One of the hardest parts about canvassing is getting people to actually engage. Whether you’re going door-to-door or on the street, you’ll face a lot of rejection. We have a few tips to help you engage more people while canvassing.
First impressions make all the difference in canvassing. People will often decide whether or not they’ll talk to you before you even open your mouth. How you dress and carry yourself affects their willingness to engage with you.
Be aware of your posture. Standing up tall and confident makes you seem more professional and approachable.
Dress well. You don’t need to dress to the nines, but you should appear well-groomed, clean and professional. Taking the extra care shows that you take what you are canvassing for seriously. If you’re too scruffy and poorly dressed, people may think you’re only out there because you have to be. Or worse yet, they may pass right by you, thinking you’re a panhandler.
A good, clean look instills confidence and makes canvassers more approachable. As well, it helps to have an identifier that shows the cause you’re working for. Vests, hats, or buttons are all simple and easy identifiers. As a bonus, having a name tag makes engagement easier and more personal.
Consider psychologist, Albert Mehrabian’s, 7-38-55 rule for first impressions:
As important as it is to look the part, what you say and how you say it still makes a huge difference in your engagements. Being friendly is a key component of getting people to stop and talk while voter canvassing.
Friendliness is as much the tone you use as it is the words you say. Generally, canvassers will open with a smile, friendly greeting, and a handshake. This disarms people who often have their guard up when talking to strangers. It also establishes a warm and welcoming environment for conversation.
People like talking to friendly people, so let your good nature show through as early as possible. You don’t have to crack a joke, but a smile and kind word can go a long way.
A good opener takes a little workshopping. Go through some trial and error with different lines until you find one, or a few, that people tend to respond to.
One of the most important aspects of a good opener is delivering it with confidence. When you’re starting out, don’t worry about being clever or smart with your opener, just have one you can use with confidence. A straightforward approach like, “good afternoon, do you have a moment to talk about [insert topic],” is as good to start with as anything.
As your confidence grows, you can start to play with more creative lines. Learn to read and react to your audience and their body language.
Don’t be a con-vasser. A popular approach with paid charity canvassers is to sucker someone into a conversation with an unrelated opening line. For example, “do you like ice cream.”
(While this technique does get people to stop, it tends to annoy people and not result in meaningful engagements. If someone asks about ice cream and then does a 180० to talk about raising money for child abuse, it’s off-putting. Don’t trick people.)
Bait-and-switch openers aren’t the only canvasser faux-pas. Being too aggressive is another common problem. Not only is it unlikely to result in a meaningful engagement, but it can even turn people off of your candidate or cause.
Simply put, not everyone wants to talk to you. You can’t control whether someone is in a hurry, has social anxiety, or any other reason they don’t want to talk to canvassers. You can still say make an attempt or two, but learn to take no as an answer. If they’re in a hurry, you may even still get them on their way back.
Not only do you need to learn to take no for answer, but you also need to get used to it. Whether you’re door-knocking or out on the streets, canvassers need to grow thick skin. In all likelihood, you’ll face more rejection than acceptance.
Don’t take rejection personally. After all, even if you’re friendly and have a great opener, you’re still intruding on their space and time. A good canvasser embraces rejection and moves on to the next person.
When a mark turns you down, trying to turn them around is generally a waste of both of your time.
To master your pitch, you need to know what you’re pitching and have a clear goal in mind. As well, you need to practice your spiel. Keep your message clear and concise so there is no confusion.
You can practice your pitch in the mirror, with friends, or on your co-canvassers. For canvassing alternatives, like door-knocking apps, you can even get customized scripts or talking points for each person you call. Read through it before picking up the phone, many people like to say it out loud to prepare.
While we’re on the subject:
Door-to-door canvassing is a tried and true method. But it’s slow and clunky, especially for small campaigns and grassroots organizations. Door-knocking apps bring this ancient technique into the 21st-Century.
The voter canvassing app streamlines canvassing with efficient, results-focused methods for any size of team. Extend the reach of your volunteers and cover more ground. It’s the best way to spread your message and get real feedback on local issues and opinions.
Try it for yourself, get started with our door-knocking app, TenMoreVotes, today!
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