Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Can't Find a Job? Get Off Your Butt and Sell

EPJ reader David emails:
I enjoyed your podcast (What You Need to Know about Salespeople). It is a valuable skill to learn and more people ought to learn it. It would solve a lot of unemployment problems.

Early this year, I figured that if I did not get off my rear and go door to door offering the service that I provide (house painting, deck staining, and pressure washing) I would have a dismal year. I figured most painters were not working and even fewer had the motivation to look for work. So I created a flyer and went door to door. I rang every doorbell, introduced myself, told the owner about the service I offered, and handed them a flyer. The year started out slowly, but by the end of the year, I have had to turn down work.

Going door to door rather than leaving a flyer in the paper box really made a lot of difference. My goal was to have a 2 to 5 second interaction. I came prepared with a notepad, pen, and several references in the event I had the opportunity to take notes for a bid. By meeting the owners, they could see that I looked good and was someone they might be willing to have on their property for a few weeks.

I have been able to get many recommendations and favorable reviews.

Keep up the great work. Your posts are very interesting.


  1. I totally get David's point, and I commend him for his energy and self-discipline and celebrate his success.

    I can only say that his technique wouldn't work for me. I don't answer the door when people knock during the middle of the day, on the theory that anyone I actually want to see will call and let me know she or he is on-hand and that anyone else is likely to be the source of an unwanted interruption. I'm happy to see or hear from friends during the day, but people I don't know really aren't welcome: I would tend to react with resentment and suspicion to anyone who knocked on the door in search of business.

    For the sake of entrepreneurs like David, I hope I'm in a minority.

  2. My doorbell rings constantly now - Get back on your butts and stop trying to sell me something.

  3. Someone with a clipboard just rang my doorbell as I read this...I hate people with clipboards.

  4. Right on David.

    Im in the service business... You have to resell yourself and the service EVERY time you go out to work.. Ive been awarded my companies' "top technician" award 5 times in the last 8 years ... Ive consistently had the lowest cancels and the top 3 in sales.. and it doesnt happen with your head in your hands at the end of a bar ;-)

  5. When I was a teenager I used to work for a landscaping company. The only employees at this time were myself and the owner, so it was a very small company that was run out of his garage with one truck, one trailer, two mowers, two trimmers and a blower. The way my boss would get new accounts back then was by picking a few houses in a neighborhood or block and then knock on their door. He wouldn't cover an entire area, instead he would pick neighborhoods all over the place and pick a few houses. It didn't always work, but at this time this was how we got customers.

    As we slowly got more customers, neighbors would often see the quality of our work and ask for a card or a quote any time we were in the neighborhood. This trend continued for 2 seasons and got to the point that we would have to give prospective customers really high quotes because we simply couldn't handle that many accounts (even though we now had 2 full crews at this time). Interestingly, the people would still sign a contract because of the quality of our work that they saw every week or when we did landscaping installs.

    Once the lawn maintenance aspect of the business was humming, my boss added tree removal and stump grinding (which requires skilled labor and more capital than lawn maint.). At this point we didn't need to go to door and we were getting more work than we could handle in both divisions of the company.

    I am still good friends with my old boss and his business is huge when comparison to the old days (millions in revenue). Now he does land clearings (for new construction), excavation, snow plowing, tree removal, decks, masonry, installs, chemicals and fertilizers, stump removal, and a ton of other things. Sure, he still does lawn maintenance, but that is only out of tradition and advertisement (it is a 4 crew division today). He now has a fleet of trucks and dump trucks, multiple skid-stears, a Cat 930 and tons of other equipment. Further, while most of the seasonal crew is unskilled all of the foremen are trained and certified and all managers are degreed and certified, and he even has "office people". All of this started with door to door sales and a decent work ethic.

    While I don't have any regrets in life, I do think that I should have taken him up on his offer for me to become his partner. I was 18 with a lot of money in my pocket, let's just say that investing into and then running a business wasn't the first thing on my mind back then (if you know what I mean).

  6. To the first three commenters: you sound like a trio of mopey, basement-dwelling internet lurkers. I think you need to get drunk.

    To David: nice going. It is good to hear that self motivation lives.

  7. "you sound like a trio of mopey, basement-dwelling internet lurkers."

    you make it sound like its a bad thing.

  8. Having spent years in retail the last damned thing I want to do is be a salesman.

  9. I am certainly not a good salesman. Though I have given it a try in the past to improve in this area, I still don't have the personality type for it. If we were talking about the world of finance, I would be primarily a middle office or back office guy. Probably the only front office area that I would be good at is consulting and service. It really is a shame that I am not good at sales, because this has translated in my inability to effectively sell myself and my own talents at times.