Direct sales. Social commerce. Network marketing. Multi-level marketing.
Call it what you want, all of these phrases can be used to define a method of product/service distribution. It allows a company to get their product/service directly into the hands of customers through individual people. These phrases also can carry quite the stigma and may induce involuntary shuddering…
There are countless articles/resources offering advice on what to look for prior to joining a direct selling company. This is NOT one of those articles. (But seriously, do your due diligence before jumping on board with any company. You should be able to obtain basic company financials and I feel strongly about membership in the Direct Selling Association (DSA). In this channel, they are the watchdog organization that holds its members to a specific standard of ethics.)
There are a lot of articles/resources touting the benefits of joining a direct selling company. This is NOT one of those articles, either. Since one of the biggest benefits is the flexibility of running a business like this your way, there truly is something for everyone. My benefits may not look like yours.
This article is about people. And what people tend to think about direct sales.
I’m writing this article because I’m a people developer by trade. My job involves training, coaching and facilitating dialogue about the most important asset to any organization: its people. Companies hire me to work with their leadership teams. We discuss strategy, culture and all things business.
I’m also an entrepreneur. I started How Mommy Got Her Groove Back in October of 2013 to use what I’d learned in the corporate world and help people apply it in their own businesses and their lives.
You’d think that through this work alone, I’m developing myself all the time. And it’s true. I am.
Above all else, I can say that being involved with direct sales (I am partnered with the doctors who created Proactiv® in their new venture Rodan + Fields, has impacted me more than I ever would have thought possible. Being in direct sales has made me a better person.
I’m not writing this to sell you on the concept of direct sales. I want to equip you with information and yes, while it’s biased because it’s from my perspective and I’m on the inside, if other companies hire me to work with their teams and improve overall culture and performance, it can’t be ALL bad, right?!
My hope is to shift perceptions about what it is we do. It might open your eyes to see things you didn’t before, and at the very least, I hope it helps make supporting direct salespeople easier for you.
Some of what I’ll share is specifically related to my personal experience and some is based on informal research I conducted by interviewing professionals (across roles and industries, both male and female) that aren’t involved in direct selling.
For those of you on the inside (the ones with the bright red mustaches, you know, from the Kool-Aid we’re all drinking), I hope this helps you, too. Simple shifts and subtle tweaks in your approach can create huge shifts in productivity.
For those of you who aren’t yet enjoying the refreshment of the Kool-Aid, maybe you’ll gain a new perspective.
What I’m finding is that there are several common perceptions about direct sales. Typically, perceptions are grounded in some truth so you won’t find me refuting them.
My response to these perceptions is based on what I know about people and what really drives and motivates people.
Common Perception #1: In order to be successful, I have to exploit my closest relationships. I will be encouraged and even coached to hound people until I alienate all of my family and friends.
Truth: You absolutely will share this business with people you know and love.
Because that’s the ENTIRE point. Direct sales businesses are meant to be relationship-based and you have the best and most obvious relationships with family and friends. What’s at the heart of this issue isn’t with WHOM you share the information, but HOW.
It is true that when starting a direct selling business, you’ll start thinking of everyone you ever met so you can share the information with them. There’s nothing wrong with that. If I opened any other type of business, I’d do the same thing.
The problem is in the approach.
One professional told me that her biggest beef with direct salespeople is that we ‘become the job’. So, in sharing a personal experience, she said every time she saw this particular direct salesperson, the only thing she EVER talked about was the business. This friend failed to take an interest in her and seemed fixated on getting her to join the company.
Yes. If you act like this, you’re going to alienate people because it’s annoying. While I believe it sometimes is harder to separate yourself from your business in direct sales, you have to still be a person with interests and family and a frickin’ LIFE.
Shortly after I had this discussion, my husband and I went to Minneapolis for the weekend with a couple friend of ours. They own a bar and a local furniture store in our small town. Had she tried to sell me carpet remnants all weekend, I would been super irritated. Oddly enough, the husband did successfully push booze on me all weekend…but, I digress.
The point is…when you love something, you share it. When you believe it will benefit other people, you share it.
If you don’t love or believe in your business, it doesn’t matter if you’re sharing it with your mom or a stranger, it’s just not right.
Common Perception #2: I’m too smart for network marketing. Only people who have no other options choose direct sales.
Truth: Everyone has more options than they realize and now more than ever, direct sales are attracting highly successful and formally educated people.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I really struggled with this perception myself. I honestly deep down felt that people wouldn’t take me as seriously because I live in a small town and obviously, you only move back to small towns when your dreams have died. You pick up direct sales because cost of entry is low and it’s something to do while your husband is in the field. (Full, full disclosure: those were my exact fears…)
Industry statistics and probably, the demographic of your company’s representatives, are reflective of a huge range of successful and educated people. Even though, yes, cost of entry is low, therefore you have a lot of people seeking these opportunities, it still requires work. It’s called net’work’ marketing. This isn’t a get-rick-quick scheme and there’s no magic bullet. You’ll have to follow your company’s training program (yes, they should have a training program) and learn their system. But you’ll have to put forth effort.
That’s why when you research whether you can actually make money at direct sales, the results are kind of depressing. Those results take into account every single person who joined and didn’t commit. They didn’t show up. They quit because they didn’t see the flashy rewards they were told about and then, they blamed the model.
For those people, direct sales didn’t fail them. They failed themselves.
After spending the money and time to earn a specific degree, it makes perfect sense that you’d want pursue a career in line with that education, especially if you’re passionate about it.
The simple truth is that a direct selling opportunity can (and maybe should) still be a part of your life. These businesses are in no way “all or nothing” opportunities. You could work a business like this alongside a full-time job.
If you’re questioning why on earth a person would do that, let me just say this: direct selling businesses provide continual personal development. These businesses allow you to hone skills that will benefit you in all other areas of your life, including your full-time job, if you have one.
