Homelessness and Sales….

Every Thursday morning at 7:00 I start my day with a rollicking, yet professional meeting with the Think Referrals Business Network. We have our breakfast, present our 60 second updates, maybe watch a presentation and/or discuss some of our business challenges. And, we have fun.

Some of the challenges that emerged today related to sales.

Sales. A scary word that conjures up plaid jacketed, smoking, slick used car salesmen and buyer’s remorse. EEK… But, this word is what we all do, all the time. Ask Daniel H. Pink! His newly released book “To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others” addresses this very issue. I love Dan Pink’s books (“A Whole New Mind” “Drive”) and this one is another goody. I recommend reading all three.

Pink discusses how we all work in sales, “whether we’re employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, entrepreneurs enticing funders to invest, or parents and teachers cajoling children to study, we spend our days trying to move others.”

Or a homeless person asking for help.

When I left the meeting this morning, I was almost to my car when a rough, albeit gentle, thin looking man approached me and started talking.

His first statement: “I’m not going to ask you for money.” I slowed my pace. He asked, “Could you consider maybe getting me some food? A loaf of flax bread or something? My girlfriend is celiac and it’s hard.” I stopped. Celiac? I related. “Oh, that’s tough. I understand as I need to be gluten free, too.”

Oh, oh, I was engaged now. And, I knew it would be very hard to turn my back on this guy. “Maybe you could just take me to a store and buy me some food, because I know people don’t believe me when I ask for money.”

I took a deep breath and decided to help him.

I could just give him money. But, no. Let’s follow this through. “Okay, is there a store nearby?” “Yes, just down the street there is a Nesters.”

He was from Ontario, so he said, and explained that his two kids were in a good foster care in Coquitlam. He wished he could do what he loved but he was in A.A. That touched a button as I have a few friends who have been down that difficult road, too.

“Okay… let’s go to Nesters.” As we walked I proceeded to ask a few more questions. (I still wasn’t sure if I was being duped because he was really good, or whether his story was genuine.) His answers were quick, and had some emotion behind them. “I really love doing drywall.” We even got into some politics. Obviously an intelligent being who was having some lousy luck.

As we got closer to Nesters, he asked if I could help him in another way, maybe by getting a card instead (finally understood that he meant a gift card). “We have trouble with raccoons in our tent when we have food.” “Or, if you could pay for a night at a shelter where I could have a shower?”

Hmm… I felt a slip in my trust.

Was this an “up-sell” coming in, and how would I handle it?

He led me to the gift cards, and I was faced, once again, with a dilemma. Do I shop with him, or is a gift card a good idea? I decided it was (I already was behind in my day). The first card of 10.00 seemed a small amount and the next increment was 25.00. *sigh*

I plunged generously despite my own financial limitations. I made sure he knew that I didn’t do this all the time, and that his approach made a big difference. Why I said this to him, I’m not sure. On some strange level was I seeking his assurance that my money was well spent?

Suddenly I had a thought, “You’re not going to sell this, are you?” He rolled his head humbly. “Why would I do that?”

He shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and thanked me. I left the store.

Outside the store, I paused to do a couple of texts, and then he emerged. No food. I asked him why? “I thought I’d wait to shop with my girlfriend as she needs to choose, because of her allergies.” He thanked me again, and we parted.

On my drive home, I ruminated on the situation, still wondering if I had just been warmly altruistic or a victim of a great pitch.

Either way, that man was a good sales person.

He eased my stress from the beginning, “I’m not going to ask you for money.”

He suggested something simple and specific: “Could you get me some food? A flax loaf of bread?”

He expressed details to which I related: “My girlfriend is celiac. I’m in A.A.”

He increased my trust when my questions prompted him to offer good conversation unrelated to food.

He subtly used an up-selling technique when he offered an alternative to the loaf of bread once we were in the store.

He gave me a choice between paying for a night of lodging or food. (not paying wasn’t a choice)

And, we shook hands after I handed him the gift card. Deal closed. Deal done.

In Daniel Pink’s words, I was “moved” by this man to help. And, if I was duped, so be it.  This commendable acting job was deserving of financial recognition. To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink


7 replies
  1. Jay
    Jay says:

    You did a good thing, but I think you were duped.

    If this guy had this type of an initiative to approach you and convince you, then why can’t he get out of his miserable situation?

    You are quite impressed at his sales skills. You could have told him that he had all the talent to be in sales and not be homeless.

    Just my take based on this good thoughtful post. I liked reading it.

  2. Trilby Jeeves
    Trilby Jeeves says:

    Thanks Jay for your comments.

    Indeed it is a good question regarding his situation and why he can’t get out. I think it’s a question of him not even being aware of his skills. Plus, in his mind he wants to “drywall”. He just doesn’t know this other skill.

    And, all my thoughts that you read really occurred on the drive home. If I do see this man again I will compliment him on his skills. I did hint at it, but that’s not good enough.

    I probably was “duped” but, it was worth it. I enjoyed observing my reactions, and analyzing them. The actor/director in me will remember this for the future!

    I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

  3. Trilby Jeeves
    Trilby Jeeves says:

    Thank you Jenny for taking the time to read my post! It definitely was a very interesting moment in time.

    And, thank you for your observations. You must be attuned well, yourself.

    Best, Trilby


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