Direct sales is an ever changing industry, and these changes are usually both slow and fast. More and more direct sales consultants are running their business solely online. This ain't your mama's in home make up party any more! There are so many ways to make money in direct sales without parties.
How to Make Money in Direct Sales without Parties
Let’s first level set some definitions so you know what I’m referring to when I say party.
Historically in traditional direct sales, the party was the sales method to meet new people through the transactional exchange of value where a “host” introduced the consultant to her friends, and in exchange for doing so, earned free product as a percentage of the party’s sales. The goal was to keep the calendar booked with parties so you were continually meeting a new stream of people, sharing products through an engaging party experience, and making sales at the point of opportunity. This then led to the opportunity for follow-up, repeat customer orders, and extending the conversation to business building opportunity and sponsoring.
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Tupperware was one of the first companies to use this sales delivery method in 1949 when Brownie Wise, a single mother in Detroit MI, came up with the idea of holding “home parties” where people could show their friends how Tupperware worked.
A lot has changed since 1949. Not only has technology accelerated how consumers connect with brands and products, but it’s also changed how people engage with each other. Communities are formed virtually, instant communication and access to information is in our hands at all times. Brands can connect with their consumers quickly and directly through strategic digital marketing and ad campaigns.
As the times have changed, people are less likely to want people in their houses in times with getting sick is higher then normal. People are working longer hours, leaving them with less time to gather together virtually for an online party. They'll use their friend's website to browse at their own leisure. Parties are getting harder to book. So what do we do with this new era of life?
Do we toss out our business and say “direct sales is dead!” ?
Of course not, we evolve with the innovations and turn to other forms of social selling without using the traditional direct sales party.
What is Social Selling?
Social selling is the formal name for leveraging social connections to create trusted communities that lead to business relationships. The foundation of social selling is the trust created through content that serves value to your audience. So while sales is ultimately the goal, we have to generate our own leads, as they aren’t being referred to us from a host. With the rise of social media, social selling has become a popular and effective way for direct sellers and network marketers to build their businesses online that focuses on creating a positive customer experience and building trust with potential customers.
Referred Trust vs. Earned Trust
When we held a party with a host, we were leveraging referred trust. The host was “referring” her trust of the consultant directly to her guests. Sometimes it was quite literal, such as the host saying “I met Brenda over 10 years ago, and she’s been a friend ever since. You’re going to love her!” This accelerated the trust-building experience with the guests, and the consultant could more quickly move to a sales motion.
In social selling, we don’t have a host who can refer her trust. We have to “earn” it ourselves. Earned trust is the process of building our own trusted relationships with our community through the valuable content, tips, education, information relatability, storytelling and entertainment we’re sharing. The foundation of all social selling must be rooted in trusted relationships.
Trust is built by great social content that showcases you know what you're talking about. In sharing your knowledge of your products, your niche and knowing your ideal client, you can create strong social communities, both online and in-person.
While direct sales in person parties is one piece of your strategy in your business, there are many other ways to make money in direct sales without parties. Using these other pieces of social selling online, and other types of in person events will round out your business. This will give you plenty of new ways to connect with customers, create conversations, show the value of your brand. This will eventually create sales through these new methods.
We’re going to break down both in-person, online, and hybrid. Look at each option and ask yourself these questions:
- Is this a sales delivery method supported by my company?
- How would this sales delivery method work in my business?
- What would it take for me to incorporate this sales delivery method into my plan next month?
In-Person Direct Sales Without Parties
A vendor event is typically a gathering of small business owners, who gathered in one location to showcase products to potential customers who are attending that event. A vendor event can be put together surrounding a theme, like a bridal event or a mom to mom event. It could also be put together around a holiday, like Christmas and gift-giving. These events usually run for a few hours to a short run of days.
Vendor events have two goals: meet new leads and sell on hand products. New leads can be gathered through an enter to win box, a giveaway or an incentive. You can then take those new leads and those people that bought product from you, and follow up with them after the event. That becomes a critical piece of the future sales process, since you will invite them to follow you on a social media channel. Once they're there you can connect with them further, and can stay top of mind when they need your product.
Selling on hand product also let's you follow up with people after the event. When they check out, your customers can fill out a form that gives you their information, with that you'll be able to follow up with them about the product that they bought, make sure they do not have any questions about the item they bought. You can then invite them to follow you on a social media channel, where you can continue to build a relationship with them.
