Direct sales, in particular it's sub-type, network marketing, is often viewed negatively. A bad experience with an overzealous or outright dishonest rep, as well as myths and misunderstandings about direct sales keep many people away from this home business option.
However, direct sales is a viable way to start a home based business if you go in with the right attitude, knowledge, and willingness to work. Here are tips for achieving success in direct sales and MLM.
12 Tips to Building a Successful Network Marketing Business
1) Understand that it’s a business like any other business.
Direct sales marketers have the tendency to water down the plan so that it’s easy to understand, but that can also give the impression that it’s easy to do. “Help five people get eight people, and you’ll get a free car.” What they don’t tell you is that you’ll need to talk to at least 50 people to get the five people, and help them talk to at least 80 people each to get their eight. While these numbers aren't exact, the point is, that you'll receive a lot of 'nos' in your quest to find your few yeses, which can be discouraging.
But frustration is a part of running a successful home business.
Success in direct sales comes from the same things that make any other business a success; know your market, find them, deliver a message that appeals to them, and service them well.
2) Use your company’s products and services.
Your customers will know when you're giving a spiel simply to sell them something versus if you're excited about what you're offering. The best direct sales reps use and love their products. They talk about them with enthusiasm, which is what helps sell them. Using your products and services also gives you personal experiences and information so you can discuss them honestly and accurately with potential customers.
3) Read and understand your company’s marketing and compensation plan, and policies.
Some companies forbid you to use their name in your marketing. Others don't allow you to set up your own consultant website. The point is, buying into a business opportunity means there may be rules and restrictions you need to abide by.
Further, to maximize your income, you need to know the best way to make money. Which products are the most popular and earn you the most income? How can you earn bonuses? What are the overrides by helping others start a business?
The better you understand the terms by which you can run your business, as well as how you get paid, the better you can maximize your income.
4) Determine the best buyers for your products, services, and business plan.
Most direct sales companies start new reps by having them make a list of 100 people they know. While you might find your new customers and business partners in this list, this method isn't the most efficient way to get started. In all other business models, you want to find the best buyers for your products and focus on them. Identifying your target market means you don't waste time trying to sell to people who don't want what you're offering.
Further, in direct sales, there is a tendency to focus on targeting people who want to make money, and that’s not bad, but you’re better off focusing on people who want to make money AND would like your products and services. People aren’t going to be successful selling something they can’t get behind. Further, retail sales is a part of how money is made, but you can't sell products to people who don't want or need them. In fact, many people who start a business in direct sales were customers first, and they liked the products so much they decided to sell them.
5) Figure out where you can find your target market.
General advertising and promotion doesn’t work as well as sending your message directly to the people who are most likely to buy what you're selling. What websites do they surf, what magazines do they read, what organizations do they belong to, etc.? That's where you want to focus your marketing efforts.
6) Determine how your market can benefit from your products, services, and business plan.
Will your customers gain energy, become smarter, cook better, feel confident? Reframe all the great features of your product and business into benefits. If your products are non-toxic, what does that mean? Fewer asthma spells? Less allergies? Poor marketing strategies are one of the top reasons home businesses fail, so develop a marketing plan that highlights your company's benefits to your target market.
7) Differentiate yourself from the thousands of other people who are working with the same company.
Why should people buy from you rather than that other rep who lives next door? Some ways to set yourself apart are to offer a higher level of service, give discounts or freebies, set up a loyalty program, etc. The key is to find a way to stand out from all the others selling the same thing you are.
8) Develop your own website and marketing tools, if allowed by your company.
This is another way you can differentiate yourself and customize what you offer. For example, on your own website you can offer an email newsletter with tips and helpful hints. Print business cards with an offer, such as a free consultation or a discount.
Be sure to read your company's terms of service, as some have rules about creating your own website or what you can reveal about the company on a website.
9)Network to find your market.
As already mentioned, most direct sales companies recommend making a list of 100 people, which can be a good place to start except if none of those 100 people need your product or business. Instead, use your network to help you find people in your target market.
10) Make appointments.
Direct sales works because it’s a people to people business. Whether you’re showing a product or introducing the business plan, you have to do it in front of people. The direct sales reps who make the most presentations are usually the ones who win.
Technology has allowed some flexibility in presentations in that they can be done by phone, webinar, and/or video, giving you a bigger reach that just your local area. Some direct sales companies have successful representatives that do group presentations by phone, webinar or live-video. Simply invite your prospect to attend, and let the upline do the presentation.
11) Develop a system for staying in touch with prospects, clients, and new business builders.
The fortune is in the follow up! Too often, direct sales consultants give up after the first ‘no.' But that ‘no’ may actually mean 'it’s not a good time.' Newsletters are a great way to keep your name in front of people, so if the time becomes right, they can contact you. Good customer service and continued contact go a long way to getting repeat and referral business (for all types of businesses, not just direct sales). While you don't want to annoy people, you do want to create a system for staying in touch until they tell to stop.
Finally, if you’ve helped someone start their business, it’s your job to train, mentor and support them. Your success depends partly on their success.
12) Make a commitment to not quit.
Despite what the nay-sayers will tell you, the failure rate in network marketing and direct sales isn’t any more than any other home business opportunity. Just as many people give up selling on eBay, freelancing their skills, blogging, and more. What differentiates success from failure in any home business is commitment to never quit. That means learning to overcome rejection, avoiding mistakes, and staying the course towards success.
By Leslie Truex