2-Step Model: The New Direct Sales Strategy You Need to Succeed
To be successful as a network marketing company, we cannot ignore the direct selling shift toward a customer-centric model, driving rep success as a by-product.
For the first time in decades: direct selling companies are implementing an advanced strategy to build their teams and create thriving companies. Gone are the days when companies lead with income offers that emphasize business. Instead, they are leading with good old-fashioned customer focus; happy customers build volume and they attract and keep happy reps.
Don’t get me wrong: income opportunities for reps remain a critical part of the strategy. However, the leading direct sales companies now emphasize the customer journey. When a customer becomes a raving fan, income opportunities for reps who find and support customers are the new normal for word-of-mouth advertising.
Now, let me ask you: what does this shift mean for your company?
It means the strategies you’ve relied on in the past will not sustain you in the future.
Reasons behind the evolution of strategies include the following:
• The direct sales channel has a black eye. When your neighbor approaches you with a pitch, your first response is typically to run in the opposite direction. Quite frankly, the marketplace demands change.
• Online sales are outpacing in-person sales—and the horizon would suggest that this trend will continue. More and more people rely on their own Internet research and online influencers to find the products that fit their preferences. This is good news for direct sellers. Instead of relying on a limited number of people in their hometowns, target customers can be found in all corners of the world. Online influencers focus on building long-term relationships with an enduring audience. Using the right tools, an influencer brings in additional income using your offer when they share with their audience. In other words, they’re not knocking on doors and collecting cash. They’re reaching people through their online reputation. Your direct sales strategy must allow for smooth online purchases.
• Human behavior is predictable. It is in our nature, when we find a product we love, we want to share it with everyone in our sphere of influence. Instead of helping go-getters become passionate about selling, connect with go-getters who naturally love your product, and the sales will follow!
Raving fans of your products are more likely to become reps for your products. They can’t help but talk about how your product has changed their life, so some think: I’m making sales for this company, they should compensate me!
When we open with income opportunities, we muddy the experience early on, which results in never establishing a trusting relationship. It’s detrimental to both your company and the direct sales channel.
Direct sales companies must always consider on-ramps and trust-building processes for engagement as a two-step process:
Step 1: Customer Acquisition
Step 2: Rep Introduction
Customer Acquisition: Marketing your product or service to your target audience
Remember the words of Peter F. Drucker: “The only valid definition of business purpose is to create a customer.”
People only buy a product or service expecting it will solve a problem.
The way to gain trust with new people is through the value you provide. Think about the last thing you purchased. Why did you part with your money? Was it the cost of the product? Were you in a retail setting? Were you supporting a small business?
I would venture to guess you had a need, and the product solved the need. The cost of the product may or may not have played a role in your decision. Who were you purchasing the product from may or may not have persuaded you? You would rather be without the money in your account than live another day without the value the product brings to your life.
Never leave the product or service purchasing experience to chance. Instead of pointing your marketing to the product’s price or the distribution channels, explain how your product or service will help your consumer succeed.
Carefully engineer the sales process in what we call a “customer onboarding experience.” Your marketing should also consider the role of the relationship. Every relationship goes through the same set of processes: from strangers looking for solutions to consumers to raving fans. Create an effective system to support the relationship.
As you strengthen the experience for the consumer, reps are the ones who benefit. Ask yourself:
- How does the customer experience fit into your current processes?
- What content can we create to benefit people?
- What systems can we invest in to support exceptional relationships?
The direct sales business can be different from traditional retail relationships when the company realizes the power of proximity: the closer the company is to its customers vis-à-vis the reps who take care of the customers, the deeper the levels of trust, loyalty, and perpetuity will be. Setting your partners up for successful sales relationships is your responsibility as a direct sales company.
Use this list when you consider your onboarding process for new consumers and reps:
- What: What do we sell?
- Value: How do our products or services make our consumer’s lives better?
- Communication: How do we train our salespeople or reps to talk about our products or services?
- Engagement: How do people engage with our brand? (i.e., social media, email marketing, sales scripts, etc.)
- Process: How do we make it easy for people to become customers for the first time, and make them feel safe in doing so?
- Experience: How do we “wow” our new consumers with their first order or sample received?
- Resources: What resources do our reps have as a part of their sales strategy? And is it consistent with the overall sales strategy for the company?
Your goal: before ever inviting a contact to join your team, you must personally love the products or services you sell. Making a sale isn’t the first goal. Nurturing a relationship for life is the goal, and the ongoing sales will follow.
Unfortunately, that’s the missing link for many direct sales companies that focus on the salespeople before the consumer.
I’ll repeat it for clarity: whether you’re considered party plan, network marketing, multi-level marketing, or social selling you have one priority: creating consumers who love your products and services.
However, when you serve your consumer well, the sales team—your partners—are the first to reap the benefit with increased revenue!
Rep Introduction: How to turn a raving fan into a direct sales partner
Some customers will eventually decide to be “referrers” and receive affiliate income in return.
Others will be ready to jump on board as a rep and begin building a business. They need clear options, and those clear options must define, aligned with the compensation plan, and presented to the customer.
For example: “We see that you’re loving our products. Many customers share the products with others in return for affiliate income—or “thank you money.” If that’s you – click here.”
