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Posts Tagged ‘distributor training’

handshakeMany of the direct sellers that I work with tell me that they wish their direct sales companies would do more with social media. They want their companies to provide training and tools to use social media more effectively, and are surprised when their company’s policies and procedures more or less prohibit contact with prospects through social media at all.

What I often say to these direct sellers is that now is the time for you to help your companies.  They’re still figuring this all out themselves, and your experience can be helpful.  While your companies may not take every suggestion you have (after all, they can see the big picture of the entire company, while you can only see your part of it) your input can be useful as social media policy is drafted.

Here are some of the issues going on as your company considers social media.

  1. Policies & Procedures Outdated.  The policies and procedures of your company may have been written before social media was invented, and that’s why it’s so unclear what you can and cannot do.  As a direct seller, there are 2 things you can do.  1) When in doubt, ASK!  If you’re not sure what you’re allowed to do, ask your company; and 2) Ask your company for specific policies & procedures related to social media.  It may be time for an updated version of this document.
  2. Inappropriate Postings by Your Peers. One of the big concerns that direct selling companies have about social media is when consultants blur the lines between personal and professional, and begin posting things for their friends that don’t reflect well on the company.  The best thing you can do is make a decision…how will you use social media?  If you’re going to use it for business or include a link to/mention your company at all, then clean up your profile, and be sure EVERY single thing you post is appropriate for your company, your customer, your kids, and your momma to see.  One of the big hang-ups companies face when deciding whether or not to allow social media usage is the stuff that’s already out there that is NOT appropriate.  So if social media is important to you for your business (and it should be), you need to say something to your fellow consultants when they post inappropriate things.  Only when we all work together will we bring this industry forward.
  3. Ask for Training and Resources. Companies are still trying to figure out how best to support their sales force in social media.  If you believe that you need specific types of training, and it would be beneficial to you to have certain company resources (such as a Facebook fan page, recruiting videos, etc.) available, let your company know!  Social media is new to many direct sales companies, so it will often be helpful for them to know what it is you need.  One of the first questions I ask of a company when they bring me in to help them craft a social media strategy is, “What have your consultants been asking for?”

The direct sales industry is moving forward into social media, and it will truly be a collaboration between consultants and companies that has the greatest, and most successful, impact.  If it is important to you as a direct seller to have the tools and training you need to succeed at social media, communicate with your company.  And as a direct sales company, be sure you’re tapping into your socially-connected sales force, so you know the kind of support that your sales force is looking for.  A collaborative effort will bring forth the best results.

What’s your take on this issue?  Would love to read your comments below!

Photo Credit: Andyrob

Note to Readers: Within the next few days, I will be moving my blog over to my new website at http://jenfongspeaks.com.  While blog content will be shared between these two sites for the next couple weeks, eventually everything will be moved over.  If you subscribe to this blog via email, you will need to update your subscription in order to continue to receive content from my blog.  If you’d like to update your subscription now, just click here: Subscribe to Direct Sales and Social Media by Email

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Guest Post by Lisa Robbin Young

There’s a horrible face of direct sales that, to my chagrin, I see more and more often now that I’m a coach.

The face of fear.

Maybe I was lucky as a young “orphaned” consultant, because I never really saw fear rearing it’s ugly head in my business.

But now that I work with other consultants regularly, I’m hearing the tell-tale signs of decades of fear that have permeated our industry.

“I’m afraid to give that booking to my new recruit because it means I’ll loose that train.”

“I’m afraid to share my ideas with others because it means I have to work harder in my own business.”

“I’m afraid of the fact that there are SO many other XYZ consultants in my area.”

And this is not your run-of-the-mill, everyday “fear”. This fear has a distinct aroma…

“I’m afraid to share the opportunity with her because she’s such a great hostess!”

“There are so many direct sales companies now selling the same kind of stuff, it’s just hard to compete.”

…It’s the fear of competition.

Its an easy trap to fall into. The belief that everyone and everything out there is “just like you”. Sadly, this problem is most apparent when examining teams within our own company – and even within our own downlines.

Top leaders in some well-known companies even propagate this nonsense by having consultants sign non-disclosure agreements at training events. I’ve not yet seen this at the corporate level, and hope I never do! The very thought that direct sellers would be reluctant to share what is working for them with others seems the antithesis of the direct selling concept: a rising tide raises all ships.

How does this tie into Social Media?

Social Media is a possible cure for this cancer we know as fear.

