Door canvassing and door-to-door sales. If there is anything that encapsulates the image of the double glazing industry it is door canvassing. It has been a long-used method for companies to generate leads and sales in an instant on the doorstep of people’s homes.

However, in a market vastly changed by a pandemic, lockdowns and rapid embracing of technology, the idea of knocking on a door to generate a lead seems wildly old hat. Moreover, lockdown rules pretty much put door canvassing in the bin as all efforts were made to break chains of transmission.

Times have changed. Is it time to ban door canvassing altogether?

Does door canvassing still have its place?

I can already hear the rebuttals from the nationals forming now. The Linkedin comments being prepared for when this gets posted on that particular social network. But the question is valid and we are operating in a hugely different market now.

In my 16 years in this industry, I have rarely met a person who thinks knocking on doors is a quality way to run a business. It’s an invasive tactic that is designed to put the homeowner under pressure on their own doorstep to either arrange a sales appointment with a representative or even have a quote put together there and then.

When the PVCu industry was in it’s infancy and the internet was a twinkling bit of code in a tech guy’s eye, door canvassing was one of the major ways to generate business. But this is 2021. The internet drives a huge amount of new leads. Word of mouth and recommendation work carries a significant amount of weight. Consumer laws are far more strict and homeowners are much more aware of the sales tactics used to get them to part with their money. We’re in an age where the hard-sell is dead and quite frankly should be outlawed.

There are a gazillion other ways for a fenestration business to generate leads:

  • website
  • social media
  • email
  • TV
  • radio
  • print

These are just a few. Remember that a huge proportion of the general population uses Google to find and research products and services before they go on to make a purchase. Young or old, the ways in which people find and buy things have changed forever.

But does door canvassing still have its place? At the moment, lockdown guidance still says door canvassing should not take place. Whilst not strictly illegal, it’s clear the Government doesn’t want it to happen.

I was told once by a major company that up to a third of their business comes by way of door canvassing. A not insignificant proportion of the business, and no doubt that inability to conduct that kind of activity during the pandemic has had an effect. But other major national installers have also been able to pivot and adapt their business models. I have been told of one national installer that very quickly embraced technology at the start of the pandemic and now enjoys a 50/50 mix of sales generated via online methods and traditional methods. Proving that even the biggest businesses in this sector can adapt if the willpower is there to do so.

There is then also the moral consideration. Just because you can be allowed to do something, does it mean it is right to do? Imagine for a moment the pandemic is over, and door canvassing can happen. In this age of well-informed homeowners and better consumer protection, is knocking on someone’s door out of the blue to try and generate a lead a moral and just way to do business?

For me, the answer to that question is no.

Negatives outweigh the positives

In a debate in one of our Friday FENEX streams, this very subject came up. The mass majority view at the time was that door canvassing should be abolished. The alternative view was that banning this sales tactic could harm a new business starting up and begin a path to banning other sales methods that had questionable motives and morals.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to that view at all. Door canvassing is the most invasive tactic of all that is available. Online ads you can click away from. Leaflets you can throw in the recycling bin. Someone banging on your door for your personal attention within your own boundaries is a very different affair and one that many dislike with great passion.

Thankfully, much more of the population are aware of this method and shut down the start of that particular process before it can start. But for as many professional door canvassers that are out there, there are as many that prey on the vulnerable and naive. And this is where door canvassing is still able to generate revenue. Too often I have sat and listened to customers who have been hounded or even fell victim to what they described as rogue methods to win their business. Take it from me, it leaves a foul taste in the mouth of the homeowner and paints the entire sector in a bad light.

This for me is where the line has to be drawn and a standard be set. Any positives from door canvassing are far outweighed by the negatives that come from it. The hurt that it causes families when they find out their elderly relative has been too trusting towards a stranger who has knocked at their door. I have personal experience of this with my Grandad who is sadly no longer with us. He was sold a product on his doorstep, in a sheltered accommodation estate, that he simply did not need. Yet he was persuaded to part with a lot of money, was promised that his old product would be taken away for him by them and that everything would be sorted swiftly and clearly. None of that happened, and we as a family had to deal with the aftermath and the anger that our loved one was taken advantage of by rogue door canvassers. This is not a rare story. In 2021, do we really think that this is a worthwhile price to pay to allow door canvassing to continue?

Our industry has moved on. Consumers have moved on. Technology has moved on. I hope that during the consultations at higher levels that I know are happening, they seek to ban this practice and lead from the front on better ways to conduct business.

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