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Old 07-11-2013, 05:17 PM
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HugoBorchardt HugoBorchardt is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Nashville / East Central MS
Posts: 493
Default Mastering Getting Permission to Detect

Disclaimer: The following post is compiled from my opinions and own experiences. I take no responsibility whatsoever for the results of any actions taken based on reading some stuff I do. I guarantee nothing and offer nothing here as legal advice. When in doubt, consult someone who has some authority - like an attorney or a police officer.

I soundly recommend Goes4ever's and Pocketspill's techniques and scripts for door knocking and getting permission. However, I see a lot of posts by frustrated users, users that are afraid to "cold call" door-knock and try to get permission. I also see a lot of rejections posted that might have been avoided in the first place, or turned into a "Yes" with a few adjustments.

To clarify, there is nothing wrong with walking up to a stranger's door and asking for permission as long as you can do it effectively and routinely and are satisfied with your Yes/No ratio. I do it from time to time when I am driving out in the country and see a killer prospective property to hunt and see no way to gain an introduction. In fact, it is admittedly much easier than my approach. My networking approaches and door-knock softening techniques are probably a lot more work, but carry very, very little risk of rejection.

For those that are afraid to door-knock, I hope this post will offer some help. I've included alternative ways I get permission without door-knocking, and also offer my different approach to door-knocking that fits my personality and style.

For those that do door-knock successfully, I hope you can use something herein to get a few more "Yes's", and in the best case, turn some "No's" into "Yes". I hope you can find something here to add to your arsenal.

I'm going to share some of the things that I do that result in permission to hunt new sites. Using these techniques, I rarely have to go cold calling / door-knocking. Keep in mind I hunt in the Southern USA, where everyone generally is very friendly, and I mostly hunt in small towns. I have little or no competing detectorists in the areas I hunt in Mississippi. In central Tennessee, their are droves of us, but I use some of the same approaches.

You can develop an approach that you are comfortable with and that works in your area/s. The idea of this post is just to outline what works for me. Maybe some of it will work for you.

Someone on this board once aptly said "none of us here are saints" and I agree, but please don't trespass when you know darn well you are trespassing. I'm talking about detecting on clearly posted property, and other property that we know darn well we shouldn't be on. I call people that clearly trespass without caring, dig giant holes, leave messes or otherwise disrespect the hobby "Metal Defectors". If you fit this category, maybe you are new to the hobby and haven't even thought about etiquette or potential consequences. I've come a long way in the last 25+ years, and I implore you to do better. You'll enjoy detecting a lot more. You'll find a lot more.

Some of us trespass because we are afraid to ask for permission. Others are not comfortable with door knocking and don't trespass - we just hunt the same tired sites over and over. Heck maybe everyone is afraid at first. I recommend that you think outside the box, develop your own style that works for you, and continually improve it. After a while you may even actually have fun getting permission to hunt new sites. I promise that I do. I have no anxiety about it any more. It's all about being confident and ethical, being seen as one of the good guys, and being prepared.

1) Attracting Permission while Metal Detecting

I've alluded to this idea in some of my finds stories. I used to be irritated when someone would interrupt my detecting out of curiosity. Now I realize that I was missing out on my best opportunity to get new sites to hunt. Now I look at every site I hunt as a potential connection to the next site I can hunt.

I don't really hunt crowded public areas, but I look out for, and smile and wave at every and any passerby on foot or in a vehicle that happens to look my way, even if its just a lady walking her dog. Often people stop and say "Have you found anything?" I will always pause and carry on friendly conversation. I'll tell what I've learned about the history of the area and am most often told something I didn't know (ie "There used to be a church in that vacant lot across the street"). I'll also ask who owns certain property I am interested in detecting. I'll sometimes get something like "Larry Smith owns that. Just go tell him you know Carl. He's cool."

Often I'll get recommendations: "If I were you I'd hunt the old Sumtner place. That family was rolling in it.", invitations: "You're welcome to hunt my house. It's one of the oldest in town.", and introductions: "You got time now? I'll take you over and introduce you to Old Lady Hubert!"

