I must admit something. “Hot Calling” is not a new and improved way to cold call. I took a door-to-door sales role in the summer heat of Australia on a backpacking trip in 1998. I called it “Hot Calling” in my head to make it sound more appealing! Everyone I told about this job after the fact thought I was crazy, but I explained to each of them how enjoyable the experience ended up being.
I needed some extra money when I was traveling the South Pacific. I ended up getting a job with a company promoting children’s encyclopedia programs. I did not realize the amount of door knocking and setting up of appointments that I would be required to do. My job was to secure follow-up visits with families, then more experienced sales reps would come back later and try to close the sale on a complete set of books. Yes, Google was still very new at the time!
A fellow backpacker told me the day before I was to start the job that they had a horrible experience performing this role, and I should quit immediately. I ended up giving it a shot anyways. I was planning on making new friends and having a great time. I went in with a positive attitude, and hoped for the best.
I trained at head office in Sydney and soon realized that I was in for an interesting journey! Thoughts of my stutter were front of mind, due to the nature of the role. What better situation to get nervous in then when somebody opened their door, and I had about 10 seconds to convince them that they should invite me in. I sucked it up, and continued with the training.
The managers made a point of having us role play door-to-door scenarios every day before we went in to the field. Initially I thought it was a waste of time, and I was disappointed that it took me away from the pool. It was our warm-up period, and would typically be done in the mid afternoon. We would walk the neighbourhoods later in the day when it “cooled off”.
The most important lesson I learned from this experience was how to handle rejection; and there was a lot of it! I had to be quick on my feet, handle their objections swiftly, with the goal of being invited in for a conversation. It was a positive step for them to open their door, but an entirely different challenge of getting them to commit to a future presentation.
Other skills like persistence, keeping positive and being enthusiastic were pivotal too. Each door was a new one, so I always put the previous one out of my mind quickly. A sale could be waiting for me at the next house, and I always had to be at my best.
Another key attribute that I worked on was focus. It was difficult to stay focused when it was still 30 degrees Celsius or warmer when I was working, but I made it through. I would often ask people for water, run through sprinklers, and wear a large cricket hat to protect me from the sun. In 6 weeks on the job, only one person would not give me a glass of water when I asked!
The team lived just like a big family. On a weekly basis, we all had specific chores to fulfill like cleaning the pool, buying groceries, and cooking for the team. Whatever needed to be done, we all pitched in to get keep the house and our “adopted family” running. You can bet that we let team members know when they slacked off from their responsibilities.
As I look back now, the daily role play for warm up was the key to success. It was like athletes preparing for a game. They need to warm up to get physically and mentally ready. As I practiced regularly, and knocked on more doors, I became more comfortable by the day. As time passed, my stutter was less of a consideration as I spoke to people during the pressure packed opening greeting.
The management team did a wonderful job motivating a group of young adults from around the world to do a less than glamorous job. We learned how to do one of the most difficult sales roles by staying positive, plugging away, and most importantly co-existing with team members that were strangers when we moved in together.
To this day, every time somebody says, “You did what?” when I describe the job, I am more than happy to share the story of my “Hot Calling” experience “Down Under”.
- Have you ever door knocked during your sales career?
- If not, have you have cold called face-to-face or on the phone?
- What did you learn from the experience as you reflect back now?