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A prominent technology executive recently shared with me his view of RIM’s (the maker of BlackBerry mobile devices) dramatically rapid collapse of market share. The critical mistake they made, according to this tech insider, was that they listened too intently to the wrong customer constituency. Instead of hearkening to what their users were saying, they listened to the customers who were making the purchase decisions for many of these users. These customers were the CIOs of large corporations who consistently reassured RIM that BlackBerry would continue to be the device of choice for the enterprise, citing that the security of data that BlackBerry provided was the key differentiator to trump all other factors. Except it wasn’t.
What soon happened is that young, talented employees began making employment decisions based on what type of phone the company supported—consistently choosing an iPhone over a BlackBerry.
This example is one of many that solidify an expanding acknowledgement that we have entered into a new culture for today’s working generation. More than ever, we need to better understand what motivates people, as more traditional management methods lose their effectiveness.
Dan Pink, the author of Drive, says that today’s workforce is fundamentally motivated by:
- Autonomy—“Let me figure how best to accomplish my work.”
- Purpose—“I want to make a difference in the world.”
- Mastery—“I want my job to give me skills and experience to really help me be successful throughout my career.”
Of course, this dynamic is old news for executives in direct selling companies. A direct selling business already does a fantastic job at giving a salesforce autonomy and purpose. The key area to strengthen is providing people the mastery they need to build their business. In fact, many of the core challenges around recruiting, duplication, retention and having a fast start are all deeply rooted in an individual distributor’s need for mastery.
Mastery for distributors can be defined as being able to enact the right behaviors at the right times.
Even though companies allocate significant resources to tackle mastery by creating sales aids, developing training, publishing success stories, hosting motivating and educational events and more, it still may not lead to success. With these resources, distributors may clearly understand what mastery entails and even believe that it’s easy enough, but too often when put to the test, they stumble. This is because mastery is most keenly required when it’s the toughest to achieve—when the distributor is alone or surrounded by nay-saying friends and family.
Our research has shown that human beings are very quick to give up and blame themselves by saying, “I just don’t have the willpower to do this,” when the following is true:
- I understand that the stakes are high. (There is no other way for me to achieve my financial goals unless this business works.)
- I understand the behavior that I need to be successful. (I just have to overcome this fear of rejection.)
- The behavior seems simple and it’s easy to understand. (My sponsor made it sound so easy when she gave me examples of what to say.)
- I fail to enact that behavior. (I can’t believe I couldn’t do that.)
Successful distributors have been able to achieve mastery in these crucial moments of fear, self-doubt, and perhaps, a lack of sales experience, as well as understand how to master their surroundings and the circle of family and friends who may try to discourage progress.
The emergence of social media provides a remarkable opportunity for direct selling companies to deliver the trifecta of criteria that today’s generation wants—autonomy, purpose and mastery. Social media should be much more than a buzzword that helps you increase web traffic and brand awareness. It’s the platform that allows you to deliver a true mastery program across your entire global workforce.
Social media is an interactive communication platform where the content of the communication can be both generated and consumed without obstacles. When web-based publishing first emerged, companies were thrilled with the prospect of scaling the dissemination of information in a remarkably faster and cheaper way. However, the major limitation was how to cater and customize the quickly growing sea of information for your audience. “Pushing” content to audiences doesn’t always work because it isn’t customized enough. Providing content for users to “pull” hasn’t always worked because there is so much information that it has been too much work for users to find what they needed.
Indeed, a person often needs different types of information at different times, but might not be willing to work hard to get the necessary information. This is particularly true for direct sellers seeking to achieve mastery of a specific behavior, as there are so many potential pitfalls in the entrepreneurship required. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
Example A: Amy is a new distributor and is excited to start on her journey. She is a mother of two young children, loves the product she is now selling, and is a natural at talking about it with her neighbors and friends. And yet, for a couple of months she has not been able to sponsor someone new. She has felt productive—in fact, she has started half a dozen projects, including writing a list of people to approach, watching a few training videos, and mentioning the products to a few friends—but her activity has not produced any tangible results. She realizes that she enjoys talking about the product but has a fear of asking friends for a commitment. If she could only know what to say when she gets in a position to ask for a commitment.
Example B: Joe has been building his business for a couple of years. He is almost at the point where he could quit his day job and take on his business full time. His greatest frustration is that too many key distributors in his downline consistently let him down. His natural reaction when this happens is to lower his head and work harder himself to be the example for his downline. However, he understands that this behavior lends itself to putting tasks over people. If he could only know how to invest in training team members when they stumble, instead of blaming them.
For direct selling executives, these examples are just a couple in the hundreds of different cases where the wrong behaviors, albeit well-intended, are getting in the way of real success. In all of these cases, executives actually know both the diagnosis and the solution! And yet, how do you make sure that the right information gets to the right individual at the right time?
Social media conquers this problem of just-in-time content. And perhaps most important, social media is accessible any time or place via web-enabled devices.
Here are just a few ways that social media can do this:
Recognizing the Right Behaviors
Too often, distributors can be blind to the success-limiting behaviors holding them back. They can also be purposefully blind, meaning that when they are told what changes they need to make they become defensive. Realizing what changes need to be made is commonly an iterative process, with the distributors gradually coming to self-awareness.
Social media provides a platform for this self-awareness to happen at the pace the distributor needs. “I can see lots of others succeeding where I am not. They don’t seem any different than me. Am I actually doing something wrong?”
Dashboards, scorecards and unedited feedback are the types of data that social media can deliver to distributors to help them see what is real, versus the false perceptions they may hold in their minds.
Our research has found that in order for someone to have the self-belief to enact a vital behavior, they need to be able to answer “yes” to two questions:
- Can I do it?
- Will it be worth it?
The best way for someone to be able to answer these questions is to live vicariously through another person, or in other words, hear or see a story of someone like them successfully enacting the behavior that is needed. “Look at Amy. If she can do it, I can do it. And there is Charles. If he can do it too, certainly I can do it!”
Social media allows this vicarious experience to happen not only once, but potentially thousands of times for distributors. And, in many instances, they can see this happening in real time, as conversations play out online. And they can see it play out in the safety and privacy of their own homes when they most need that motivation.
Practicing and Getting Feedback
Malcolm Gladwell describes the 10,000-hour rule in his book, Outliers. He basically says, spend 10,000 hours practicing anything and you can become a master. These days it isn’t practical or even possible for an apprentice to follow around a master for 10,000 hours, and we cannot expect a distributor to attend 10,000 hours of convention or training.
However, social media does allow a distributor to practice and receive real-time feedback in virtually all situations for 24 hours a day. Creating this environment is vital in scaling the already-known best practices to a global salesforce.
Even for those executives who promote mastery to the salesforce, their challenge has been one of diffusion. Until the advent of social media, there hadn’t been a platform to widely and easily spread that know-how to distributors at the very moment they need it, in the format they want it, and in a manner that is easy and simple to consume.
This has been the missing piece for direct selling companies. And as they embrace social media as the platform for mastery, they can safely declare the ideal value proposition for today’s generation:
- Come run your own business and control your own destiny. (We give you autonomy.)
- We have a product that changes lives and you can stand behind it. (We give you purpose.)
- You will conquer the behaviors you need to be successful. (We give you mastery.)
It’s the trifecta for the contemporary and future workforce seeking greater fulfillment and success—a powerful combination that will fuel a boom for the entire direct selling industry.
Vince Han is a digital media industry executive and entrepreneur, and CEO of Change Anything, LLC.