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 Total Life Changes during a year like no other.
Total Life Changes
Founded / 2003
Top Executives / Jack Fallon, CVO & John Licari, COO
Products / Health & Wellness
“We were already experiencing quick momentum in quarters three and four in 2019, which carried over into 2020. We were very optimistic that we would see 2020 sales increase by 20 to 30 percent or even higher than the previous year,” recalls John Licari, Total Life Changes, chief operating officer.
What TLC didn’t expect was the lightning speed at which those numbers would arrive in 2020.
Essentially, TLC planning for 2020 called for more of the same—aligning and expanding goals to continue training and educating new and existing Life Changers on the benefits of following one duplicatable system that the masses could understand and implement quickly.
TLC intended to continue monthly events throughout 2020 in the USA, Europe, FSU, and Latin America that focused on sampling products, follow-up, and conversions that leveraged their 10-5-2 onboarding system and strengthened their duplication model.
Already in place was a “retail-to-recruit” sales system aimed at generating brand-new customers, and 2020’s plan to develop four samples in four languages would enhance face-to-face sampling and bring convenient, sampling order/delivery to those using TLC’s mobile app.
There was no real predicting what sales and business would look like for 2020 after the pandemic overtook normality, but Licari says TLC was pleasantly surprised as they continued their positive momentum.
“We were not aware that this was going to happen so quickly. We realized that what we were going through was an opportunity, but at the same time, we faced significant challenges. We were not prepared to handle the massive call volume, the increase in orders, and the incredible interest in joining TLC as an independent representative,” Licari says.
To cope with the pandemic changes, TLC shifted to daily, consistent communication with the sales field via social media channels to provide updates and hope, improved their onboarding process and upgraded their phone system to include more robust callback options and self-help features aimed at efficiency.
And as they rapidly overshot pre-pandemic sales projections for the year, every department from the top down worked side-by-side to keep customer service and warehouse processing running smoothly despite increased volumes of orders.
Adding warehouse space, scaling warehouse staff, accommodating packaging changes necessary for vendor product replacements, and implementing daily pickups from their main warehouses so orders could be shipped ASAP—all this was key to ensuring TLC’s performance went beyond expectations.
It took people to get it all done—the internal support from TLC’s executive team and reaching out to local communities for new employees. They created a formal Human Resources department for the first time as they hired more and more people.
Field numbers were simultaneously escalating, and Licari says, “Our biggest challenge was onboarding a ton of new people and continuing to serve the existing people at the high level that they were used to. We had to stay fired up and committed to supporting everything that was happening, and never giving up and staying positive.”
Thinking back on the rapidly accelerated growth of 2020, Licari says, “Whatever percentage we were set up to accept, we went above and beyond to make sure we could process even more than that because we knew this was an opportunity that we may never get again.”
TLC is taking steps now to sustain that growth and continue 2020’s renewal twofold. “We have not slowed down on improving our technology; we are currently being onboarded with Salesforce and new retail e-commerce and back-office experiences,” Licari says. They’ve also committed to a more rigorous schedule of communication, broadcasts, social media engagement and training.
Licari believes that TLC cemented its place in the health and wellness market by working harder during the past year and observing consumer behavior to maximize reach and continue to keep the positive momentum. They beat the odds and proved that there isn’t anything they can’t do with loyal and committed staff. And they grew to appreciate, on an even greater scale, what Licari identifies as the company’s greatest asset—their culture.
“And when that was taken away from us [due to the pandemic restrictions], that was a challenge because we were used to being this close-knit family that shared a lot of time. We learned that our culture here is very special, and when we can’t be together, it’s hard for many of us to deal with that,” Licari says.
Excerpt from the Direct Selling News May 2021 Cover Story: “Renewal, Re-energizing Growth, By Re-thinking Crises.”