What We Can Learn from Door-to-Door Sales

Last week my two 8-year old boys hit the streets to sell pizzas. They agreed that the money should be raised to pay for their involvement in hockey, and they seemed to understand that it was good to learn to sell. Most of all, they were excited about the $1 commission they’d get on each sale.

And then they discovered this simple truth: even 8-year old boys get rejected.

door knocking

Some people had understandable excuses:

We just bought pizzas from someone else yesterday.

We have a hockey player in our house that we’re trying support.

Others were harder to hear:

We’re not interested.

I’m too busy to talk to you right now.

They walked down opposite sides of the streets, knocking on every door, and one of them actually had a fortunate start: two of the first five houses were guys I knew, and they didn’t hesitate to buy. The other boy, however, was turned down by every house. By the third house, his face was showing frustration. He slowed his walk up to the fourth house. He left the fifth house crying, gazing across the street at his brother who was joyfully clutching the money he’d gotten.

So we made some adjustments.

First, we decided to work as a team. While we could cover more ground on separate sides of the street, the boys enjoyed it more when they were together, and that kept them going much longer. Also, one of them is louder and clearer when he explains why they are at the door. The other is more attuned to details so won’t forget payment and order fulfillment options.

Second, we wrote and practiced a script. The three parts were: Introduction, Question, Ask. It went like this:

Hi, we live in the neighborhood and are second graders. We’re also proud to be playing hockey this year.

Do you appreciate that our city has a top-rated hockey program?

To raise money for the program, we’re selling pizzas. They have award-winning cheese and premium ingredients. Would you like to buy three of them for $25?

(How could you say no to that pitch?!)

Third, we celebrated every sale and encouraged each other to keep going every time we were turned down.

Clearly, there’s a lot we can learn from the old-fashioned world of door-to-door sales. The next time you’re doing the hard work of selling or influencing, band together with others, craft and practice your approach, and celebrate and encourage after every attempt.

What’s your irresistible pitch?



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  • Mike Norman
    November 19, 2015 at 8:51 am

    Matt, I sure wish my sales manager when I was 22 years old making cold calls and trying to make a living in commission sales would have known of your advice. If he had teamed me up with someone else when he recognized my reduced activity due to frustration and rejection, I may not have spent quite as much time taking naps in my car or sitting in coffee shops. Selling is exhilarating and challenging. Your experience with the boys selling pizzas can also be helpful for all of us to realize the importance of having a support system around us during difficult and challenging times. Thanks for your fun example and valuable insights.

    • Matt Norman
      December 8, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      Dad, I really appreciate your honesty and humility as you talk about your own journey with sales. Your persistence and endurance to become highly successful has been a model for me.