In this year’s annual state of canvassing report, we’re going to look at the breakthroughs, successes and challenges in canvassing this past year. History is a tool that can be most instructive in preparing and planning for the future, yet so many people never look back to help plan ahead. Where is canvassing going in 2017? Well, let’s first look at the 2016 season from the 30,000-foot view to give you a perspective of where we’ve been.
Based on the conversation I’ve had with Canvass King members over the past months there are two areas of greatest challenge. This is what I’m hearing the most. See if your biggest challenges fit into either of these two.
- Finding and getting good qualified leads and appointments.
- Members tell me their biggest challenge is finding and getting good people… canvassers.
I’d categorize both of these as the ‘GETTING GAME’, getting leads and people.
These are the same challenges many have been having year after year. It’s no different today than it was 10 years ago, in 2006. The difference is in the strategies and tactics, the plan and then the implementation of that plan.
Let me set the stage and use a roofing company as an example (although this example applies to all kinds of companies and industries canvassing). The roofing company completed a job in an ideal neighborhood. Ideal meaning the home values are good, the age of the homes present plenty of opportunity and there’s good earning income through the neighborhood, so there’s money to be spent on improvements. You finish the job and as you drive through the neighborhood you see other homes that have a need for your products and/or services. There’s great opportunity for more jobs and you ask yourself why aren’t we getting more business in this neighborhood. So, you devise a plan (a strategy) to get your installers (or someone) to go out and knock on doors, leave door hangers and try to set appointments. Then when you work to implement the plan (the tactical side of the strategy) you find out it’s much harder. You find out it’s more challenging to get people to say yes when you do get them to answer the door; even the function of getting door hangers distributed has its challenges. The gap between strategy and tactics is much bigger than it appears.
These are the two areas presenting the most challenges in 2016. With that said, the biggest breakthroughs this year came from systems developed to solve those challenges.
Here are the 4 areas of biggest breakthroughs for my members in 2016
- Having the right systems – Systems that contain the right scripts and structure.
- Training – You can have a great system, but if you’re not communicating it to your people on a regular and consistent basis the system is not a system. You must always inspect what you expect and train on it. The training process must be in place to measure and help people improve their results.
- Tracking – measuring results based on your systems and training.
- Recruiting message – Must be unique and irresistible to the right candidate.
Breakthrough #1: Offer & Follow Up
The fundamental difference in producing qualified leads and appointments comes down to the first ‘offer’ presented to the prospect. What are you offering people when you meet them for the first time? If you’ve followed me for the past 4 years you know my system’s first ‘offer’ is different than traditional methods. Over the past year my members who have committed to it and have continued to understand and master it have had the biggest breakthroughs in lead and appointment generation. Just as the gap can be vast between strategy and tactics there is often a gap between ‘getting’ my system and fully understanding how and why it works.
Canvassers who offer an appointment first, fail 9 out of 10 times when presenting to a prospect. The reason why there is a 90% failure rate or more is because the prospect isn’t ready now. They’re going to object to the offer and then you’ll enter into the rebuttal game, or what I call the ping pong game. The ping pong game is where you go back and forth bantering objection rebuttal, objection rebuttal… and it goes on until the prospect cuts you off.
My system presents an information guide as the first offer. Rather than the canvasser being viewed as a sales person trying to make an appointment, my students are viewed as order takers. That difference lowers the prospects guard. They’re there to simply capture the prospects contact information to be able to send an information guide. There’s no pressure on the prospect and they won’t feel like there being pushed into a sales presentation. The old system is predicated on capturing only those people who have a need for what you offer now. These are often people who are actively investigating and shopping for what you offer. The old system fails because it only appeals to those presently ‘in the market’ for your product or service. My system is designed to capture those people, but also the people who aren’t currently thinking about your products or services but will be future buyers. The old system captures only those with immediate need. My system captures immediate and potentially future needs. Now the key is in the follow up. Every lead must be followed up on to nurture it to a need.
