If you had told me three months ago that I’d be working in network marketing, aka direct sales, aka social selling I never would have believed you.
I’d had a negative impression of the business model based mostly on hearsay. My one real life experience, being invited to and attending a direct selling event, left me feeling pressured, expected to make a purchase.
Despite the fact that the two pieces of clothing I bought from that sale have since become staples in my wardrobe (perfect, drapey grey cardigan and the sweetest, red sweater), well-worth their cost, the idea that I’d been invited somewhere with an expected outcome requiring the swipe of my credit card made me very hesitant, indeed.
Months after that sale, months after my purchases turned out to be such a hit that I’m actually looking forward to the next event, my harsh impression of social selling has softened.
As happens, when a change is made and a person becomes open to new experiences, opportunities are more easily spotted. So when sitting at dinner with two of my oldest friends turned into a discussion about a company that was making big changes within the cosmetics industry and was following a social selling business plan, I was more inclined to pay attention.
I’m glad I did.
The business ended up speaking to me on so many levels that I signed up as a consultant after just a few days of research and contemplation.
So what have I learned about network marketing/social selling/direct sales that I didn’t know before?
So much good stuff I’m embarrassed I ever had a doubt.
1. SOME STORIES ARE BETTER TOLD TO FRIENDS.
The point of network marketing is to spread the word about a product or an idea that would be lost in a different environment. Could I have purchased that perfect, drapey grey cardigan in a retail setting? Sure. But having other women around to help me, many of whom had opinions that I respected, ensured that I ended up with pieces that looked great. When a question came up about sizing, having the group there to discuss my concerns (the piece on hand was too small) left me me sure that what I ordered would be just right.
2. THERE ARE DIFFERENT REASONS TO GET INVOLVED, ALL OF THEM RESPECTABLE.
Some people may find that the supplemental income generated from network marketing helps their family. Some people may find that the company’s product or mission speaks to them so loudly that they are motivated to spread the word. Many folks fall within both of those categories.
3. SUCCESS IN SOCIAL MARKETING REQUIRES A PERSONAL COMMITMENT.
Something must be done everyday to keep the ball rolling. Whether it’s speaking about your product to a stranger, sending out an email that relates to your business, or studying product information to enhance your knowledge, daily focus, small or large, will encourage growth and confidence.
4. IT’S NOT A PONZI SCHEME!
Probably the biggest misnomer is that all network marketing is a ponzi scheme in disguise. Even though I didn’t totally subscribe to this thinking, I was confused by the way consultants were paid, and the tier leveled payment plans, so often a part of the direct sales long-term career plan. I still don’t know all of the ways that other companies pay their people. But I know how my company is paying me.
It’s true that when I sign people up to work with me that I get a percentage. When they sign people up, I get a percentage of that sale. This all hinges, though, on whether or not they are able to sell anything. My job as their mentor is to guide the people on my team to be successful. Whether that means I assist them in a party where they receive all of the consultant commissions, or I build a social media page for them (something I do as my primary career, for which I normally charge a fee), my participation is essential in their growth. Like any company, there are levels. The high-level management team in any organization is going to be paid more than a person who’s just starting at the bottom. But that high-level manager will be fired if the company, and the people that he/she manages, are not successful. There is a hierarchy. It’s the nature of business, small and large.
And it should be mentioned that an actual ponzi scheme is set up to take money from people without the people being given anything in return. I have a product that I am offering to a consumer. This is a huge difference that must be noted.
5. YOUR REPUTATION MATTERS.
If you are authentic in life, people know you to be trustworthy and real. Having a reputation for being authentic helps as you build your business. Expecting people to jump on board is much easier if they believe you function from a genuine place.
6. IT’S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT
Tell your friends, but don’t be surprised if they aren’t on board. Actually, it may take a few conversations to get anyone interested in your product. Don’t take it personally. Rejection can be used as motivation to think outside of the box. If your friends don’t get it now, find other people who do. They will be the ones who become a part of your team. Some people need to see success before they’re willing to listen. That’s okay.
7. GETTING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX LEADS TO CREATIVE IDEAS THAT LEAD TO GROWTH.
In any venture, thinking outside of the box allows for creativity, and openness to situations that may (or may not) prove successful. Whether it means discussing your business with the guy at the Container Store (happened yesterday), or sitting at a coffee shop with your products in view (maybe someone will ask), trying different methods to spread the word is important.
There will be failures, sometimes embarrassing ones, and some days you feel like nothing is ever going to pan out. But then there will be days when old acquaintances are moved by your business, and your passion (or product) inspires a new client to get involved.
In the end, it’s your passion and product that move you forward everyday. And that journey, no matter the business plan you follow, is in itself a great reward.
Martha Merrill Wills is the writer/creator of marthawills.com, and the column Are We There Yet? at Raleigh’s News & Observer, Trianglemom2mom website. She works as a Social Media Manager, building websites, and instructing small business owners on strategies to extend their reach, Wills Media Group. Her newest venture is as a Senior Consultant with the recently launched Beautycounter; a company with a mission to educate about toxins in products, while offering a chic, safe alternative. Contact her at email@example.com or 919-673-8881