Sometimes I receive what I call "dubious permission" that I have to admit I often take the person up on. "(Heck) no one has been on that property for years. It belongs to the family estate up North. Joe Smith mows it for free just to keep it from growing up. I'm sure nobody gives a (care) if you detect it. If anyone says anything, (curse) 'em! Just tell them to talk to me." If I feel comfortable I'll do it. I haven't got into any trouble yet. I'm not condoning or condemning this. This is an ethical issue I suppose. But I don't feel I am doing wrong and am willing to do what it takes to make it right if an issue arose with a particular site. Another reason to keep a squeaky clean reputation - so the local people will come to your defense!!!

Funny thing is I get most of my permission from meeting people while detecting, and I almost never have to directly ask. As a result, sometimes I re-hunt certain "played out" sites just to be seen and meet new people.

2) Turning a Challenge into Referrals

The second kind of person that approaches me is someone challenging my permission to be on the property.

You may be surprised at how many people think I am weed-eating (with the world's first silent weed eater even though I am wearing headphones apparently to protect my ears: I guess understandable if they are passing by in a vehicle), or I am somehow working on a problem with "the water line". What? Am I the only person that has experienced this?

Usually someone passed by in their car, tattle-taled on their cell phone to so and so, usually exaggerating that you are strange looking, and are digging a bunch of (curs-ed) holes on their (curs-ed) property. And now so-and-so is on his way out there to tear you a new one.

In my experience detecting in the Southern USA, the most common challenge is a stern "Can I help you?" and the second most common challenge is "Is there a problem?" Sometimes I am simply referred to the "No Trespassing" signs posted everywhere.

The worst thing I can do in this situation is to provoke a Urination Contest such as saying "Well so and so gave me permission so you need to talk to him." After all, I probably am not 100% sure that the person granting me permission had the clear legal authority to do so. Lots of times they are leasing the land from the owner, in worst case are just the custodian, or have brothers or co-owners or husbands or wives and all types of people that could kick my rear end off their property. The person challenging me may be at odds with the person granting permission, as is often the case with estates, for example.

The challenger may be further exasperated, for example, by previous trespassers, theft, or lousy detectorists that left holes and trash all over the property.

I respectfully treat this situation the same as how I got permission in the first place. I do not want to turn this person around and get him out of my face, I want to turn this person around and get his blessing and referrals.

First of all, as I am approached it is critical that I do not act nervous or ignore him/her. I always stop detecting, take off my headphones and walk - detector in hand - to meet the person halfway, always with a smile on my face. This is the single best thing you can do to mentally disarm the person. You feel comfortable being there. It's no big deal. You are relaxed. He or she relaxes a bit.

Secondly, it is important to not assume you are being challenged and be too defensive. I have made the mistake of explaining myself to a guy that saw me and was just trying to get my vote for local mayor. I wasn't eligible to vote there but he gave me permission to hunt his yard. I hope he won the election!

See (4) below for my complete approach and philosophy, but this is usually abbreviated. I quickly introduce myself, explain my hobby, and establish myself as a history buff. Then I change the subject. Yep. "Wow is that a Ford F-150 you are driving?" I just want to get him talking and relaxed. He may come back and challenge me anyway but most times the situation is already disarmed. Keep in mind this is my own personal style that fits my personality. Do what you feel works for you.

I've never been challenged by a law enforcement officer. I imagine I would pretty much do the same thing but assume a direct challenge is forthcoming and skip the subject change as that would sound pretty stupid. "Wow officer is that a Glock 17? Neat-0!!!"

Only if I am directly challenged do I then explain that I met so and so and they graciously granted me permission to hunt. Many times they are now comfortable or even excited and don't even press it further, so defending myself might open up a can of worms that doesn't need to be opened.

For what it is worth, until I am sure the threat has been disarmed, I have found nothing, it is too hot out or too cold out or there is too much trash in the ground, and I imply that I may be getting ready to leave soon. You don't want to share your finds with someone who is challenging your right to be there in the first place. My two cents.

