Re-energizing Growth, By Re-thinking Crises
Something not altogether good was brewing in direct selling in late 2019. The Direct Selling Association reported flat-line global sales performance of $35.2 billion, down slightly from 2018. China’s 100-day reviews of nutritional products halted companies from selling in China, surprising everyone. Continued compliance pressures in China clearly stressed sales in the channel. The domestic regulatory environment brought new challenges as well. And for many companies, sales just weren’t where they needed to be for continued market expansion. Pressure everywhere was building, but no one could foresee what was around the corner.
C-suite strategic planning, course corrections, realignment of corporate spending, new compensation structures, and the like were underway throughout the industry when pandemic struck in early 2020. COVID-19 could have compounded lingering 2019 circumstances, but that is not what happened for these seven direct selling companies.
With the benefit of time and distance, 2020 sales numbers and some hindsight, these industry leaders take a short, retrospective look inside their companies during a year like no other. In so doing, they help the direct selling industry re-think crises while telling the stories of how their teams met disruptive challenges and leveraged 2020’s new business reality to create a renewal that re-energized their field organizations and helped solidify their growth trajectories for 2021 and beyond.
COVID-19 could have compounded lingering 2019 circumstances, but that is not what happened for these seven direct selling companies.
This industry leader takes a short, retrospective look inside Prüvit during a year like no other.
Founded / 2015
Top Executive / Brian Underwood, Founder & CEO
Products / Health & Wellness
Events—live, in-person events—create the heartbeat and culture of Prüvit. So, it was only logical that pre-planning for 2020 contained a huge dose of events, as the company’s excitement grew about expanding into more international markets; then, the world slammed shut in March.
“We were locked down, and the struggle came from uncertainty of knowing if or when things would reopen,” CEO Brian Underwood says.
Because Prüvit offers a premium product, they had to ask themselves a tough question. “What if people’s fear causes them to come off of autoship because they think it’s just a luxury in their lives?”
Despite their firm belief that their product is a necessity in the lives of their customers, due diligence dictated that Prüvit’s C-suite float all sorts of potential worst-case scenarios last spring; then, they prepped for them.
“We immediately took precautions and looked at how we could create a down-sell if needed,” Underwood says.
But they never had to use it.
Instead, they dealt with a brand-new reality and came out shining.
“One of the greatest things about our company is that our core philosophy is all about being truly adaptable. Once the pandemic hit, we were used to being a speedboat in the water anyway. Even in just our marketing feel, we would shift course very quickly,” Underwood says.
As their internal team transitioned to remote work, they kept the same harried pace that was their norm and morphed this new coronavirus reality into a huge opportunity.
They stepped up, swallowed hard and did what they had to do—canceled all in-person events. “We just wrote it off really early and leaned heavily into virtual settings,” Underwood says.
They carried forward strengths from 2019, like consistent outcomes and a focus on creating similar feelings of connection with the community and re-anchoring people to Prüvit’s vision and mission.
“Getting that emotional connection involved is really important,” Underwood says.
With great pleasure, they watched Prüvit’s volume rise thanks to the amount of education the company created. They shifted to high-production virtual events delivered at increased frequencies and introduced new products, which also increased the frequency of new experiences for consumers.
“Our field outperformed themselves. We did a lot more of what we were already doing, which included driving experiences and creating events for them—whether it was new flavor drops, sales or training,” Underwood says.
“The surprise for us was that our 2020 sales grew tremendously in the domestic U.S., simply because people had an urgency to find a plan B, and we leaned into that,” Underwood says.
Of course, there were disappointments like the inability to meet international growth projections, but stagnation had everything to do with the pandemic.
“As we were opening up new international markets, we met challenges by increasing communication with the international leaders who had already created the demand in those markets. Fortunately, we were able to create some stability in those sales, even in the pre-pre-launch stage. Our leadership got resourceful to maintain the market and use it to their advantage,” Underwood says.
Underwood thinks that’s the most exciting element to 2021—picking back up that international expansion and running with it.
For Prüvit, 2020 brought a renewal of sales growth, as well as added perspective because it forced everyone to slow down a bit, whether they wanted to or not.
“It gave everyone an opportunity to reset and refresh and also look at long-term effects of how to create more efficiency. I think we will see that industry-wide,” Underwood says.
Virtual events, for example—he doesn’t see them going away anytime soon. “If done right, you can get just as much impact. The challenge moving forward is to maintain those efficiencies while also replicating the feel of live experiences and human connection as well,” Underwood says.
Excerpt from the Direct Selling News May 2021 Cover Story: “Renewal, Re-energizing Growth, By Re-thinking Crises.”