Charity sellers: What can you learn from the toughest sales gig on the street?

It’s that time of the year again. No, not turkey sandwiches for lunch, high street sales or endless stories of January diets. It’s the time of unity, goodwill to all men, and a time for ‘giving’ as well as receiving.

Or, at least, that’s what the endless teams of charity street sellers that are swarming into our towns and cities everyday are banking on. Last night I negotiated my way past four during my ten minute walk to the station. If it is the season of goodwill, these guys plan to suck it for every penny.

We’ve talked before at Natural Training about how important it is in sales to keep your eyes and ears open; you can learn great new selling techniques (and bad ones) in the strangest of places.

So, like them or loathe them (probably the latter) what can we learn from the street sellers who WILL accost you at some point between now and the New Year when no-one has any money left to spend on good causes?


Say what you want about their approach, the best street sellers are focused on the prize no matter what you may think. They fix a stare on you from half a mile and then do whatever they can to entice you into sharing your bank details with their clipboards.

Then (and I’m talking from experience) if they do manage to get a foot in the door, there’s no ‘Oh, er, well you see…I just wanted to ask you a quick question about this, er, charity’. Time is precious, they must move you into a buying position immediately or you’re gone. The best ones are pitch perfect.

‘This is what we want’ (sell the positives first, ie £2 a month), ‘this is what you’ll get’, and ‘this can all be over in a matter of minutes’. Focus, in sales, is essential. Not just to help you deliver a clear and precise pitch, but to help keep your prospect on track without so much as a glimpse of a reason to leave.

What’s the sales lesson? Understand your offer. Where’s the value and how can you package that up in a really neat, concise fashion? Time with a prospect is everything, so use it wisely.


If you want to sell to busy non-interested people in the freezing cold weather during a recession, you must have an innovative approach. Grabbing attention is essential to begin with, and then you can sell. Flattery is one technique that appears to be working for the charity street seller. Everyone likes to be told they look good, have nice hair or are wearing a cool jacket.

It breaks the ice, opens the possibility of a conversation, gets a smile (sometimes) and can be the opportunity that the seller needs to move his or her prospect to the next stage in the process.

Another slightly off the wall approach is to be funny. Some of the best charity sellers will make a cheeky comment or crack a joke when you’re in earshot, and for some it will be a way to bring out their personality in the hope that the passing prospect will respond in a positive way. Some will dance, sing and scream – they’ll do whatever it takes to get your attention and engage with you. The other day I heard one asking a trivia question along the lines of: “What were you doing in January 1992?”

What’s the sales lesson? Standing out from the crowd is crucial in the modern selling environment – it’s simply too crowded and competitive for the sales professional to be anything but creative and innovative. How are you getting noticed? Street sellers won’t make a penny if they stand still all day and wait for good fortune to come their way. Use this example to think about how you can keep innovating and developing your approach to ensure potential customers notice you ahead of your competitors.


As we just mentioned, whatever you’re selling you can bet your life you’re not the only one in the marketplace. Competition is rife, which means, sadly, knock-backs are rife too. One common feature of effective charity street sellers is that when they get knocked down, they dust themselves off and get straight back up again. When you have targets to hit every second that you’re not selling, you’re losing out. Getting back in the game is crucial.

“Get out of my face” and “don’t talk to me” are standard responses to a charity street seller’s sales pitch. But, who knows, maybe the next person passing by will be a paying customer. Being resilient to knock-backs is key in sales. The great sales people manage to remove the emotion from the sale and get on with the job at hand!

What’s the sales lesson? Knock-backs are part of the job; it’s how you deal with them that will help to drive long-term success. The most effective selling strategies involve huge amounts of learning, and just as you learn best practice from closing deals you can also learn valuable lessons from setbacks. The higher your level of resilience, and the more you’ll be able to absorb and learn.

Are there are other lessons to learn from charity street sellers? If so, let us know at Natural Training by clicking here or commenting below.

If you can develop your sales strategy in 2013 so that it includes sharper focus, more creativity and innovation, and resilience to knock-backs, you will be taking significant steps towards becoming an effective sales professional in the modern business environment.

So, as we approach the Christmas period, use your time effectively. Write down a plan of action that you can launch as soon as work begins again in January. How will you embed the three pillars of successful charity selling into your approach in 2013?

If you want to read more about effective selling strategies in the modern business environment, click here and download the first chapter of Natural Training’s new book: The Natural Sales Evolution.

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