The doorstep technique that will kill your creative sales

by Joanna Pieters | Follow her on Facebook here

The doorbell rings, and since I’m frantically preparing supper for ravenous kids, I fling the oven gloves somewhere unsuitable, yell ‘don’t touch the pan’, and race down the hall to the front door.

Outside there’s a man. Cap on head, casual jacket, jeans, holding a big tray of cleaning items, clearly for sale.

‘Before you slam the door in my face,’ he begins, ‘can I just tell you about what I’ve got here…

So this week I’m thinking about how NOT to build a thriving creative business. I think you’re *way* too smart to do this, but I’d hate you to be making this mistake without realising. 

Everyone needs cleaning items (if you don’t, maybe now’s a great time to reconsider?). So he should have an easy sale, no?

But the fact is this.

Your brain is hard-wired not to trust new situations, people or places.

Your first reaction is to AVOID a person or a situation unless there’s enough in it which is sufficiently familiar for you to trust it.

My brain is shouting: 

Who is this man, and doesn’t he know I’m in the middle of cooking? How can I possibly trust a total stranger? How do I know I won’t get ripped off, or sold sub-standard items? I know these projects can be legitimate, but I’m sure I’ve read they also fund local crime, and anyway, aren’t my sausages turning to a blackened mess?

What that means for getting attention for your creative work

Your problem is this. I’m just like every person you’re trying to reach with your creative work.

I know, you’re not selling cleaning products. You’re selling something much more interesting, but maybe even less necessary. All creative work is essentially something subjective and even irrational: A feeling, an aspiration, beauty, stimulation, motivation, a promise.

But it still has to overcome the brain’s natural instinct to be cautious of anything it doesn’t know

Consider this.

  • You buy from Amazon or your favourite local bookshop because it’s familiar and you know how it works.
  • You don’t like putting your payment details into a website you don’t know. 
  • You buy tickets for something where you already know a performer, the play, film or music, or the venue, or which someone has recommended. 
  • You don’t book a restaurant until we’ve checked out the TripAdvisor reviews.

What we need before we’ll hand over our wallet or our time

As humans, we need FAMILIARITY.

In general, we need to know someone or something before we trust them. Door-to-door selling can work, but generally only if familiarity comes from something else, such as the brand.

The same applies to the relationships you build around your work.

Why know – like – trust can kill your sales

You may well know the marketing concept of KNOW-LIKE-TRUST. It goes: 

1. First we have to know someone.

2. Then we have to like them.

3. Finally we have to trust them.

Only then are we likely to consider giving them our time or attention.

Simple, but the man at the door ignored all of them. And I don’t want you to be making the same mistake. 

The BUT… and the HOWEVER

Your potential commissioner, audience member, or customer who doesn’t know you, doesn’t trust you.

I might need cleaning products, BUT I’m not even going to consider them on my doorstep from a stranger on a cold October evening.

This is know – like – trust for creative work

The painting on your website is 100% what a collector is looking for, BUT she’ll think twice about buying it until she’s certain your site is genuine. 

HOWEVER if she can see lots of posts on social media sharing your work, your thoughts, pictures of your studio and behind the scenes, she’ll start to feel much more positive about getting in touch.


Your creative pitch fully understands the ad director’s business, BUT he’ll hesitate to call you back until he’s sure you can really deliver.

HOWEVER if he can see that you’ve done work for his major competitors, he can find out the backgrounds of your team and see pictures of the ongoing fund-raising project you support, he’s going to feel much more comfortable about inviting you in again.


The reader looking for a new novel might stumble across yours, BUT she won’t buy it until you’ve got a dozen or more reviews on Goodreads to be sure it’s worth their time and attention.

HOWEVER she finds your author profile is full of interesting, intriguing information about you, and links to a website that pulls her in with background teasers, she’s much more likely to give it a go, even if you’ve only a couple of reviews so far.

The good news is, this is really easy to change

Go over to ONE place you put information about yourself, and edit it to include something more to help me:

  • Know you (something about your life, behind the scenes at your work, or what you stand for)
  • Like you (what you believe, what you enjoy, anything that makes you relatable)
  • Trust you (work you’ve done, your background, or testimonials from other people)

Want some help? Click here for How to use Attention Activators to add instant interest. ​

Bonus points! Make sure your social media posts include at least one post that do each of those things this week. 

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