The Traveling Salesman

As I sat down on the couch of the Wizard school at which I was a teacher, a tall gentleman laden with a bag and some items in his hand smilingly approached the door. I could not understand what he said because he spoke fast and he got his response fast too. Silvana, the owner of the English school, a prospective student and a pastor of the local church were sitting at the front desk.

I watched them keenly. They seemed to have responded in the negative to the door-to-door salesman who quickly left with a smile. They responded in a polite manner with big smiles, but it was all the same, a negative answer, and the salesman walked away with his luggage in his hand.

It dawned upon me how hard it must be to be a door to door salesman. Do people ever make any money in this trade? Does luck play a really big part in this work? I’ve heard many success stories of door to door salesmen. I’ve also heard many disaster stories. Needless to stay, it is an art, and like every art, it needs to be mastered.

There are techniques to apply when working as a traveling salesman. For one, I think your approach is a critical factor. If you are to make a 20 meter detour from the main road near to someone’s door, it definitely takes a lot of energy and time, and if in one second they tell you ‘we’re not interested’ it could be devastating. As a door to door salesman, you need to be able to take rejection with grace and tranquility, and you need to be able smile broadly through it.

But in order to avoid being turned away curtly, there are some techniques I strongly recommend:

1. As you approach a person at their home, try to look for comfortable conditions, such as a shady area and no loose guard dogs.

2. Look at the person’s face, body language and disposition to determine whether they are inviting or you should just leave them alone.

3. As you approach don’t ask, ‘are you interested in ….’

Even if the person does have need for such item, they might not remember at that time, or they might not know it. Further, the first thought that enters the mind of a potential prospect is ‘this man is trying to sell me something’. What that translate to is ‘this man wants to deprive me of my hard earned money’. You need to allay this fear in the prospect by convincing them that you are not interested  in their money. And that has to be the truth. Surprising? Not at all. Because that really has to be the truth: You must convince the prospect that he is making money from you, because that really is the truth. After all, if he buys something from you, you just saved him a trip to the store, the inconvenience of not having something he really needs, and definitely, you sell at a lower price than the store.

However, all these benefits easily go down the drain in one instant if the prospect shakes his head or signals with the hand, or just tell you to your face ‘sorry not interested now’.

Use this method. As you approach the prospect say: ‘Good afternoon, can I have a minute of your time.’

As he approaches you say ‘You don’t have to buy anything, but I’d just like to show you what I have today, it will only take five minutes, please’.

Then take great pleasure in showcasing what you have, listing every ‘feature and benefit’ and when you’re finished, say ‘Thank you, have a great day.’

You could also say ‘If you are not interested in buying anything now, I’ll take your leave’. Always smile and keep smile. Pack up your stuff and keep going.

Even if the prospect suppresses the last minute impulse to buy something from you, you have still gained a lot. What have you gained? Simple…exposure. One more person knows what you are offering, and knows in detail too, and also knows to what extent he needs this item. He will roll it over and over in his mind which makes your next trip around the locality so much more facilitated. And this brings us to an important factor:


You should patrol the same area, the same houses, the same people, at least seven consecutive days. People often need time to think things over, even when they really need something, they need to think. Some will purchase the goods on the first round, some the second, some third…and some on the seventh.

Being a door-to-door salesman does require some luck, but it is more about an art you have to master.

Related: Why door to door selling is so important-products you never knew you needed.

Also related: Don’t cry if they slam the door….

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