Skip to Content

Sales Lessons from the Street: Salesforce and the Big Issue

By October 20, 2014

by Victoria McDonald, Commercial Account Executive, Salesforce

With a long career in sales, you’re no doubt a regular high achiever that sits on top of KPI dashboards and regularly attends sales club trips; and you’ll have finely tuned interpersonal skills that help you build trusted relationships with prospects and customers alike.

Now think – what if the only lead time you had between introductions and closing was less than 15 seconds – do you think your relationship building skills would cut it?

Take away your car and your comfortable family home and add the pressures of a history of alcohol abuse, long term unemployment and homelessness. Would you be able to give every potential customer your warmest selling smile?

The Big Issue Salesforce Challenge 3

The Big Issue needs little introduction. The people they help – their vendors, are easily recognizable on street corners in cities across the globe, wearing red hats and florescent yellow vests, selling The Big Issue magazine to passersby; each with their own style, and with their own colourful history.

Earlier this year, the Commercial Business Unit at Salesforce Sydney was invited to partake in The Big Issue Challenge to see what we could achieve shadowing and supporting a Big Issue vendor in just a few hours..

Getting into Character

In true Salesforce style the Big Issue Challenge became a high-spirited competition that involved costumes, banners, music, and just about anything we could think of to capture the attention of passersby. But we only had around 15 precious seconds before the magic of our gimmicks wore off and we watched our potential customers walk by us, or alternatively, depending upon our approach, cross the street!

The Big Issue Salesforce Challenge 2

There’s something about a costume that allows a person to become a different version of them self. Me and my crazily dressed team mates seemed to wear our hearts on our sleeves as we tried desperately to sell a few more copies of The Big Issue magazine for the vendor we were supporting.

He told us stories of when he first started selling The Big Issue, and about the energy he used to have when attempting to engage passersby (in possibly different attire to us). But he said that over time and with thousands of people ignoring you, your energy dies.


Throughout the day we drained our brains trying to think of new ways of engaging people. (Some advice in case your company happens to enter this challenge- jumping out behind a wall is not a good tactic…)

The Big Issue Salesforce Challenge 7

3 hours passed and boy was it tough. Regardless of winners and losers, the sentiment that echoed unanimously amongst participants was the toilsome nature of this line of work.

Each vendor’s independence is incredible. Working with the Big Issue means that you truly are the CEO of your own company; but in this line of work, oftentimes the best outcome could mean a meal and a bed for the night, rather than the luxuries a lot of other CEOs enjoy.

This opportunity to test ourselves in a team environment outside of the office was unique and came with a great prize. We managed to help increase sales for Big Issue vendors which were pooled and shared equally between the vendors and this was received with such a heartfelt thanks and appreciation that there wasn’t a dry eye in the Salesforce office.

And then the Sydney office returned to normal, ever so thankful for our warm leads, comfortable office, and incredible clients!