I just sat down to dinner with my family when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and greeted the stranger standing on my porch. “Yes?” I asked.
“Hello I’m with the cable company and we have a great deal for only ninety-five dollars a month you can get 120 TV channels high-speed Internet and local and long distance telephone service,” said the young man at my door in one long run-on sentence. He offered a half smile and added, “How are you today?” Huh? I thought. “No thanks.” I said and closed the door.
Like most of you, I have met salesmen at my door many times. Most selling magazines to “earn money for college,” but others selling Fuller Brushes (I’m not that old-he was selling brushes to my Mom), one selling an all purpose “miracle cleaner” (the one shiny spot on my door’s brass foot stop testifies to the product’s effectiveness.), and yet another selling vacuum cleaners (no kidding).
Although the Fuller Brush man disappeared from our porches many years ago, door to door sales people are here to stay, and not just for magazines, miracle cleaners, or vacuum cleaners. The cable television industry has used direct sales for decades as part of its marketing mix. As homes were built and cable plant extended and apartments wired, door to door sales people were sent in to make sales. The reps approached those people who had not already ordered by telephone and offered them something special to sign up. A free install or a movie channel for a month was usually all it took to make a sale (I know because I was a door to door sales rep for Viacom Cable about 20 years ago). The sales reps didn’t have to know much to be successful so the cable operators didn’t spend much money on training, sales were made and everyone was happy.
Times have changed. A lot. Now the marketplace is fiercely competitive with satellite companies and telephone companies alike battling incumbent cable operators for subscribers. Mailboxes are regularly filled with advertisements and, as a result, take rates for direct mail have plummeted. A 2 percent direct mail response rate used to be minimum expectation; now 1.5 percent is considered exceptional. Cable operators need now more than ever quality sales people at the door who can actually sell, because a good salesman at the door can do things no amount of advertising or direct mail can ever achieve. A good salesman can establish a rapport, actively uncover needs and then guide a person into making a purchasing decision.
Sales training can be expensive so, unfortunately, habits of the past have carried through to the present and few cable operators train their people to be successful. Having trainers on staff and paying mileage, meals and accommodations for sales reps to come together adds up to a lot of money, so many operators just keep doing what they’ve always done; what’s your hat size, here’s a clipboard, now go to it! Selling cable door to door isn’t rocket science, but there is a world of difference between someone poorly trained and one who has been taught a clear and effective process to follow. Here are three common mistakes that untrained sales reps regularly commit at the door that bring the conversation, and the door, to a quick close.
1. Too much information delivered too fast. A run-on burst of un-asked for information is simply annoying and does not give the prospect a reason to want to hear more…Goodbye.
2. Volunteering a price. The price of anything is a drawback to its purchase, so why on earth offer the prospect a reason to not buy what you have? Again…Goodbye.
3. Being insincere. A stranger on the porch asking, “How are you today?” is meaningless because the prospect instinctively knows the stranger asking the question doesn’t care. Insincere questions simply waste time and identify the sales rep as a slick salesman who will say anything to make a sale. So…Goodbye. Times are tough and competition for subscribers is fierce. A direct sales rep who avoids making these mistakes will start more conversations at the door and make more sales. Guaranteed.