Ten lessons I learned

by Lorenzo Piccoli


I met Andrew twice, once at a conference in Berlin in 2013, then again at a conference in Vilnius in 2014. I have lost grip with the Oceans Network since then, and I am not too sure he is still in the loop either. But sometimes his posts come up on my personalized newsfeed and I thought it was worth sharing his last one – upon his permission. The title is ‘Ten lessons I learned as a door-to-door salesman‘. Here we go.

I recently completed 100 days as a door-to-door vacuum salesman. My main goal was to learn salesmanship.

It’s no coincidence that the mascot for the sales profession is the mighty rhinoceros. This is because of its tough, thick skin.

During the 100 days, I knocked on thousands of doors, and was told “No” at about 99% of the homes that answered.

Door-to-door vacuum sales is a seven-day workweek with each day lasting 12-14 hours. One Saturday in March lasted 18 hours.

Not everyone who signed up had rhinoceros skin. During the 100 days, 120 people quit.

Starting out, it was heart-wrenching to work 80+ hours and not even earn a paycheck. For the first few weeks I thought about quitting every single day.

I began with virtually no selling experience, yet developed skills to the level where I was I was the top salesperson in the division and then was promoted to be a Team Leader, which meant that I would go into demonstrations and help close deals for others.

I’m not the best salesman by any means, but I’d say that I learned priceless lessons on communication, psychology and human nature that aren’t taught in any classroom.

The fact is, there’s a steep learning curve, but once you’ve climbed it, you’ll do alright.

The following chart shows my growth during the 100 days

Day Range……………Number of Vacuums Sold
Day 1 – Day 25……………..11
Day 26 – Day 50……………12
Day 51 – Day 75……………22
Day 76 – Day 100………….36

It wasn’t easy, but I believe it’s a skill anyone can develop with enough determination.

With that, I wanted to share some of the best takeaways from my experience.

#1. The best salespeople are effective teachers who enthusiastically demonstrate great products to their clients. Effective salesmanship isn’t about being sleazy and manipulative. The lying/high pressure/pushy sales people sold less because they wouldn’t listen to people, lacked empathy and broke rapport. People buy from people they like and trust.

#2. Many ‘No Soliciting’ signs are put on doors by husbands who don’t want their wives to buy merchandise when they’re gone. About 40% of my sales were from houses that had those signs 🙂

#3. Being inside people’s homes gives you a more authentic experience of a person than meeting them in public. Most people were great and would often share food and life stories with me. One Ethiopian family taught me a folk dance and wanted me to marry their daughter. Another lady gave one of the newbies on my crew a pair of new pants and shirts with a belt to help him dress for success.

#4. People from India are the world’s best negotiators. Whenever I entered an Indian home, it was like a baby gazelle slathered in barbecue sauce walking into a den full of hungry lions.

#5. When dealing with strangers, who you are and what you look like speaks volumes louder than your words. The majority of people you briefly meet are judging you by your body language and appearance before you ever say anything. Because of that, everything you say is being filtered by their instant judgment. Paying attention to clothing and hygiene gives you the best chance of making a positive impression. Nonverbal communication is vital to getting into a complete stranger’s house and selling them a $3995 product in 2 hours.

#6. Instead of saying “No” directly, many people will tell white lies and half-truths because they’re not interested or are trying to protect your feelings or give themselves an easy out. This happens about 99.9% of the time when trying to sell people vacuums, but also happens frequently in normal day-to-day interactions.

#7. Women are a lot cleaner than men. However, the women who were the exception seemed to take it to the extreme, and their houses wouldn’t be just dirty, it would be like touring the National Museum of Dirt, Dust and Filth. In terms of cleanliness, the women from Romania, Germany, Guam and Puerto Rico took the most pride in good housekeeping.

#8. Many people are bored/living the same day over and over and over and having a vacuum demonstration may be the most excitement they’ve had in weeks or months. Surprisingly, sometimes people who live in cities are more isolated than those who live in rural areas. Sadly, for widowed older folks, you might be the only social interaction they’ve had in weeks or months.

#9. The majority of the time in door-to-door sales, strangers will mirror your emotions. If you think everyone’s being rude or negative towards you, take pause and look at the common variable in those interactions.

#10. The youngest person who got a vacuum from me was an 18-year old girl who worked at Bed Bath & Beyond. The oldest person was 78 who told me she wasn’t going to buy one many times and then surprised me with a check when I had packed up and was headed out the door.

Now, I’m gonna use that experience and head off onto my next adventure! Stay tuned 🙂

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