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As with other retail entities, direct selling companies grow when more products are sold to more customers, and we sell more products when we have more salespeople selling them. No misunderstanding there. But how do we attract people to sell for us?
A direct selling executive once enthusiastically told me: “We are selling the dream!” But the “dream” of those who become involved in direct selling is as varied as the people who dream it, grounded in their own reality and with the anticipation of nothing more. The dream need not be to obtain a lavish lifestyle: to get rich quick, quit your job, and sail off around the world—although some salespeople accomplish these remarkable things—and neither should that be our promise.
In 2015, 20.2 million people were “involved in direct selling” in the United States. Those are incredible figures, but not all of those 20.2 million became involved in order to make a lot of money or even with the expectation of selling. DSA surveys clearly demonstrate, in fact, that the opportunity to obtain much-loved products at a discount ranks as one of the top motivators for becoming, and staying, involved in direct selling. Never intending to sell the product or recruit others to do so, our most loyal customers often commit to our companies to improve their access to the products on which they rely. That is their dream.
Without agenda, these participants become our most authentic product marketers, passionately extolling the virtues of our products to family and friends who, in turn, go on to become new customers. We should meet such loyalty with acknowledgement and recognition. How much time and energy does your company devote to its non-selling participants, those who purely buy but who nevertheless serve as reliable champions of our businesses, products and business model?
What better way to demonstrate the positivity of our sales channel than by promoting all of the great motivators that bring people to direct selling. Talk of recruiting and we usually mean attracting people into our plan in order for them to sell. But there’s another approach. Attract people into our plan—or “family,” one might say—to gain access to discounts on the products they already use, perhaps as “preferred customers.” Then promote the social aspect associated with using the product as well as the personal and professional development available. Finally, convey that selling the product affords supplemental income and possibly, with hard work and perseverance, a new career. Casual and preferred buyers can become committed sellers.
All roads can lead to Rome, but let’s offer individuals the means to travel those roads in the manner of their own choosing—promoting our virtues and the good name of direct selling and its companies along the way. Someone has a specific dream? Let’s do what we can to make it a reality.
Joseph N. Mariano is President of the U.S. Direct Selling Association and the Direct Selling Education Foundation.