A few years ago, managers at Deck America, a company that generates the majority of its leads from canvassing, transferred a failing salesperson to the canvassing squad. One month after that, the company moved him back into sales. “Twelve months later,” says company president Dan Betts, “this person was our salesperson of the year. He sold over a million dollars in net good business. He got the message: Hey, get over it. They're going to say no to you, and that's OK.”

At some home improvement companies, canvassing crews can provide potential sales recruits. They learn the nitty-gritty knocking on doors. “The fact is,” Betts says, “there's no better way to learn how to sell than by going door to door and setting appointments.”

In addition, he says, the same things that attract young people to canvassing jobs — short hours, good pay, working outside the building, freedom, and independence — are often what appeal to salespeople.

RECRUIT TO CULTIVATE Brian Leader, president of Ohio Energy Corp., a $12-million sunroom and window company in Columbus, started canvassing when he was a student at the University of Maryland. He says if canvassers can stick it out and learn to take rejection, they can be excellent salespeople. “They're exposed to a variety of circumstances every single day,” he says. “Those that remain optimistic in light of all that and still do it with a passion become tremendous salespeople.”

However, Leader points out, if you're interested in recruiting canvassers to the sales force, the best way to set the stage is by hiring canvassers who look, and act, like future salespeople.

“They have to have some physical presence about them so that they can become dressed up and polished,” Leader says. “If they aren't polished, and can't be polished, they aren't going to go into the sales force and have any credibility.”

POWER OF SUGGESTION Betts suggests that canvassing supervisors use the power of suggestion to set canvassers with potential on the road to sales. “It takes your manager of prospecting to see something in this individual,” he says. “Most of them aren't going to say, ‘Hey, I want to go into sales now.' You're taking somebody you know can do sales and setting it up for them to give it a try. That's where we see most of the success.”