By: Don Salata
A "No Soliciting" sign is common on or near the doors of many people's homes. It it also common on the doors to many businesses. In either case, the message it sends are the same - salespeople are not welcome.
Look at the graphic at left for a moment. What is your reaction to it? Any business that displays such a sign should understand the marketing communications message they are sending:
First - What is defined as soliciting? A salesperson without an appointment? If so, is business accepted by appointment only? Many customers may think so. Why? Because the sign suggests a certain exclusivity - that the business can somehow afford to send a message as to which type of visitor is welcome. If a business can indeed be selective about its clientele, the sign effectively reinforces that exclusive image. If the intent and desire, however, is "all are welcome", a display of this sign sends the wrong message.
Second, and somewhat consistent with the point made above, a "No Soliciting" sign demeans what many people do for a living. "Soliciting" is a negative connotation of "selling" - the business that displays a "No Soliciting" sign is sending the message, probably unintentionally but the same message regardless, that people that sell for a living are not welcome, or at the very least, less welcome, than customers that do something else. If a person that walks in to an establishment is one of the many that sells for a living, they are being asked, for that moment, to check what they do for a living at the door. Think about it - they earn the money that a business wants them to spend by "soliciting" for a living. Can a business really afford to be so discriminating?
Third - A "No Soliciting" sign, is subtly communicating "Our Business is Perfect - No Ideas Necessary". If that's true about your business, hang your sign proudly. But if your business could benefit from a new idea, why not eliminate the perception that you are not open to them? Every good salesperson believes they are communicating a good idea to you. They could not function effectively if they didn't. What is wrong with listening to what that idea is, and then, in an exchange of information a good salesperson would truly appreciate, provide honest feedback on it? Honest feedback could be just as effective at sending the salesperson on their way as a "No Soliciting" sign, with the added benefit of potentially hearing a good idea or two, and more importantly, not demeaning the income source of the person that sells for a living.
Finally, a few quick examples:
I noticed an Engraving and Sign Shop business in our community the other day that displayed a sign of obviously their own making, that read "ABSOLUTELY - NO SOLICITING". A sign shop. Unless they deal exclusively in the production of "NO SOLICITING" signs, (in which case their attempt at an exclusivity in this business is commendable) what do they expect their business to be? Aren't most people that would want to buy a sign engaged in trying to sell something? Would it be surprise if this was not a business that thrived?
Another example, and equally strange, is a "No Soliciting" sign on the door to a business that by its very nature employs solicitors, such as insurance offices, real estate offices, and even car dealerships. The intent of the message sent here is difficult to comprehend, but the affect of the message can only be interpreted as "What we sell is legitimate, what you sell is not".
In the current business environment, very few businesses can afford to be selective in who they will "accept" as their customers. Everything a business communicates is marketing communications. If your business displays a "No Soliciting" sign, answer the question for yourself - is it a positive communication of your business to all the customers you hope to obtain?
Don Salata, MBA is President of Go-Biz, a marketing consulting firm specializing in services to small businesses and start-up firms. Don can be contacted by your response to this article.