Canvassing as a way to generate leads is taking some heat lately. Some home improvement companies that were in it are getting out of it. They have their reasons. Personally, I believe there’s something great about a canvassing lead. (Actually, they’re the best leads in the world because you’ve brought someone into the market.)

Take any kind of in-bound lead. It exists in three stages:

Stage 1
The prospect is thinking about it. Nobody wakes up one day and says: “Hey, let’s go get a new roof.” Or windows and siding. Once they recognize the need or desire for those products, it takes about two and a half years before they actually buy. And they buy because, at some point, someone — usually the wife — says: “Hey, we have to do something about the windows.” Where is that on the priority list for most guys? It doesn’t exist until the pain becomes great enough.

Stage 2
The prospect is shopping. They’re scoping out products and local companies to install the products. They’ll see you — if you’re good — and they’ll see your competitors. This is where you’ll encounter them if your marketing dollars are all about generating inbound leads.

But what if your competitor gets there first by knocking on the door? Your TV/radio/print ad/pay per click, or direct-mail piece may just as well not have happened.

Stage 3
They’re buying — maybe from you, maybe not. They’ve had it with shopping and they want to get this over with.

The great thing about canvassing is that you move a prospect from Stage 1 to Stage 3. You telescope that 2 1/2 years into a few months. They were thinking about it, and then came that knock on the door came. Hey, we’re with ABC Windows doing a job at the Jones’s down the street. Do you know the Joneses? We’re doing free estimates for homes in the neighborhood.

In addition, you have first dibs. The homeowner may call other companies, they may not. But they’ll talk to you first. And, if you manage it right — that is, if the salesman comes in and sells value and the price is affordable — you may be the only company they talk to.

Final point: Your canvassing prospect is someone who is open to buying, open to suggestion. That’s why you’re sitting in the living room, isn’t it? Once people have moved into Stage 2, the shopping stage, they get jaded pretty quickly. All that has to happen is for one company to come out and spend three hours pounding them. After that, all the homeowners want is a price. Just a price. —Sales veteran and trainer Mike Damora has been the sales manager at several large home improvement companies. Reach him at