A lead without follow up is not really a lead. It’s just contact information and if you think that contact is going to miraculously decide to pick up the phone and invite you out to make a pitch then you’re delusional. It just doesn’t happen. Following my system, getting more leads qualified and following up on them, they’re seeing double, triple, even as much as quadruple the results following my system than the old traditional method. Now, I understand it may be hard to comprehend how such a ‘soft’ offer can have such a significant impact, but as I tell students “run with it”. The system and the scripts are almost magical. There’s nothing more gratifying to me than to teach a canvasser (veteran or rookie) my script and see the disbelief in their eyes when I teach it to them and then to see their reaction when they apply it at their first door. It’s amazing! Those that adopt this system have increased their business and they didn’t add any more canvassers or increase their payroll, all they did was change their system, the strategy. They’re still getting those ‘now’ leads, but in the second year they’re converting leads to appointments and appointments to sales, because they changed the way they connect with the prospect and follow up with them. Offer and follow up have been the keys to success in 2016!
Breakthrough #2: Creating Prodigy Canvassers
Think about any type of organized sporting team. Baseball, football, hockey… you name it. They all train, but more importantly they’re all systematic in their training. Contrast that with most traditional canvassing training. I’ve been in this canvassing business for over 22 years and I can’t tell you how many companies whose training program could be outlined on a cocktail napkin. Recruit, hire, train and send them out into the field. The training portion of that equation often amounted to an hour conversation, or at best, a day’s training.
The key with training is a system that is consistent, produces predictable results and those results are replicable.
With training, you will have two groups, those that are new and those who are not. For new people, you need a boot camp type training. It’s more complete in instruction of all aspects of the job. In my new hire training system (3-day boot camp); about 75% of training is in classroom situations and 25% in the field.
From the in-class training to the field training I’m monitoring and tracking their progress. In any great system, there are measurable benchmarks. Not general, broad benchmarks like are they getting leads or appointments. Benchmarks to evaluate; did they present the introduction script properly and completely? Did they lead the prospect to giving their contact information? Did they obtain complete contact information? Now these aren’t all measured at once. In training the old adage, ‘you have to crawl before you walk, walk before you run’ hold true here. A canvasser cannot be successful if he or she hasn’t mastered the fundamentals first. Being able to master the fundamentals and string them together is what makes a canvasser successful. Think about piloting a F-21 Raptor fighter jet. If I showed you a picture of the jet and said, “Okay, there it is on the runway, go out start it up and take off”, what do you think the likelihood would be of you being able to do that? I know I wouldn’t be able to get the canopy open to even climb in the cockpit, let alone get the engines started. Now, put me with an experienced pilot and trainer who walks me through the procedures step by step and then monitors each step in the process and my odds of being able to navigate that plane increase exponentially. I understand that’s a dramatic example, but it’s exactly what so many companies expect of their canvassers when they don’t provide them with the proper training, let alone walk with them in every step of the process. The US military doesn’t churn and burn recruits because it’s time consuming and expensive, and neither should you.
Next the training must be ongoing for those that are already working the system. Human nature being what it is, people will always revert to their instinctive programming. Unless you’re continually tracking, teaching and training you will never maintain successful lead generation and appointments. I see it all the time. When a company introduces my system to their people and they’re trained on it, they always see immediate results. The immediate results blind them to the fact that continued training and practice is needed to keep improving. People will drift and they get away from using the script as it’s designed. They start using their own words and the results suffer. Training is constant and ongoing.
Training is best done in sections. Meaning you train on sections of the system. No one can learn more than they can understand. I have 3 kids, 2 are of school age. Think about trying to teach a first grader how to add 2+2. Initially they don’t know how they get to 4 with just the equation. Take a 5th grader and give them the same equation and they’ll probably give you the answer before you finish the question. Yet take that 5th grader and ask them to solve the area of an isosceles triangle. Unless they’re taught the equation, it will be as difficult to them as the simple addition problem is to the first grader. Learning is best done when taught in sections. Most companies understand this, but few dedicate the time and effort. Very few people are prodigy canvassers.
