If you read my previous post, you already know I was a door-to-door salesperson in a former life. I spent four years hitting the pavement and developing invaluable people skills that have served me in all manner of situations. I wouldn’t trade anything for my experiences knocking from New York to Memphis to San Diego, but it wasn’t always easy.

During the first year, every day was a trial run. Sometimes 200 trial runs if you count every door I approached. I had the raw knowledge and untested technique I absorbed during training, along with a stack of manuals. It was up to me to put it all to the test, one prospect at a time.

Does this sound familiar to you? Some days at the office, performing split tests and analyzing data, feel eerily similar to my door knocking days. On those days, I remember where my conversion optimization instincts first took root. Here are a few on-the-ground lessons I can pass on to you

Get Started and Map a Route

People have been hypothesizing and testing face-to-face sales techniques for centuries. There are more theories and styles than one person could try in a lifetime. Digital marketing and optimization are no different, and with the advent of Big Data, wading through the possibilities is even more overwhelming.

They say in sales that choosing the best method boils down to two questions:

1. What works for your prospect?

2. What works for you?

To find the answers, you need to ask yourself some questions: Who makes up your target market? What are their current assumptions about your product or service? Do you need to educate prospects or simply differentiate from competition? What’s the value of what you’re selling?

Answering these questions will help you identify the sweet spot where your customers’ needs and identity overlap with your product value and business goals. And that’s just where you begin. There are still many variables to test within those boundaries, but now that you’ve significantly narrowed the field, your testing will be focused and useful.

I tackled the mountain of sales theory the only way I knew how, by isolating a few different variations in my approach and trying them again and again. I’d test the same introductions or pitches on people from all walks of life. Pretty soon I had a good sense of what worked in general and what best suited me as a unique salesperson.

Streamline the Landing Page

If the doormat is the first hurdle of door-to-door sales, the landing page is often (although certainly not always) the first hurdle to conversion. Both are where most testing will take place, simply because at this stage the customer’s behavior is least predictable. It’s in this volatile space that we try the most A/B and multivariate testing variations. We also witness the most direct results: generally visitor’s will either click-through or abandon the site at this stage.

When I approached a new door, I had multiple pitches at the ready. One or two of them would be right for the individual that opened the door, and several would be dead wrong. In my years in doorstep testing, I got consistently better results if I kept my initial pitch simple, accessible, and human. Getting straight to the point meant people were less likely to feel confused, overwhelmed, or distrustful. I learned to be brief and specific, giving prospects just enough to chew on. Once they had a taste, they were more likely to ask questions and begin engaging (i.e. click through), and that’s a salesperson’s dream.

It’s proven true in digital too. Direct, specific landing pages with limited options consistently convert better than homepages, especially when they try to cram every product line and content link into one “door frame.” Want some evidence? In nearly every test we’ve run across all Adobe landing pages, the simplest version wins. When people ask me to share my most important optimization lessons, I say two things:

  1. Keep it simple.
  2. Less is almost always more.

Reduce Clicks to Conversion

Recent data shows that there is typically a 50 percent decrease in conversion between the checkout and purchase page. That one extra step causes people to bail before converting, even when they’ve already loaded their cart.

In door-to-door sales, we wanted prospects to complete a purchase before we left their home. Statistically, even if they promised to place an order later, people were far less likely to buy the longer they waited. That extra time is enough to feel guilt about spending, talk things over with a resistant spouse, or simply get distracted. The inconvenience of completing and mailing an order form, or making a phone call, is enough to make any busy person change their mind—it’s too many clicks to conversion.

We used closing techniques to seal the deal before walking out the door. A direct close—the ideal situation—meant that after building desire and conviction we simply asked for the prospect’s order. We had pen and clipboard ready, everything prefilled, and we set the sale in motion for them by asking them to buy now.

One marketing firm found that their client was having trouble getting visitors to complete and submit an evaluation form. They decided to short-route visitors to the form by placing it directly on the landing page. In one month, form submission jumped by 100 percent, bringing quality leads.

Of course, people often need a deal or concession or feel compelled to convert then and there. This is where some testing and variation came into play. “Order now and I can give you [insert incentive here].” We had leeway to give discounts, immediate installation, free warranties, and other valuable offers—the test was determining the right offer for that person, at that time.

Real-Time Testing and Targeting

Over time, my own hard-earned data enabled me to make informed decisions on the spot, and even change my approach on a dime if needed. One look at a house, and the face that answered the door, and I knew which technique to apply. Door-to-door sales was not about scripted interactions; it was a highly complex game of continual testing and tweaking to connect with the individual and make our numbers move.

With website measuring and testing, marketers are capable of continually testing solutions and evolving their sites for optimal conversion. It’s our job to understand our visitors and define the variables without oversimplifying the data. Optimization isn’t so different from knocking—both take knowledge, creativity, and a willingness to step out and engage the visitor in real time.