Here’s something you might not know about me: Before I went digital, I spent four years working as a door-to-door salesman. I sold my way through college, hitting the pavement, ringing doorbells, and poring over training manuals the size of phone books.

Now here’s the weird part: I loved it. Our team met for daily sales trainings, swapped tips, and practiced for every possible scenario with role playing. I was constantly picking up new techniques to try on my customers, learning from experience, and getting better. It was live, on the ground A/B testing, and it’s how I cut my teeth in conversion optimization.

In case door-to-sales conjures up dated images of tweed suits, vacuum cleaners, suitcases, and housewives, allow me to update your image bank. It involves confident, driven, cool-under-pressure men and women who are experts in the art of conversation and the science of psychology. Make no mistake, door-to-door sales is a high pressure game, and it’s where many successful start-ups catch a break.

Okay, But I’m Not a Door-to-Door Salesperson…

What drives digital marketing today? What are the most powerful conversion techniques at our disposal? Most of us could probably agree on something like the following:

  1. Testing and Analytics
  2. Personalization and Targeting
  3. Content Marketing
  4. Customer Engagement
  5. Cross-sell/Recommendations
  6. Responsive Experiences

Door-to-door sales offers unique lessons that apply to each of these six areas. And they’ve been tested on real humans, in person, over and over and over again. Isn’t that every CROs dream?

The Extraordinary Salesperson

A door-to-door salesperson stands face-to-face with a prospect and assesses, in the moment, any objections, obstacles, or discomforts that person may have. The salesperson then turns each negative into a positive, putting the prospect at ease, gaining their trust, and helping them find value in the product.

The extraordinary salesperson knows how to weave a personalized story for their customer, drawing them in and forming an emotional connection to the product. The extraordinary salesperson also knows how to create urgency and necessity around the sale—not by being pushy or intimidating, but by adding real value and incentive to close the deal right now.

I don’t think you should quit your desk job and become a door-to-door salesperson. I do think you can take the best techniques from the face-to-face sell and apply to them to your visitor interactions in digital. You can improve every visitor touch point by better understanding what language, behavior, signals, and incentives motivate people to buy (or subscribe, download, share, and engage).

Your First Lesson: Get in the Door

The first thing you learn in door-to-door sales is to how to get past the doormat, through the door frame, and into your customer’s comfort zone. When I worked doors, we were very intentional about how we approached people. You don’t want to turn people off by coming on too strong, but you also want to show genuine enthusiasm for your product. A good rule of thumb is to project a calm, unassuming, and positive attitude. We also learned to stand at an angle, avoiding any confrontational or aggressive body language.

Once we had put the person at ease, and they were listening, we created a reason for us to step inside. Because we were selling home security systems, we would offer to install a sensor on their door frame as a simple demonstration. At this point—because the customer is already comfortable and receptive—we would simply begin the demonstration, which required all of us to maneuver inside the door. The movement was natural and purposeful. Once we were inside, on their turf, the customer was likely to relax even more.

Every little step was designed to break down the wall between salesperson and customer as well as build trust and rapport. It takes a lot of confidence to get in the door, but that confidence will come easily if you 1) have pride and faith in your product and 2) genuinely listen to and care about your customer.

When we think about creating a Web experience for visitors, we should put ourselves in the same mindset as a salesperson standing on the doormat. The goal is to understand how people think and react, work around their potential objections, and get into their comfort zone, making it easy for them to convert.

Bringing Offline Sales Techniques Online

That was just the tip of the iceberg for optimization lessons that can be gleaned from the world of door-to-door sales. Look out for my upcoming blog posts on lessons learned from the face-to-face sell and how they apply to your digital marketing strategy. I’m excited to share the techniques and insights I gathered over four years of making daily sales calls and relate them to my current bread-and-butter: conversion rate optimization and digital personalization.


Good tips learned well.  What do you think of the possibility of selling digital door to door?