Thursday, 15 April 2010

Ye Olde Art of Window Cleaning Canvassing

"Igetwork4U" is the nick-name used on the Window Tools website by an ex window cleaning canvasser in the UK who doesn't sell canvassing services anymore & his canvassing website has now disappeared. His evenings are now spent building rounds for his nephews who are window cleaners if he does any canvassing at all. His advise is below: -

As my handle suggests, I have dabbled in selling canvassing services, I no longer do this.
  • It's really not that difficult to get the work, I've averaged between one in ten and one in twelve of those who actually answer the door. So it's important that you speak to 90% of householders in any one street to build a nice compact round. Return to the same street until you've reached this target. When I say compact work, I mean a worthwhile amount (£100 - £200) that you park up and walk around, instead of all that loading up and driving between jobs.
  • I take a booklet and list every house number, if I get no answer I leave that line blank until I do. If the people say they already have a wc then I mark that number W/C and he's name/company if they gave that info (this is very important for later use. As when you've finished you'll not only have a record of your own work, but also a record of the other window cleaners work, useful for when he packs it in). Find out what happened to their old window cleaner and ascertain the extent of the round he may have left, I've even been given the old window cleaners contact details, called him and it turned out that he was now in the computer industry after attending college, he sent me the old list via email and I sent him a drink via paypal.
  • If they just say no, then I put an X. Or s/c = self clean, if the house is for sale or to let, then note it down for later canvassing. Look for those "no canvassers" signs and respect them. If they just take a card then I put "c" for carded and Q (figure) for any quote you may have given.
  • Dress like a window cleaner, don't overdo it with suits and ties, as you'll look like some religous canvasser and put them off straight away. Smile and did you ever notice how people raise their eyebrows when they acknowledge each other? You'll see this and make sure you do it too.
  • Timing, any time of day can work, obviously you'll catch more at home in the evening. You'll sell your service more to the ladies than the men, so don't knock when they are watching the popular soaps. Get the TV schedule to check. Try to keep it quick, they may have the dinner on the stove or better things to do.
  • The spiel; Get something that you are comfortable with such as " Good evening I'm expanding my window cleaning round into this street, I visit every six weeks, would you be interested in this service?" or (my favourite as it shows what a nice guy I am) " Hello I'm canvassing for my friends window cleaning round, he calls every six weeks in this area, would you be interested in this service?" Hopefully you'll get a "How much do you charge?" they'll invite you to see the back and give a price. If they are wavering about cost, suggest that you could fit them in on a 12 weekly (or whatever) rota. Hand them a card or your calling ticket and ask them when would be convenient for THEM. I usually suggest a Saturday for the first clean. I never ask for names or phone numbers.....younger ladies can become uncomfortable with this. Besides if you get them to expect a call from you every evening before you call, it gives them the chance to say, "Oh can you leave it this time?"
  • One big complaint I get when canvassing is; "Someone called last year and never bothered turning up" or " I had one knock, but he only came twice" Counter this by pointing out that you are serious, have an established round already, are mature with a family to keep, are not in it for some beer money.
  • The first clean; Be on time! Now's the time to go through what other services you offer and discus access arrangements as you'll likely be asked " How do you get to the back if I'm out?" " Where shall I leave the money?" You reach over and unbolt the gate of course you do it all the time. You collect on a Tuesday mostly.
  • The Old 'uns: These are the best, do take the time to chat as they likely get few visitors ........likely they have lived in the area for many years and know everybody ..........leads to more customers. I have one old boy who got me three new jobs and collects the money for me! That's worth hearing his old wartime stories for.
  • You'll get some who will cancel after two or three cleans, don't get despondent with this as it shows what an ace salesman you are, after all you sold them on a service they didn't really want.
  • Don't get put off when the first few householders say they already have a window cleaner, it's likely he hadn't put as much effort into canvassing as I suggest you do. The only time I got put off was when the first 17 households in a street all had the same guy, my hat off to him and I moved on to another street.
  • Those big £20 - £30 houses. Yeah, I know they look inviting, but many of those people may just have an ordinary income, or the more wealth they have the more suspicious they get of you. I don't even bother knocking. I've many £20 - £30 houses that have came my way and I'll keep them as they are all reliable good payers. What I have found is that they are not so productive when it comes to the actual canvassing of them. I've always gotten better results canvassing from people who live in the more modest type of house.
  • New Build estates; Don't bother with these as I've always heard "your the third this week" put them on the back burning for a couple of years, wait for the other guys to drop them.
  • Always good to canvass the area around a new job, as it makes it more worthwhile to make the trip. I always make sure to "ask the questions" whenever we get a new job in a new area.
  • Another reason why I like to book the first clean for a Saturday is (especially in the summertime), others in the street are more likely to see you and ask. Always worth trying a Saturday even for the established work now and again.
  • If you plan on using professional canvassers, make sure your man works alone and knows about window cleaning. Stay clear of any firms that employ kids on percentages as that is when they'll promise the customers the earth and under price to get the job to get the commission.
  • You'll get family/friends/mates say " Why you paying all that money? I can do that, give me £10 ph/ pocket money". Another mistake.
  • After such a manky winter, many window cleaners will have packed it in and gone back to whatever they done before. Those houseproud ladies will be spring cleaning. This is the best time of year to canvass.
  • Dropping leaflets:
  • I never use them on virgin territory (but they do have a place), it's a lot of leg work that can be better spent knocking on doors. Nothing beats that face to face approach when getting the work in. I've come across many leaflets, mainly from guys who've used them before coming to me for help in building rounds, and if they've come to me, that means that other approaches haven't worked for them.