Almost always the threat ends pretty quickly. "Heck if Joe said it is ok that is good enough for me! I hope you find something!!!" I then take my time and talk with him/her. He/she is now just another curious passerby and no longer a threat. I handle just like #1 above. Yes my hunt has been interrupted and daylight is burning, but if you can just get one referral, or at least not get shot, it is worth it.

If the threat doesn't end, I identify the person's objections and handle them as outlined in #4 below. I am, in effect, having to get permission all over again.

If for some reason the person is mean-spirited or threatening, or continues to challenge after I have explained myself and my permission, I always ALWAYS cheerfully apologize and cheerfully gather my things and leave. I then take it up with the person granting me permission before deciding whether or not to return. If I do leave, I always report the challenge to the person granting me permission so that I can present my side of the story and make sure my good reputation is maintained.

3) Detecting for a Cause

Currently our small hometown church in MS needs a new roof. My wife and I donate the full retail value of everything we find to the building fund. This has opened many doors and properties to us that we otherwise would not get to hunt.

This comes from my sales experience. Give them a reason to say "Yes!" Make it painful for them to say "No."

This is especially helpful when you are door knocking. Find a cause you are interested in and donate a percentage of your finds or their value to the cause. If the cause is interesting enough, you might make a small one page print-out that you can show strangers while door-knocking.

Laugh at me, but I also feel that I am considerably luckier, have more finds, and have more fun when I am detecting for a cause.

If I was just cold door-knocking, I might lead the conversation with my cause. Usually, I only mention it if necessary or after I get permission.

4) Eliciting Permission without Asking / Ignoring "No" and Addressing Objections

This is probably the most useful advice I can provide on permission, and it comes from my experience in sales. This is going to be verbose, so please bear with me.

Believe it or not, when you ask permission from someone, you are selling. You are not asking for money. You are asking for permission. What is it you really are asking for? You are asking for the property owner's interest in or at least their approval of what you are doing and more importantly you are asking for their trust.

Please don't take this as criticism, but on this forum, I read a lot of posts where the person asking permission gave up too easily when permission was probably within their grasp. Either they were told "No", or were met with what I call "passive resistance". Passive resistance is cleverly saying "no" without saying the word "no". "Come back another time.", "I need to run it by so and so and will call you" are the two most common types of passive resistance I hear. Be clear though. IMHO, Passive Resistance is equal to "NO".

The best salespeople I have encountered have one thing in common. They act like they literally cannot hear the word "No." They run over "No" and persist until they get a "Yes". Conversely, "No" is what we are terrified of hearing and why many of us are afraid of door-knocking. We don't have to be professional salespeople, however, to borrow some of the principles from them and turn "No's" into "Yes's".

Well, to start, isn't it rude or at least awkward to press on after the person says "No"? Not if you handle the conversation tactfully.

If you are generally successful with your your own approach, please read on, but the sections on dealing with "No" or passive resistance will likely be of the most interest to you. Your goal may be just to reduce the number of "No's", even if they are rare.

The first way I personally try to avoid getting a "No" or getting passive resistance is to avoid asking for permission in the first place. What? Am I stupid?

For public / city / county property, I never, ever ask. Why? Because IMO "metal defectors" that trespass and deface land and otherwise disrespect our hobbby have screwed this up for everyone. More and more cities and counties are banning detecting and many many more Frown on it. They may say no in person, and almost always via phone, email or letter. Usually they will say if they let you they would have to let everyone, and will send you an excerpt of code that usually only peripherally backs them up if you twisted the meaning around. If detecting isn't explicitly not allowed by law then I feel I am within my rights, and I am not creating an objection by asking.

