The other day, two door-to-door salesmen, selling the same thing, knocked my door within about a minute of each other. (I don't think the second guy was paying attention to where the first guy had been.)

I hate door-to-door sales even more than telemarketing. Both are interruption marketing at their worst. At least when an ad comes on the TV, you're already watching TV. Nobody's asking you to stop whatever you're doing and give them your time.

But what makes door-to-door sales even worse is the techniques that are used:

  • "I'm trying to win a trip to Disneyland." Why is the customer supposed to care if some kid goes to Disneyland? This line works better for younger kids. When it's a teenager who looks like he's been wearing the same clothes for a week, it's useless.
  • "I'm trying to pay for college." That's a better line than Disneyland, but it's still coming from the wrong side of WIIFM ("what's in it for me"). And of course, I have no idea whether it's true or not.
  • "I'm not trying to sell anything." That's what the first guy said the other day. He just wanted to schedule a demonstration of the product. Technically, I suppose he was telling the truth. He gets paid for scheduling appointments, not making sales. But it's still a load of horse poop. The end goal of the process he's starting is a sale.
  • "Just hear me out." More backwards WIIFM. It's about the salesperson getting heard out, not what's in it for me, the consumer.
  • "You're a nice guy, huh!" (said meaning the opposite as the second guy walked away.) You interrupted me. When I said I wasn't interested, you asked me to waste more of my time listening to you talk about something I'm not interested in. And you're saying I'm not a nice guy? I wasn't going to respond to your pitch. So actually, I am being a nice guy by sending you on your way quickly instead of wasting your time by listening.

The product these guys were pitching was Kirby vacuum cleaners.

Reader Comment:
Jake Robinson said:
Acutually, about 85% of ALL salespeople are amateurs giving the small pool of professional salespeople a bad name... When I moved back from the UK to the US and had to rebuild my financial services from scratch I did "drop bys" on folks who live n...
(join the conversation below)

Last year, my wife scheduled a demo with them. A lady came over and spent what seemed like half the afternoon sucking dust out of our living room carpet. I'm pretty sure she kept going even after we told her there was no way we were going to spend $2500 on a vacuum cleaner, no matter what kind of magic it performed.

WIIFM backwards again. She was supposed to show us a specific number of loads of dust.

What made that presentation even worse was that the lady who did it was not the kind of person you want representing your company. Especially not when you're asking for $2500. How on earth she got that job is beyond me.

All advertising starts the conversation at a disadvantage because we have an inherent mistrust for advertising. Door-to-door sales and telemarketing have an even bigger hill to climb because the prospect is annoyed at the interruption.

You may be able to count on the prospect's good manners to keep them from slamming the door in your face, but your first job is to get convince them that you're doing them a favor. Only then will they stop thinking of ways to get you to leave, and start listening.

It's the same with all advertising.