How to launch a cold canvassing campaign: 5 simple steps

by Steli Efti

You are relentlessly dialing hundreds of numbers every day. When you’re directed to voicemail, you’re religiously following up. Even when you get rejected, you pull your chin up and keep calling because you know it’s a numbers game.

However you wish you could pinpoint why you’re failing to connect with the decision-makers that authorize the purchase. Only if you had more information than relying on tones and verbal cues of your prospects!

That’s where cold canvassing comes into the picture. Instead of picking up the phone, it entails approaching potential customers on the field knocking on their doors.

The tactic is extremely effective for collecting valuable info about your prospects and can help you differentiate between suspects, prospects, leads, and opportunities. It’s a great addition to your sales skills, pave the way for closing more business, and become a top-performing sales rep.

zero-to-thousands

In this article, I’ll show you a step-by-step process to execute your first cold canvassing campaign. Let’s begin with the basics.

What is cold canvassing in sales?

The process of directly approaching your prospective customers on the field (at their residence or business location) is called cold canvassing. It’s conducted in geographical regions with a high concentration of your prospects, which might mean business districts for B2B companies. You can either pay cold visits or place an introductory call before visiting.

Generally the goal of a canvassing campaign is to introduce your company, collect information about your consumers, and understand their needs. However you also engage them in your sales process and open opportunities for selling down the road.

Here are the top three benefits of cold canvassing over cold calling.

1. Establish rapport

If you like meeting people, then cold canvassing is a great opportunity for you to ease out your prospects. It relieves you of the stigma that’s attached with cold calls: “what are they trying to sell me?”

After you have a casual conversation with your prospects and their guards are down, they might share their requirements and objections in buying your product.

And even if you don’t find a selling opportunity right now, meeting people lets you build relationships that can later materialize. If they like you, then you might even end up getting referrals!

2. You can learn more about your prospects

Telephone prospecting is limited to verbal communication, and prospects expect being sold products on cold calls. However cold canvassing is an indirect approach that relies on face to face interaction. It means you get to observe the body language of your prospects.

Office visits are also a great opportunity to learn about the environment of companies that you can later use for framing personalized sales pitches.

3. More revenue

If a lot of your target prospects are concentrated in a specific region, then you can walk/drive and connect with more prospects deeply in a day. As you hit up more companies and establish long-term relationships, you might make more revenue than if you were only reliant on cold calling.

Are you now convinced that cold canvassing is a legitimate sales tactic and can help you sell more? Thought so. But you might have additional objections: does it work for your kind of business? When should you prefer it over cold calling? The next section tackles such queries.

Frequently asked questions about cold canvassing

Here are the answers to the most common concerns regarding cold canvassing.

Will cold canvassing work for your kind of business?

If you locate your prospects in high concentration in a territory, then cold canvassing will work well. If your prospects are spread out, then walking/driving will become time-consuming, and the tactic won’t be as effective. Of course, the size of an opportunity plays a role too. Generally cold canvassing is used for selling insurance policies or other financial instruments.

What are the disadvantages of cold canvassing prospecting methods?

Depending on the temperament and the work schedule, dropping by the offices of your prospects might come across as aggressive and turn them off. Also, if you’re visiting residential areas, then you might be denied entry in gated societies. Your cold canvassing campaigns can also unexpectedly fail if the weather plays spoilsport.

What’s the difference between cold calling and cold canvassing?

Cold calling is prospecting individuals over the phone and selling your products/services to them even when they haven’t expressed an interest. Cold canvassing is also a prospecting tactic but entails approaching your prospects door-to-door at their office or place of residence. Canvassing campaigns can also have a goal of collecting information about prospects rather than direct selling.

Is cold canvassing legal?

In the US, there are no laws to prevent doorstep selling. A salesperson is entitled to free speech for commercial purposes. However you might need to apply for permits and licenses for your business here. You also need to adhere to the Federal Trade Commission’s three-day cooling-off rule that’s applicable for sales over $25.

What is “no solicitation?”

If a business or residential area has posted a “no solicitation” sign (generally on their windows, doors, trees, or property entrance), then they do not accept walk-ins from salespeople. You should respect the privacy request posed by such prospects, or you might face trespassing charges.

no soliciting

Image source: Customsigns.com

Are there any alternatives to cold canvassing?

