matt! Well, I have sold vacuum cleaners and made an excellent living back in the day. I sold Electrolux and it had an excellent commission package. Pure commission. One week paid training, two days with a sales trainer pitching and making the sames while explaining why he did certain things differently feom the pitch because he knew how to reat rhe potential customer, etc., then on my own. Like you—no sales for the first three hard late afternoons and evenings. Never sold anything before but wanted to do something that scared the stuffig out of me so that I could determine my stamina and abilities to face such an extroverted arena with no money to show without sales. I succeeded! I became the highest oaid salesman in the field and even turned down team leader positions and trainer positions—just to stay in the fielf where I could go up to 20-30 extremely negative front porch demeaning moments before I realized a sale. All it took, one goid sale, and the front windshield of my mind would self-clear and I would apoear to be able to do NOTHING wrong!
My next doir-to-door adventure was with Encyclopedia (World Book). Oh man—that had such a nice commission that if I sold o e an evening, I was pretty well set for that week so I was more relaxed and at one point, I was selling 3 sets an evening out of 10 cold-call knocks.
I eventually started a Bible sales doir-to-doir company, trained my crew, bought a big van and loaded em up and we would co town to town within a 100 mile radius—these fuys finally made a team after a little culling. Everyone in that 7 man crew sold at least 2 Bibles a night. I had these Bibles printed and had lots of materials included and the best materials (thick, soft leather in three colors: black, white, and a very pretty mottled light/dark gray. Bibles cost me $9.95 each. My personal sales commission per Bible sale was $39.95 and I made approx. $40 a sale which averaged $200 per workday.
Awesome story! Hard to believe encyclopedias were such a hot sale back in the day but yeah, they were expensive! I could never bring myself to selling bibles but that’s a pretty sweet gig. I guess you can print them without any problems right? All copyright free hah
Hey real quick, all that was said was good. Silence is uncomfortable but very necessary. I hat you are looking for is the true objective. This comes a few no’s deep or the smoke screens before they usually tell you the true objection. This silence is good because it will allow them to make an informed decision. This reduces buyers regret they decided on your product. Know your rebuttals and allow customers time to 🤔. If there is an objection use your rebuttals rehash if necessary and ask for the close again.
George from ICL Resource says
I went through the same experience and its funny all the lessons you learned. Like how you said tenacity (100 doors) WILL bring success. I don’t think that I would believe that from an outside perspective. But having the experience that was my #1 tool for success.
Also couldn’t agree more with bringing a terrible attitude. One of the most challenging things I’ve ever done is learn how to have a GREAT attitude after having bad results for the first part of the day. I think that learning how to keep a great attitude is one of those things I applied to my life after my time doing sales. Since it’s often looked down on, I feel like a lot of people haven’t had as many chances for those experiences of being tested. But I respect you having the courage to do it and to share with us about it too! Not something that people openly talk about a lot
Hey dude just wanted to let you know this helped me feel better. I’m on my first day knocking with a great company and product but after some rejections it started to hurt and I’m sitting on the curb reading this. I wish you all the best
That’s awesome Ryan. Thanks for letting me know. In all honesty, door-to-door certainly wasn’t my favourite thing in the world but it does teach you some valuable skills. Even on my best days, I’d make 5 sales from 100 doors. This is a GREAT day and still – 95 rejections. haha
Honestly it takes a super human to do door-to-door. Well maybe not a super human but its definitely made for a special breed. I am a first year rep at a pest control company so I sell 1 year contracts and it is difficult! This summer is coming to an end and I’m just shy of my 100 account goal for the summer… Today was an absolute dagger. I went out and did exactly what you shouldn’t do. I sat in my car and goofed around on my phone. If you want to be good at door-to-door you really don’t need to be good at sales, it’s literally being able to put in the hours. I average 1 sale every 27 doors (people I actually pitch) today I pitched 4 people. You probably guessed it, 0 sales. Statistics show only 1 out of 100 people can do this job and only 1 out of 1000 are actually successful. But its not a matter of who is good but really a matter of who is willing to do the work. For example I work with a guy who has a terribly ugly sales pitch (compared to mine he sounds robotic) but he puts in note hours then I do so of course he is going to do better. Its all about the will to keep going. Your next 3 doors might be a sale but you never know unless you keep on knocking. Sometimes I wish I could just lock my keys in my car until I’m supposed to be done knocking but that just not how it works. You must be an extremely motivated person to do this job, in fact you must be super human.
haha love it Kyle. It’s true. I mean, if you are motivated AND good at sales, you’ll obviously do better than someone motivated who is not good at sales but you definitely don’t have to be a sales god. I don’t consider myself great at sales by any stretch but I am a very motivated person, I talk well and I look presentable. This lead to me doing well and being promoted to manager. There were other guys who were awesome sales people (I really admired their ability to talk the talk) but would get so frustrated after a couple of hours or no that they would go home. By the 3rd season though, I couldn’t do it anymore. I just needed a break and found myself getting more and more frustrated and bored. But it’s a GREAT job to break out of your comfort zone and practice sales. I think it’ll help me a lot going forward with anything…. You?