Given what I do for a living, I’m telling you that in typical businesses, people struggle with confidence, conflict management, overall people skills, mental toughness, and leadership, just to name a few.
Your direct sales business allows you to work on yourself on the DAILY. Your very business is a combination of all those things and if you’re working with a good coach and mentor, they will help you identify which of those things specifically is holding you back from success and provide you with ideas and strategies to improve. It’s personal and professional development all rolled into one.
The best part? You’ll have access to phenomenal trainers and business leaders that other people pay big bucks to see. It’s a perk of the business…(And hello!?! It’s tax deductible, too!)
Try something new. Take a chance. Put yourself in a position to be uncomfortable so you can grow and develop a whole new set of skills.
You may discover, just as I did, that I wasn’t too smart for network marketing. I was actually being outsmarted by it.
Common Perception #3: I can’t be successful if I’m not a salesperson…and come to think of it, I think salespeople are kind of sleazy, so I have no desire to do sales.
Truth: We are all in sales, all the time. And as Forrest Gump’s mother would say, “Sleazy is, as sleazy does.”
I have spent most of my career in what you’d consider traditional sales roles. I started out in retail sales and moved to financial services. I now sell employee/personal development opportunities in addition to my network marketing gig.
So people naturally think this is easy for me because I’ve always been in sales.
No matter if we work from home, stay at home, or work in a traditional work environment that seems to have little to do with selling, we employ selling skills every time we try to move people to take action.
When we invite people to parties, try to get our kids to eat broccoli or even make a suggestion about a movie to go see, we are using the basic fundamentals required to be a successful direct sales business owner.
There are two things that make a salesperson sleazy: 1) you know that what you’re offering won’t deliver on what it promises or 2) you think only of how you’ll benefit from the sale, not how the customer’s life will improve.
As long as you’re not a sleazy person, network marketing won’t make you sleazy.
I wish I could say that there are no sleazy individuals in network marketing. That’s just not true. Just as there are sleazy bankers, gas station attendants and attorneys, you’ll find them here as well.
Fortunately, those people are the exception and not the rule.
Common Perception #4: “People will think I’m ________.” (Fill in the blank with the negative adjective that you’re most afraid of appearing to be, i.e. crazy, desperate, or pathetic.)
Truth: People will think you’re ________. (Fill in the blank with the negative adjective that you’re most afraid of appearing to be, i.e. crazy, desperate, or pathetic.) And…so what??
Let’s forget for a moment that this has anything to do with MLM companies, and think about day-to-day life.
How many times have you changed outfits before going to an event because of the fear of what someone might think of your choice?
When was the last time you chose not to say something on your mind in a meeting for fear of what others might think?
As a mom, have you ever received unsolicited advice regarding how you parent your children? Did it make you feel bad…like you’d done something wrong?
Here’s the point: while I’ve certainly seen this particular limiting belief hold people back from pursuing network marketing opportunities, I’ve also seen it have a negative effect on nearly every other area of a person’s life.
Chew on this idea: What other people think of you is none of your business.
Whether it’s about parenting, your position at work, your clothing or your decision to join a business, other people are not going to be there day in and day out, looking at you in the mirror. It’s just you. Your choices. Your desires. Your life.
There will certainly be people who try to pull you down, make you doubt your decision and even potentially, belittle the choice.
If you have a passion to do something, whatever it is, you have to protect that passion and realize that some people just won’t get it.
All advice, opinions and input, whether solicited or not, are a reflection of that person’s situation, beliefs and experience; they typically have little to do with you or what you’re doing.
If you were able to pay your bills, plan for your future, grow as a person or expand your network of amazing connections with their opinions, then those opinions would matter.
One of the greatest aspects of direct sales is the teamwork you’ll discover.
You’ll have support all over the country/world out there doing the same kind of work and encountering the same kinds of obstacles and you’ll learn techniques/strategies to overcome them.
That kind of support system is hard to find elsewhere. Here’s where my specific background is relevant. Companies spend loads of money trying to create a culture where people want to work. If you’re with the right direct sales company, you will WANT to be there.
When I started my Rodan + Fields business, I was working full-time for a regional organization. I had started to feel like my ‘brand of leadership’ wasn’t what the company really wanted. (It was a simple case of misalignment.) Here’s what research will prove people look for in a ‘work’ culture: transparency, vulnerability, belief that I matter, collaboration, the freedom to do things my way (empowerment), a sense of ownership and high levels of trust.
When I joined R + F, I found this specific culture. And that’s what led me to launch How Mommy Got Her Groove Back. I felt like I’d found ‘my people’.
The biggest impact this business has had on me as a person is that I’ve been totally forced me to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve gained improved people skills, stronger resilience, deeper levels of empathy, the ability to dream bigger, and the courage to live my life regardless of what other people might think of my choices.
All of these things are critical to the success of How Mommy Got Her Groove Back and to my personally success, as a wife, mother, friend and inhabitant of the planet.
Now, really, I get it. Not everyone WANTS to run their own business and that’s totally OK.
Even if you feel like you don’t, I encourage you to think differently.
I’ll leave you with this: think about what you really want out of life. (This isn’t just about the ‘stuff’. It’s also about what kind of person you want to be remembered as and if you’re raising kids, what type of model you want to be.) Then ask yourself if what you’re doing today can get you there. If not, you have a gap, my friend. Perhaps, just maybe, a direct selling business is exactly the opportunity you need to bridge it.
It might time to take the leap.
As always, leave your thoughts and comments here or on the Facebook page. Even if you have no desire to join me in business, I advocate for this model because I LOVE supporting women (and men!) to make the changes they need to live the lives they want. Let’s chat. I’d love to hear your story!