I go to Google and enter the city name (or county name for rural areas) plus "metal detecting" to see if I get a direct hit on an ordinance or code governing detecting. If I don't find anything, I'll find the municipal or county website and search the codes and ordinances concerning use and access of public properties. I will print out a couple of relevant codes - as evidence I did my homework, and to make my case if challenged - and stuff them in the glove box of my vehicle. I will then detect while assuming I have a right to and handle challenges per section (2) above. Sure I may get "run off" but asking likely isn't going to reduce the likelihood in my opinion and experience.

Back to door knocking:

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 as outlined in the other sections herein.

Secondly, like Goes4ever and the boyz recommend, I never, ever attempt to get permission over the phone, letter or email. Always in person. In my opinion if you try on the phone you are treated like a telemarketer, and via email or letter I am treated like spam. It is too easy for them to ignore you or say "No."

Third, again like G4E sez, 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.

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 that 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 that 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!

BTW: It's probably not a good idea to accept an invitation inside from a married person of the opposite sex when the spouse is not home, but that's a story for another time.

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. If they don't offer permission or get engaged, believe it or not, I often still do not ask. Sometimes I'll treat the lack of an offer as passive resistance and raise the ante.

Raising the Ante
I'll tell them about my cause - currently helping to pay for the church roof. I'll make them feel how important recovering and sharing items on their property related to the area's history is to me and the community. I may share stories where I returned lost jewelry and personal artifacts such as war bringbacks to the family. If there are children present, I buy rolls of mercury dimes on the net and give them a couple (dimes not rolls). (I have a hard time giving up my found mercs LOL). I'll give them my card. A card associated with a well-known business your work at or well-known organization is best, but always have cards, even if you just have some made up with your name, email and phone.

I am selling myself and the process. I am introducing pain into their potential rejection. I am simply giving them a reason to say "Yes", and making it easier for them to say "Yes" than "No."

If I suspect or anticipate a "No" in advance of the visit (ie "You can ask, but that lady never let's anybody on her property. You'll be lucky if she doesn't shoot you on sight.") then I will play downright dirty: I will bring my 10 year old daughter with me if its a woman I am talking to, or bring my hot wife if I am speaking to a man. That is really not fair though, is it? Remember, like it or not, you are selling. Sell it, baby!!!

And as a last resort if they do not invite me to hunt, I'll 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?"

So what do I do when I ask and they do say "No", "I don't think that's a good idea", or "Come back later"?

In sales, we ignore the word "no", we ignore "passive resistance" and either try to determine why the answer is no (What the objection is), or get a conditional "Yes" by asking again using a new, conditional question.

I don't have to do this a whole lot, because I don't have to end up asking a whole lot. But when I do hear "No", I do one or more of the following:

a) I ignore the "No" or passive resistance and go back to the conversation if I'm not being rushed off. I'll ask again conditionally (see d below).

b) If they do not give a reason (which I call an objection), I nod my head thoughtfully while saying "I understand. Do you mind telling me why not?"

c) Once I understand the objection, now I can address it to try to turn the "No" into a "Yes". Some common examples of objections and how I generally handle them:

Objection: "I am just not comfortable with a stranger on my property."

If you hear this, sorry to be the one to tell you, but it is likely you have not done a good job of presenting yourself and dropping names. Maybe you just unfortunately look like a serial killer, I don't know.

Some possible answers:
Give them your card. "I work for (so and so). You've heard of us, right?"
"(Insert local well-known name) can vouch for me!"
"I've never heard that before!" (frowning briefly then smiling) "I promise I'll be respectful and brief."; "Everybody knows me!"

Objection: "We spend a lot of time/money on our yard and can't have it messed up"

Some possible Answers: "Most items are only 3-4 inches under the ground so I won't be digging any holes in your yard. I use a special tool called a Lesche, I have worked hard on my technique. I am extremely careful with recovering stuff and you won't even know I've been there."


Objection: "I don't have the authority to grant you permission. You'll have to talk to my husband / the pope / uncle john / etc."

This is probably the worst possible objection. In sales we call this "Talking to the wrong person." LOL But I never ask up front if they have the authority, just like I don't talk about how I recover objects or who keeps what unless it comes up because I do not want to create an objection that causes me to not get permission that I otherwise would have got. In the Southern US, we call this "making a mountain out of a molehill". I'm not sure what that means, but we say it.

