I love true stories about people creating ways to address the interests of both sides of an issue, for this skill lies at the heart of the consensus-building system I teach.
I live in a large apartment community—over 400 units. We’ve had a dilemma here. The umbrella corporation does not allow tenants to solicit sales or donations from other tenants.
So, for example, after I published Love on the Rocks with a Twist—Delightful Fiction with Lessons on Dealing with Others, I was allowed to hold an author talk here, put fliers about the event in other tenants’ cubby holes, and display my books at the event. However, I could not sell books at the event.
Any writer will tell you that, when audience members can purchase a book on the spot and get it autographed, they tend to do so. If they like the book, but have to wait till they get home to order it, they tend to forget. Their lives are just too busy. This makes so much difference, at least in terms of direct income, that giving a no-sales event is rarely, if ever, worth the bother. (However, such an event can help establish name recognition.)
Other tenants here would like to sell their artwork. One retired chef only wanted to cook up a big batch of gumbo or chili and share it with neighbors. But accepting donations toward the cost of ingredients was frowned upon.
The managers had interests in abiding by corporate regulations and protecting tenants from unwanted solicitations.
As for the tenants, some of us wanted to let our neighbors know about what we do and to be able to sell to them. Some tenants wanted to see what we had to offer. Still others didn’t want to be pestered by sales pitches.
The challenge was to find a way in which those who were interested in their neighbors’ businesses could get information and access, while those who weren’t interested could insulate themselves from “pitching.” Management’s solution—offer those who wanted to sell a way to let others know what goods or services we have to offer, but under circumstances such that those who wanted more detail would have to approach us, rather than letting us distribute fliers or the like to the whole community.
The managers set up a “Networking” event, sort of like a mini trade show, in the main clubhouse. Tenants could sign up for a table for free. Outside vendors exhibited as well. Attendees who didn’t want a sales pitch from me could simply refrain from stepping up to my table. Those who didn’t want any sales pitches at all could avoid the event altogether
Even though only a small percentage of the residents attended the networking event, more approached my table for a chat than had attended my previous no-sales book talk (for which I put invitations in 400+ cubby holes). This time, I sold some books. People picked up all my fliers about my training, coaching and consulting services. Even other vendors engaged me in conversation about what I do, took a flier or business card, or even bought a book. Plus, I met some neighbors I didn’t know before.
Also, I learned something valuable. When someone stepped up to my table, where I had stacks of both my published books, they didn’t get that I was the author. Once I figured this out and started telling people, “These are my books that I’ve written…,” I heard, “Oh! Wow,” or words to that effect. They, then, picked up a book to look at and got interested in hearing more about the books. So I learned that writing and publishing books is such a foreign idea to some people that they don’t even consider it. It’s important for me to point it out.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this real life story as much as I enjoyed living it. May it inspire you to learn more and create some interest-satisfying solutions of your own.