Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Who's knocking on my door?

If you've been visited by an inquisitive college-aged door-to-door salesperson with some books, there's a good chance it was one of the collegiate salespeople from our company, Southwestern Advantage (est. 1855). We're always making efforts to listen to the voices of families whom our student salespeople visit so we may always be striving to serve communities more effectively. 

So why did they come to my house? 

To explain why you were visited, the student rep who stopped by your home is running their own business out-of-state (or country) this summer meeting with every family, if possible, in your community selling Southwestern Advantage educational books, software, and online resources -- products designed to fit the goals of families from reading basics up to college prep. The products are found helpful by over 200,000 customers each summer, however, many choose instead to pass. To put it simply, some families have a need for our products, some don't. Regardless of a sale or a No Thanks, the student rep is making efforts to visit every single family in your community, usually by using referrals/recommendations given by the families whom they visit. 

How do I know if they're legit?

We offer a few ways to know. One way is to verify their connection to our company on our websiteThe student who visited you is one of approximately 2,500 young people who have been individually interviewed, parentally endorsed, selected, and professionally trained to participate in our Sales & Leadership Program. Training includes a week-long business management seminar in Nashville, TN where students learn what it takes to personally open and run a successful business. As part of training, students are explicitly instructed to inform each family that the educational products they offer are purely supplemental and are in no way affiliated with the local school, nor is the student -- something that is also printed on their company ID badge and written in the signature box of customer receipts. They're also trained to obtain any required business permits or licenses from city/county officials in accordance with local policies.

But isn't knocking on doors an outdated or potentially dangerous way of doing business?

Well, that depends on the attitude you choose. It could be said that driving a car is outdated when we have airplanes, or way too dangerous an activity with over 27,400 auto accidents happening every single day in America alone. That's 19 crashes every minute. I bet you'll still ride in a car today, though.

Each summer, the students in our program collectively visit over 3 million families across the US and Canada; 200,000 of which decide to be customers. Students meet with families at their home for a one-time 20 minute chat to learn about their situation with school, offer products that apply, and ask for recommendations of other education-conscious families to see as they network through your local community. Before knocking on their first door, each student is required to complete 100 hours of business management, ethics, and safety training. Students are encouraged to give out only the company contact information and not their own for safety reasons. They're also trained to check-in and swap contact info with the local police force upon their arrival. In fact, we also offer safety tips for homeowners. When it comes to the safety of our student reps, the reality is that, based on crime statistics, day-to-day life on a school campus is more dangerous for a young person than knocking on someone's door.

Even in the tech age, we still believe there is tremendous value and importance in face-to-face human interaction – especially for young people. In Southwestern's 159 years, our method of face-to-face interaction and referrals has shown to be by far the most effective way for a student to visit the most families during their short 10-12 week summer break. From what our customers say, the face-to-face visit was one of the things their family appreciated most. 

I don't care. I don't like strangers visiting my home unannounced. 

That's understandable. Our hope is that the student who visited you was polite and professional. If they seemed a bit awkward, maybe they're just beginning. We're all a bit awkward when it comes to doing new things. Relocating to start a new business, meeting new people in an unfamiliar place, and dealing with rejection can be uncomfortable at first. 

Experience aside, these students are simply working to finance their own college education and set themselves apart from their peers by developing communication and business management skills and new levels of emotional maturity that cannot be gained in retail, food service, lifeguarding, or other 'traditional' forms of college summer work. What's also cool is that they get to help families with education along the way. Hopefully that's the kind of stuff we can all respect.

If you're interested in learning more facts and reading reviews about Southwestern Advantage, our 10-company corporate family, our products, or our sales & leadership program, the following links will help. Either way, thanks for reading this, and we hope you have a great day.

What students have written after completing our summer program:

Our corporate family:

Our BBB rating:

Share The Advantage (our community outreach donation program)
southwestern share the advantage

Product Information: 

TODAY Show Appearances: 

Social media pages: 

Participant of 2012 DSA Code of Ethics Communication Initiative:
Communications Director Trey Campbell: 1-888-602-7867 or

Customer service: 1-888-551-5901 from 8a-5p (cst) Mon-Fri or email
General questions/comments:

You're always welcome to reach out to us.