Door to Door Sales

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  • Topic: Sales, Door-to-door, Selling
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Door-to-Door Sales
The Forgotten Channel

CONSUMER

T

he days are long gone when it was common to find a
stranger on your doorstep pushing aluminum siding,
brushes, or encyclopedias. Yet even today, Mary Kay’s
1.7 million “beauty consultants” still drive up in their pink cars to demonstrate and sell cosmetics to women in their
homes. And in some 70 countries around the world, millions
of Kirby vacuum cleaners are being sold in households that
have just received a “free” cleaning.

■ Door-to-door selling is generally
considered too costly and difficult to
manage in today’s environment, but in
the right circumstances, this $20 billion
channel offers a significant opportunity
■ For products and services that generate high lifetime consumer value or that benefit from a consultation or demonstration, door-to-door sales can be a powerful means of acquiring customers
and increasing revenues
■ Whether to recruit an in-house
sales force or to contract with vendors
depends on the products or services being sold and the company’s capabilities and constraints
■ BCG’s experience suggests that companies are best served by maintaining a small in-house force and outsourcing
the bulk of the work

Although many businesses got their start selling products
door-to-door, the approach is largely perceived to be too
costly and difficult to manage in today’s competitive environment. As a result, this $20 billion channel is shrinking in some categories: many businesses traditionally associated
with door-to-door sales have abandoned them. However, in
such industries as retail energy and telecommunications,
there has been a resurgence of door-to-door selling. The
Boston Consulting Group’s recent experience revamping the
door-to-door approach for a company in the energy sector has convinced us that, given the right circumstances, there is a significant opportunity in the door-to-door channel for consumer products and services.

The Door-to-Door Opportunity
The products and services best suited to door-to-door sales
generate high lifetime customer value or benefit from some
sort of consultation or demonstration. Many of the offerings associated with high lifetime value have strong margins and
produce a stream of revenues over time to help cover the cost of the sales force. Such offerings might include travel, fooddelivery, and lawn services; pest control products; magazine subscriptions; home alarm and security services; and cable

TV and Internet services. In the case of products and services that lend themselves to consultation or demonstration— either to explain how the offering differs from that of competitors or to provide instruction—the one-on-one interaction afforded by door-to-door sales gives this approach an advantage over the store environment. Offerings in this category might include beauty care products, cleaning supplies and equipment, cutlery, retail energy and insurance products, and personal investment services.

Door-to-Door Sales

2

In door-to-door selling, it’s often the sales talk more
than the product itself that makes the sale, because the
representative can create a link between the product
and the customer’s needs and convince the customer
that the product is the best on the market. Given the
right incentives, a good salesperson can adjust the sales
pitch to move a sale away from one product and toward
another with higher profit margins. For example, reps
in a company we worked with rapidly switched the balance of their sales from 90 percent for no-contract plans to 95 percent for term plans—without any reduction in
overall sales. All it took was a few minor adjustments to
the incentive structure, and the reps started talking up
the security of the term plan instead of the flexibility of
the no-contract plan.

to-door sales by nearly 200 percent by pulling both of
these levers.

Winning at Door-to-Door Sales

Selling door-to-door...
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