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Alan Luce

Direct sellers across the globe are facing one of the most rapidly changing selling and recruiting environments in the last hundred years.  We see evidence of it everywhere.  Tried and true recruiting promotions no longer produce the expected results. Compensation plans and money prizes do not seem to drive the business as well as they used to.   Few, if any, have a handle on exactly what is going on.  The changes do not seem to flow from product innovations, new laws or regulations or political upheaval. Rather, the challenges facing the industry seem to flow out of a new set of expectations and preferences among potential customers of direct selling products and prospects for direct selling business opportunities.  I am talking about fundamental societal changes that are impacting the way direct sellers do business.

I am confident that neither I nor anyone else has a complete handle on the full scope and arc of these changes, but we have seen and experienced enough in the last 18 months to understand that direct sellers are not going to persuade Generation X and Y customers and prospects to do things the way we want them to do things. No, we direct sellers are going to have to change our practices to be more in line with their wants and expectations.

The most surprising aspect of these changes may be how quickly the attitudes we are seeing in the 20 to 40 year old customer and recruiting prospects in the US and Western Europe are becoming the norm for large segments of the population in nearly every market across the globe.   We can all agree that this outcome is probably a result of the global transparency fueled by the internet and social media communications.  What has caught most of us flat footed is how quickly these new generational “attitude norms” have spread.

Here is a short list of some of these new “attitude norms” that impact the direct selling business model:

1.         If your company does not have a transparent and positive image on the web and in the social media world of FaceBook,  Twitter and other social media venues, you will not be successful at selling products and recruiting sales people.

The company on-line image, message and reputation must be clearly established, supported and endorsed by customers, existing sales force members and independent third parties if you want to compete for customers and sales people.  Our 20 to 40 year olds check out everything on line before they commit to buy or join.  Top company executives need to check out their company’s on line information and image.  If you find it less than fully transparent, easily located, navigated and understood along with positive endorsements, so will your prospects.   You need to change that quickly.

2.         Today’s recruit prospects want the company to “show me some ways to be successful but don’t try to limit the way I do things.”  Any direct seller today has access to “sales training” and motivational materials readily available from a variety of direct selling industry experts on line.  No longer is the company their sole source of training and “how to” business advice.  This is why we see folks join network marketing companies and begin to hold parties, party planners recruiting wholesale buyers and every type of direct seller regardless of their company’s avowed method of doing business selling on line rather than face to face.

To cope with this “don’t restrict the way I sell” attitude company trainers, training programs, software systems, compensation programs and incentive models must be designed to support, reward and motivate a wide variety of selling methods.  Most existing technology support systems today are not able to provide such flexible support, making companies prisoners of their existing technology.

3.         Completely redesign the way you communicate with the public and your sales force and all of your training programs and materials.  For today’s customers and recruit prospects your company messages and training information needs to be:

- Compellingly visual.

-Succinct and to the point.

- Readily accessible at all times.

- Available in easily accessed archives for future review.

-Delivered via a variety of on-line mediums including proper use of social media forums.

If your communications and training strategy and materials are not aligned with these points your customers and potential recruits will simply not pay attention to you.

4.         Pay attention to how your newest sales folks are doing the business.  It is usually the case that our sale forces find ways to work new technologies and social changes into their businesses before their companies do.  In times of change it is very important that the company be open to input from new sellers as to how they want to do the business.  Companies most often look to the opinions and input from their top leaders when trying to figure out what is going on.  In my experience top sales leaders are among the most conservative folks in your organization and are frequently deeply opposed to needed changes.

It is critically important that the company create ways to access unfiltered input from their newest sales folks.  After all, our top leaders often represent yesterday’s best practices.  It is the new folks that will be your leaders of the future.   If you do not currently have effective ways of learning what your new folks are doing and what they want from the company you will need to create them.

None of these suggested actions will solve basic problems of the business. However,  all of them will help open up the process and enable the management team to begin to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to meeting the desires and expectations of today’s customer and recruit prospects for whom the internet and social media are not tools but rather a way of life!

By the way; as you learn the answers let the rest of us know because we are searching for them too.