A private pop-up, different from a vendor event, is “popping up” in a private location where your ideal client might be present. This might be setting up a table in the lobby of the local gym on a busy Saturday morning, in a salon, or in a daycare or preschool. Or get more creative, and consider popping up in a busy medical practice over lunch hour, as the staff are taking lunch and can browse your products.
Like a vendor event, there are two goals here: meet new leads, and sell on hand products. You'll use those new leads to follow up with them to invite them to follow you on a social media channel.
Networking in local community groups and with local businesses will lead you to some good connections with people who may share your ideal client. The value exchange you can offer to a potential pop-up location is that you’ll be marketing their business on your social channels, for your local clientele to stop by.
If you have on-hand products or inventory available for sale, holding an open house may be a great option for you. Pick a date and time, and advertise to your local community, email list, and social contacts to stop by. Create urgency by mentioning what you have available, and you’ll be giving a small gift with purchase to the first X people to stop by.
An open house is great around a gifting holiday, as it gives you a natural reason to follow-up with local customers to stop by for that last minute gift. An open house can be held in your home, garage, yard, clubhouse, or anywhere you’re comfortable housing guests.
Offering an open house gives your locals a chance to get a more personalized experience. They'll be more likely to refer you to a friend who is need of a last minute gift because you took the time to really get to know them.
If you start to build a consistent schedule, for example the first Saturday of every month, your community will soon learn the schedule and know when they can stop by for personal service.
Online Direct Sales Without Parties
A live sale is going live on a social media channel, either publicly on a page or on Instagram, or privately in your closed community Facebook group. You can go live and do a product unboxing, showcase new products, do a product demo, or create a product experience with your views.
The goal of a live sale is to create a show for your viewers that includes storytelling, audience connection, and entertainment. People will watch a great show to see what happens next.
Common examples of a live sale are
- “Get Ready with Me” – lives that put on a face of make up, while telling a story about something going on your life, and telling the viewers where they can buy the product
- “Crafting Demo” – lives that showcase a “how to” do a certain craft product, and lets the viewer into the behind the scene of that finished product. It can also show them how to do it themselves.
- “Lunchtime Live” – a live video that happens around lunch time that is 15 minutes or less. This can showcase an outfit of the day, a quick make up look, or anything else that can be entertaining in the middle of the day.
A live sale does not showcase everything in your catalog. You can show what you have on hand, show product from a specific product category, or focusing on products around a specific need, timeframe or holiday.
Don't be discouraged if the first few you do not have anyone on the live with you. It will take a little while for people to realize you're there. Once you start doing regular live sales at the same time of day and the same day of the week, your audience will start to know when you're going to be live and will join you as you showcase your products each time your live.
Album sales works best in a Facebook group, but can also be done on a public Facebook page. This is a great thing to do if you have inventory on-hand available for sale. It's a fairly simple event.
You take clear pictures of the products, and make each type of product an album in your Facebook group. Examples of this would be: an album of all the necklaces, an album of all the bracelets, an album of all the rings could be used for a jewelry company. For a cooking related company: an album of utensils, an album of cookware, an album of bakeware, an album of dinner spices/mixes, an album of dessert spices/mixes, etc.
To buy the item your group members will comment under the picture of the item that they want to be invoiced for. This will create urgency since you only have a limited number of these items on hand, and they shouldn't wait too long or they'll miss out.
Make sure to set clear rules on how to buy, how you determine who commented first, how they have to pay you, and how long they have to pay you before you return the item back for sale. Setting clear expectations and posting them in writing is key when doing any type of selling on hand inventory.
Don't be discouraged if no one shops the first few album sales you put together. Your people may not understand what to do right away, and may be hesitant to try a new format. The more you do them, and the more you explain the process, the more they'll be comfortable buying in this type of format.
A collaborations is the formal process of partnering with another social selling to share value to each other audiences. The goal with a collaboration isn't sales, rather meeting new people to enter your funnel to nurture to future sales.
This happens when your collaboration partner refers you to their audience, transferring their trust of you to their audience. When their audience joins your group, or likes your page after seeing you in the partner's group, you can then build a relationship with that person and hopefully lead them through your funnel to a sale. Same for your audience and the collaboration partner.
