In what feels like a lifetime ago (my early 20s), I owned a dry-cleaning pickup and delivery business. I didn’t own the dry cleaner; I just owned the routes and outsourced the dry cleaning. It was an interesting business model, and I had a decent amount of success with the company. I even coached and trained dry cleaners and other entrepreneurs on how to successfully start and run their own pickup and delivery business while improving sales and profit.
The way I marketed that business was unsophisticated, to say the least. We used pen and paper and literally went door to door, offering our free pickup and next-day delivery dry-cleaning services. This service should have been a no-brainer. About 90% of the time, we were the same price or better than if customers took their clothes in themselves. We picked them up on a Monday, for example, and returned them the very next day. The way you make good money in this business and maximize profits is to have lots of customers in a small geographic area. And at the time, door-to-door sales was the best way to make that happen.
I’ve personally knocked on thousands of doors. For much of my door-knocking career, I simply went through the motions. I didn’t give much thought to how many doors I knocked on, how many opportunities I got, or how high my close ratio was. My company was growing, so I didn’t focus on the numbers like I should have. I was playing small ball and thought, “Some weeks are good. Some weeks are bad. It is what it is.”
As I matured as an entrepreneur, I wanted to really build a business. I wanted to have something with systems and processes that was sellable. As I played around with sales scripts and marketing one day, I stumbled upon a game-changing script. Let me put this into perspective. A good week of knocking on doors at peak times (5:30–8:30 p.m.), 4 or 5 days per week, would average about 18 customers. As I started testing this new script, I saw my numbers go crazy. The first full week using my new script, I personally signed up 42 new customers. This was going to be so huge. Clearly, with these kinds of new customer sign-up numbers, I was going to be rich!
I was pumped for the next week of door-knocking to start, the opposite of how I normally felt. I confidently went out and started knocking. My first day back, I wasn’t getting the same number of sales as the previous week, but it was OK. It’s just how things roll some days, I told myself. By mid-week, I was questioning my script and wondering if I had just gotten lucky. By the end of the week, I had actually signed up only 14 new customers, which was very demoralizing. As I licked my wounds over the weekend, I tried to figure out what happened. Why did the new script not work? Was I saying or doing something different than the previous week?
It finally dawned on me what went wrong.
The week I discovered the new sales script, when I knocked on doors, I gave my normal pitch, which went something like this:
Me: Hi, I’m Shaun with Dry Cleaning Butler. We offer a free home pickup and next-day delivery dry-cleaning service in your area. Do you guys use dry-cleaning or laundry services?
Homeowner: We do.
Me: Great, you’re going to love our service. We offer free home pickup and next-day delivery of both dry-cleaning and laundry service in your area. Here are our prices, and as you can see, they are very similar to the prices charged by other cleaners in town, etc. How many times per month do you guys use dry-cleaning or laundered dress shirts?
This would go on until finally, I asked them to buy. It was a simple buying process; all we did was take down their information and give them a laundry bag to use for the service.
Once I asked for the sale, 1 of 3 things would happen:
- They’d have some questions.
- They’d want to talk with a spouse.
- They’d say they were not interested.
I handled whichever situation arose and moved to the next house. If they wanted to talk to a spouse, I marked them down to do a follow-up.
When I came up with the adjusted sales script that worked so well the first week, I realized a few things. If someone was interested in the service but didn’t talk to someone or think about it, they clearly just needed a little more info and a small push. This wasn’t a complicated decision. After handling any objections, if they were still a no or wanted to talk to their spouse and have me come back, I would literally go into acting mode. I’d pretend I was going to walk away and end the conversation. I’d even do a half-turn like I was leaving and then turn back as they were closing the door and say, “I have an idea. What if I leave you one of our laundry bags right now and I put a $20 credit on your account? That way, you (or your spouse) can try the service with no risk. Go ahead and put some clothes out next week, and when you get them back, look at them. If you (or your spouse) don’t love the quality and service, simply leave the empty bag out on the porch on your next pickup day. We’ll grab the bag and close your account. This way, you can check out the service risk-free. How does that sound?”
This worked like a charm. So, why did it go wrong the second week? Frankly, I made a very common mistake most entrepreneurs make. In the second week of training the new script, I got impatient. Instead of first asking for the sale, letting the prospect say no, hearing them out on any and all objections, handling the objections, and then doing the whole acting part, I went straight to offering the discount and trying to close. Removing these steps actually ended up hurting my conversations and raised the cost of the sale. Why? Because I was offering the $20 in free cleaning to everyone, even those who would have signed up without the incentive.
Are you guilty of skipping steps in your sales process? What about follow-up with your leads? Are you nurturing those leads with new additional information, benefits, features, and offers, then asking for the sale again?
I can teach you all the coolest ways to generate a lead or say 3 major words to close more sales. I can tell you the perfect color to use to make people buy more from your website. But when it comes down to it, most of that stuff doesn’t actually matter. It’s all your non-selling actions, the useful information you provide, and the personal information you share that helps people like and trust you. Those things make the difference. They move your prospect closer and closer to becoming a buyer. So, when you send out that offer or get the person on the phone and ask them to buy, you close more sales.
It may seem counterintuitive, but I promise you this is how my companies and many others I’ve worked with function. And, I also know from experience that struggling companies are the ones that go straight for the close, and if the potential customer doesn’t don’t buy now, they simply move on to the next “hot lead” and truly miss out on sales and a potential relationship.