$22,000! That is the estimated amount of money I have saved by saying “no” to door-to-door salesmen. It may sound like a small feat, but I consider myself fortunate and I can assure you, it wasn’t easy.
If you’ve recently bought a home, preparing yourself for the eventual door-to-door salesman is as important as mailing your first mortgage payment. If you are in your house long enough, you will be visited. Once inside your home, a talented salesman can get you to buy almost anything you don’t really need.
Kris and I are smart people. You’d think we’d know better than to buy this stuff. But we’re also nice people, and sometimes that niceness overpowers the intelligence. Most of the time I’m able to stand strong and to turn people away at the door, but sometimes I’m weak, and I feel sorry for the salesman. That momentary weakness is all it takes to end up spending $500 on encyclopedias I’ll never use.
In the last four years at my home, I’ve had 3 salesmen in my house and I’ve nearly purchased from two of them. These weren’t small purchases either; $20,000 combined. My wife and I had not considered the product prior to the sale. Most importantly, we didn’t have the money to purchase. Yet somehow, we went from unengaged and impossibly penniless to interested and ready to finance in 3 to 4 hours. That is the power of sales training and selling tactics.
In just three visits, my wife and I have witnessed several tricks of the trade like:
- Getting Through the Front Door – Merely crossing your threshold is a selling tactic. Once you let a salesman inside, he knows that you are feeling sympathetic. Why else would you listen to a selling pitch for a product you never wanted or thought you needed? And if you are willing to spend hours of your time, you might just be willing to spend money too.
- Guilt Tripping – Did you know all the chemicals in tap water can be absorbed into your baby’s skin? Now buya $6,000 water system, or be a bad parent. Sounds insulting, but I assure you, you’ll feel like a bad parent if you say “no.”
- Get the Potential Buyer Saying “Yes” – As weird as it may sound, the more you answer “Yes” to a salesman’s questions, the more likely you are to say “Yes” to a purchase.
- Playing One Spouse Against the Other – When my wife and I came up with different levels of interest, a salesman tried to enlist the aide of the more interested spouse.
- The Limited Time Offer – Lucky me! The company is short on contracts, so they will give me a discount, but I have to act before their schedule fills up. Thus, no time to think, I must act so as to save money.
- Take Up Large Amounts of Time – The harder they work to sell you, the more you will be enticed to buy and reimburse them for their time. The desire to please the salesman can be powerful.
JD Roth gives some excellent advice on how to deal with a salesman:
- Don’t answer the door. The best way to resist any form of marketing is to avoid it altogether. Don’t watch television ads, don’t read junk mail, don’t engage telemarketers. And don’t open the door to a traveling salesman.
- Don’t let him inside. If you do open the door to find a salesman, don’t let him in your home. Once he’s in, he has the advantage. Good salespeople know this. Some people feel it’s rude not to ask a salesman inside, but that’s not true. The salesman isn’t concerned with etiquette (and, in fact, takes advantage of social conventions by using them against you). The salesman just wants inside your home so he can make his pitch. Keep him outside.
- Don’t listen to the presentation. Most sales pitches are constructed to get you answering questions (usually with a “yes”) as soon as possible. Don’t fall for it. Again, nobody wants to be rude, but which would you rather do: interrupt the pitch or buy an overpriced set of steak knives? I’d rather interrupt the pitch.
- Be courteous but firm. The salesman is just doing his job. Yes, he ought to be doing something else, but ultimately it’s still just a way for him to put food on the table for his family. Stand firm, but don’t be a jerk.
- Get a big dog. “No soliciting” signs don’t work. Salesmen ignore them or pretend not to see them. (They’re like a red flag: “I’m no good at resisting sales pitches, so please don’t call.”) But it’s difficult to ignore a large, snarling animal. When I was selling insurance, I avoided any home with a large dog. I wasn’t the only one.
Getting door-to-door sales calls is just one of the pleasures of owning a new home. You can either be prepared to say “no,” or be surprised at how hard it is to not say “yes.”