An example of a collaboration might be to go live with a social selling friend in each of your Facebook groups or on a public page to share tips and gift ideas for an upcoming holiday or for birthdays. At the end of the live you'll both invite the audiences to join your groups or like your pages.
A collaboration isn't a party swap – there's no active sales involved – rather a partnership for providing value to your own audiences. You're working toward expanding your audience and nurturing towards future sales where your new follower may engage with you on a future live, album sale or other event.
When finding a person to collaborate with, set some expectations in your search for people with similar sized audiences and engagement rates. Inviting your people to join a low engaged group will not help either of you in the long run. Take time before the event to join each others groups, participate in the conversations happening there to get a few for the people inside the group.
You've been asking people to follow you on your social media channels, but if you're not creating valuable content that serves your community, your new followers won't engage, and you won't be able to grow organically.
This is where a strong 3P's mix of social content – personality, purposeful, and promotional content – can lead people to your offers without a party. People will follow you for your story, your humor, build trust with you through your content and your tips, and may take your occasional product recommendations through your promotional offers.
Your social mix may include lives, album sales, or flash sales like mystery bags. When people like your social content and like you personally, they'll be more likely to shop with you, or buy things you are recommending.
If you've had customers shop with you in the past, then you'll have customers to follow-up with and take care of in the future. Follow-up should be a core component of your business strategy, and can result in consistent repeat sales each month.
If you have a product that requires a nature replenishment, or would make a great gift, a natural follow-up schedule is created. Plan an hour each week just for customer service and follow-up and you are sure to not only create stronger customer connections, but also get sales each month.
First, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, you need to build your customer email list. Your company may sent emails on your behalf, but that is not data you own or control, and it’s likely largely promotional in nature. Developing a well rounded email strategy that includes tips, information, offers, and other value only available to your subscribers, can generate sales for you every single month.
Email marketing is still one of the most reliable and effective forms of marketing. Social media has an organic reach of <5% per post, but email maintains an average open rate of >30%. And even if someone doesn’t open the email, they saw the email in their inbox and the impression was made. Developing a consistent email schedule will absolutely help build sales every single month.
Online and Offline Hybrid Direct Sales Without Parties
Hybrid social selling options can be easily done in-person, online, or both. This can be used to grow your local customers and can provide your customers with new ways to shop.
One on One Appointment
Similar to an open house, a one on one appointment is a personal shopping experience where you’re creating that exclusive and concierge service for your clients. You are there with them only, and you will create an experience that is catered to their needs/style/tastes/etc.
You could consider holding a certain day each month just for one on one appointments, and create a high touch experience for those who want your time and attention. This option would work well for products that are highly customizable, have a higher price point, or require a more discrete buying experience.
Fundraisers operate a lot like a traditional party in that the fundraising organization is the “host” and looking to raise money for their cause, and will advertise the fundraiser to their audience to solicit interest in buying products, for which a portion of the sale will go back to the organization.
Some direct sales companies also have a fundraiser program where the company will match the fundraising portion, or they have their own cause that they fundraise for.
When thinking about what types of organizations you could reach out to, consider who in your local community might need to raise money: PTO or school organizations such as sports teams or cheer squads, sororities, Girl or Boy scouts, and humane societies are all organizations always on the lookout for making money.
People love a chance to win a prize, and some people love to open mystery packages. If you have on-hand inventory, you could make mystery bags.
A mystery bag includes a set amount of product for a flat-rate. Some of the mystery bags may have an extra prize, extra product or bonus raising the retail value. These can be made up ahead of time, and shown with all the bags closed and ready to go, OR you can build them with your customer in mind.
These can be positioned with urgency, if you only make a set amount available.
So, What's Next?
I always say that the sale is the punctuation mark at the end of a great marketing sentence. There were 12 different punctuation marks here. Social selling, selling through your trusted relationships, is fundamentally about great social content that creates engagement, conversation, and trust. Only then will people who trust you, listen to any product recommendation you might have.
Consider which non-party sales methods above you could incorporate into your plan, and then shift your focus to creating a great marketing plan. Focus on the value to your ideal client, the content that will help them gain a quick win, an experience, or a transformation, and how they can connect deeper with you and your community.
You CAN successfully do direct sales without parties. The approach is different, as your focus isn’t on sourcing parties and host coaching, it’s on creating great content that drives engagement with your social community. Only then is anyone listening to partake in one of these great non party methods.