Cold calling can be just that: cold. And nobody knows it like a canvasser. “It takes a rare breed,” says Nicole Wilkerson, marketing manager at Ambassador Home Improvement in Harrisburg, Pa. “You're out in the sleet, wind, and humidity, walking uphill, downhill, and getting doors slammed in your face.”

Given that, it takes incentives to keep canvassers going. So in addition to offering an hourly wage of $7 to $8, Ohio Consolidated Builders in Cleveland pays $30 for each demonstration booked for a daytime appointment and $20 for each nighttime demonstration.

To make it easier on canvassers and manage them better, Ohio Consolidated has them work four-hour shifts.

“They have to answer to us more regularly as opposed to managing themselves,” says vice president Anthony Hotey. Even with four hour shifts, though, some still work a lot of hours: Hotey cites one canvasser who consistently puts in a 40-hour week and earns $600.

Bonus For Sales? Renewal by Andersen of Colorado pays on a similar scale but adds a sales bonus of up to $250, depending on the size of the sale. “The idea behind sales incentives is higher-qualified leads,” says co-owner Randy Shepherd. “If the canvassers aren't given incentives, they'll often book low-qualified leads. There's nothing worse than a professional sales rep going out on a lead and being told by the prospect, ‘I told the guy we're not interested.'”

Rather than sales bonuses, Hotey says that Ohio Consolidated offers bonuses strictly for leads and the occasional grab bag filled with 5-, 10- and a few 50-dollar bills.

“Sales bonuses cause more drama than they're really worth, because canvassers become overly concerned with which salesperson is running the lead and their presentation,” Hotey says.

Measuring Productivity In return, these companies expect one lead every two hours. “If a canvasser isn't productive within just a couple of weeks, we replace him,” Shepherd says. Hansons' Home Services, in Madison Heights, Mich., requires four demonstrations booked per week.

Tough as that sounds, some canvassers keep at it. Hansons' has had people stay as long as four years. For a lot of his canvassers, Hotey says, “that's their college job for three years because they can't find anything that pays as well and is flexible around a class schedule.”

The reality, though, is that a more typical commitment is a few months. “There's a big exodus come wintertime,” Hansons' president Brian Elias says ruefully.