If the idea of dropping at your prospects’ offices sounds scary, then you can try the following prospecting alternatives for generating sales.

  1. Answer the questions of your prospects in online communities,
  2. Offer free consultation sessions in your area of expertise,
  3. Cold email your prospects with proven cold email templates,
  4. Ask for referrals from existing clients,
  5. Launch your content marketing machine,
  6. Inbound market,
  7. Speak at industry conferences,
  8. Upsell to your current customers,
  9. Warm call prospects that completed your lead generation form.

Hope that all your doubts regarding cold canvassing are now cleared. We get down on how to execute the tactic in the next section.

How to execute a cold canvassing campaign: 5 simple steps

If you’re a sales leader, then here are the five simple steps you can follow to launch a cold canvassing campaign.

Step 1: Assess the areas that have a high concentration of prospects

Sales technology has allowed SDRs to sell to anyone located anywhere. However for cold canvassing, it makes sense to allocate geographies and ensure that your reps are spread out to ensure they cover more ground.

Do you want to target new geography and expand your business? Then take help from this Wikipedia list of companies categorized by state by Wikipedia, this compilation of the top SaaS companies in the US by Crunchbase, or our own SaaS Tech Stack Database.

Monroe Systems for Business built a personalized system using Smart Views in Close to look at their territory level data granularly.

To build a highly productive local sales machine, research and assess the areas where you plan to send your sales reps. Then prequalify the prospects by looking at their similarities with your existing customers and choose the areas where you find a decent number of companies.

Step 2: Calculate the costs, set goals, and prepare your team

Once you’ve performed an initial assessment of geographies where you want to execute cold canvassing, it’s time to calculate the approximate cost to the company. Here are the aspects you should take into account:

  • Salary and commission - Assuming your sales reps are on fixed pay, consider their monthly payment and other incentives for touching stretch goals.
  • Travel costs - Does your territory require traveling by air or commuting by their cars? If you’re covering these costs, then consider the cost of fuel, food, driving, and airfare (if required).
  • Miscellaneous - If your team member ends up having a meeting with a prospect in a cafe, then they might have to pay for the coffee. Also consider if your team will use any sales ops, CRM, or other technology tools for organizing the workflow. And take such costs into account.

Once you have an idea of the cost, you can involve your team members and get a realistic estimate of the number of visits possible in their respective territories in a day.

Taking the average closing rate from your last month’s cold calls/emails in account, set realistic sales goals for your whole team (we have a free template that you can use). Besides offering commissions for generating sales, also incentivize your sales reps for collecting valuable information and labeling suspects vs. leads vs. prospects. It will save you time down the road.

Sales leaderboards can be a great way to incentivize your reps to perform the actions that ultimately drive revenue.

Our inside sales CRM comes with built-in customizable leaderboards that are automatically updated in real-time. Whether the activities you want to incentivize are calls made, emails sent, text messages received, leads created, opportunities won, or a number of other factors, you can easily create leaderboards for your sales teams 

leaderboard-screenshotCurious? Try Close free for a full 14-days! No credit card required, and comes with free calling & SMS credits.

Also, instruct your team members to research their prospects, practice their sales scripts, and structure compelling product demos. Let your SDRs solicit appointments in their territories and plan the order of their visits.

Remember canvassing is a physical meeting, and body language plays a crucial role. If your sales reps are inexperienced, then remind them to harness their strengths. Even if they are getting nervous, they can turn it into empowering excitement. Remind your team to focus on powerfully delivering their message instead of worrying about the exact words.

Step 3: Decide the information you’ll document in your cold canvassing campaigns

If you’re doing lots of cold calls, you can record cold calls, then get external feedback, and even review your sales call recordings regularly. However when you’re physically meeting your prospects, you can’t have a replica of your face to face interactions. So you need to document your conversations manually.

