Sunday, January 11, 2009

WSJ reports on Edward Jones, selling investments door-to-door: this actually works in the 21st Century?


When I was growing up, as in the 50s, I guess people were less private and a lot more sociable. Door-to-door selling was common.

Imagine, Saturday (Jan. 10), however, my surprise to see this story on the Wall Street Journal “School of Hard Knocks: Edward Jones Still Sells Investments Door-to-Door; Turnover is high, but the company is hiring; Jim Haston sees some sales resistance”, link here.

The company’s website is this and it says “For decades, we've believed in building relationships through face-to-face interaction.” The story says that the company has 12000 brokers, with almost 1000 brokers added in 2008. The articles discusses the company’s training program, which certain have to do with how to manipulate people (and implements of social interaction) in the bricks-and-mortar world. The company seems to be unique among brokerages.

As for me, with my personal history, I don’t think I’m in a position to manipulate anyone to buy something somebody else developed (it’s different, of course, if I developed it – completely different).

As much of our culture has become more “do-it-yourself” and technology oriented (and as a lot of people resent personal intrusions now), the whole mindset of many people has changed. Salesmanship, at least as a separate personal skill, doesn’t seem to be high on the list of personal virtues like it once was. (Remember the days when home service agents sold life insurance?) My own father was a manufacturer’s representative, who lived on commissions, although he sold to stores, not much to individuals. Yet, his whole technique, that built a stable career for 35 years, was to turn sales into continuous customer service. I don’t know if a door-to-door approach works that way today.

I remember in 2002, during the previous recession, seeing Time Warner advertise for cable salesmen, with possible earnings of $75000 in the Twin Cities. I called, and found out, yes, this was door-to-door. At the time, I was surprised that door-to-door jobs were still around, that it was even “respectable.” Such was the culture I had lived in. But I suppose that door-to-door selling of cable makes sense in new developments in the exurbs. But I was living downtown. No go.

“Always Be Closing.”

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