The Changing World of Door-to-Door Sales

The sound of someone knocking on the front door seems to be a dying one. We all see the Vivint guys walking through our neighborhoods every summer, and a simple jaunt through most college campuses towards the end of Spring semester will most likely give you a glimpse of every pest control and food storage company known to man trying to recruit the college kid motivated enough to knock on doors all summer. But is it still an effective selling method? Maybe, but not for long.

This is due to changes in the way people live including increased technology, easier forms of communication and the decreased necessity for face-to-face interaction. In fact, society as a whole seems to be becoming more and more reclusive. Many people like their private space and don’t want to be disturbed.

The implications for businesses or organizations that rely on door-to-door sales are enormous. It may be more difficult for them to generate the kind of leads they once did. But are door-to-door sales completely useless? Given the fact that other forms of customer connection are failing, door-to-door sales may still hold some value, as long as it is done properly.

Other methods have suffered

Door-to-door sales isn’t the only technique to have taken a big hit in recent years. Telemarketing has also seen an overall drop in effectiveness. This can be attributed to things such as “do not call” legislation, the national do not call list, caller I.D., and people giving up their landlines and going completely cellular. Many have also found emailing or “spamming” to be difficult because of people’s fear of viruses. These changes reflect consumers increased desire for privacy, fear of harm, and the increased importance of technology.

Why has door to door sales suffered?

A couple of years ago Forbes listed “Door-to-Door Salespeople” on a list of the 10 Top Dead or Dying Career Paths. In the article, they claim that door-to-door sales positions are expected to decline 15% by the year 2018. There are several reasons why business is seeing such a decline.

  • Scamming: When people open the door to a stranger, they are often afraid of being scammed. This isn’t necessarily unwarranted fear. Earlier this year, the AARP posted an article giving tips on how to avoid scams. The article tells the story of an elderly couple who were coerced into buying a $4,000 vacuum cleaner that, because of a dishonest contract, ended up costing $8,000. Others who are afraid of burglary or theft won’t even open their doors. The fear of scamming is a serious hurdle, even for honest salespeople.
  • Internet: People generally feel more comfortable investigating a product online, in the comfort of their own home, rather than relying on a salespersons explanation. The Internet also lacks the kind of pressure that a salesperson can put on you. The Internet has the advantage of customer reviews, comparisons, and detailed descriptions.
  • Improved retail: Many of the kinds of products that were once only sold door-to-door are now commonly found in retail stores. Like the Internet, retail shopping is much more comfortable for many people. There are simply more options now than there used to be.
  • More private society- While its difficult to offer statistics proving this point, it seems that society in general is more reclusive and private than it used to be. People don’t like being disturbed when they are at home. This may be due to the fact that because the pace of life is quickening, people consider their homes one of the few places they can relax and blow off steam. A knock on the door will many times just lead to agitation.

Can it still be effective?

Despite the declining effectiveness in door-to-door sales, it may still have a place in companies who know how to do it tactfully. The following are potential benefits of the method.

  • Personal touch: One advantage still remains with the door-to-door approach: the ability to connect with people on a personal level. The rise of Internet marketing has made it possible to reach an almost infinite amount of potential customers, but the message that these customers get is much more generalized. If a door approach is performed with respect and honesty, salespeople can address the specific needs of the individual. They can also answer questions directly, something that the Internet and other advertising techniques lack.
  • Scheduled appointments: One of the ways companies can utilize the personal approach without wasting time knocking on random doors is by integrating an appointment system. Potential customers who are interested in a product online can request an appointment to learn more about it. Many companies are transitioning to this method.

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