When it comes to the end of daylight-saving time, the change can be a little disorienting for those door-to-door canvassers who, once clocks fall back an hour, will be knocking on doors after sundown.
A variety of factors can set back your canvassing performance this time of year. Let's address them one by one so we can best prepare for the unique challenges that the darker, colder seasons can present.
• Hourly adjustments. Although contact rates can be low during the daytime, it's also true that reception at the front door is greater when the sun's still out. Homeowners feel more comfortable coming to the front door to greet strangers when they can see them.
• Older and wiser. You may want to target neighborhoods with an older demographic. Search for areas with large numbers of retirees. Sometimes this type of research can be done online through websites such as Zillow.com. In other cases it must be done through in-field scouting. Look for classic icons of the older generation such as lawn jockeys, yard gnomes, and concrete geese dressed to the nines. A strong emphasis on canvassing in neighborhoods with these types of decor will yield increased results during daytime hours.
• Long weekend. Stretch the weekend schedule: Increase Saturday hours and add Sunday to the weekly schedule as well. These are the only two days of the week where you're likely to reach homeowners when the sun's still out. The myth that Sunday is a day of poor reception at the front door is far from true. I've tested this theory all over the U.S. — including the heart of the Bible Belt. The fact is that those who would be offended by your visit on the holy day are typically at church and brunch and are not at home to be offended ...
• Dress for success. In addition to neat, business-casual attire and dressing warmly for the weather, I've found it to be incredibly helpful for canvassers to wear two items in particular. The first is a lanyard I.D. badge. In addition to the canvasser's photo, this badge should have both the company name and the canvasser's name, for identification purposes.
Moreover, many canvassers have found that they are harassed less by homeowners and law enforcement alike if they place the word "PERMIT" in bold print at the top of the badge. This can be an internal permit for all intents and purposes, but the very presence of the word instills confidence.
Last but not least, sporting a bright-colored safety vest (much like the vests that road workers wear) has a tremendous impact on contact rate. It seems that homeowners are much more likely to answer the door when they feel the person beckoning them may be coming from the utility company, city, or a package delivery firm. Whatever the case, it works and is especially effective after dark. To view a brief video where I discuss this topic in depth follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mNTvU-KeFo
• Here and now. Knocking on doors through an entire dark, cold, wet winter is not something anyone looks forward to doing. Therefore, the tendency for turnover among your canvassers at this time of year is high. The use of daily cash bonuses can be effective for shifting canvassers' focus from long-term to short-term. By offering daily cash bonuses, the employee mentality swings from that of preoccupation with the arduous task of knocking through an entire season of inclement weather to "How can I put some extra money in my pocket today?"
If you change canvassers' way of thinking, you will change their results. In the end, that's the only sustainable method for increased performance.
• Other tips. Maintaining good morale among the canvass crew is critical at this time of year. Do that with strategies such as team incentives that allow for early quitting time provided that the group has hit its daily appointment goal. I've found that encouraging canvassers to embrace the seasons by dressing up on Halloween and wearing Santa Claus hats during December has also had a positive effect on their spirits. Other small motivators include things like taking periodic breaks for hot chocolate to warm up.
On a final note, the use of colored pencils versus pens is key in colder temperatures as pens often freeze up and fail to work. Not only does this pose the obvious problem, but it can leave the canvasser thinking, "If my pen doesn't even want to work in these conditions, then why should I ..."
Ultimately, it is important to have a winning attitude. And like winning, canvassing is not a sometime thing. It's an all-the-time thing.
—Tony Hoty is a sales and marketing consultant and one-time home improvement company owner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.