Some possible answers: "Can we call him/her right now together?"

Not ideal because the phone is risky, but worth a shot because often you'll get a yes if you can get the endorsement of the person you have been talking to.

If no call is possible, I'll write down the information on the person to talk to and have to start over at square 1. Because of the nature of my referrals, I rarely have this happen fortunately.

I'm sure there are plenty of other objections, but these are usually the ones I hear over and over again.

d) If permission is still not granted, I ask again conditionally.
"How about just this afternoon?"
"How about just your back yard, since your front yard is so nice" (I'll work on permission for the front yard again later).
"I've got an extra detector, why don't you join me and we'll do it together and see what we can find?"

e) I've only done this once, but I've been known to "make 'em an offer they can't refuse" as a final straw. Some ideas:
"I'll mow your yard for a month for free if you'll let me detect it."
"I'll buy anything I find from you just like you were selling it in a garage sale"
"I'll pay you to hunt your property."
This actually worked believe it or not. The rate? 5 bucks per hour.

5) Join or visit a Local Organization

I'll usually contact a local church in a new area and start there. After hunting the grounds and a couple other sites, I'll arrange to show a short slideshow with some cool finds and some local history in person at the during a night service or ideally, when they meet to eat, which brings the biggest crowds LOL. Talk about getting the "key to the city". After this, I usually have great places to hunt for weeks. Other popular local organizations will produce similar results.

Spend time meeting and talking to the old-timers. They generally LOVE TO TALK and will tell you places you should hunt that you would have never known about otherwise. "There used to be a spring-fed pond there where everyone would go to picnic and swim."

5) Networking and Gaining Introductions

Another one that comes from my experience in sales. This is simply the discipline of making everyone you meet aware of your hobby, and asking everyone that grants or denies you permission if they know of anywhere else that would be good to hunt or anyone they know that you should meet. Simple, but I failed to do either for years.

6) Maintaining a Super Clean Reputation

In the small towns I usually hunt in, word gets around quick. Heck sometimes a guy metal detecting is the most interesting thing that has happened in the community all year. I represent myself as a history buff and not a treasure hunter. I am careful to know all land lines and to not trespass. I dig carefully, remove trash (including anything laying above ground), notify the owner of anything potentially dangerous I saw on their property, and always look friendly and confident. This makes all the difference in the world. After detecting a couple of places in a new community, I usually feel like I have received the "key to the city".

7) Introducing Yourself to the Authorities

This is hit and miss, but in certain very small towns I have been introduced to or just walked in to introduce myself to the Police Chief or local Sheriff. Sometimes I've had lunch or coffee with them. I explain what I am doing and leave my card. I am a history buff and not a potential trespasser or vandal. And guess what? If someone "tattles" on me and calls them, they already know who I am.

All kinds of cool and bizarre things have happened. I've assisted in finding a murder weapon (didn't find it but cool right?), and been called when someone loses something. Once they tried to get me to drag a dead dog out from under an old house, but I think they were pranking me - I didn't drag the dog out but ended up detecting the property.

8) Being a Freaking Hero

If you can return a lost wedding band or class ring, or give a perceived family heirloom to the property owner, word will get around. I ended up in a local small town paper once. I never had to buy a drink again in that town (sadly it was in a dry county in Mississippi). Who is going to deny permission to a hero?

These ideas come from years of developing my personal style. Come up with a personal style that works for you. It doesn't matter if you use these tips or not - come up with something that you are comfortable with and that works. Experiment and make notes of what works for you and what doesn't work for you. Come up with ways to improve your personal approach every time you seek permission. Feel free to message me at any time if you need help!

If you come up with something that works for you, please share it with us! I love new ideas. Many of them are what I call "profound knowledge", something that works that I would have never thought of.

I hope some of you find these ideas useful.

Happy detecting and best of luck on your next hunt -

Clark in Nashville (and MS)


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