Now is the time to find ways to simplify your own steps to success.
Great stories and great messaging matter.
Truly compelling messaging is told in a way that people understand. Appealing and compelling—yet simple.
The challenge is that making a story simple is really hard. If you ever see a product or brand represented very simply, know that hours and hours—perhaps weeks or months—went into making it seem so simple. Some of the most famous brands are represented simply. “Just do It” and “Think Different” come to mind. Think about how complicated those 2-3 words could have been said, yet those few words created passion and belief in Nike and Apple that no long sentence or paragraph could have.
In the direct selling channel, many of us find it difficult to simplify the story enough, so it is duplicable. We use scientists and experts to explain the product messaging for us. Can you imagine Nike using a shoe engineer to explain why the shoes work? Fortunately, they show imagery of people using the products—basketball, football, golf or playing with children in the park. Those images tell a big story without explaining how the shoe or clothing works.
Or, what if, during one of those now-famous presentations by the late Steve Jobs, he talked about all the electrical engineering, manufacturing and microchips that went into making the products work? Instead, he confidently demonstrated how easy it is to do amazing things with their products—elegant, smooth, wildly appealing and made for the cool kids.
Making the processes that people have to follow in your business simple is really hard too. For example, it sure is easy to use but do you actually think that Amazon’s famous “one-click purchase” was simple to create?
One of my favorite examples of making the process simple goes all the way back to the late 1980s. When you received a computer from Apple, inside the box were additional elements labeled “Open me first,” “Open me second” and “Open me third.” It made setting up a personal computer simple for someone who knew nothing about it at all. Which was most of us back then. Today, the elegance of Apple’s packaging and delivery is designed and engineered to create an amazing first experience. It is a hallmark element of their brand.
The Effort to Simplify is Worth It
In your business, you may have complicated things, and now is the time to find ways to simplify your own steps to success. It won’t be easy—simple is hard.
I get to sit in the boardrooms and work sessions of a wide variety of companies in our space. Regardless of size, I find there are similarities.
- They want profitable growth.
- They want their distributors to succeed. Sell more product and recruit more distributors.
- They want to improve retention with their field.
- They want to make ordering products easy and effective and delivered on time.
- They want the back office to work well and be a valuable tool for their distributors.
- They want to make appropriate investments into the tools the field uses.
- They want to reduce issues involving compliance.
- They want to spend as little as possible doing all of the above.
You get the idea. They want a “volunteer army,” as John Addison calls it, to stay focused and share the product or service and attract others to do the same.
It sounds clear and easy to do, but decades of frustration and failure indicates otherwise.
Some companies have done much better than others. They have built and grown amazing businesses—faster than most traditional marketing companies. Some have launched and reached $100 million in revenue in a year or two. I don’t care what world you come from, that is truly remarkable. Others, even after 10-20-30 years, never reach that level of success.
- Is it the product? Maybe.
- Is it the compensation plan? Possibly, but
- Is it field leadership? Certainly, a major factor.
- Is its corporate leadership? Absolutely a factor,
but not always for the reasons you might suspect.
One of the biggest factors, in my experience, is that companies tend to overcomplicate things.
The story isn’t clear and repeatable by the newest people in the company.
And, the processes of achieving success, especially in the early days, are not designed for someone who knows ZERO about the product or company.
If you think I’m wrong, take this challenge.
Sign up in your own company. Experience what a newbie experiences and see what you think. This is not easy for you to do because you understand too much. You’re too smart. Do your best to see everything through the eyes of a complete newbie.
I’ve done this experiment countless times and, more often than not, the corporate team is not happy with what they found.
What you may find is that the emails you send to new distributors are not very effective. The effort it takes to set up their own personal web site is more than you imagined. The training you provide to get started is lacking. The instruction on how to make a little money is designed for someone that fully understands the compensation plan rather than someone who has no clue about genealogy and is excited to, possibly, be able to make $300-500. The starter kit you send (whether physical or digital) is, perhaps, a hodgepodge of items. Often, it is out of date and lacks a feeling that you care about the newbie.
