From Mary Kay to Tupperware to Tastefully Simple to Stella & Dot, direct sales organizations (also called multilevel marketing companies) are a popular way for people to build a direct-sales business while working at home.
But with millions of direct sales reps trying to sell the same products—sometimes to the same friends and neighbors—building a viable direct sales business can be challenging. Estimates suggest that the average income of direct sales reps is less than $2,000 per year.
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Here are some tips for how direct sales reps can better market their products and expand sales:
1. Choose the right company
Direct sales reps depend on the reputation and reliability of the companies they’re selling for. If a company’s products are shoddy—or the company’s reputation becomes tarnished—sales reps will have a tough time selling them. It’s important to thoroughly research a company before buying any inventory and starting to sell its products. “Go to the company’s website,” Bethonie Butler, a part-time stylist for jewelry direct sales company Stella & Dot, told Kiplinger. Check out the products it sells, how it markets itself to consumers and reps and how long its been in business. Make sure you feel comfortable with the brand.
But also go beyond that and talk to current (and ideally former) sales reps and ask some questions: How much support do they receive from the company? What is the revenue and profit-sharing model? How easy is it to find customers and get sales? If they have a tough time selling the products or making a decent income, there’s a good chance you will, too.
“Also, Google the company and read what’s out there,” Butler adds. “Are the products well-reviewed? Do people who’ve started similar businesses have good things to say? What are the criticisms about the company?”
2. Be relentless
The most successful direct sales reps continually market their products, whether on social media, in person or through emails to their friends, neighbors, colleagues and past customers. Given the intense competition, it’s essential to be out there talking about the products—such as new offerings or special discounts. “The number of hours you invest in your business will determine how quickly you grow,” Mary Christensen, author of the book Be a Direct Selling Superstar, told Forbes. “Every aspiring direct seller should ask this question: ‘Am I prepared to put the time and effort into achieving my goal?’ It’s not enough to want it. You have to be willing to work for it.”
Remember, though, that smart marketing is also about knowing your customers and their preferences. Consider contacting a friend or previous client directly when a product she or he would like goes on sale. Use a spreadsheet or even build your own customer database or customer relationship management system to keep track of your customers’ contact information, preferences, purchase history and other facts that can help you serve them better.
3. Host parties
It’s no secret that direct sales reps who host parties, whether at friends’ homes or their own, are more successful than those who don’t. Parties are a great chance to meet potential new customers and demo products for a captive audience. It can also be a good way to recruit new sales reps—which can bolster profits since direct sales companies typically give their reps a cut of their recruits’ earnings.
More sales parties today are happening online. Many direct sales companies make it easy for their reps to host a party on Facebook, for example, and invite their network to join.
4. Keep training
Being an expert about the products you’re marketing is paramount to making a sale. Many direct sales companies offer training sessions, online tutorials and calls with senior consultants where reps can learn more about the products and also how to improve their selling techniques.
5. Band together
Don’t look at other reps working for your direct sales company as your enemy. In fact, they very well may be your best friends. Today, many direct sales reps work together. This can help in several ways: It gives you a natural network with which to compare sales strategies and discuss ways to better market the products you’re all trying to sell. It can also encourage you to keep selling and help bolster your marketing efforts. Some teams of reps, for example, may host a party together.
Some direct sales reps build a very lucrative business from home. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s important to make sure you’re willing to devote the time and energy before laying down any cash to start the business.
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