Direct sellers across the globe are facing one of the most rapidly changing selling and recruiting environments in the last hundred years. We see evidence of it everywhere.
Tried and true recruiting promotions no longer produce the expected results. Compensation plans and money prizes do not seem to drive the business as well as they used to. Few, if any, have a handle on exactly what is going on.
The changes do not seem to flow from product innovations, new laws and regulations, or political upheaval. Rather, the challenges facing the industry seem to flow out of a new set of expectations and preferences among potential customers of direct selling products. I am talking about fundamental societal changes that are impacting the way direct sellers do business.
Adapting to the New Generation
I am confident that neither I nor anyone else has a complete handle on the full scope and arc of these changes, but we have seen and experienced enough in the last 18 months to understand that direct sellers are not going to persuade Generation Y and Millennial customers to do things the way we want them to.
So, we direct sellers are going to have to change our practices to be more in line with their wants and expectations.
The most surprising aspect may be how quickly this generation’s attitude is becoming the norm for large segments of the population in nearly every market across the globe. We can all agree that this outcome is probably a result of the global transparency fueled by the Internet and social media communications. What has caught most of us flat-footed is how quickly these new generational “attitude norms” have spread.
4 New Norms for Today’s Direct Seller
Here is a short list of some of these new “attitude norms” that impact the direct selling business model:
- If your company does not have a transparent and positive image on the web and in the social media world of Facebook and beyond, and other social media platforms, you will not be successful at selling products and recruiting salespeople.
The company’s online image, message and reputation must be clearly established, supported and endorsed by customers, existing sales force members and independent third parties if you want to compete for customers and salespeople.
Our 20- to 40-year-olds check out everything online before they commit to buy or join. Top company executives need to assess their company’s online image and confirm all the information is accurate. If you don’t find it fully transparent, easily locatable, navigable and understandable, your prospects won’t either. You need to change that quickly.
- Today’s recruit prospects want the company to “show me a few ways to be successful, but don’t try to limit the way I do things.” Any direct seller today has access to “sales training” and motivational materials from a variety of direct selling industry experts online.
No longer is the company their sole source of training and provider of “how to” business advice. This is why we see folks join network marketing companies and begin to hold parties and even recruit wholesale buyers. Every type of direct seller, regardless of their company’s avowed method of doing business, will start selling online rather than face to face.
To cope with this “don’t restrict the way I sell” attitude, company trainers, training programs, software systems, compensation programs and incentive models must be designed to support, reward and motivate a wide variety of selling methods. Most existing technology support systems today are not able to provide such flexible support, making companies prisoners of their existing technology.
- Completely redesign the way you communicate with the public and your sales force. And don’t forget to adjust all of your training programs and materials along with it.
For today’s customers and recruiting prospects, your company message and training information needs to be:
- Visually compelling
- Succinct and to-the-point
- Readily accessible 24/7
- Available in easily accessed archives for future review
- Delivered via a variety of online mediums, including proper use of social media forums
If your communications and training strategy and materials are not aligned with these points, your customers and potential recruits won’t give you the time of day.
- Pay attention to how your newest sales folks are doing the business. It is usually the case that our salesforce finds ways to work new technologies and social changes into their businesses before their companies do.
In times of change, it is very important for the company to be open to input from new sellers as to how they want to work the business. Companies most often look to the opinions and input from their top leaders when trying to figure out what is going on. In my experience, top sales leaders are among the most conservative folks in your organization and are frequently deeply opposed to needed changes.
It is critically important that your company creates ways to access unfiltered input from their newest sales folks. After all, our top leaders often represent yesterday’s best practices. It is the new folks who will be your leaders of the future. If you don’t currently have effective ways of learning what your new folks are doing and what they want from the company, you will need to create them.
None of these suggested actions will solve basic problems of the business. However, all of them will help open up the process and enable the management team to begin to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to meeting the desires and expectations of today’s customer and recruit prospects for whom the Internet and social media are not tools but rather a way of life
By the way, as you learn the answers, let the rest of us know because we are searching for them, too.
About Alan Luce
Alan Luce is a veteran direct seller, formerly the senior management executive at major companies like Tupperware and PartyLite gifts.
He was the founder & CEO of Dorling Kindersley Family Learning, which became a $40 million business in its first four years. Today he’s a consultant to more than a hundred direct selling companies, from start-ups to major powers such as Princess House, Avon and Amway.
An expert in compensation plans, startup strategies and sales management programs, Alan sits on the boards of numerous direct sales companies. His many honors include induction into the Direct Selling Association Hall of Fame and the Direct Selling Education Foundation’s Circle of Honor.