What Today’s Marketers Can Learn From Door-to-Door Sales

The digital age has transformed the world of marketing, but that doesn’t mean the hard-won lessons from the door-to-door sales people of the past have lost their value.


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While businesses are increasingly shifting away from in-person marketing and embracing the Internet, social media and other types of digital promotion and sales, they still stand to benefit from understanding the skills of the door-to-door salespeople of the past. Many of those tried-and-true techniques still apply – you just have to look at them the right way.

Apply the following five door-to-door sales techniques to your online marketing, and see their real-life advantages for yourself:

1. Get personal

It’s easy for someone to dismiss a pitch when it’s presented by a nameless, faceless entity. If you’re marketing online, though, how are you supposed to interact with prospective customers face-to-face? Here’s the thing: It’s not necessarily the physical presence that matters. Rather, it’s the knowledge of interacting with an actual human. This is where social media pays off handsomely. Let your customers see that your company is made up of living, breathing humans to earn their trust, gain their respect and get their business.

2. Upsell whenever possible

A successful door-to-door salesman isn’t satisfied by merely selling one product. After reeling in a customer and selling him or her on the idea, the next step is encouraging another sale (it’s how telecom companies do so well “bundling” TV and Internet, or upselling you on more channels). This strategy continues to pay off to this day, and if you’re not actively putting it to work for you, you’re almost certainly missing out on exciting upselling opportunities.

3. Sell a lifestyle

Seasoned door-to-door salespeople know that merely highlighting the benefits of a product or service isn’t enough. Companies need to help people envision themselves using the product – and seeing the benefits of doing so. It’s all about selling a lifestyle, and this strategy can just as easily be put to work online as in person. Rich, compelling product descriptions, informative videos, engaging social media posts and other online techniques are key to helping customers see themselves engaging with your product.

4. Get to the point

If your wind-up drags on too long, your customers won’t stick around for the pitch. Door-to-door salespeople understood the value of a brief introduction, because they could see people’s interest waning right before their eyes. Online, you can’t see people’s reactions as they read your “virtual” pitches, but the rule still applies (and, you can see interest waning in the form of bounce rates and other analytics). Don’t hem and haw. Instead, be direct, get to the point quickly and tell people what they need to do before they click away.

5. Timing is crucial

The most successful door-to-door salespeople knew their products and understood the people who would most likely benefit from them. They kept their ideal customer’s basic demographics in mind when selecting neighborhoods and times to pound the pavement, and you should be doing the same in your online marketing ventures. Online marketers today need to understand their target audience, and target the channels that these demographics use. If you’re selling something that appeals to young people, for instance, pay attention to the social sites they use and focus your advertising on those platforms.

The way in which we market and sell goods may have changed drastically on the surface. But at its core, marketing in the digital age still revolves around the same proven techniques that were once used by the Willy Lomans of the world. By keeping this in mind, you can kick your online marketing efforts into high gear.

Author: Abby Perkins is Editor in Chief at Talent Tribune, a Software Providers blog about business, branding, marketing and more.

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This article is published by Will Sherwood | The Sherwood Group |Website Design | Graphic Design | Marketing Communications: The Sherwood Group has over 30 years of experience working with all sorts of companies, small and large. Our clients range from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 firms, in nearly every business sector, from across the street to around the world (and yes, even Europe, China, and South America). Our goal is to create advertising,  graphic design, website design, and marketing communication that still looks fresh and relevant 10-15 years later. Our mission is to stir your imagination and leave your competition shaken and wondering,  Now what do we do?”  We are located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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Please comment. We’d like to know if you found this article informative or helpful?


  • By Brad Stern 09 Dec 2014

    This article is excellent. The analogies are right on. I worked for both Encyclopaedia Britannica and Collier’s Encyclopedia and, while they didn’t sell door-to-door in the literal sense, they did adhere to the Marketing principles mentioned in the article. What was relevant for them, is very applicable to today’s sales channels.

  • By Vikki 09 Dec 2014

    So much comes down to basics. Technology changes but good ol knowledge of people is still the same!

  • By James 10 Dec 2014

    Thanks for sharing Will. I really like the third point about selling lifestyles not products; this is how many successful B2Cs have built their brands to such enormous heights. How would you say you would go about applying this to B2B companies where it’s less of a lifestyle that you’re selling and more of a business solution?

  • By Denise Fay 14 Jan 2015

    I think this is a great article. I’m a big fan of Claude Hopkins and particularly his book Scientific Advertising. I think he was a great ad and marketing man. And at the core of his success was his knowledge of people. I seem to recall that he did a bit of door to door selling but it was through talking to normal, ordinary people (ie his clients’ customers) that he had his finger on the pulse.

    Door to door selling online ought to be the same. A good article which is relevant to anyone. Thanks for sharing.