  • You may want to re-consider what you propose to be known as before getting any stationary printed, and the sort of image you want to portray. "M & H Window Cleaning" is just as forgettable a name as "ASV Cleaners". Try to use something that will wear well and not date with time. If you can think of nothing else, what's wrong with your proper name?
  • A leaflet can get you a call weeks even months after dropping, so any change in contact details will cost you work. Those "free" 0845 "Office" numbers we see everywhere on the back of vans, and you're been thinking of getting a posh bird to do the answerphone for you. Now if you don't have a posh secretary or even an office, then what's all this about? Time to admit this is just an exercise in vanity, and has no place in the serious business of getting your work together and making money. Besides many people don't like to speak to an answerphone, which could cost you work and it's not cheap paying to recieve all those messages. Use your mobile number (because that's the one you ALWAYS answer (and they can text on) and email/website on stationary/van (my apologies to M & H and ASV and sorry to all those with 0845 "Office" numbers, as you've delivered 10,000 leaflets already, I guess you're stuck with them now).
  • I've never used special offers or promotions, never seen the need to, as you say you are getting a decent hit rate from canvassing as it is. Also never be tempted to lower your price to get the job as you'll never be able to get that price up to where it should be.
  • I've never dropped leaflets when canvassing, if the householder is out when I call, then I call again and again until I've contacted that 90% that I spoke of. Though I do carry leaflets, I only give them out if the householder has to think about it or asks for one, or if children answer the door and mums in the bath, or if the house is being looked after by someone else. But don't hold your breath with these ones.
  • Now there's always that last 10% of households that are difficult to find in at any time of day when canvassing. Give up on those as you cannot contact them to canvass, how will you ever collect? Some people are just never at home.
  • A good use of leaflets is when I'm planning to canvass a new area. I pay to display them in any corner shops in that area a few weeks before. Not that I expect to get any calls from them..............but when I do canvass I'll get asked "Oh is that your leaflet in the shop window?" and the householder will assume that you already have an established round in their area, which will add to your credibility.
  • Which brings me to your "House-style" and the subject of graphic design and logo for all stationary, leaflets, cards, calling cards and van. You want this to be instantly recognisable as yours. So it all must tie in together. Never use more than two fonts (except if the third is the logo). Google or you-tube for graphic design tips and which colours go together well.
  • Copy; Be careful of the actual wording on any printed matter. One chap I worked with, already had leafleted before he came to me, which promised a "six to eight week return visit" He still does half a road on 6 weekly and the others on 8 weekly, besides losing the extra money it's not a good use of time. The other problem with his leaflet was waffling on about himself. Vanity belongs elsewhere. We dumped the remaining 5000 and got some more done.
  • What happens to most of your leaflets is they get scooped up with all those offers of two for one pizza's and readers digest junk mail and promptly binned without ever being read. More expensive per unit but can be very effective is the "Mail-Shot", great for getting in that commercial work which can be difficult to canvass because you can never reach the correct person to talk to.
  • I begin by getting hold of the yellow pages for my target area, select a type of business that may require your services, like one that may get a lot of visitors (of course they will then want clean windows). Unless you can find out the relevant persons name and job description, you will have to take a guess at the head honcho's title and use that. (Building Manager, Director, Manager etc)
  • Take for instance (one of my favourites) Nursing Homes, there may be fifty or so in your target area and you should aim for all of them. Your letterhead, quality paper, quality envelope, first class stamp. Addressed to the main Honcho, in the case of nursing homes would usually be a family run limited company so address it to the Director.
  • Unlike the leaflet that likely got chucked out with the other junk mail. Now you've landed right on the head mans desk! The hard part is you've got to keep he's attention past that first paragraph before it gets binned. There's no one size fits all, you may want to keep it brief not wanting to bore the poor chap. Keep paragraphs short and sweet, use bullet points to outline your services and get to the point. Above all write what is so special about your service.
  • Fill the bullet points by outlining that you provide a free Risk Assessment, Method Statement, Carry £5 million public liabilty insurance. Fully trained uniformed staff etc.
  • Stay away from buzzwords, ever played b-u-l-l-s-h-i-t bingo? (I've read whole leaflets which didn't actually say anything)
  • Don't offer promotional prices, nor discounts, this will identify you as a hungry for work start-up, and thus inexperienced.
  • Hopefully you'll get a call, take your mate along if you work with one, decide independently what the quote should be and meet in the middle will be about right. If the customer is agreeable all's well. Only offer discount for increased frequency of cleans after all he has called you because you've impressed him.
  • Provide your new customer with the Risk Assessment, Method Statement and details of your insurance before commencing work. Many businesses will want to see that Risk Assessment etc, you can go online and get them done for a price, but as you've offered a free one you'd better learn how it's done for yourself. When you've exhausted your chosen target businesses, it's time to select another type.
  • Mailshots are much more expensive per unit than leaflets, but aimed at the right type of business bring in a higher value of work. As a start up with limited funds you don't have to send out 10,000 at once. Even if you only budget £20-£50 per month is enough to start with. Just like canvassing it's a numbers game, the more you put out the more you'll get in.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Hi, first of all I would like to thank you for taking the time and effort to write this post. My name is Steve and I have been cleaning windows traditionally and using the water fed pole system for around 20 years now. I have always worked for other companies but recently decided to go it alone. I believe my work is second to none as I would rather make less money and do a fantastic job which is one of the reasons I left my old company. The only problem I am having is finding the work. This post was extremely helpful to me and I hope I can use the gems you have given us to improve my round. I recently made a Facebook page for my business called Apex Window Cleaning Services which is based in Southampton, UK. Is there any chance you could take a look and let me know what you think?

Kind regards


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