By the way, if you’re calling me a super human, thank you. haha JK
I’m gonna sell VIVINT home security, but just pass out postcards where they can call and use and ID# that will give me the credit. What do you think about that? I just pass the postcard out. Please advise.
It’s hard to say. There’s all types of selling methods and the only way to really know what works is to try it out and record what happens. Is this what they tell you to do? or are you doing it as a way to avoid knocking on the door? Security systems are definitely a different sell than lawn care but for example, when I left door hangers with my info, I only made a sale for every 100 that I left. I only left them when no one was home and it was better than nothing but it definitely didn’t compare to actually speaking to them. The problem is all the flyers we normally get. Maybe there kid just throws it out. Door knocking is hard but if you speak to someone and they’re even remotely interested in security, you’ll have a better chance to sell them but overcoming objections on the spot. It would be cool to test knocking and talking VS what you’re doing and see where to go. Keep track of how many you hand out and how many actually call to buy. I know when I knocked and when I managed a sales team, I always made it a point to get THEIR phone number because almost always, they will not call you back.
Can you do door to door sales ethically though?
Well, all sales are ethical as long as you make them ethical. I’m not a presure person. I’m not aggressive at all. I just tell them what I can offer and listen to their problems. If they are semi-interested, I go over how our service can help them (in this case, get rid of their weeds, etc) and see if they say yes or not. I’m sure there are unethical people out there but I’m definitely not one of them.
Tony brasco says
How about lawn to lawn?
I hand out flyers for my biz( home service oriented) and have spoken to homeowners who are out and about their home?
I remember the weeks me and one of my team mates went to knock every single possible door from block to block, and we’ve to travel by car to these places. There’s a saying, you have to go to those places where people are generally unaware or unconcentrated of the product and services you’re going to offer. That’s where you make the most sales. Nowadays, the products in the market have been standardized because it’s not monopoly, every product has its own strengths, and weaknesses I believe the attitude of a sales person is more important in the long run. Myself is a slim person it really tests my physical strength walking far to far, as a contrast to my team mate who is muscular than me.
I learnt a lot by being a sales executive, doing tele marketing, and door to door…
unfortunately i left
You do a learn a lot but yes, it’s not a job I’d want to do for a very long time. It can be draining…
laverne haines says
what was the name of the co. back many years ago
So to be frank im a door to door salesman selling pest control and have been doing it for a year straight now through winter and all the only thing i really have to disagree with you on is the keep talking after the pitch/close as that is completely incorrect. It may have worked for you but in sales after pitch/close first person to talk loses the battle you may have found your self a little more success by staying silent at key points. Door to door sales is like verbal ju jitsu and you need to roll with the punches i work for bulwark pest control the most feared door to door sales team around in the US you can look up our founder Aaron Seever he has the record world wide for most sales in a day/year and that was over 15 years ago. I found my self doing d2d by shear luck i never wanted this job but it fell into my lap at a time i couldn’t say no and it was definitely out of my comfort zone but i took the chance and rolled with it and i still am! I couldnt ask for a better job that i love more which is weird to say but every day you learn something different and nothing is ever the same. As long as you stay persistant and keep saying to your self just one more door when you feel like you cant go on youll be surprised by the outcome. Good article over all though and i commend you for trying your hand at door to door sales.
I’ve some how grown to love door to door selling. Yes, it can be draining certain days. Ive developed a since of acceptance for rejection & I’m on my 8th year. Positivitity prevailed, along with presenting myself to look professional, & the fact that I was getting a high selling rate focusing on products in demand. Starting out as a curb address painter, wich branched out to providing other neat paint services, & address products. Last year I was eagerly expected in a nieghood, & everybody came out wanting a painting. I completed 95% of the houses on that street! I like to hit up big business’s & not only sell my services, but myself. Anything to add curbappeal on site, or indoors. Ill make it new again & now I even pitch my skills for painting large business store front signs. You can be a great salesperson, & have it greatly benefit you down the road, but building on a couple of skill is more important afterwards. Fast foward & I’m willing to start a small business & have others sell & do the work for me! I’m Trying to expand where ever I can sell. If it isn’t face to face with a client, make an automatic given sale or have it done automatically , then I do waist more time than progress. so I might get into quantity online reselling, when the time is right. Practice makes perfect, keep selling & closing for a yes.
There is something special about making a sale at a door. Just showing up uninvited, presenting a product or service, being professional, and having them say yes is pretty cool. It definitely made me more confident and willing to go up to people and ask questions. I don’t think I ever felt passionate about it like some people but for the two years I did, I did it well and enjoyed the educational experience of it all. Good job!
Emma Zhao says
Found your website through this article and I’m really enjoying it!
I had the same idea as you, why not learn sales from jumping into the most daunting form of it… *internal screaming* So I just started door knocking for a solar energy company and really enjoyed reading about your experience
Very cool! How’s it been?
I work for a solar energy company too!
Cool, how are sales there?