When people think of canvassing, they typically imagine politicians who go door-to-door to pitch their platforms to community members to solicit votes. A common canvassing practice also involves calling people to raise money.
Canvassing can also happen in sales. You probably wouldn’t think of it this way, but when Girl Scouts knock on your door and ask you to buy their cookies, they’re using canvassing as a sales strategy. Although they’re also raising money, their main goal is to get you to buy something.
Although Girl Scouts is a niche example, canvassing is a common practice in sales. This piece will give an overview of sales canvassing, explain the strategy’s benefits, and give salespeople tips for succeeding with the technique.
What is canvassing in sales?
Canvassing in sales is the process of making contact with prospective customers that have zero history of interaction with a brand or business. These potential customers can be businesses or individuals selected by researching target markets and generating a list of prospects that can benefit from or make use of the product or service being sold.
Contact with these new leads can occur through four different methods: cold-calls, door-to-door visits, email and mail, and networking.
When canvassing through cold-calls, a salesperson will call prospects after obtaining their phone numbers. These calls are unsolicited, meaning that there is no previous contact between the salesperson and the customer, and the customer has not asked to receive a call from said salesperson.
Cold-calling is typically done as an effort to make direct sales or drive leads and nurture customer relationships. For example, if you don’t close a deal over the phone and convince a customer to purchase your service, maybe you’ve persuaded them enough to sign up for an email list. From there, you can send follow-up emails and further nurture the relationship, and encourage them to become customers.
Although COVID-19 has put a significant damper on this strategy, door-to-door canvassing involves visiting the households and businesses of prospects that you’ve identified as being able to utilize your product or service. You’re only visiting relevant locations, and the homes and businesses aren’t chosen at random. Like cold-calls, the customers haven’t asked to receive a visit from you, which classifies the practice as a canvassing strategy.
For example, if you’re going door-to-door to advertise your tree trimming business, you’d purposely choose neighborhoods where homes have a significant amount of foliage. Going elsewhere would be useless, as there wouldn’t be any work for you there.
Mail and Email
Canvassing via postal mail and email involves sending a written sales offer to prospects via postal mail or email. They’re less direct forms of canvassing, but the contacts receiving your pitch are still new.
This method is a valuable strategy, as customers have the opportunity to assess your product or service on their own, rather than feeling the pressure to make a decision over the phone or face-to-face. If a customer feels stressed because you want a response right away, they may be more inclined to say no.
Common every-day examples of postal mail canvassing are advertisements that you receive in the mail from local businesses. Maybe there’s a new restaurant down the street, and they’ve written compelling copy to convince you to visit their restaurant.
Networking is another form of direct sales canvassing, and it typically occurs at events that salespeople attend because they know prospective customers will be in attendance. For example, a sportswear company may have their salesperson go to a volleyball tournament because they know there will be teams there that may sign deals with you to use your clothing as their team uniform.
Although networking is a targeted effort, it’s not meant for closing on the spot deals but rather to plant seeds for the future. Your prospects may give you their email or phone number that you can use to set up further appointments for sales-focused conversations.
Benefits of Sales Canvassing
Some salespeople may feel apprehensive about engaging in canvassing, as it may force you out of your comfort zone. Cold-calling people that you’ve had zero contact with can seem daunting, especially since sales calls can come with rejection. However, there are significant benefits that canvassing can bring to salespeople and the businesses they work for.
For businesses, a significant benefit to sales canvassing is that there is never a shortage of contacts. Once you’ve outlined your target audience, simply generate a list of prospects that fall into this category, and you can begin calling them, visiting their business, and sending them mail. If your business is experiencing a period of stagnant growth, sales canvassing is a valuable strategy to consider when existing leads are running dry.
Cold-calling customers can also help businesses learn more about their target audiences. To explain the reason behind your call, you’ll need to give detailed information about the product or service you’re selling and why it will benefit them. The prospect will need to follow-up with an answer, likely providing reasoning and information behind their decision. These personalized interactions give more information about customers than what is gained from them signing up or subscribing to your service from your website.
Canvassing is also economical, as it doesn’t require any additional money spent hiring and training sales consultants or creating new departments. The teams that already exist within your sales department can participate in canvassing, from salespeople to sales managers.
The salespeople who do take part in canvassing will learn valuable sales skills, like learning how to deal with rejection, the best ways to communicate with customers, and how to create sales pitches that convert customers and drive sales. You’ll learn the strategies that bring you the most success, so you can continue using them as you grow in your role.