“Other customers also decide to become a representative with our company to create an additional stream of income. If that’s you – click here.”
The link arranges a meeting with a “coach.” Important to note, the rep they are assigned to as a customer is the coach. The coaches role is to help them explore, discover, and decide the best fit for them. Then the onboarding can begin.
People visit social media pages of influencers for one reason: to collect clues on what other people are using to solve their problems.
In agricultural times, women would come together and share their ideas while quilting or knitting together. They are open with others and share their struggles and ideas to make their lives better.
Social media is a powerful, modern-day avenue for forging authentic connections. It fills the void of serving a neighbor by providing the type of information they need to succeed in life.
Today, social circles look very different, yet the underlying principle remains timeless. Men and women connect from the convenience of their phones. It’s the reason influencers gain millions of followers because they share authentic content people can relate to.
We trust people. It’s the reason direct sales works!
More direct sales influencers turn to social media because that’s where people connect today.
When new reps do not share with authenticity—or worse, beyond the boundaries of compliance, another ding is earned in the pyramid-scheme accusations.
Onboarding new direct sales reps cannot be left to chance. Teams should never receive outdated or inauthentic social media communications from the many amateurs sharing their strategies online.
When selling is approached as a service, then reps, consumers, and direct sales as a channel win!
The most successful salesperson gives free, valuable content regularly. It’s so powerful it’s no longer just a direct sales strategy. Businesses and big brands are incentivizing influencers with affiliate income for selling directly to their audience.
Direct sales companies rely on word-of-mouth marketing. They reward micro-influencers as a sales team to engage in sharing their message. We observe high-profile, blue chip influencers selling for a network marketing company in addition to receiving income from other small business affiliate streams.
Don’t ignore how influencers are doing business today. Unless constrained by top leadership commitments with a direct sales company, they represent more than one brand and revenue source. This presents opportunities when you are aware of creating a welcoming environment.
For instance, if your compensation plan prevents selling direct for other affiliate revenue, you will lose those potential reps who rely on multiple revenue streams. Make it as easy as possible for a person who loves your products to sell with confidence! Then, provide the right resources for your market of influencers, those with large and small networks alike, to succeed!
Direct sales may not happen door-to-door but the same principles apply! Teach your sales team:
To sell from a place of service, no pushy sellers allowed.
The pyramid scheme reputation has hindered many people from purchasing or selling products for direct selling companies. The only way to change the pyramid reputation is with a shift in the direct sales channel. People who sell online are opening with service and products. Have you developed resources for reps so they may serve people first? (Think of samples, helpful tips, ways to provide cost savings, features and benefits, etc.)
Focus on solving consumer problems with your products or services, and the business will follow.
When reps begin a conversation with potential consumers of the products, focus on selling the products rather than selling the business. When consumers love the products, business strategies naturally follow.
Allow time to be your greatest asset. Momentum is built from consistency over time.
Serve your target market with enthusiasm and your business will grow! There is no side hustle, gig, home-based business discussed here. You’re simply allowing the reps to demonstrate how they are selling products. If a consumer moves to a raving fan, they can reap the same benefit if they partner with the company. Time is your ally—use it wisely!
As a direct sales company, your role is to support the rep’s relationships. The most effective marketing strategy to give to your reps is a user-friendly, problem-solving experience that they can’t stop talking about!
Your direct sales company must be the model in this new onboarding process!
Don’t spend time or resources on your website or social media presence building the sales team.
Produce marketing collateral that reps will be proud to share on their own social media accounts. Create acquisition campaigns!
In the early days of launching a new direct sales company, your first goal is to earn the business of 500 consumers and reps (preferably split 50/50).
Think of each relationship you build like you would a dating relationship. You never ask the person to marry you on the first date, right?
This is also true of business relationships! It’s creepy and more than likely where the “ick” factor has emerged with multi-level marketing over the years. Let’s change our strategy!
Start by helping consumers and future reps to get acquainted with your service motive, the product features and benefits, and the goodness of the company’s culture and commitment to a quality experience.
The payoff can be in long-term relationships with customers and reps.
Types of Direct Sales Companies to Test this 2-step Model
If you are in the direct sales channel, we use a range of terminology to explain the types of direct sales strategies: multi-level marketing, direct marketing, party plan, network marketing, social selling, affiliate marketing.
We all have one goal, to eliminate the word pyramid or pyramid scheme. If you’ve read Terrel Transtrum’s article “Is direct selling an industry or a channel?” You know terminology is crucial to compliance and reputation management.
The 2-step model is the most authentic way to connect customers to your direct selling company’s income opportunities: Step 1: acquire customers and create raving fans; Step 2: convert customers to reps while finding reps who will help you acquire new customers!
As a channel, let’s work together to create an onboarding experience that attracts and never repels potential customers. Whether you are operating with a party plan strategy or whether you partner with a volunteer salesforce of social sellers and customer recruiters, direct sales works!
You may be reading this article and thinking of all of the ways your company might improve the onboarding process to move from rep-first to customers-first.
Don’t be overwhelmed at the thought!
The onboarding experience begins with customer and rep journey maps and big dose of discipline. Win with direct sales by creating and delivering an authentic customer experience supported by enthusiastic reps who love to share what they have found. Let us help you win with direct sales.