It’s useful to make mental notes of the info you would like to collect from canvassing. Here are a few useful things:

  • Current organizational challenges and objections in buying your product - Ask your prospects questions and establish some basic context. What’s the size and kind of their organization? How will they evaluate your offerings? What are the current needs and pain points of the organization? Also, try soft pitching your product to gauge their awareness level and note down any sales objections (and address them).
  • Key decision-makers - Especially for large organizations, identifying your influencers, blockers, and buyers can prove useful in closing the deal. If possible, then meet these decision-makers and establish a rapport with them.
  • Highlights of your conversations and contact details - Whomever you meet at the prospect’s premise, you should write down the key pointers from all of your interactions (with some context on their roles at the organization). It would also help to note down the contact information of every individual you meet.

If anyone requested a followup appointment to discuss the product in more detail, then ask them a convenient date/time and mark it on your calendars.

  • Order details - Managed to close a deal on the spot? Awesome! Don’t forget to note down the requirements of the company thoroughly.
  • Other essential info - As you’re physically visiting your prospects, keenly observe the intricacies of their work culture, technology tools and other products they use, and anything related to what you sell. Collect any information that might prove useful in your sales process and help you personalize your pitch later.

Close lets you quickly organize information about your prospects, leads, and customers.

Once you finalize the info you plan to collect during canvassing move on to the next step: get out there!

Step 4: Go out on the field, interact with your prospects, and collect valuable information

Now that you’ve prepped your SDRs, laid out clear sales goals, and established the qualitative data they need to collect, it’s time to mobilize your team in their respective territories.

If you’ve allocated adequate resources to your team (including sanctioning a few tools that will look at in the next section) and your team members have put in the work, then your sales plan should execute smoothly.

Close lets you manage your team seamlessly. You can maintain a live document of the lead status, communicate internally about them and integrate with Slack, send email reports, and much more.

sales report

Once your sales reps gain intel about the companies they meet, it’s time to put it to use.

Step 5: Weave information gathered from cold canvassing in your sales

During canvassing, SDRs might come up with useful insights about your prospects and customers. Did a prospect express interest in your product/service, but your team member was unable to close the deal? Then drop them an email and build a deeper relationship. Try drafting a personalized proposal that matches their budget and meets their current needs.

Maybe you cracked a relationship dynamic, which could lead to cross-selling opportunities. Then follow up with your contact person and request an introduction to decision-makers for securing the sale.

What if you built a decent rapport with the contact person at a company, but they aren’t a fit right now? Drop them a line saying hello and request them to refer you to their network. Don’t let your efforts go to waste!

Five handy tools for successful cold canvassing

Before we conclude, here are five tools that will facilitate smooth cold canvassing.

1. Close

The all in one sales CRM by us will let you manage your leads and prospects lists, call/email them, and organize important information about them at a single place. It’s a great way to internally communicate with your team and manage the cold canvassing campaign smoothly.

sales crm

 

2. Google Maps

If the territory allocated to your SDRs is new/unfamiliar for them, then you don’t want them to waste their time. Tell them to keep pinned locations of the businesses they plan to visit during the day ready the night before so that they quickly navigate using Google Maps.

3. Spotio

spotio

 

The tool streamlines the process of booking appointments and combines sales intelligence with territory management. It also lets you easily navigate into your territory sales plan.

4. Fullcast

 

fullcast

 

This is a great end-to-end operation tool for sales planning. It lets you build your go-to-market plan, design segments and territories, and track the performance of your sales team.

5. Evernote

If you're in the very early stages of building out your sales teams, SDRs can use it to make text notes during meetings on their smartphones. If they build a repeatable process on what they will do and how they will conduct themselves, then Evernote also lets them create checklists and templates. The app can also save pictures and audio clips.

Once your team member collects information, they can organize it using tags, notebooks, hashtags, and more.

However once your sales process matures, you want to switch to a more sophisticated system. Any decent sales CRM will offer you the ability to add notes and interaction history directly alongside a prospect's contact information.

Alternative: Small notebook

If your team members prefer to keep the classic notebook with them, then it will work quite as well. Just that they will have to rely on their memory a lot for recollecting visual info.

Feel free to use more sales management tools if you’ve specialized requirements.

Parting Thoughts

Think cold canvassing is a dinosaur sales tactic at the brink of extinction? Think again. While surely not a suitable sales channel for every business, there are many companies succeeding because their sales team is knocking on doors. 

It's worth remembering the old adage when everyone zigs, zag! This can certainly be true when it comes to cold canvassing in B2B sales.

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