Making Decisions in a Direct Selling Company: The Three Principles and Four Questions


People who are new to direct selling often find its concepts and practices difficult to master. Whether we are talking about seasoned executives from another business model or folks that are new to any kind of business enterprise, we direct sellers often confound and confuse them with the decisions we make. They just can’t seem to figure out why we do what we do.

“Over the years I have developed a decision process tool to help new to the industry employees and executives understand how we think about things in a direct selling context and make decisions based upon that thinking. I call the process the: Three Principles and Four Questions”


The Three Principles:

1. The sales force is made up of independent volunteers!

The volunteer nature of the independent sales force is the most important concept to grasp if you are to be successful in direct selling.  At any given time 90 plus percent of the independent sales force consists of part-time folks for whom the direct selling business is not the primary source of family income. They sell the Company’s products because they want to… not because they have to.  As with all volunteers, if they become unhappy, disillusioned, lose the vision or believe they are being mistreated… They fade away like smoke in a breeze and simply do not place another order.


2. The sales people think more like “customers” than “business people”

Most of the Company sales people joined the business because they love the products and purchase them for their own use.  They are customers first, buying the products because they believe they represent good value for the money.  If they believe that a product is priced too high (they wouldn’t pay that much for it!), they won’t sell it.  If they believe that a product doesn’t perform well, they won’t sell it. After all they are selling to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.  They are not going to embarrass themselves by selling too costly and/or poorly performing products to people they see every day.

The typical part-time direct seller’s mind set is more in tune with their customers than it is with the Company marketing department.


3. The “trust/fear” equation is always present.

There is a direct correlation between the degree of trust and confidence the sales people have in the Company and the Company’s success.  When the sales people believe that the Company is committed to the sales peoples’ best interests, sales and recruiting growth can be dramatic.  The converse is also true.

When Company actions create mistrust underlying fears about the Company’s commitment to the sales people arise and bad things happen.  All the great products and exciting promotions in the world cannot overcome the sales peoples’ lack of trust and confidence in the Company’s intentions.


With these three principles always in mind, ask the following


The Four Questions

When making any decision that may effect the sales force even if only remotely:

1. Is this decision a good one for the new and part time sales people? Why? Be specific! 
  • Does it add to / reduce their profit?
  • Does it add to / reduce their paper work?
  • Does it make placing orders easier?
  • Does it make recruiting / sponsoring easier?
  • Does it make becoming a sales person easier / harder?
  • Does it make it easier / harder to sell the product?

If this decision will make any of these activities more difficult… don’t do it!


2. Is this decision good for the new and mid-level sales leaders who are trying to build a full time business? Why?

Again, be specific. Use the same types of questions above but applied to new and mid level leaders plus ask if it will make training new folks harder / easier.

If this decision will make their job more difficult… don’t do it!


3. Is this decision a good one for the top levels of sales leaders in the marketing and compensation plan?

Decisions that only impact the very top sales people are not as black and white as the two previous categories. The very top sales people have begun to move out of strictly “volunteer status”.  All or a substantial portion of the family income may come from their direct selling business.  As a group they have begun to think more like business people and less like customers.  So, for instance, if a Company action would be good for the new and part-time folks, good for new and mid level sales leaders and only annoying or time consuming for top sales leaders, it may be worth making the decision and taking the action.


4. Is this decision good for the Company?

Always put the Company last in the question process. Why? Because many ideas, at first glance, appear to have real benefits for the Company or for particular departments or even individual employees. People, particularly in departments that do not have direct contact with the sales force, get so excited about the apparent benefit to the Company or their area of responsibility that they forget to really think about the impact to the field.

By forcing ourselves to view each decision, regardless of what the department responsibilities are, from the perspective of the decision’s potential impact on the sales force, we can avoid a lot of costly mistakes. By definition, any action that adversely impacts the sales force and leaders is not good a good decision for the Company.

If the answer to all four questions is positive… do it ASAP!


By: Alan Luce

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