Breakthrough #3: Only Results Matter
Hope is not a strategy. We’ve adopted this new system and trained our teams on it and we’ve sent them into the field and now we ‘hope’ they do well with it. As a canvassing manager or owner, you can’t do all the jobs. You hire and train canvassers and then you delegate the responsibilities of getting leads and appointments to them, but you can’t abdicate the responsibility. You have to monitor results and manage accordingly.
For years, I’ve tracked canvassers with a simple tally sheet based on each benchmark of their activity in the field. Over the past year, I’ve implemented the digital generation of that tally sheet using mobile tablets to capture and track the results in real time. The more immediate tallying and comparing of information has been monumental for those companies who’ve converted to the digital tracking methods. They know immediately where a canvasser is strong and where he or she needs help. Coaching and future training is based on feedback the data provides them. If you’re interested in discovering more about the digital tracking apps I’ve been recommending to my members, reach out to me at email@example.com.
Tracking involves more than measuring how many leads or appointments you’re getting. You need to know how many doors the canvasser is reaching. How many doors are getting opened and how many presentations they’re making. Of those answered doors how many are qualified people; meaning are they the right type of prospect for you and your product. These are only few ‘frontend’ numbers. The numbers help you keep a pulse of how your canvassers are doing. Knowing the numbers and interpreting them properly changes the game on how you train and coach canvassers. Results are the only thing that matters, but you need accurate data on results. When you have the right tracking, you can accurately track the dollars being invested and returned from your canvassing efforts.
Breakthrough # 4: Getting People To Work
All this is well and good Chris, but what if I don’t have the right people to deploy your system to get the results you speak of?
Great question, and it’s one I get a lot. There are 3 key categories for attracting the right kind of canvasser. I’m strategic in using the word attracting. Most recruiting efforts or activities are designed to produce many candidates and then weed through them looking for the most qualified. This is backward thinking. This is old-school recruiting thinking. I don’t run my own canvassing teams any more, I work with other’s teams. When I did run my own canvassing teams I didn’t have the time, money or energy to run a recruiting factory. I was very strategic in who I wanted walking through my front door applying for a job as a canvasser. The key is in attracting the right personality type. Not everyone is cut out for this job, so why would you want to subject those who aren’t cut out for it to the experience. Besides, why would you want to subject yourself to that pain and agony, unless you like hiring, training and firing people (or having large numbers of them quit). There are 3 key categories to attracting:
- Delivery of the message
The most followed presidential election has just concluded. Don’t worry, this will not be a political discussion, but I think it’s important to consider the message of each of the candidates in the 2016 presidential election. Regardless of who you resonated with or supported, each had a distinct message. Hillary Clinton’s message was ‘Stronger Together’. Donald Trump’s message was ‘Make America Great Again’. The candidate’s objective was to rally support and votes to put them in the White House as president of the United States of America. Message was critical! The message alone had to resonate with people and attract them to their support. Mrs. Clinton’s message was rather vague and unclear. It required clarification and required people to make assumptions or draw conclusions based on their own positions. It wasn’t results oriented. It didn’t communicate what people could expect. ‘Stronger Together’ was an idea, not a result. Conversely Trump’s “Make America Great Again” clearly communicated an expected result. The message is critical in communicating a position, but at the same time attracting the kind of person you want. Where most people make their mistake with message is in being too general and soft. Your message should not only attract a certain type of person it should also repel another.
The message must be fine-tuned and adjusted so it resonates with a very specific person, regardless if it is in a print ad or a 30-minute job interview. You first must define what your message will be and then stay on point with that message in all forms of communication.
The best way to determine what your message should be (and shouldn’t be), find the recruiting ads of your competitors and read them. You’ll find most are nothing more than a job description. Your ad must pass my ‘So What’ test. When they read your ad, they can’t respond with ‘so what’. A ‘so what’ response means you are like every other company. You’re not offering anything different or better than anyone else. To differentiate, includes telling people what they’ll be doing and not doing on the job. More importantly, highlight the benefits of why they should hitch their wagon to your company and job opportunity. People don’t fully understand what canvassing is and you don’t want to miss the right candidate because your ad didn’t pass the ‘so what’ test and the ideal prospect moves on.