Via blogs, social media, and even newsletters and personal (not company owned) websites, a consultant can express his/her uniqueness – that thing that sets them apart in the marketplace.

The title of this post is one of the mantras that pervades my coaching: YOU, the consultant, are the most important product your company has to offer. It’s not your catalog items, host benefits, or even the comp plan. It’s the very nature of who YOU are, and what YOU bring to the table that makes you a valuable piece of the direct selling puzzle.

Think on this: at every party/presentation you attend, what is the ONE product that every guest will experience before the end of the evening? And what one product is very likely to NOT be in the catalog everyone is holding in their hands?

The consultant.

You make the difference. As a consultant, you are the face, the living breathing, interacting product that clients come to know, like, trust, and even make repeat orders for when they book parties over and over again.

The consultant is the best selling product of every direct sales company. When that product is no longer available, the company no longer exists.

So if it follows that you are a best-selling product, and you’re NOT in the catalog, shouldn’t SOMEONE be marketing your skills, abilities, availability and the benefits that you provide that are unique to you?

Enter Social Media & Online Marketing.

Social media is a communication platform that can no longer be ignored or poo-pooed. Jen is one of a handful of people that understand and communicate the value of that platform.

But social media is just one piece of the online markting puzzle. In Jen’s “preaching to the choir” post, she mentions newsletters. While not exactly a social media platform, content-driven communications are what separate the social media leaders from the also-rans.

Look at any trainer in the direct selling industry today and they are all using e-zines to reach out to their lists in a value-added way. I do it (online marketing for direct sellers is my specialty), Jen does it – even Tony Robbins does it! A newsletter/ezine is the single most effective way to consistently reach your target market.

Target marketing is another key coponent to your effectiveness in business. But Jen asked me to stay on the social media topic, so you’ll have to find me on my blog to hear about that.

Content is NOT a coupon or an announcment about the ‘greater than sliced bread’ offers your company has coming up next month. It’s not an enticement to “book now before my calendar is filled”. Those things have their place in a newsletter, but in reality, should make up no more than about 25-30% of the total content in the newsletter.

What kind of content CAN you include? Tips, hints, time and money saving ideas related to your product line are all great places to start. You can even recommend (in passing) a product from your collection that fits perfectly for the tip. But the content should be valuable whether or not you recommend your products or services. THIS positions you as an expert that is more interested in helping your target market than hawking your wares to anyone that’ll open your newsletter. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to share a little bit about who you are as a human being – a person with successes, kids, flaws, cravings, faux pas – warts and all.

It will require a little more work on the front end, but the return on investment is huge. Like Jen, I enjoy a very high open rate on my newsletters, which only confirms that I’m providing content that works for my market. And because I can monetize that traffic, it also yields a tidy little income from people across the country (or around the world) that I would NOT have earned any other way. It’s hard to do a party in California when you live in Michigan!

And content that you create for your blog can be re-used in your newsletter (and vice versa). Repurposing is TOTALLY acceptable, and it cuts the workload down. I frequently post my ezine articles to my blog for people that haven’t already subscribed.

Ideally, companies would come on board with this, and start sharing more helpful content in their customer newsletters, but that is not the job of the corporation. Not to be too blunt here, but the company’s job is to help you sell more of their products and services. They’re in business to make money – and it’s reasonable to expect that their obligation begins and ends with their product line. That’s a forseeable, controllable situation for them. Consultants (in all their varieties) are an unknown.

YOU are in business to make money as well. So it behooves you to have your own method of consistently reaching out to your customers in a value-added way. The simplest, easiest way to meet your prospects where they are is the humble e-zine.

It can be text only – it doesn’t need to be pretty. It DOES need to provide value in such a way that people look forward to getting it, reading it, and USING it.

It is your responsibility as the owner of “You, Incorportated” to share with your prospects, clients, recruits, etc, the value of who you are, what you have to offer, and what sets you part in a field of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other consultants in your very own company. When you do that, you don’t see competition anymore, because no one else is quite like you. You are the only you there is, and while this may sound a bit “Pollyanna”, it still rings true. When you no longer see yourself as a commodity, no one else can compete with you. Thus, competition fades, and all that’s left is YOU serving your target market to the best of your abilities – while your target market loves you more and more for it!

It’s the relationship you build that determines whether they do business with you (perhaps from across the continent) or the consultant down the street.

