Before voicemail and email became part of everyday life, many salespeople preferred to physically visit prospects instead of calling them on the phone. It's not as common an approach today, especially in B2B sales, which means that it can actually be more useful than you'd think. After all, if you're the first salesperson who has stopped by a particular office, the novelty can help you get your foot in the door.
Visiting a prospect in person gives you access to clues that you would never have a chance to uncover over the phone. How the prospect's home or place of business looks is a major indicator of the type of person they are. Is it shabby or perfectly maintained? Is the landscaping lush or is it all gravel and concrete? How large is the house or office? What colors and decorations did they choose? All of these are clues to the prospect's state of mind, which can tell you what approach will work best to secure an appointment.
Dropping in on an office allows you to talk to people who aren't decision makers themselves, but who might have useful information about the company in general. For example, a few minutes with the receptionist can yield information such as the name(s) of the decision maker(s) or purchasing agent, how they feel about the product they currently own, what their schedule is like, and so on.
In some cases you won't be able to simply wander the building at will because of security. When this happens, jot down the company names from the building directory so that you can look them up later for a phone call or email. Don't forget to chat with the people manning the security desk, as you may learn a useful tidbit or two – or at the very least, leave them with a pleasant memory of you for when you hopefully return later with an appointment.
When you arrive at a prospect's door, whether it's an office or a home, you should give a reason for being there. In-person cold calling works extremely well in conjunction with a nearby appointment because then you can say something like, “I was just working with your neighbors and I have a few minutes until my next appointment, so I'd be happy to do a 15-minute financial assessment for you at no charge,” or whatever type of assessment matches up with your own product area. Another way to approach a new prospect is to say, “This is my first time visiting your neighboorhood/building/block and I wanted to introduce myself and get to know some of the people here.” This technique works best with an extremely low-pressure sales strategy – your goal should be to get the name and phone number of the decision maker (you can do this by exchanging business cards in a B2B scenario) and perhaps ask a few questions to see if this is a qualified prospect for your product. You can then follow up with either a phone call or a second in-person visit to get an appointment.
You probably won't get to sit down with a decision maker then and there – like a cold call over the phone, your main goal will be to set a future appointment. However, if your timing is just right, you may be invited to present your case immediately. So bring along whatever tools and information you'll need for a full sales presentation. Who knows, you might just walk out of there with a brand-new sale in hand.