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Practice Management > Building Your Business

The Art of Canvassing

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How would you define the term “canvassing” (as in “canvassing the neighborhood”)?

Here’s one definition: The activity of soliciting votes and locating supporters. Traditionally done by tramping the streets from house to house, culminating in persuading those who have previously promised to support one’s party to come out and vote for it.

That’s according to Wikipedia (the resource for everything, by the way).

Is that you? Do you want it to be you? Tramping the streets going from house to house (or business to business)? After all, this is why NO SOLICITING signs were invented.

There are lots of creative signs out there. Here’s my favorite.

But I digress.

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe canvassing is an excellent technique for getting business, provided it’s done properly. Think about it: How much more success would you have if you viewed canvassing as a marketing approach, rather than a sales approach? A tough sell, I know.

If you’re already having great success (as in writing lots of business) canvassing and you’re having fun, great! Keep on keeping on! If you’re struggling and need some direction, listen up. Because walking into a business (that’s not yours) in the middle of the work day to sell stuff that they probably don’t want and didn’t plan the time to think about — well, that’s a tough sell.

Do you want to get more yes’s while canvassing? Feel better about yourself? Gain more credibility? Develop more confidence? Have more success? Set more appointments? Build more relationships? Do more business?

Here’s how.

Change your mind set. You have to stop thinking about yourself (how can I sell my stuff?) and start thinking about them (how can I help them, add value, develop a relationship?). Think about how great it would be to develop a relationship with a business that is in or connected to your target marketplace. These new contacts could introduce you to people that are actually interested in financial planning, life insurance or whatever your product or service might be. Who knows, after proving your worth, they might become a client too!

Pitch something other than your product or service. You are not there to pitch your wares. Repeat after me, “I am not here to sell you anything.” (This is tough stuff, I know.) You are there to introduce yourself, make a great impression and set an appointment for a return visit. That’s it!

Now, don’t get too excited. Your return visit is not a sales appointment. Your appointment is simply a scheduled time to collaborate about each other’s business and discuss how you can best be resources for one another. Basically, how can you help each other? Your language can sound something like this.

Good afternoon! My name is Michael. I’m sorry to bother you, but I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself to you. I’m not here to sell you anything, so please don’t panic. I’m a financial advisor with BBC Financial Group. In growing my business, I pride myself on developing relationships with successful business owners in the area and ultimately referring business back and forth. I don’t want to take up your time today as I’m sure you’re in the middle of a million things, but would you be open to scheduling some time with me over the next couple of weeks to discuss further?

Now, most likely, you’ll have a scheduled time to exchange ideas, talk about the type of business you’re both looking to do and determine the best ways for staying in touch. Think process, not event.

Develop a strategy for establishing credibility and likeability. The best way to do this is to be nice, interested in others, respectful of people’s time, great about following up and following through, reliable, honest and active about being a connector and referring business. If you do all of these things, you’ll get the same thing right back. It’s that simple! You may not click with everyone, but you will click with most. Just keep in mind that the more specific you are about what you want, the more successful you will be.

Going door to door isn’t easy. Try these approaches over the next couple of weeks and see what happens. Offer value, develop important relationships and build your confidence and self worth.

How would you like it if I knocked on your door?

Michael Goldberg is a speaker, consultant, author, and the founder of Building Blocks Consulting. His book, “Knock-Out Networking! More Prospects, More Referrals, More Business!” was published in March. For more information or to subscribe to Michael’s free blog, The Building Blocks to Success, please visit or


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