Whether you are knocking on doors for politics, fundraising, or marketing for some sketchy home improvement contractor, learning the basics of canvassing will teach you a bunch about how to close the deal when dealing with someone on an one on one basis. More than anything, though, canvassing will teach you some things about yourself. In my years as a field manager, I was constantly rolled over by who turned out to be a great door to door promoter and who just plain couldn’t hack it. One thing is for sure, it certainly isn’t for everybody. The trick is learning to spot talent where it lies and learning how to mold raw canvassing talent into a successful canvassing campaign.
When I started out as a young canvasser, I was the exact opposite of what you would expect a good canvasser would look like. I was shy and soft spoken, and I certainly wasn’t terribly confrontational back in those days. However, somebody saw some potential in me and got me on the streets knocking on doors for a particular political campaign for fundraising. I remember like it was yesterday going up to that first strange door step alone on a cold fall evening, wondering how the hell I gotten myself into this.
Still, I knocked on the door, looked the resident in the eye, and explained what I was doing on their porch as honestly and straight forwardly as I could. It was for a local political issue that wasn’t terribly difficult to drum up support for. The trick was getting them to reach for their wallet. To my surprise, the resident welcomed me into his home, we had a short heart to heart on the issues, and I walked back out into the cold with a nice sized donation. I moved down the block, doorstep by doorstep, and found that nearly everyone took me seriously, listened to what I had to say, and contributed to the cause at least one out of every three doors.
It’s been many years since that first day that I knocked on that door, and I’ve hire and trained a large volume of canvassers, promoters, and plain old salespeople sense then, and I’ve finally discovered what it was that the activist who recruited me saw when he pressured the shy kid to launch out on his own with a clipboard. It is a belief in the cause (or product), a knack for general forthright honesty, and a belief that I’d succeed. These three factors are all that any canvasser needs to make an impact. If you believe in your cause or what your selling, the person who opens there door to you will know it right away. If you are just an honest person at your core, it’s going to show through when you’re standing on someone’s doormat. If you believe that the person who is opening that door is going to take you seriously and believe in your cause or product as much as you do, it’s going to happen.
So, when you are recruiting field representatives or canvassers, don’t place much value on the way they look or the act that they try to show the world. Take a moment to get to know them. If they are the sort of person who can look you in the eye and speak what they believe to be true, and if they can show that they care about your mission and know that it will succeed, you’ve found you’re crew.