By John Toth
“I’m not here to sell you anything,” said the man at my front door.
“I have a home office, and I am really busy,” I replied.
“Is there a better time for me to come?” he asked.
How could I answer this without risking being rude? The guy is just doing his job, which is a tough one - being a door-to-door salesman.
It was close to 100 degrees out there. He was sweating it, but he pushed ahead to try to make some sales - or non-sales, as he described it.
I have some rules when it comes to door-to-door sales. If it’s a kid selling fundraiser candy, I usually buy a lot. If it’s a salesman, I usually ask for a business card or brochure and ask that information to be emailed to me.
I’m obviously not making a big- budget decision just because a hard-working salesman showed up at the front door. But, I leave the door open a little, so the stop can be put down as a maybe, not a definite no. Most turn out to be a definite no, though.
I did buy some storm windows as a result of a company representative knocking at my front door. I needed new windows, anyway. Why not get the ones that will remain standing even after the rest of the house is blown away?
I also paid a guy to trim my trees in the backyard after he knocked on my door. And there was the time when a stump grinder stopped after he noticed my tree stump in the front yard. He did it right there for a good price, and within an hour, the stump was gone.
These are exceptions, though.
Most of the time during the day, the knocking interrupts my work, and I have to quickly and politely explain that I am really busy. That’s one reason I like our hideaway Bulletin headquarters - all fenced in with a house in the middle.
Traveling salesmen are trying to make a living, like we are. What they do is a lot more strenuous than sitting behind a computer, especially when they walk the neighborhood in awful heat.
I usually ask them if they want something to drink, but few accept.
They are very good at conversing and breaking the ice. I have tried to hire a few of them as advertising executives, but I never heard back from them.
“I’m not trying to sell you anything,” he repeated. “Have you ever thought about going solar?”
I thought so. Door-to-door solar system sales representatives are on steroids right now.
Everyone is jumping in on the action.
“I know you’re busy, but do you have your latest electric bill handy?”
I didn’t happen to have it within reach, since I was standing at the front door. The bills are in a drawer in my office. The problem is finding it in that drawer. It could take a while.
“Do you remember how much it was?”
I did. But I was stressed out by then, because I had work piling up on my desk. This is one of the few disadvantages of a home office. I have had one since 1983, and sales people who stop by don’t seem to get the message that I am on the clock.
I don’t have anything against solar energy. One day, I may even install a system at the house. But if I do, I am not going to make a decision instantly, right there at my front door. It’s going to take some time to research it and then make some solid decisions.
“We’re doing some work in this area and thought I would stop by.” This is another great line because it starts building trust. If they are already doing work around here, they must be legitimate.
I usually have to repeat several times that I’d be willing to consider the company if they sent me some information. But they want to schedule someone to stop by, measure something and give me an estimate.
“It’s at little to no cost to you.”
Maybe, but I really don’t have time to look into all that. Maybe when I get closer to considering installing a solar system.
“Hey, have you ever tried selling newspaper advertising? We can give you some leads. It looks like you’re pretty good at sales.”
That’s my comeback and closing line. So far, I have not had any takers, but I keep on trying - a couple of times a week.