Perhaps, you, as a corporate leader or owner, had an idea to create something special. You jumped into a giant process to discover or design the best product or service that a large number of people will want to use and sell. Depending on a variety of factors, this process could have taken months or years. You learned all there was to know about every ingredient, specification, manufacturing possibility, packaging, trademark/copyright issues, pricing, etc. You became an expert.
You also spent months working on a compensation plan with industry experts and consultants. Some of you may have started as distributors so you, certainly, knew how to maximize a compensation plan from the perspective of the field. But, you had to learn how to create one that would sustain and help grow a company. You had bills to pay, and people to hire.
You signed on the dotted line for a back-office provider. Leased an office. Purchased product. If you are like a growing number of companies, you found and contracted with a warehouse / fulfillment center where you store more product than you can afford. Figured out all the ins and outs of taking credit cards and then paying the onslaught of distributors you are expecting. In other words, you became an expert—on EVERYTHING.
Now, it’s time to take all your expertise and sell some product and recruit some distributors.
But, you know everything about everything. Even if you “dumb down” what you know, it is only dumb in your mind. The average person off the street may still see it as a complicated mess.
I have met with executives any number of times who explain their new product and business with me with great enthusiasm. They are, flat out, giddy over the product. It is life-changing /mind-altering GREAT. Perhaps it has a magical new ingredient or some new technology that will, no doubt, change the world.
Then they explain it…And explain it… And explain it.
Convinced that every person everywhere will love it, they are ready to conquer the world.
Then, they look at me and my team and see the look of either confusion or disbelief on our faces.
Remember, the folks that explained it are the experts. They told me everything. But I didn’t understand it. Or, I didn’t get as excited as they had hoped.
In my opinion, they gave me too much information and assumed I was as smart as they are.
They expected me to view it with the vast amount of knowledge they have and make sense of it.
However, I’m just a guy off the streets that didn’t have their knowledge. They confused me and confusion causes indecision.
When I was in an early sales/management job, I learned a lesson about selling to real people that has guided me ever since.
I sold cameras and home video equipment during the absolute heyday of cameras. It was when the now ubiquitous “auto” features first made their way to cameras and they took much of the guesswork out of photography. The cameras would read the light and make adjustments for you so you had a better chance of getting a good image.
When I first got started, I was anxious to take my knowledge of photography and teach the prospect so they could make a good decision on their camera purchase. I did this over and over—explaining f-stop, shutter speed, ASA/ISO (film speed), flash settings, filters, etc. It was magical. I could tell anyone about photography.
The problem was that I wasn’t selling very many cameras.
I was doing a lot of talking and making friends, but I wasn’t keeping up with the better salespeople.
Fortunately, I had a sales manager explain that people don’t want to know more about photography—they just want to take good pictures.
All this time, I was explaining photography to people that didn’t want to know all of that. I am sure they appreciated the education but they wanted photos of their kids’ dance recital or flowers in the backyard, or memories from their family vacation.
From that point forward, I was determined to make the person I was talking to feel like they could confidently take good pictures.
My sales grew dramatically.
I learned to see things simply, and you can learn it too. You just have to know it’s needed and necessary.
It involves leaving your ego behind. Sure, you can look super smart and tell everyone everything you know but, in the end, you will be seen as a “know it all” and not very helpful. In the end, the goal is to help others have success as simply as possible.
It is hard enough to keep distributors focused on doing the right activities the right way. The more we complicate it, the more they stall. As humans, we tend to want more info. We want confidence. We don’t want to look stupid or feel like we are being judged for what we don’t know. So, it is our job, as corporate leaders to make things simple and help our people do the right things right. If that requires hours and hours of training, we failed.
I encourage you to take a step back and view your business from the perspective of someone brand new. That person is excited and scared—searching for an ounce of knowledge and confidence to move forward in their new business.
It’s our job to help resolve the fear so they can move forward with excitement.
When you think you have made things as simple as possible, make it simpler.
Making things simple is hard…but worth it.
From the May 2021 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.
PAUL ADAMS has been involved in the direct selling channel for over 30 years. He is the founder of the Adams Resource Group which provides clear, focused growth strategies for direct selling companies.