Kindness, warmth and just a bit of humour make up the formula for being a good salesperson, and good human, according to The Big Issue vendor Grant.
“Say ‘hello’ as they walk past, be yourself and be nice to people,” he says.
“Even if you don’t sell a magazine, it costs nothing to be nice.”
Grant is a frequent smiling presence at Woden Town Square, the post office on Alinga Street in the city and in front of Aldi, Woolworths and Big W at Gungahlin.
At these “pitches” – The Big Issue lingo for regular sales points – Grant spruiks the magazine with his winning combo as often as he can.
“I have a long-term disability and some health issues, so I go when I am feeling up to it and when it fits around my medical appointments,” he says.
“That’s why I’ve been selling The Big Issue – it’s flexible. I can start whenever I can and I knock off when I need to.
“I have been selling it for 16 years since I was 20.”
The Big Issue works on the premise of “helping people help themselves’”.
Vendors purchase the magazine for $4.50, sell it for $9 and get to keep the profits.
The magazine also frequently publishes vendor content and compensates them accordingly. In a recent edition, Grant published a photograph he took from his balcony in 2019, depicting a sunset with a dragon-like cloud formation.
For people experiencing homelessness or the prospect of it, the earning capabilities furnished by The Big Issues can be a crucial income supplement.
Most of Grant’s customers are now regulars. But like any enterprise, growth is key, and he works hard to engage new clientele.
He reckons he sells an average of 100 magazines a fortnight, pulling in an extra $450.
In the ACT, pitches are assigned by Woden Community Service’s vendor support coordinator for The Big Issue Canberra Kate Dawson to ensure a fair go for all vendors.
Kate says there’s a misinformed perception that selling the magazine is easy.
The reality comes to light during The Big Sell – an annual campaign that sees the general public raising funds and some trying their hand at selling the publication.
The month-long event expands on the original concept that saw CEOs and celebrities taking to the streets to sell the magazine in a bid to raise funds and awareness.
Now with a strong focus on the fundraising element, people sign up as individuals, in teams or businesses and create their own fundraising pages, running a campaign throughout March. Those who raise $1000 or more can hit the streets and sell The Big Issue at The Big Sell Challenge Day, with support from The Big Issue vendors.
“The idea is to get into the world of our vendors and experience what it’s really like for them,” Kate says.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, and it’s harder for some than others.
“Grant’s selling style is to engage people proactively through his jokes. He gets a lot of attention. Those who are less outgoing or quieter find it tougher.”
Grant is fortunate to have found stable accommodation thanks to Common Ground, which delivers safe, affordable and secure housing for vulnerable Canberrans.
This has helped him overcome a gambling addiction and to tackle some of his health issues.
He continues to sell The Big Issue to supplement his income and engage customers with his unique brand of humour.
“Sometimes I ask them ‘what time are you going to come and cook me dinner?'” he laughs.
“That one never works. It would be so funny if it did.”
The Big Sell concludes on 29 March with The Big Sell Challenge Day. For more information or to donate, visit The Big Sell.