6 Lessons About Sales and Business I Learned From Knocking 16,000 Doors

a tradesman or sales man call on a householder to ask if she needs his services

Between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I was recruited to sell pest control contracts for a national company in Baltimore, MA.

This was a 100% commission door-to-door sales job. That summer I knocked on 16 thousand doors and sold 82 contracts. After rent and food, I ended up netting $800 (I was below average. Some guys made over $200k that summer).

However, the lessons I learned in sales and business have and will impact me for the rest of my life. I credit a lot of my success with my knife sharpening business to this experience. Door to door is not relationship selling like B2B. It’s hardcore do-or-die sales.

Here are the biggest lessons I learned:

  1. You can only make a sale if the person trusts you. 

No one cared what company I represented or about the details of our service. The only thing they cared about is if their neighbors had signed up. We constantly name-dropped their neighbors ( “I’m taking care of your neighbor Linda down the street tomorrow”). No one wants to be the first idiot to buy. You must build trust through reviews and referrals.

2. If you give them a business card, they will never call you again.

 Often people asked for a card or “literature” so they could think about it. We never gave out any cards and often refused to come back later in the day. If people want the product you can convince them on the spot to sign up and then tell them they can cancel if they decide not to go ahead. Today, when people ask for a business card for knife sharpening I text them a digital business card. This way I have their number and will text them every few days until they tell me no or book an appointment. Asking for a card is often a way for people to get out of the conversation. We called these “smokescreens.” Just tell them you don’t have a card and if they want the service they got to buy now.

3. The way you present yourself makes or breaks the sale. 

We only wore polo shirts and tried to look as clean-cut as possible. No hats, no neon shoes, short haircuts. The way you present yourself speaks highly of the work you do. Today when I sharpen, I only wear black polo shirts with my logo.

4. You can’t be afraid of pissing people off.

Some people absolutely lost their shit that I knocked on the door. Two doors later people were incredibly happy that I knocked because their house was infested with ants and I sold them on the spot. I got the cops called on me and then invited on for a beer on the same day. When people start screaming at you and insulting you, you can’t take it personally. Thank them for their time and move on to the next door.

5. People have no idea how much your services are worth so don’t be afraid to raise the price.

We were selling 1-year contracts at a value of $500-$800. As a college student, this seemed like a ton of money. When people gave me objections I often tried to drop the price to sell them. That rarely worked. People don’t buy based on price. They buy when they trust you, your service, and the company you work for.

6. It’s all a game of confidence.

The guys that sold the most on my team were not any more knowledgeable about the service or charismatic. They were saying the same script as everyone else. They were just so much more confident. It’s a common thing that when you make one sale, you’re bound to make another sale or two in the next hour just because you’re riding a high and people notice it. People can sense the passion or lack of passion you have for your product. If you don’t believe in your service, you can’t expect anyone else to do the same.

Post by Jeremiah Tiews. Follow him on Twitter at @jctiews. He also owns a business: samedaysharpening.com

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