 

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Our experience with a wide variety of US and international clients in 2011 has proven conclusively that the convergence of direct selling sales methodologies is continuing at a rapid pace.   It is almost impossible today to find a “pure” MLM marketing program or a pure one-on-one or a pure party plan.  Almost all companies today find, sometimes to their surprise, that their enterprising sales people are using all of the traditional sales approaches depending on who they are talking to and in what setting.  Then to top it off, they are selling on line also, not just for re-orders on their replicated websites, but for first customer contacts resulting from Facebook, Twitter and Linked in associations.

There is no reason to believe that this trend will not continue and even strengthen in the coming year.  As usual the independent sales force is often out in front of their companies when it comes to employing technology in innovative ways and exploring their own way of doing things. Coping with these trends requires all companies to be ever more nimble when it comes to adapting to the realities of the marketplace. For 2012, change and adaptation move from the periodic and unusual to simply the normal way of doing business.  Be ready for it!

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image credit Creativity103

W. Alan Luce, President, Luce and Associates, LLC, Member DSA Hall of Fame

Few people in the direct sales industry can match the experience, expertise and successes of Alan Luce. With over 25 years in senior management, guiding start-ups and established companies alike, Alan has met virtually every challenge a direct sales executive can face.  Learn more about how Alan can help your company at http://www.luceandassociates.com/Alan-Luce.html.

 

Working for yourself is hard… much, much harder than working for someone else at a job. When we work for someone else as an employee, they tell us what days and hours to work, they define our job and what constitutes success at that job, and they worry about whether there is enough money to pay the bills.  Employees, even senior managers, go to work and do the job that has been defined for them.  Sure there are big, high stress, complicated jobs that many employees do. But at least most of the scheduling, tasks and limits of authority have been defined for them by someone else.

When we are our own boss running our own business we not only have to accomplish the tasks that will bring us financial rewards, we also have to create a work schedule, define the tasks to be done, create a strategy and business plan and take out the trash.  There is no “boss” to help us prioritize our time and work on the “big picture”.  No, the self employed must do it all.  And that is the downfall of many who try to build their own businesses.  This inability to effectively manage ourselves is the single biggest reason that direct sales leaders fail.  In fact, it may be the primary reason why many self employed people are unable to be successful.

Think about it:   If you are unable to create and maintain a productive work schedule each week without the benefit of someone prodding and reminding you to do the work, how can you teach others to do so?  If you are unable to effectively prioritize your tasks into “must do” tasks versus “nice to do” tasks then you will not get the truly important business building things accomplished. You will waste time doing things that don’t really count.

So often over my career when counseling a leader who built a good downline and business and was now watching it fall into decline I have heard:  “I’m just so busy doing my newsletter and recognition and planning my team holiday party that I just don’t have time to do my personal business anymore!”

This is a classic example of not managing one’s self well.  She built her business by doing the fundamental business activities well: strong and consistent personal sales, effective recruiting activities, teaching new sellers to be successful and coaching the most willing and promising to become leaders themselves.   These are the “must do” tasks.  Newsletters, recognition and team celebrations are important, but should never be given priority over the must-do tasks that are fundamental to success.  My advice to leaders is this situation is always “Go back to doing the things that made you successful and hire some part time help to do the important “nice to do” things.  When you concentrate on doing the important stuff, your volunteer sales team members will do the same.  After all, they too want to build their own business and most are not sure how to do that.  So, they look to you and copy what you do.

If you run your own business, now may be good time to review how well you are managing yourself.  Are you concentrating on the “must do” tasks or have you been sliding into spending time on the “nice to do” things?  Are you focusing your most productive hours of the day on your income producing activities?  Do you work consistently at your business on a daily, weekly, monthly schedule?  In other words, take stock:  Are you managing yourself well?

Alan Luce

Few people in the direct sales industry can match the experience, expertise and successes of Alan Luce. With over 25 years in senior management, guiding start-ups and established companies alike, Alan has met virtually every challenge a direct sales executive can face.  Learn more about how Alan can help your company at http://www.luceandassociates.com/Alan-Luce.html.