Social media, blogs, ezines, and the like make building and maintaining those relationships happen faster & more efficiently. Sometimes without those venues, it wouldn’t happen at all. And from an economic standpoint, you’ll stand a far better chance of surviving downturns when your income isn’t tied to your local economy, but is diversified across different localities. The Internet makes that possible for everyone.

But you can’t rely on your company to do it for you. That’s not their job. You’re a business owner, and it’s your job to promote YOU. If you don’t do it, who will?

(c) 2009 Lisa Robbin Young. All Rights Reserved.
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Lisa Robbin Young created the first certified Direct Sales Marketing Coaching program and teaches direct sellers how to transform their expensive hobby into a real business. Leaders, coaches and trainers look to Lisa for online marketing strategies that deliver results. Learn more about the Home Party Solution Live Workshop and sign up for her free weekly ezine, “PartyOn!” at http://www.homepartysolution.com

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Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong

Today’s post is firmly tongue-in-cheek, however it contains an essential message.  Those that have been through my training know that I am a firm proponent of content marketing through social media channels, which means that you do NOT spam the world with your products or your opportunity.  Rather, you provide valuable, actionable content that people can use right now without spending a dime, in order to draw people into a relationship with you.  Once they know, like, and trust you, then you have a much more potentially successful opportunity to share your business.

So in today’s post, I am going to share with you the very WORST types of status updates and tweets you might find from direct sellers.  Keep in mind these are all fictional.  But if it sounds even remotely like something you’ve posted lately, take heed!  You’ll be a lot more successful with content marketing.

Here we go…PLEASE don’t let this be you!

Bad Facebook Status Updates

  • XYZ Company is having a SALE! Buy my products right now and you’ll save 50%.  Shop now!  Here’s my link…
  • I have the greatest business on the planet! Have you thought about direct sales? Are you living your dreams? Join my team today!
  • XYZ Product cures cancer and will save the world (UGH! This one had BETTER not be you!!!)

Bad Twitter Tweets/Direct Messages

  • I saw you mentioned “Product.” I sell product! Here’s my link!
  • Thanks for following me! Click here so you can buy my stuff:…
  • You should join my company because it’s the greatest company in the world. Here’s my link…

Notice that all these are “me” focused.  They’re all about me and my product/opportunity.  Consider now some messages that are YOU focused.  People respond a lot better when it’s about them.

  • Let your white wine warm up a bit before drinking.  You’ll get better flavor.
  • This makeup tip will bring out your eyes…
  • Need a quick dinner tonight? Try this quick and easy recipe (Link to my blog)

See how now the messages are solving a problem for the reader?  Not all the messages immediately send people somewhere.  Instead, they are relationship builders that help a person know, like, and trust you before they ever spend a dime with you.  Once they like you and opt-in for your messages, they’ll be a lot more likely to buy or join.  Just like you can opt-in by clicking here for my newsletter. 🙂

And that’s just smart social media marketing.

What do you think?  Have you had experiences on either end of this type of marketing?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments!

Jennifer Fong

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by cdsessums

by cdsessums

This is a question I get asked a lot.  Now that social media has arrived on the scene, do direct sellers really need to continue doing parties, and running the business the “old fashioned way?”  Can’t we just point everybody to our website, and call it a day?  And wouldn’t it make recruiting easier, if those people who don’t want to do parties could now be told they don’t have to?

My answer is NO.  Social media is a fantastic tool for finding new prospects for your business, for providing superior customer service, and for positioning yourself as an expert that people turn to for advice and products.  However it is my very strong opinion that it is NOT a substitute for booking, selling, and recruiting.

First of all, parties are where the immediate income for your business comes from.  Your company most likely has party averages, and when you do a party, you can pretty much count on making a certain amount of money.  You also give people a chance to interact with you live, see and touch the products, and enjoy the experience of being with friends while making informed purchasing decisions.  In short, nothing replaces the party.

Social media marketing also has a longer cycle.  It takes time to build relationships online, develop content for your blog, and build up enough know, like, and trust to get someone to make a purchase from you.  You have to connect with someone 7-15 times online, typically, before they’ll make a purchase from you.  There are online tools that help you do this, but you do need to invest time into building those relationships.

Social media marketing is an addition to a party plan direct sales business.  It can enable you to connect with people you couldn’t have met otherwise, find people that are business minded and specifically looking for an opportunity, and provide superior customer service and customer contact through community-building online groups and events.  Once those initial contacts are made at live parties, customers can get better service which can result in a thriving reorder business when they are plugged into you through social media.

