The star of your canvassing team outperforms everyone. Friendly, outgoing, presentable, a producer. He's also getting restless. And what happens if or when your star performer comes to you, wanting to know what he (or she) has to do to get on the sales team? “If they're good at canvassing, there's strong potential for them in sales,” industry sales and marketing consultant Rick Grosso says. He notes that many of the industry's most successful companies were founded by individuals who started as canvassers. “The basic skills are the same; the ability to handle people, smile, think on your feet, ask and answer questions.”

A STEP UP Power Home Remodeling Group (formerly Power Windows & Siding), one of the country's largest home improvement companies, was built on canvassing. Founding partner Jeff Kaliner notes that the Chester, Pa.–based company's managers watch for canvassers who can move into sales. By his estimate, as many as 20% of the company's salespeople were canvassers at some point.

Dave Sonner, president of Illinois Energy, in Lombard, Ill., where in the last 19 years 20 to 30 salespeople started as canvassers, agrees but says, “There's a lot you have to teach them.” Canvassers are used to short 5-minute conversations, Sonner points out. They need to become aware of product knowledge, company history, and how to ask for the sale. When they learn, it works well both for them and for the company.

Legacy Remodeling, in Pittsburgh, started its canvassing program three years ago. Four of its 10 salespeople came from canvassing. “In most cases, you can't see them going beyond canvassing,” company CEO Ken Moeslein says. He can tell which canvassers are potential sales material by watching them work as demonstrators at a home show or other event. The ones with sales potential are those who are “not afraid to meet a stranger and discuss our services.”

STEPPING STONE Fred Finn, president of Euro-Tech, a Chicago–area window and siding company, says that his company often requires new sales hires to canvass before they actually run leads. But canvassers becoming salespeople is rare, in his experience. Finn says that he admires the doggedness of the best canvassers. He also says that the best canvassers are often the most difficult to manage.

Grosso says companies that canvass should base promotion opportunities on leads produced and not be afraid to dangle the sales carrot because “you have to move them up, otherwise they'll move with someone else.”