Direct sales, or selling products directly to consumers outside of a retail environment, can be a viable way to start a home-based business. The larger category of direct sales includes network marketing, multi-level marketing (MLM), one-on-one sales, and the party model, and many businesses use a combination of them.
Success in direct sales comes from the same things that make any other business a success; know your market, find them, deliver a message that appeals to them, and service them well. No matter which direct sales model you choose, there are some basic tips you can follow to achieve success.
Use (and Love) What You're Selling
Your customers will know when you're giving a spiel simply to sell them something and when you're genuinely excited about what you're offering.
The best direct sales reps use and love the products they're selling. They talk about them with enthusiasm, which is what helps sell them.
Using your products and services also gives you personal experiences and information so you can discuss them honestly and accurately with potential customers.
You may have heard direct salespeople describe the job something like this: “Help five people get eight people, and you’ll get a free car.”
That's not exactly how it works. What they don’t tell you is that you’ll need to talk to at least 50 people to get the five people, and help them talk to at least 80 people each to get their eight.
While these numbers aren't exact, the point is, that you'll receive a lot of "nos" in your quest to find your "yeses," which can be discouraging. But frustration is a part of running a successful home business. The key is to be persistent and keep going after you get a "no."
Read the Fine Print
Read and understand your company’s marketing and compensation plan, as well as any policies or procedures.
Buying into a business opportunity means there may be rules and restrictions you need to abide by. For example, some companies forbid you from using their name in your marketing. Others don't allow you to set up your own consultant website.
Further, to maximize your income, you need to know the best way to make money. Which products are the most popular and earn you the most income? How can you earn bonuses?
The better you understand the terms by which you can run your business, as well as how you get paid, the better you can make more income.
Identify Your Target Market
Determine the best buyers for your products, services, and business plan.
Most direct sales companies start new reps by having them make a list of 100 people they know. While you might find your new customers and business partners in this list, this method isn't the most efficient way to get started.
In all other business models, you identify the best buyers for your products and focus on them. Identifying your target market means you don't waste time trying to sell to people who don't want what you're offering. You can't sell products to people who don't want or need them.
Further, in direct sales, there is a tendency to focus on targeting people who want to make money. That’s not necessarily bad, but you’re better off focusing on people who want to make money and would like your products and services. As mentioned above, people are more likely to be successful in selling something they can get behind. In fact, many people who start a business in direct sales were customers first, and they liked the products so much that they decided to sell them.
Identify the Value Proposition
Determine how your market can benefit from your products, services, and business plan. Will your customers gain energy, cook better, or feel more confident?
Reframe all the great features of your product and business into benefits. If your products are non-toxic, what does that mean? Fewer asthma spells? Less allergies?
Know Where to Find Your Market
General advertising and promotion don’t work as well as sending your message directly to the people who are most likely to buy what you're selling. What websites do they surf, what magazines do they read, what organizations do they belong to, etc.? That's where you want to focus your marketing efforts.
As already mentioned, most direct sales companies recommend making a list of 100 people that you know, which can be a good place to start—except if none of those 100 people need your product or business. Instead, use your network to help you find people in your target market.
Why should people buy from you rather than that other rep who lives next door?
You need to differentiate yourself to stand out from the thousands of other people who are working with the same company. A great way to do this is to tell your personal story since nobody else is you or has your exact story. You are the biggest differentiator there is out there, and if people resonate with you and your story then they're more likely to want to buy from you. It's also something that another sales rep can't replicate.
Other ways to set yourself apart are offering a higher level of service or a loyalty program, or to customize what you offer. You can also develop your own website and marketing tools if allowed by your company, to help showcase your personal style and set you apart from the others. You can also offer an email newsletter with tips and helpful hints.
Direct sales works because it’s a person-to-person business. Whether you’re showing a product or introducing the business plan, you have to do it in front of people.
The direct sales reps who make the most presentations are usually the ones who get more sales, so the more appointments you make, the better.
Technology has allowed some flexibility in presentations in that they can be done by phone, webinar, and/or video, giving you a bigger reach than just your local area. Some direct sales companies have successful representatives that do group presentations by phone, webinar or live video. In some cases, you can simply invite your prospects to attend and let your mentor do the presentation.
The fortune is in the follow-up, so develop a system for staying in touch with prospects, clients, and new business builders.
Too often, direct sales consultants give up after the first ‘no.' But that ‘no’ may actually mean 'it’s not a good time.'
Good customer service and continued contact go a long way to getting repeat and referral business (for all types of businesses, not just direct sales). While you don't want to annoy people, you do want to create a system for staying in touch until they tell to stop.
Email newsletters are a great way to keep your name in front of people, so if the time becomes right, they can contact you.
Finally, if you’ve helped someone start their business, it’s your job to train, mentor and support them. Your success depends partly on their success.
Stick With It
Make a commitment to not quit.
Despite what the naysayers will tell you, the failure rate in network marketing and direct sales isn’t any more than any other home business opportunity. Just as many people give up selling on eBay, freelancing their skills, blogging, and more.
What differentiates success from failure in any home business is a commitment to never quit. That means learning to overcome rejection, avoiding mistakes, and staying the course towards success.