A benefit for both salespeople and the businesses they work for is that there is no limit to canvassing. You can call as many people as you want, send as many emails as you wish, and visit as many houses as you want. There is an unlimited number of actions you can take, which helps businesses expand their clientele and valuable for salespeople looking to gain experience and perfect their skills.
Sales Canvassing Tips
Effective sales canvassing is a great way to manage your sales territory and learn new skills. Nevertheless, the process may feel daunting, as it’s all about making contact when there’s never been contact before.
Let’s go over a few tips for salespeople to keep in mind when canvassing.
Identify target markets.
Without knowing who your customers are, it’ll be challenging to create a prospect list. Thus, a crucial practice in sales canvassing is identifying your target markets. One of the ways to do this is by creating buyer personas. Buyer personas are representations of your ideal customers that are created based on relevant data and research. HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool can help you through this process.
Continuing with the previous example of landscaping, you can think of it like this: if you’re offering landscaping services, the prospects you contact must be people who would use that service. You wouldn’t want to reach out to people who live in apartment buildings, as they have little use for gardening when they don’t have their own yard. A better-suited prospect would be the building manager or property owner.
Having the necessary information to understand who your customers are and who they should be makes it easier to focus your time on qualified leads, saving you time and effort. Creating buyer personas and identifying target markets is beneficial for small businesses and enterprise companies alike.
Once you’ve identified your customer base, it’s time to find the meaning in your process. Reaching out to people can be difficult, so make sure you understand why you’re contacting them in the first place. Maybe your business hopes to grow their client list by 5% each quarter, or maybe you work for a new company looking to simply attract first-time customers.
It’s also essential for you to set daily goals within those overarching goals. For example, maybe you have a goal to call 100 people by the end of the workday and obtain contact information from 25% of those calls. Whatever your reasoning is, identifying a purpose at the beginning can be extremely helpful, especially when creating your sales pitch.
Create a sales pitch.
After you’ve identified a target market and outlined your goals, create a pitch that you’ll use when contacting them. Your pitch should clearly show the prospect why your product or service is perfect for them and how it will meet their needs. Your pitch should also touch on all the elements that will help you reach your goals.
Creating a sales pitch ahead of time can also help you prepare yourself and quell any anxieties you may have from cold calling or knocking on doors. If you’re calling many people within a day, this can also be a time-saving practice that helps you stay focused and organized.
If you’re a sales manager leading a team that often canvasses, consider creating a sales playbook where you share scripts and pitches that salespeople can follow when making calls and visiting businesses.
A common trope that people associate with canvassing is rejection. While it may be difficult to understand, receiving a no from customers shouldn’t be taken personally. Understand that some people just aren’t interested in what you have to offer.
Being understanding doesn’t just extend to conversations with negative outcomes. When talking to prospects who respond positively, they may still have questions or worries that they’re relying on you to address before they say yes. Be understanding of their pain points, and present yourself as the best resource to solve them.
Regardless of outcomes, recognize that people who are saying no likely have a good reason to do so. Some people dislike cold calls or being interrupted by a knock at the door. Others will see your sales email and flag it as junk or throw your brochures away. Aim to be understanding, no matter the outcome, and don’t take negativity personally should you encounter it.
Use a CRM.
Using a Customer Relationship Management tool can be incredibly helpful for sales canvassing. When customers aren’t already in your system, it may be challenging to keep track of conversations with them, especially if you’re calling a significant amount of people in a day. If people don’t give definitive yes or no answers over the phone, it’s also important to nurture that relationship and follow up with them.
At HubSpot, our Sales Hub helps salespeople streamline their processes. Within the platform, there are a variety of useful tools, like Sales Calling. Cold-callers will find value in this, as the platform allows you to make calls, record them, and take notes on the conversations you’re having (shown below).
When paired with the Sales Automation tool, it becomes even easier to follow up with leads that haven’t given definitive yes or no answers. You can note their hesitation within the call record and then use the sales automation email tool to schedule follow-up contact to nurture relationships and convert them to customers. The image below depicts the follow-up automation options offered by the tool.
Grow Your Business and Learn Valuable Skills
In sum, sales canvassing helps businesses grow. There’s a never-ending list of potential customers, and companies can expand their customer base through contacting and forming relationships with new prospects.
In addition to its benefits to the business, salespeople who canvass can gain significant experience in learning how to speak with customers, answer their questions, and deliver compelling sales pitches that drive leads and close deals.