The Big Issue magazine sellers have few opportunities to engage their potential customers. They have several strategies for attracting attention. The most common is to stand in a busy place where they can interrupt the most people and shout. It could be a busy pedestrian intersection during rush hour, outside the cinema as the movie is ending or at the entrance to a department store at the weekend. The aim is to complete the transaction quickly and move on. This strategy sometimes works because of the sheer number of passers-by who are often triggered by guilt rather than a desire to connect or contribute. But just because it works doesn’t mean it’s the best strategy for generating the most sales or building the magazine seller’s business.
One of the more successful street sales strategies I’ve seen is the one used by the homeless guy who sits outside the same bookstore on the same street. He turns up regular as clockwork whether it’s 4 degrees or 40. Most of the time he sits back against the wall, thesaurus in hand, silently solving crossword puzzles. This guy knows the rhythm of the city. He offers to set up tables outside nearby cafes and greets familiar faces who make eye contact as they pass by on the way to the office or to catch a tram. Sometimes passers-by help him to solve a crossword puzzle clue or buy him a coffee. Often they drop spare change into the hat at his feet—no sign required.
The big issue sellers aim for the quickest route to the sale, which means they have to start the process of engagement again from scratch every month and for every single sale. The homeless guy adopts a consistent engagement approach connecting over time, tiny interaction by tiny interaction.
In our hurry to succeed we sometimes overlook the opportunity to engage first and sell later. Marketing works best when it’s anticipated, and the person on the other side of the interaction feels like they have had a hand in the result.
Image by Daniel Gregory
Interaction Vs Transaction | From The Story of Telling