In short, social media complements a traditional party plan model in many ways, and can enhance what you already do.  But nothing replaces the core business activities of booking parties, selling products, and recruiting new consultants.

What are your thoughts on this?  Have you had experiences that prove or disprove this?  Would love to hear your comments!

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I love direct sellers. I really do.  They are some of the most passionate, giving, enthusiastic people that I know. However, one of the occupational hazards of friending a lot of direct sellers online is that those who have not (yet!) taken my social media training for direct sellers still do what I affectionately term the “Sales Swoop” any time they see an opening (and sometimes when they don’t!)

So today’s post is about what NOT to do as a direct seller online in social media.

Done Right! Status Updates Should Inform and Engage

Done Right! Status Updates Should Inform and Engage

Let me preface this by saying that what you SHOULD be doing is providing valuable content online that people appreciate.  You should NOT be a sales pitch.  I love it when people get it right.  One of the ladies I’m friends with on Facebook who happens to be a wine consultant posts wine tips a few times a day as her Facebook status update.  I’m learning the temperature my white wine should be to bring out the flavor.  I laugh at her jokes about how most people age wine for as long as it takes to get it from the store to the glass.  In short, she’s got an audience.  She GETS it.  I know she sells wine.  But she’s not ramming it down my throat, and I look forward to her posts.

So let’s talk about some direct sales faux pas in the online world.

1. If I mention your company or your product, do not swoop down on me and ask if I already have a consultant.  If you really want to know, start a conversation with me.  Get to know me and find out what I like, what my interests are.  Check out my blog and see what I write about.  In short, know me as a person before you try to be my consultant.

2. Don’t provide me with a link to your website the minute I meet you online, because I’ve mentioned anything remotely related to your product line.  I won’t click it.  Instead, I’m more likely than not to ignore you and never click on anything you’ve sent me ever again.  Instead, engage with me.  Say hello.  Share (FREE) resources with me about the interest that I’ve mentioned.  I’m a lot more likely to be interested in what you have to offer when you express an interest in my needs, and try to help me with my needs (without trying to sell me immediately.)

3. Do not make every status update a broadcast about your product.  You may think you’re meeting people’s needs by sharing valuable information about your products, but you’re not.  Instead, you sound like a commercial.  And I like to go get ice cream during commercials, not pay attention to them.  I’d rather get to know YOU in your status updates, and have you get to know me.

4. PLEASE don’t make your logo your avatar.  People in social media want to connect with PEOPLE, not logos.  It’s amazing, but I feel a LOT more connected with those people online who have faces.  When people have a logo up, I have no idea who they are, and I pay less attention.  The people you’re trying to reach will do the same thing.

5. And finally, DON’T sign me up for your newsletter until I do it myself.  Now perhaps this is another occupational hazard of communicating with a lot of direct sellers, as I do for my job.  But my friends, this is actually against the law.  It’s called SPAM if I don’t sign up for it myself.  If I have an interest in your newsletter, rest assured, I know how to find you.  But don’t sign me up without asking first.

Social media can have a dramatic impact on your business.  It can help you connect with people you never could have met before, and can position you as an expert that people turn to for advice and products.  By avoiding the direct sales faux pas I mention above, you will be on the path to success in social media.

What do you think?  Have you experienced the “Sales Swoop?”  Are you a reformed “Sales Swooper?”  Would love to read your comments below!

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home-jewelry-party-largeIf you’re in direct sales, as either a direct seller or a corporate executive, you know what I’m referring to in the title of this post.  The pity purchase is the purchase a customer makes at a party because they feel that they should buy SOMETHING.  So they locate the cheapest item in the catalog and buy it.  If you’re a direct seller that depends on pity purchases to build your business, you are not creating a sustainable business model, and I dare say that if you’re not creating value for your customer, you will not be in business long.

When you begin to market your business through social media marketing, you need to realize that you’ve entered a realm where the pity purchase does not exist.  Not to mention, the pity purchaser is not a repeat purchaser.  People have a vast array of products available to them, and they can comparison shop to their hearts’ content.  They can compare product features, costs, shipping, and more.  They can read what other people have had to say about each product their considering.  In short, if you’re not providing a superior value at a decent price, it’s hard to compete.

