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?