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.