Having trained more than 1,000 sales representatives in the security industry, author Gail Kasper has seen many of them face the same challenges. In this article, Kasper depicts â€“ in a first-person style â€“ some of the challenges a new salesperson faces; more than 10 proven tools and techniques that will lead a new sales representative to success; and some of the common mistakes new salespeople make as they enter the security field.
John is a new residential sales representative who has just completed his third week on the job. His prior sales experience includes retail and some door-to-door cold calling. John has spent the past three weeks learning his companyâ€™s paperwork system, becoming familiar with the equipment and how to design a security system, and observing installations and service calls. Now in his fourth week, he has tried door knocking with little success.
GAIL: So, John, I understand youâ€™ve been in the business a little over three weeks. Howâ€™s it going?
GAIL: What are you doing to build your business?
JOHN: Mostly door knocking. Iâ€™m talking to police departments about recent burglaries in the area and then door knocking those areas.
GAIL: What are you finding?
JOHN: Well, not many people are home and when they are they donâ€™t want to talk to me.
GAIL: First, let me tell you that you are approaching door knocking on a good track by focusing on burglarized areas. Random door knocking of different areas can work, but when you have specific direction, it adds to the credibility of your visit to that area. What exactly are you telling them when they open the door?
JOHN: I am telling them that their neighbor had a break-in, and I ask if they would be interested in a security system for their home.
GAIL: On a side note, do you mention the neighborâ€™s name?
GAIL: The first thing I will tell you â€“ DONâ€™T. How would you feel if you were the neighbor who was burglarized and someone was walking through your neighborhood passing the word? They are already feeling violated. Remember, you are there for honest reasons â€“ to protect people. Instead, tell them, â€œThere has been a recent burglary in your neighborhood and Iâ€™m scheduling appointments with some of your neighbors to conduct a free security evaluation of their home. Is this a good time to talk or should we schedule an appointment for later?â€
JOHN: Is it OK to go for the appointment now; shouldnâ€™t I just give them the information and tell them to call me if theyâ€™re interested?
GAIL: No way. This is a common mistake I see sales representatives make in the field. Sales representatives hope they will get a phone call. Most often, it doesnâ€™t happen. There are three types of individuals you will run into out in the field. One is the person where the timing is perfect. They are ready, willing, and able to buy, and arenâ€™t you lucky you walked up to their doorstep. The other extreme is the person who slams the door in your face and wants nothing to do with you. You are trying to reach the person in the middle. This is the person who is hesitant, but knows they need to do something. If you ask for the appointment, they will give it to you. But if you donâ€™t ask for the appointment, they will let you walk away.
JOHN: Thatâ€™s a good point.
GAIL: Weâ€™re pretty lucky to be in a business where people need our services. Most often in sales, you have to demonstrate that need, but everyone has learned how important it is to have security. So if youâ€™re in the field, itâ€™s your job to go for an appointment.
JOHN: What should I bring with me for door knocking?
GAIL: Professionalism is key. Make certain you have a business card and your company identification badge. As soon as someone opens their door, your identification badge should be evident. Weâ€™re about protecting people, so you must represent safety.
JOHN: What else?
GAIL: Look like an advertisement for your company.
JOHN: What do you mean?
GAIL: Wear company clothing like shirts or hats, and if you donâ€™t have any, get some. Carry a clipboard that has one of your stickers visible on it and a yard sign. This, again, adds to your credibility and reduces resistance with the customer. You also might want to offer some type of equipment special, like a free smoke detector or a free key fob. It can open the door. And one more thingâ€¦
JOHN: Whatâ€™s that?
GAIL: Remember to smile. Door knocking can be very stressful and we tend to think more about what we have to say or about getting the door slammed in our face than dealing with the customer. As much as you feel this interaction is about you, itâ€™s really about them. So forget about yourself and â€œseeâ€ the person you are talking to. Be warm, friendly, and polite.
JOHN: I think Iâ€™m guilty of some of those things.
GAIL: â€¦and maintain a positive attitude. Remember door knocking isnâ€™t easy and the less you believe in it, the less it will work. If your attitude isnâ€™t on track, then donâ€™t expect the person who answers the door to have their attitude on track. Not knowing who you are or what you want, they are already in a position to be resistant. So be resilient and positive.
GAIL: Door knocking is a great prospecting activity when you are just getting started in the business â€“ it builds confidence and your sales skills. Where else do you door knock other than neighborhoods that have been burglarized?
JOHN: Really, anywhere.