Alan Luce

Years ago there was a commonly referred to business adage that went something like: “Nothing good happens in business until someone makes a sale!”  Often said to hot shot newcomers to business, the obvious truth of the phrase was intended to keep everyone in the business focused on the idea that the end purpose of all the business activity was the making of a sale of that company’s product(s) to a customer.  Everything else was irrelevant if sales were not made.

I got to thinking  about that phrase while sitting in a meeting with an excited new client group that wanted to start a new party plan company.  They had some pretty neat and interesting products to offer and a good story to tell, along with a noble mission, all critically important elements in building any successful product sales business.  However, my challenge at the moment was getting my clients to focus on the issue of making the sale.

You see, like a lot of business folks today, they were all excited about and wanting to talk about using all of the new technology based communications tools to find customers, attract hostesses, recruit salespeople and create and service on-line customer clubs.  I wanted to talk about the features and benefits of the products to go into a basic sales demonstration, while they wanted to know all about Constant Contact, IMN Party Pulse, Facebook, My Space, Twitter, on-line virtual parties, and the other social media vehicles and web-based neat stuff.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the exciting new technology based communication and service tools that we direct sellers have to enhance our business reach and opportunities today.  But all of this is as worthless as counterfeit money if a sale does not occur at the end of the process.

Our business is about teaching people how to build life changing businesses through selling. Therefore the beginning focus for any aspiring direct selling company must be: What is the most effective way to present and sell this product?  What are the features of the product and the benefits of this product for my buyer?  How do we explain/demonstrate them in quick easy to learn steps?  How do we know how many potential buyers will actually purchase the product following a demonstration?  This can only be learned by getting in front of customers and presenting the products. Unless we have some knowledge and actual experience with the face-to face selling/buying proposition, we cannot begin to fashion strategies to foster sales through social media and other non-face-to-face sales situations.

In today’s multichannel marketplace with all of the opportunities made available by the new communication tools, it is good to remember that nothing good happens in business until someone makes a sale!

Few people in the direct sales industry can match the experience, expertise and successes of Alan Luce. With over 25 years in senior management, guiding start-ups and established companies alike, Alan has met virtually every challenge a direct sales executive can face.  Learn more about how Alan can help your company at http://www.luceandassociates.com/Alan-Luce.html.

Alan Luce

Alan Luce

Ever encounter someone who just does not understand what “work” is about?  When it happens, whether dealing with a young person new to the job market, or mature individual who made it to middle age thinking that a job and an income are some type of mystical birth right, I always have two nearly simultaneous reactions:  The first is to wonder about how many people had failed this incredibly naive individual.  I mean to get to adulthood without understanding what work is all about means that parents, family, neighbors, friends and teachers all failed to teach this individual some of the most important facts of life.  Yet, amazing as it is it happens.   My second reaction is that this person has never been around or been a part of direct selling.

Direct selling is the ultimate teacher about the fundamental principles of work.   In direct selling, you do something… you get something.  You do nothing…. you get nothing.   No one tells you did a “good job” when you didn’t.  No one says “ Don’t worry that you did not sell anything; we are going to pay you anyway.”

Whether your direct selling experience was long or short, a good experience or bad, people who have tried direct selling learn the indelible work lesson that doing little or nothing earns little or nothing while hard work and effort can lead to large rewards.  I cannot tell you how many parents who were also direct sellers have told me that one of the great unexpected, but deeply appreciated, benefits of their career in direct selling is that their children grew up understanding about work.  Direct selling kids learn young and well that if their direct selling Mom or Dad is to make any money, they first must go out and work to make a sale.

Learning that you must do something in order to get something out of work may be one of life’s most important lessons.  As direct sellers, we live that lesson every day.  Too bad more people don’t have that experience.

Few people in the direct sales industry can match the experience, expertise and successes of Alan Luce. With over 25 years in senior management, guiding start-ups and established companies alike, Alan has met virtually every challenge a direct sales executive can face.  Learn more about how Alan can help your company at http://www.luceandassociates.com/Alan-Luce.html.

Alan Luce

Alan Luce

After nearly 40 years in direct selling, I am a firm believer in what I have come to call the Belief Multiplier Effect.  “What is it?’ you ask.  The Belief Multiplier Effect (BME) is that sudden unexplainable upsurge in your direct sales business that goes well beyond what all your analysis and projections anticipated.   Your plans called for a modest increase but suddenly the business just starts to fly!  Sales are exploding; recruiting is at all time highs and new leaders are coming out of the woodwork.  What in the heck happened?  Or perhaps more accurately, what are we doing right that we didn’t do before?

In my experience, the Belief Multiplier Effect kicks in not because of any one thing, but because the Company has done a number of things right and all of these important separate elements finally coalesce into a firm belief among your sales leaders that anything is truly possible.  When enough members of the sales force begin to really believe, then incredible things begin to happen.

Can you plan for the belief multiplier effect?  No, not really.  But what you can do is set the stage for it to occur.  How? By paying attention to the small things and gaining and maintaining the trust of your sales force.

Here are some of the key elements that must be present before there is any chance of riding the BME Express:

  • Your sales force must use and love the Company products.  They must be on a mission to share the product benefits with everyone they know.
  • Your sales force services must be excellent.  This includes accurate, on time shipments with little breakage.  When errors do occur the sales force must have easy access to report them and quick, cheerful solutions.  Never embarrass the sales force in front of their customers.
  • The training must be effective.  If the company says that this is the way to do something, then most folks who follow the advice had better get the results promised.
  • Heroes and heroines must emerge.  Nothing creates organizational belief faster than some of their own experiencing great success.   Sales force belief is peer driven.
  • The sales force influence leaders must believe without doubt or question that the company will always try to act in their best interests.
  • The experience of belonging to the company must be fun, educational and motivational.

When a company gets all of these various elements in alignment and those heroines and heroes are emerging and inspiring others with their stories, then the atmosphere exists for the Belief Multiplier Effect to kick in.  That’s when the results begin to significantly exceed both forecasts and expectations.  As I said, you can’t predict it, it is almost impossible to measure, and you cannot count on it being there forever.  But what you can do is work very hard to make sure that all of the elements necessary for the Belief Multiplier Effect to kick and thrive are continuously cared for, improved and nurtured. Drift, even slightly, away from the attention to detail and practices that were present when the BME kicked in and you can lose it as quickly and unexpectedly as it first appeared. Once lost, it is hard to get back.  When you’ve got it going, you and your sales force experience the true magic of direct selling.

Few people in the direct sales industry can match the experience, expertise and successes of Alan Luce. With over 25 years in senior management, guiding start-ups and established companies alike, Alan has met virtually every challenge a direct sales executive can face.  Learn more about how Alan can help your company at http://www.luceandassociates.com/Alan-Luce.html.

Most people are still worried about the economy, hunkered in, saving more than they have in years….. just not spending.  Even though most economists and business leaders think the worst has passed, that growth will start again in the 4th quarter, if it has not already, many consumers remain in the “bunker” mentality they have been in for the past year or more.  And that folks is the perfect time for you to really step up your direct selling business!!!!.

Sound crazy?  Believe me it’s not.  I have been a direct seller through the last three recessions, 4 including this blockbuster and I know the signs and what works for us.   We are entering the “jobless recovery” phase which means that the folks with jobs (9 out of 10) will soon begin to feel better about things because the pundits are saying that the worst is over, the stock market is doing better and housing prices are stabilizing.  However, the unemployment rate will continue at or near 10% for months to come perhaps well into the second half of next year.

But those 9 out of 10 with jobs haven’t been spending for a year or so.  When they feel better they will start spending again.  For direct sellers this means hosts will be more willing to book, more guests will be willing to come to a party and spend more than they have and more folks will be open to a one-on-one sales pitch.  But what about those 10% without jobs or who can only get part time work.  Well with the job market still slow, more and more of them are willing to think about starting their own businesses, perhaps as part of your team.  Have you asked?

Right now… right as the economic tide is starting to turn, is exactly the right time for direct sellers to dig in and do their thing: showing – selling and sharing the opportunity.  Get folks just as they want to come up and out of their bunkers and spend again.  Grab folks who can’t find a JOB and give them an opportunity to make $100 a night as many good party planners do.  Some of your colleagues are already hard at it and experiencing great results. Don’t get left behind.

