Many of us are pretty good at getting permission to hunt new sites. We go knock on 10 doors, and 5 of them say yes. We just see it as a numbers game. Others are afraid of door knocking. Afraid of rejection. They hunt the same worn out sites over and over due and rarely get permission to hunt new sites.
Here are some concepts we can use to assist in both situations. If you are already successful getting permission, by all means carry on. Perhaps using some of these concepts can take you from getting permission 50% of the time to getting permission 75% of the time. If you are afraid to ask for permission, perhaps this will work for you because this approach carries a substantially lower risk of rejection than knocking on cold doors the old-fashioned way.
So how do you get permission without asking?
Soften the Door Knock
First of all, I try to get an introduction or recommendation to soften the cold-call / door-knock. 90% or more of my permission comes from referrals from networking, joining organizations, and meeting others while detecting. At a minimum I have a referral so I can name drop someone who the landowner knows. Preferably I have been introduced by someone, or have already briefly met the person at a local organization or business. Maybe I am aware that the person has heard about me and I have been told that the person would likely say yes. For more on this, see “Five Ways to Strengthen Your Position“.
Make Them Say No to Your Face
Secondly, never attempt to get permission over the phone, letter or email. Always in person. If you try on the phone you are treated like a telemarketer, and via email or letter you will be seen as spam. It is too easy for them to ignore you or say “No.” They are already in the habit of doing so regularly.
Don’t Look Like an Axe Murderer
Third, I dress, act and look like someone your grandmother would be pleased to have dig up her yard. My detector is left in the car. I may have some sample finds in small Riker case, some mercury dimes to give out, my business cards, and a small notebook to write down referrals and other information.
Hi there! Mind if I dig up your yard?
Then, I introduce myself and explain my hobby. I will talk about the person that granted me the introduction and my experiences with him/her. I may name-drop other people who endorse me or that have given me permission. I smile. I am excited. I represent myself as a history buff, and not a treasure hunter. I have done enough research and inquiry to talk about the history of their property or at least the general area. My goal is to engage the property owner and to develop rapport with the property owner. If the property owner starts talking, I shut the heck up and listen.
If the property owner sounds interested, and they most often are, and starts talking, or invites me in to sit down and have a cold beverage, then I know I will get permission. Sometimes the conversation may last 30 minutes or more, during which I will probably get referrals, interesting history, info on additional sites to hunt, and sometimes even cookies! I carry a small notebook and pen in my back pocket to write names and sites down so I won’t forget them. If I get this far, it is important to hang out as long as possible and not rush off. Keep in mind, a whole lot of people who live in older homes are older persons that are happy to have a visitor and someone to talk to. And sometimes the visit is better than the hunt – like the time a gentleman walked me through his participation in the WWII invasion at Normandy and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up!
The property owner is generally pleased that I have taken time to take interest in the history of the area. The property owner is not stupid and knows what I would like to do. The property owner usually VOLUNTEERS PERMISSION WITHOUT ME HAVING TO ASK FOR IT. Why? Because they usually will appreciate the way I am approaching them, appreciate the conversation we are having, and they realize it is less awkward for them to offer permission than you having to ask.
Don’t forget to say thank-you!
And as a last resort if they do not invite me to hunt, I’ll just man up and just politely ask for permission. Sometimes I’ll even phrase it passively, as an after-thought if, for example, we’ve been talking about more prestigious local historical sites. “Say – there is no telling what might be in your yard. Would you mind if I scanned your yard for a while with the detector before I leave?”
I can’t remember the last time I got a “No” using this approach.
Dig Deeper: For more fresh ideas on getting permission to detect, check out these articles: