Full disclosure, I know direct sales jobs.
I've had one for years.
I sold jewelry for over three years and was the #1 national recruiter for two of those three.
I brought more people to the company than anyone else, I earned the incentive trips, won the iPads, wore the swag, danced at the convention, and did the parties. I worked the vendor events until my shins hurt, and I hit up my friends for parties and referrals.
I know the whole direct sales gig.
I also know the other side. The side that says direct sales isn't a job.
I’m Facebook friends with hundreds of consultants from dozens of different brands. My newsfeed is consumed with posts about nail wraps, shakes, jewelry, candles, and leggings. I routinely get the cold messages from high school acquaintances with the “hey girl!!” who can’t wait to introduce me to the supplements that will increase my energy and possibly save the planet.
I even get added to sales and party groups daily without so much as a hello.
And now I’m here to mediate.
Many blog posts and articles lately have skewed the perception of the direct selling industry, perpetuating the myth of all consultants being women who were duped into buying a “business kit” with illusions of getting rich. The blog posts are negative, slanted, and missing some critical pieces of information.
Guess what… not everyone joins a brand because they want a big formal business.
And very few join with expectations of getting rich.
They join because the kit is a value or they are a user of the consumable product. They join because they believe in the mission of the company. They join because they want to get out of the house and away from their kids. They join for a little extra pocket money. They join because they are looking for a social outlet to meet new people, and direct sales has a very sorority-like appeal.
NOT everyone joins for the big scary B-word.
Starting a business is secondary for many consultants who simply want a community of people who share a similar set of values and love of jewelry, fingernails, mascara, wellness or clothing.
Joining a direct sales brand is akin to putting up an Etsy shop.
Anyone can do it, it doesn't cost much, it doesn’t take a lot of skill, and those who hustle can make it something viable if they really put muscle into it.
Will all of these women get rich? No.
Will it make them happy? Give them an outlet to connect and feel part of something bigger than themselves? Give them a chance to grow in various competencies such as leadership, social media, or customer service? Yes.
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Dragging out the same stale old statistics that 1% or less of consultants in direct sales jobs actually make money completely misses the point that many didn’t join to make money.
Or, at least not a lot of it.
They joined for other intrinsic reasons aligned with their values, social drivers, or family goals.
Joining a direct sales company is typically around the same price as a trip to Target or Costco, averaging between $99-199 for a starter business kit of product and introductory marketing supplies.
Does a trip to Costco bring as much joy as a pretty box of jewelry or makeup? Probably not unless we stop on the way out for churros.
So let’s cool it, haters.
Or if you’re going to hate, at least hate with full facts and perspective.
Who cares if direct sales isn’t your gig?
Shaming those who are doing their own thing, on their own terms, for their own reasons, in their own way is just crappy. And it certainly isn’t the way we’re going to raise the bar on supporting women or changing the discussion on women’s choices.
Now, for all my direct sales friends.
Y’all need to stand down with the spam.
You are annoying your friends and family, clogging up our news feeds, and perpetuating the negative perceptions of our industry.
You need to learn better marketing techniques, social media strategies, and ways to share your love of your brand.
You need to share the value that it serves for you, and stop bragging about your trips and free stuff. You need to learn to use social media strategically and correctly, and stop using Facebook as your personal marketing brochure. You need to make it about the relationships you’re forming, and not the products you’re selling.
It’s the consultants who are hurting themselves, and burning out their warm markets.
If I like a picture of your adorable children on Facebook, and that triggers you to hit me up with a business message, you are basically training me to not like pictures of your kids. If the only reason I ever hear from you is because I’m just a call on your “Hot 100 Go for No Challenge” then you can bet that I’m going to take you off my Christmas card list.
The average direct sales consultant stays with their brand for 18-24 months. It's no coincidence that’s also about how long it takes to burn through your friends and family, and then complain that you have no one left to sell to.
Want people to stop complaining about direct sales? Stop giving them stuff to complain about.
If you are trying to make money with your direct sales business, then stop whining about not having time or money. Figure out how you can invest in yourself to learn how to do it better. There are many, many people in every brand who are successful at what they do, aren’t permanently damaging their personal relationships, and aren’t being unfollowed, unfriended, or marked as spam. Find them, study them, learn from them.
Get friendly with Google, Pinterest, and YouTube, and search for the articles, blog posts, and videos that will teach you to be a better consultant.
I’ve been there, and it literally pains me to read articles from the haters.
So I’ve made it my mission and business to teach consultants to Do. It. Better.
If you wouldn't do something in person, please don't do it online. Would you walk up to someone you haven't seen in years and shove a catalog in her hand? Of course not. You would make small talk, reconnect, remember why you value her friendship.
Cold business messaging is the same thing. I don't care how great your product is. If you don't at least try to warm me up first, I have no desire to listen to to your pitch.
One of the things the haters usually say is that the direct sales brands are generally weak on field training, specifically in the areas of consultant marketing and social strategy. This is sadly true. And because anyone can join and recruit, there are accidental leaders in every company who perpetuate the reality of weak or absent uplines who provide no training, communication or support.
The corporate brands need to step up and recognize that changing industry perception is on all of us, and thankfully some are developing programs around these topics. Train your field to be a more effective consultancy and watch your brand stand out from the rest.
So it’s on us, friends. We are the ones who will change the perception of our industry when we start doing it better.
And then the haters will ask how to join our team.