GAIL: Letâ€™s talk about working smart. Door knocking areas that have been burglarized is â€œworking smartâ€ because the need is there, but as I mentioned earlier, picking random areas can be tougher. Narrow your targets by door knocking an area where you have recently installed a system or just completed an appointment.
JOHN: How is that different?
GAIL: You have an honest reason for being there. It adds credibility to your activity. Now when you knock on a door, you can say, â€œIâ€™ve just met with one of your neighbors. They are interested in a security system and Iâ€™d like to provide you with a free evaluation of your home. Is this a good time to talk or should we schedule a time for later?â€ or â€œIâ€™ve just met with one of your neighbors and was able to provide them with a special offer. I would like to share that same offer with you. It will only take a few minutesâ€¦â€
JOHN: I like that.
GAIL: People like to hear that others have taken an interest. This makes them feel good about taking an interest, too.
JOHN: I understand.
GAIL: You also mentioned that you are door knocking â€œall the time.â€
JOHN: Yes, pretty much all day and a little into the evening.
GAIL: â€¦and you said that itâ€™s not working for you.
JOHN: No. Nobodyâ€™s home, so I leave a flyer behind.
GAIL: Letâ€™s make a positive choice. If something isnâ€™t working, letâ€™s reevaluate. Often, itâ€™s not the activity; itâ€™s how weâ€™re approaching the activity.
JOHN: So what should I do?
GAIL: The best time to door knock is at night or Saturday mornings before noon. People are at home. If you have spent all of your time getting to a specific location and you plan to spend a few hours door knocking, then make it productive time and door knock at night. The only exception to this rule would be to door knock at an installation or before or after an appointment. Otherwise, use your time effectively.
JOHN: That sounds great, but what do I do with the rest of my day?
JOHN: What do you mean?
GAIL: The key to successful sales is performing a variety of activities. First, multiple activities will get your name out there and open doors that lead to referrals, but it will also provide you with a productive feeling at the end of the day. That stimulus keeps you going.
JOHN: I need that right now.
GAIL: Are you involved with any networking groups like LeTip or BNI (Business Network International)?
JOHN: Should I be?
GAIL: Definitely. Alliances are our long-term key to success. Remember when I said earlier that door knocking is a great activity when you are first getting started? You are out there working for your business. Ultimately we want to reach a point where we get our business working for us and thatâ€™s where alliances come into play.
JOHN: So how do I get them?
GAIL: The best alliances come from people you know or people that have the same goals as you do. In other words, you may know a realtor or insurance agent and because they know you, they are more likely to help you and send you business. Now, a networking group opens the door to get to know new people. These people are just as anxious as you to build their business, and the beauty of it is that they represent businesses that have the customers who could utilize your services â€“ real estate agents, insurance agents, carpet companies, home inspectors, mortgage brokers, accountantsâ€¦the list goes on and on.
JOHN: I have been thinking about alliances but I didnâ€™t know how to approach them. So what do I do?
GAIL: The Internet is probably your best resource for a BNI or LeTip group. There are many chapters, so find the one closest to you.
JOHN: Will it cost anything?
GAIL: The average is about a dollar a day.
JOHN: What do I do when I get there?
GAIL: Smile, introduce yourself, and say, â€œHow can we help each other make more money?â€ But, John, there is one important factor to remember when joining a networking group.
JOHN: Whatâ€™s that?
GAIL: You have to go consistently. A common problem I see with some sales representatives that did not find success from a networking group is that they only showed up once a month, or went twice and then stopped for three months. You must be consistent. Every week, you must be there. When you are there every week, you also become a friendly face, so now these other sales representatives feel even more comfortable working with you.
JOHN: I am definitely willing to be there every week. Is there anything else I should know?
GAIL: Yes. Keep an open mind. This will also open the door to new opportunities â€“ other networking meetings. People who network with you are networking with others. So keep your ears open to whatâ€™s happening and where they are headed when they are not meeting with you.
JOHN: I didnâ€™t even think of that. Are there any other groups that I should become involved with?
GAIL: A Home Builders Association. That would put you in a position to be around builders and build a relationship with them. People buy from people they know and like. Some of these builders already have security companies that they are working with. But it is always a good idea to have multiple vendors. Have you worked with builders in the past?
JOHN: No, not really. If I do set up a meeting, I do have a friend that works with builders quite a bit and Iâ€™m sure he would go to the meeting with me.
