The Big Issue Sales Challenge was by far the most hands-on session in the inaugural GENIUS week at Dennis, a series of talks and events programme to test, stretch and inspire the advertising sales team. Ten members of the team took to Oxford Street to sell The Big Issue. Some Big Issue vendors helped them by giving them advice and encouragement on the day. “Brian was really friendly and gave us insight on the different types of people he encounters and the multitude of ways someone can tell you no,” said Jessica Quinney, one of Dennis’s new graduate interns, about her vendor.
Even for trained salespeople, selling The Big Issue was difficult. “It was much tougher than selling ad space,” according to Karl Taylor. There was a general consensus among the competitors that the challenge was much more difficult than they had originally anticipated. “I was not prepared for how the general public would react to someone trying to talk to them,” said Tim Deeks. He was shocked by some of the reactions he got.
Jessica had a similar experience, surprised at the lengths people would go to in order to avoid her. She has learned a lot from this experience, and intends to change her ways. “Being able to experience it from the seller’s point of view has changed how I’m going to react to street sellers from now on,” she said.
Kim Stone was the overall winner, selling six copies in just over one hour. The competitors sold, on average, about two copies each. Kim said the experience was “Eye-opening. Donny’s stories made me realise that not everyone has the same reasons for needing help from The Big Issue.”
“I now have even more admiration for the stamina and resolve of Big Issue vendors,” said Jenny Bryan. She came away from the challenge having sold two magazines, but feeling like she’d put in so much more effort than that.
The competitors all have an even greater respect for The Big Issue vendors now, a different perspective on their own sales skills and an appreciation of how difficult it is to make a living by selling magazines on the street.