A teenager was shot for knocking on the wrong door. Telling your agents to door-knock for new business is dated advice, and it could be deadly. In a world where gun violence is in our headlines daily, it’s time to stop door-knocking.

In the past seven days, two people have been shot by homeowners simply for being at the wrong addresses. One was a 16-year-old Black teenager who went to pick up his brothers, knocked at the wrong door, and was shot twice by the homeowner. His name was Ralph Yarl.

The other was a 20-year-old white woman, who got lost and went to the wrong house while trying to find a friend’s home.

Going on people’s properties uninvited is dangerous.

These days, telling your agents to door-knock for new business isn’t just dated advice, but it could also be a deadly endeavor. In a world where gun violence is in our headlines daily, it’s time to retire this technique for good.

Working with the public has always been dangerous, and I will keep repeatedly stating that we have to do better by our agents. I won’t let it go. If we can help save just one agent, all the troll comments are worth it, and this is what I tell myself when subjecting myself to the inevitable pushback of folks who think I’m being dramatic for tackling topics like this. Yes, it’s me; I’m the drama. 

In the past year, I’ve covered serious topics about safety for agents, including violence against women, online harassment and advocating for LGBTQIA +, all geared to help create awareness about making work physically and mentally safer for agents. 

If your agents are not in a safe working environment, what are we even doing? How can we maintain professionalism if we cannot even provide basic training and policy to protect your most valuable assets — your team? 

Fast stats

  • 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in America in 2020. That was more than any other year on record.
  • 43 percent were murders (19,384), according to the CDC.
  • Four in 10 adults (41 percent) report living in a household with a gun. 
  • Among this group, more than half say at least one gun in their home is stored in the same location as the ammunition (52 percent), 44 percent say a gun is stored in an unlocked location, and more than one-third report a gun is stored loaded (36 percent).
  • This week, Andrew D. Lester (84) was charged with assault in the first degree and with armed criminal action for shooting Ralph Yarl(16) twice after Yarl mistakenly knocked on his front door in Kansas City, Missouri. 
  • This week, Kaylin Gillis (20) and three of her friends were trying to find another friend’s house in rural Hebron, N.Y., when they mistakenly pulled up to the house owned by Kevin Monahan (65), who then came onto his porch and fired two shots at the car and killing Gillis.

The history behind door-to-door sales

Hailed as a way to communicate with customers before technology and brought to popularity by traveling salespeople selling vacuum cleaners and insurance policies to housewives in the 1950s.

Door-knocking was a cheap and affordable way to meet new clients. For some reason, the idea of knocking on a stranger’s door, interrupting whatever they were doing, and forcing them to pay attention to you has been every old-school marketer’s go-to solution to someone with a dry pipeline ever since.

In the past year, several outlets, including Inman, have advocated for door-knocking to get business. NAR posted an article in January talking about one agent’s tips and success, but nowhere in the strategy do they mention safety.  

Other articles talk about this as a great way to show how hard you will work for future clients, but honestly, wouldn’t you personally want an agent who used smart technology instead of roaming about panhandling for listings and buyers who are not even qualified yet?

This advice is still so standard you can find it as a hallmark in many industries, such as insurance, real estate, lawn care, cable TV and pest control services. We even encourage our kids to do this for fundraising purposes. 

Angry folks consuming angry media

Intensive media consumption is literally altering our brain chemicals. This constant consumption makes the audience angrier, more violent, and more paranoid, which is a bad combination for the public in general.

Any perceived threat — physical, metaphysical, ideological or imagined — causes the amygdalae, the two almond-shaped bundles of neurons in the medial temporal lobe, to alert the brain to prepare for a fight (or flight). And these threats become addictive.

“The nature of anger is that it shuts off your cortex, your logic center, your thinking — it’s literally overriding that center of your brain,” said Dr. Jean Kim, a psychiatrist for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A short list of why door-knocking needs to be retired 

  • We have the technology.  
  • No one wants you to come over uninvited; it shows you have no respect for their personal time.
  • Based on the stats above, homeowners have a high potential of being armed.
  • You make the dogs bark and wake the kids.
  • There are hundreds of choices of no soliciting, no trespassing signs on Amazon.
  • Many areas are creating and enforcing no-soliciting laws with financial penalties.
  • Unless you are checking every address, you may be showing up on the doorstep of a potential registered sex offender.

Not one gosh darn soul is sitting around wishing that a real estate agent would come to knock on their door and offer to solve their problems. Consumers are smart enough to ask for help or find help independently with online research.  

Digital door-knocking is a better way to go

What door-knocking can I get behind? Digital door knocking — it’s the smart way to go and, if done correctly, will build you a tangible database to continue to work as you do it. With several smart analytical tools to choose from and many built into your MLS platforms, why would you gamble the odds and step onto a property uninvited?  

Many tools can give you insights if the homeowner is even remotely interested in selling their home. 

Most days, I think we as an industry spend too much time thinking about different ways to generate business. Still, we are not spending enough time thinking about caring for the humans conducting the business. 

We want to argue about clothes and old-school sales tactics, but we don’t spend enough time talking about ways to increase safety and decrease bias. Maybe if we reverse engineer this thought process, we will have better results. 

In the meantime, ditch the doorbell, and invest your time learning modern prospecting techniques that will not harm you while trying to build your business.

Rachael Hite is a former agent, a business development specialist, fair housing advocate, copy editor, and is currently perfecting her long game selling homes in a retirement community in Northern Virginia. You can connect with her about life, marketing, and business on Instagram 

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