There are thousands of direct selling companies—many with similar products, services, compensation opportunities and management capabilities. When we look further into the various companies, we find that practically every product and service you could imagine is being marketed and sold utilizing the direct selling channel of distribution. I recently thought about both the positive and negative observations that I have personally experienced relative to the direct selling model and found myself addressing some basic questions. Is there a common denominator that must be activated or key lever to be pulled in order to build a successful direct selling company? Would this also apply to whether or not the actual direct seller/network marketer succeeds or fails? Uncovering this key lever and then accelerating your field’s performance is what this two-part series is about.
In my research, it became abundantly clear that there is one lever that matters the most to the success of any direct selling business. This key lever, however, may not be what you think it is. I can say one thing for sure about this: By studying the DSN Global 100 Top Direct Selling Companies in the World and interviewing many of the CEOs, owners and executives in this industry, it becomes very clear what the levers are not.
Not the Key Levers
No. 1 is a compensation plan change. You’ve heard it said—or maybe said it yourself—that “this is going to be a game changer for the industry. We’re going to take the best of all of the compensation plans out there and marry them into one. We’re taking these key drivers, adding some of this bonus and a little of that incentive thrown on top, and that will rock the industry.” Nope. The key lever is not a compensation plan change.
No. 2 is a new product or service. Again, you might have heard, “We’ve added this new product” or “We have the endorsement of this famous doctor” or “Our product has this ancient secret … and that’s the reason why we are going to take this industry by storm.” Nope. It’s not a product, service or secret ingredient.
No. 3 is a key field leader. Have you ever thought, “If we could just capture that one experienced field leader, we’d turn around sales and fly past the competition”? Nope. The key lever is not that one field leader.
No. 4 is a killer recruiting app. You might have heard it said, “We just need that killer recruiting video—that sexy and sensational wow video. It will drive buzz and set our sales on fire.” Nope. Recruiting tools are important, but they are not the key lever.
No. 5 is a promotion or incentive. “This special promotion is going to fire up the field and our sales are going to soar.” Nope. Again, promotions and incentives are important, but they are not the key lever.
No doubt, each of the above areas is important to every business, but we are looking for the key lever—the one lever to pull that will truly create a difference in your salesforce performance and revenue growth. Review the Top 10 on the DSN Global 100 and ask yourself if any of the above five is what you would attribute their success to. They are not. Now that we’ve saved you from those costly assumptions, let’s get to the one.
The Key Lever
2011 DSN Global 100: Top 10
So what is the one? It’s simple really—it’s the investment in and development of your people.
Imagine your great company, your solid compensation plan, your valuable product or service and all your incentive programs. Combine those with a deeply committed, passionately engaged, high-performing and intensely loyal sales field. Imagine what your company could become!
Most direct selling companies struggle with high turnover, which amazes me in light of the dire economic situation and loss of jobs in so many markets around the world. Why would anyone quit on a business that offers opportunity and the training to enable them to improve their lives and that of their families? It’s not because the business is functionally difficult. It’s not ditch digging or underwater welding. Functionally, I believe, it should be very easy. It’s not even intellectually challenging because anyone can learn how to do it. It doesn’t require any academic degrees or special training certificates—it’s not engineering, science, math or medicine. This business is about talking to people and sharing a product and an opportunity. So, functionality is not the obstacle.
This business, however, can be very emotionally challenging. Someone signs up, they are excited to change their future, change their fortune, and then they run into obstacles such as negative conversations from friends and family, fear, lack of belief, rejection—all of which relate to emotional challenges.
We should not underestimate the power of the emotional landmines that people must navigate through when they first get started in this business. As a result of these landmines, too many never overcome the challenges and are blown right out of the business.
Retention requires emotional resilience; it requires self-confidence, belief and courage. But here is the great dilemma: When people first get started in the business, their anxiety, discomfort and uncertainty are at their highest, and their experience, skills and confidence are at their lowest. That is a recipe for disaster. And that is the reason why far too many of the people who get started in this industry, with the hope of changing their lives, quit before they ever really get started.
Here is your great challenge: What you need are people who are emotionally resilient and self-confident. But what you have signing up for your opportunity are people who are unconfident, uncertain and emotionally delicate. It’s not a surprise. Ninety-seven percent of our entire population lacks self-confidence.
So then you ask the question, “If 97 percent of the people who come to my door lack confidence, belief and courage, what can I do about this?” There are three things you can do in answer to this great conundrum.
Antidote to the Epidemic
Remember smallpox? More than 400,000 Europeans died from it every year in the 18th century, including five reigning monarchs. In the 20th century, it killed 300 million to 500 million people. How did we finally eradicate smallpox? Inoculation. We couldn’t kill smallpox—as you can’t kill the naysayers or feelings of rejection—but we can prevent it from killing your people. After aggressive vaccination campaigns in the 19th and 20th centuries, inoculation insulated people from contracting the disease. The death rate plummeted, and eventually, in 1979, the disease was completely eradicated.
So that is the first thing you can do for your people—inoculate them. You can warn them in advance that naysayers are out there so they aren’t blindsided and emotionally blown out because of it.
You can reinforce the value of believing in what they can accomplish by maintaining a positive attitude, learning new skills such as goal setting and making the best use of their time. When their why is clear, they will invest in learning how to build the business in accordance with the products, services and plan of the company.
Invest in reinforcement of their belief system and inoculate them before you send them out to their families, friends and network where they will certainly find the naysayers and possibly experience the unexpected rejection and feelings of invalidation. Do this and you can decrease your mortality rate significantly.
The second thing that you can do is surround them with supportive and positive references. These are stories and testimonials from people just like them, who were faced with the same challenges and obstacles but overcame them and went on to experience great success. Be sure to include the everyday obstacles and struggles that your now successful representatives overcame. Don’t encourage the perception and promotion that someone can join this business and make lots of money—with little effort—rather quickly. That’s sending them directly to the infirmary.
The third thing you can do is take a tip from the military and continue to build your people over time. Think about the dilemma the military has and how they manage it. They take a diverse and usually very young segment of the population and, over a period of time, they build them into dedicated and astonishing personnel that defend the freedoms of the greatest nation on Earth. But they have to build them.
You’ve got 97 percent of the people at your doorstep who need building. It is up to you to build them into the astonishing individuals that spread your message and rise up the ranks of your organization.
So if building them is important, what are the attributes needed to make them emotionally resilient and confident leaders?
We surveyed hundreds of the top-performing field leaders about what they attribute their unique success to. They ranked the top five as a positive attitude and expectancy, commitment and persistence, personal passion, caring for people, and belief and self-confidence.
More interesting were the five least-used answers: presentation skills, prior experience in this industry, sales experience, the high-level people that they knew, or the understanding of the compensation plan.
What I find interesting about this is that a lot of sales organizations spend their time training people on the lower attributes: the compensation plan, scripts and objection-handling skills, product and feature knowledge and all the rest.
So if you want to develop successful business-building field representatives, focus your training and company culture on the top five attributes of those proven to be successful in direct selling.
Next month, I will offer you other tips on building, maintaining and accelerating the leadership capabilities of those in your field organizations. It’s known that competition in any industry is about who can build leaders. I will give you some key ideas on accelerating your sales field leadership development and performance.
Darren Hardy is the Publisher and Editorial Director of SUCCESS magazine, best-selling author of The Compound Effect and Living Your Best Year Ever, a highly sought-after keynote speaker, and the author of the new audio program, Making the Shift—Your First 7 Days: Developing the Entrepreneur Mindset.