Free Sales Training for Megaphone’s Street Vendors


For the 3rd year, I was invited to provide sales training to Megaphone’s sales people. If you are from Vancouver, you know Megaphone: it is the “street” newspaper sold to you by low-income and homeless East Vancouverites. It really is a great way for someone with little ability to get full-time employment to build a business for themselves where they can earn money based on the amount they work, their sales approach, and the unique content of the newspaper.

I have grown to really appreciate this program – headed by Sean Condon – as well as all of the interesting, lively and very engaged street people (eager sales people) who have clearly had challenges in their lives and are looking for a way to stand on their own 2 feet. The event is held at 1 Hastings Street (yes – right at the “liveliest” corner of East Vancouver), in a really cool art gallery that displays photography and artwork related to the street people who inhabit the neighbourhood.

Megaphone sells its publications to street vendors ($0.75 each) and the vendor will then resell the issue on the street corners, in front of grocery stores, and wherever there are large groups of people for approximately $2 (the recommended price – not always adhered to – the more the better:). The first 10 copies are given to the vendor for free to help them get off the ground (they are also often provided a t-shirt, hat, vendor badge, coaching and territory). It really does create an alternative to begging for money, for people who want to build some self-respect and earn themselves an honest living.

Last year’s training session focused on how to “close” people who the vendor already had attracted, while this year we focused on how to attract people in the first place.

My first goal was to get the vendors to understand that every sales person has 3 audiences:

  1. those who will buy from you no matter what

  2. those who will never buy from you

  3. those who may or may not buy, dependant on your approach, their mood, the value proposition, etc

A sales person should appreciate the first group, ignore the second group, and focus their attention on the 3rd group (usually 90+% of the audience).

During the session, we discussed and – where practical – role-played:

  1. How to attract someone walking down the street (where to stand, what audience is “low hanging fruit”, etc)

  2. How to present yourself (what to wear, how to stand, how to display your product, etc)
  3. How to articulate your value proposition
  4. and we recapped – from last year’s session – how to close the deal

Sales Talent Agency donated its time for this program (the money paid to us was instantly donated back to the program), and we were thrilled to be a part of this organization. Obviously the social problems in Vancouver and Canada as a whole are extremely challenging and complex, but we eagerly support any program that promotes the ability to work, pay for a roof over your head, put food on your plate (and often your family’s plate), and build your self-esteem.

Next time you see someone waving a Megaphone newspaper at you remember that the content is unique and interesting, the person has limited ability to get full-time employment, and that they are not begging – they have created a job for themselves. I hope you support them.

Here is a great example of some of the work displayed at the art gallery:

east van