GAIL: It would be better if they took a morning and joined you on the road. Builders have very busy schedules and on a momentâ€™s notice, you may get a chance to speak with them. If you do, you want to be ready to ask them about the project. Get all the information you need so that you can put a proposal together. You donâ€™t want to have a wasted trip or a wasted moment.
JOHN: What else?
GAIL: Be patient. Builders are down-to-earth people and operate, as most of us do, off of relationships. Hard-core sales and pushiness wonâ€™t work. Be present and be in the moment when you are talking to them, which means ask questions and listen.
JOHN: Good point.
GAIL: Letâ€™s talk about existing customers. Are you maximizing that opportunity?
JOHN: Yes, but Iâ€™m really not getting anywhere. As a matter of fact, two of our existing customers were not very happy with me because they felt I was there to sell rather than deliver customer service. One actually called my boss to tell him how unhappy they were.
GAIL: Well, then I have to ask you, what was your approach? If people perceive that you are there to â€œsell,â€ there is probably some truth to it.
JOHN: I called and told them that I needed to schedule an appointment with them to check on their system. When I got there, I went in and asked them how the system was working for them and looked at their panel. Before I left, I asked if they knew anybody who might need a security system.
GAIL: OK, youâ€™ve got the pieces in place. Letâ€™s take a closer look. If you are telling them you want to â€œcheck on the system and make sure everything is OK,â€ then thatâ€™s your first priority. Honesty is everything and people can tell right away if you have an ulterior motive. Now, there isnâ€™t anything wrong with asking for referrals at the end of the call, but the entire beginning of the call must be about them. You must demonstrate real concern for the customer so that the level of rapport is at its strongest.
Prospecting TipsProspecting Tip 1:
Random door knocking of different areas can work, but when you have specific direction, such as targeting a burglarized area or a neighborhood in which your company is installing a system, it adds to the credibility of your visit.
Prospecting Tip 2:
Donâ€™t mention the name of the family that was burglarized to others in the neighborhood. Instead, say, â€˜There has been a recent burglary in your neighborhood and Iâ€™m scheduling appointments with some of your neighbors to conduct a free security evaluation of their home.â€™
Prospecting Tip 3:
If youâ€™re in the field, itâ€™s your job to ask for an appointment. If you donâ€™t ask for the appointment, they will let you walk away.
Prospecting Tip 4:
Professionalism is key. Make certain you have a business card and your company identification badge, which should be evident as soon as someone opens their door.
Prospecting Tip 5:
Look like an advertisement for your company. Wear company clothing, carry a clipboard with a company sticker visible on it and a yard sign. You also might want to offer some type of equipment special, like a free smoke detector or a free key fob.
Prospecting Tip 6:
Be resilient and positive. Remember to smile. Door knocking can be very stressful, so forget about yourself and â€˜seeâ€™ the person you are talking to. Be warm, friendly, and polite.
Prospecting Tip 7:
The best time to door knock is at night or Saturday mornings before noon. People are at home. The only exception would be to door knock at an installation or before or after an appointment.
Prospecting Tip 8:
A networking group opens the door to get to know new people who are just as anxious as you to build their business. The Internet is probably your best resource for a BNI or LeTip group with a chapter closest to you.
Prospecting Tip 9:
Join a Home Builders Association. That would put you in a position to be around builders and build a relationship with them. People buy from people they know and like.
Prospecting Tip 10:
There isnâ€™t anything wrong with asking for referrals at the end of calling on an existing customer,
but the entire beginning of the call must be about them. How is your system working? Have you made any additions to your home? Have you gotten any pets? You must demonstrate real concern for the customer so that the level of rapport is at its strongest.
4 Keys to Successful ProspectingSuccessfully building your residential business through prospecting revolves around four factors:
Work Smart: When door knocking, focus on specific areas and functions. Target areas that have had break-ins or areas where you have an appointment or an installation. Also, although people can be home during the day, residential cold calling during the day should be limited to before or after appointments or during installations, otherwise, cold call at night or on a Saturday morning.
Diversify: Vary your activities. It helps you plan your days and keeps you motivated.
Consistency: Whether itâ€™s in door knocking, visiting alliances, or contacting your existing customers, be consistent. If itâ€™s with door knocking you will build good habits and if itâ€™s with alliances and existing customers, they will start to expect your call.
Resilience: Unless you are lucky enough to have your telephone ring with leads all of the time, nothing about sales is easy. Donâ€™t let impatience or frustrations affect your attitude or your drive. If you keep going and keep your attitude on track, success is right around the corner.