So how do you use social media marketing to your advantage in this type of environment?  First, you become someone that provides value for free.  Yes you heard me.  For free.  How do you do this?  My favorite way is through a blog, just like this one.  Give out tips, advice, links, guidance, and more, that can be immediately implemented.  Why do you do this?  Because you position yourself as an expert, and you build relationships with your readers.  A purchase (or a recruit) is more likely when a person knows, likes, and trusts you.  So provide valuable content, related to your product line, and you will find that people will come read your content, and will refer their friends to you as well.

Once you’ve established yourself as an expert that provides value, give people a chance to get more from you, and get to know you. This can be through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, through your newsletter, or through communities that you build in places such as Facebook groups.  By giving people a chance to interact with one another, with you at the center seeding conversations and providing value, you continue to provide people with a reason to trust you.  So when you do make product recommendations, or talk about your opportunity, people have a reason to listen to you.  Help THEM first.  Then they’ll consider what you have to offer.

Finally, once you’ve got people signed up for your newsletter, or participating in your groups, gently provide them with the oppotunity to be introduced to your company and your product line.  Make special offers, just for them.  Provide online events (such as online wine/food pairing chats, decorating ideas chat, online party, etc.) that give education as well as the opportunity to buy.

By investing some time in providing value, you build a sustainable business model that does not rely on the “pity purchase.”  And that’s a business that you can feel good about.

What do you think?  How has this strategy worked for your business?  I would love to read your comments below!

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Social Media is Great for Team Building!Social media can be an incredible tool for building and supporting your direct sales team.  One of the ways to build long-term income in a direct selling business is through recruiting other sellers and supporting them.  Your compensation for building and supporting your team is the commissions that you earn on your team’s sales, and this provides more income than you can earn through your own sales alone.  As your team becomes larger, however, it can become challenging to meet your team’s needs, while building your own personal business at the same time.  Social media can help with this.

Here are some social media tools that can be used for building and supporting a team.

  1. Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn: Social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are excellent for finding people that may be interested in your business opportunity.  Now this is not license for you to SPAM people.  However, as you share delight in your successes, enthusiasm for your business events, and your love for your customers and team, you will naturally attract others who may want to learn more. 

    You can also use groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that are dedicated to people looking for work, and build relationships/provide valuable content there.  By participating as a relationship-builder and giver in these forums, people who are good prospects for your business opportunity will be interested in learning more.  And don’t forget to use searching tools to specifically identify those people who are interested in your product line!  People who are interested in your products are often your best prospects for the opportunity.

  2. Your Blog: A blog is such an incredible tool for your direct sales business.  It is a place you can provide content of interest to prospective customers, and is your home base for building relationships with people.  Your blog is also a valuable tool for team-building.  By providing content that is of value to opportunity-seekers, you become a trusted resource that attracts people to your business. 

    A separate blog can also be valuable for your team, providing team information, incentives, links, and a place to ask questions and make comments.  Imagine being able to provide your team with articles specifically dedicated to skills your team is currently working on building!  Blogs make it possible for you to provide that content without having to email everyone, worrying about spam blockers, etc.  You can provide a central location that your team can learn to come to as they need information.  Because all the information is archived on your blog, you can also send team members to specific information as they need it, providing a valuable library of topics that will be of benefit to your team for a long time. 

    And because blogs are easy to set up and maintain, they eliminate the need to go to the expense of setting up a personal website for your team.  Instead, you can set up an attractive blog with a few clicks, and provide all the resources your team needs in one place. 

  3. Groups – A Facebook group can be another valuable tool you can use to support your team.  Facebook makes it possible to set up “Secret” groups that are not available to the general public.  Your team members must be invited by you into the secret group, and this provides an excellent forum for team members to learn from and support one another.  As your team gets large, you may feel like you are answering the same questions over and over.  Imagine being able to send your team members to a central location for the answers!  You can set up a series of frequently asked questions on the discussion board of your group, and add to these as necessary. 

    Your team members can also use your group to support one another.  If someone has a question and you are not available, she can post her question to the group, and other team members can share what they’ve learned.  The collective wisdom of your team can help you build a stronger team than you ever thought possible!  And social media enables that sharing. 

By employing social media tools that your team can access, and then teaching your team how to make the best use of those tools, you can be more efficient and effective in your team building.  Your team will develop closer relationships with one another, and that will naturally attract more people to your team.  Social media makes it possible.

Are you a leader in direct sales?  How are you using social media to build and support your team?  Did you get some ideas from this article?  What are you going to implement?  I’d love to read your ideas in the comments below!

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