With that said, clearly defining the job will eliminate a large segment of job seekers, and that’s a good thing. There’s a difference between job seekers and those looking for a ‘place’, and what I mean by place, is someplace they can be comfortable. I don’t mean comfortable as in ‘easy’, but comfortable as in fulfilling, rewarding, challenging their skills and abilities, etc. You don’t need people looking for a job, you want people looking to do a job and do it well, successfully. Then the benefits of doing a job well propels their status. A major component to identifying these people and getting them to recognize you as the place for them is in what I call ‘higher concept’ aspects of the job. I won’t go into detail on higher concepts here, but I do on the live Silver Telecoaching from November 16, 2016. This is a must listen audio recording if your serious in getting your message to stand out from all others.
(If you’re not a Silver level member or higher you do not receive the recordings, nor have access to them via my member website. To correct this, you can join my membership. Silver is the entry level and the monthly investment is offset in value by the 2 newsletters you receive each month by mail and the audio CD of the call recording. So even if you don’t show up for the live calls you have a physical archive of the calls arriving each month in print and on audio CD so you can review them as your schedule allows. Many of my members tell me how the canvassing training CD’s help them out tremendously with canvassers as they drive to and from canvassing assignments.)
What many companies tend to do is hide the fact of what the position requires. For example, they put in the job description of handing out fliers, but there is no mention of engaging prospects with the intent of obtaining a lead. Why would you do that? In advertising that’s misleading. Explain the position accurately but always add the benefits for the job candidate by doing it successfully. This is where most drop the ball Here are a few other benefits of the job most never include in a recruiting ad:
- You’re not going to be stuck in an office or store
- It’s not a Dilbert in the cubical job – every day will be different
- You’re not going to be micro-managed.
- You work with a team but mostly independent
- Create a phenomenal resume – mastering face-to-face prospecting (#1 skill set desired by all sales executives)
- Proven marketing system that produces 3-times the results of competition.
- Company committed – putting substantial investment in training and department
- Performance-based pay (people who value their own skills know they can make what they’re worth based on their contribution)
- Guaranteed career track based on results. Eliminates bureaucracies, popularity contests or seniority
Creating the best recruiting ads and communication will always start with the type of person you’re wanting to attract.
Channels of Communication
When you identify the person you want, you then have to market to that person (people). Recruiting is marketing. Just like you analyze the customers you want to acquire and then pick the neighborhoods and shows/events you’ll enter to find those prospects. You have to do the same with the job candidates you want to attract and hire. Where are they? What are they reading? Where are they hanging out and where can you insert your new message to attract them?
Once you find them you must proactively attack them. I mean keep the message going, often, frequently and aggressively. If you’ve identify college age students for part time canvassers, then you show up on college campuses near you and be there consistently and frequently. You can’t do it passively by sitting at a table with some fliers on the table and staffing a ‘wallflower-type’ personality sitting behind the table passing out fliers. No, you need to pay your top canvassers to go out and recruit people. They need to be there and engage people, get them talking about the job and share their experiences and successes on the job. They need to identify people that are like them. Birds of a feather flock together, and they know one another when they meet. Recruiting is marketing and you should approach it with the same enthusiasm and passion you do in getting leads and appointments for your products and services.
You have to track your recruiting efforts to measure what’s working and what’s not; or more accurately, what’s working better so you know where to invest time and money. Inspect what you expect! This will help you budget dollars to invest for recruiting. Canvassing is about walking and knocking, recruiting is smiling and dialing. It’s all effort and the results you get are in direct proportion to the time, money and effort you put into it.
That’s all for now. It was a lot and I didn’t cover it all. If you have questions or further discussion on any of these topics, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your questions to me at www.AskTheCanvassKing.com.
I’m thankful and grateful for you being with me and for all my members and private coaching clients. I am thankful to have you with me and to be involved in the greatest business on the planet.
I remain committed to your success,
Chris Thompson, The Canvass King