Now is the time!  WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Alan Luce

Alan Luce

Few people in the direct sales industry can match the experience, expertise and successes of Alan Luce. With over 25 years in senior management, guiding start-ups and established companies alike, Alan has met virtually every challenge a direct sales executive can face.  Learn more about how Alan can help your company at http://www.luceandassociates.com/Alan-Luce.html.

Jennifer Fong, Social Media Associate, recently sat down with Luce & Associates President Alan Luce to answer the most common questions direct selling executives have about social media.  The result is an article in this month’s issue of Direct Selling News.  We invite you to read the entire article here: http://www.directsellingnews.com/index.php/site/entries_archive_display/when_party_plan_and_social_media_collide

Alan Luce

Alan Luce

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong

Few people in the direct sales industry can match the experience, expertise and successes of Alan Luce. With over 25 years in senior management, guiding start-ups and established companies alike, Alan has met virtually every challenge a direct sales executive can face.  Learn more about how Alan can help your company at http://www.luceandassociates.com/Alan-Luce.html.

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.

by Alan Luce

Alan Luce

Alan Luce

Like the rest of the country, many direct selling families are having a tough time.  Jobs are scarce, overtime is almost non-existent and prices for the essentials keep going up.  In a recession largely caused by the failure of our elected and financial sector leaders to act honestly and responsibly, it is hard to know who to trust.

In days gone by we looked to someone’s “character” to gage whether a person was worthy of our trust.  A person’s “character” is almost a forgotten measuring stick in this world where all that seems to matter is how much money one makes or whether he or she won the election.   What they did to make their money or what tactics they used to win their election didn’t seem to matter.

Yet never has there been a time when the old fashioned notion of good character is more needed as a public standard.  A person’s character is not measured by any one talent or accomplishment, no matter how great or noteworthy. A person’s character was based upon measuring their honesty, truthfulness, courtesy, respect for others, kindness, sense of fair play, integrity and honor.  To be deemed a “success” a person had to have good character.  Without good character, a person was simply rich or famous or notorious, but certainly not someone to trust with decisions important to you.

The one area where character and leading by example is still the full measure of success is  direct selling.  Direct sellers are all volunteers.  They work as part of a leader’s team or downline because they want to, not because they have to.  Leaders who never ask their recruits to do work that they are not doing, leaders who teach even the newest all the tasks and methods to be successful, leaders who work to make you successful are the ones who achieve the most, climb the highest , last the longest and have the most respect.  In the transparent world of direct selling, the volunteer sales force soon ferrets out the untruthful, the manipulative, the dishonest and the self serving. Such people lack” character” and do not last as their followers soon figure out that the only success they are interested in is their own.

In tough times like these, the leaders with the best character in the full sense of that word are the ones that will help every recruit find their way, lead by example in all of the necessary work, and play by the rules no matter what the cost.  They succeed where others fail because character still counts!

Few people in the direct sales industry can match the experience, expertise and successes of Alan Luce. With over 25 years in senior management, guiding start-ups and established companies alike, Alan has met virtually every challenge a direct sales executive can face.  Learn more about how Alan can help your company at http://www.luceandassociates.com/Alan-Luce.html.

by Alan Luce

Alan Luce

Alan Luce

What a year 2009 has been so far!  For direct sales party planners this year of recession has been challenging in many respects.  A few companies seem to be blowing right through the economic downturn as though it isn’t there.  Other companies are struggling to keep their businesses on course.  It is a year of anomalies: for many companies the surprise is that the all important retail-sales-per-guest and party average retail sales figures have held steady or dropped just slightly, but the bottom has dropped out of the activity rate.  In these companies the primary obstacles seem to be a lack of confidence among the sales force that hosts will book in this economy and that the hosts will  be able to get guests to attend the party.  Though the statistics from the parties held dispute this belief, once that lack of confidence invades the sales force it is hard to displace.

The best solution that I have seen to the booking and attendance “confidence” problem is to find great “good news” stories and publish them frequently to the sales force.  Do not wait for your traditional communications vehicle schedule.  Create short attractive story templates and tell the stories about great new Consultant first party results, hostess success results where they set a goal to get $100 of free stuff and surpassed their goal.  In addition to publishing these good news stories out to the field weekly, put the same stories with new Consultant, new leader and host testimonials on the company public web site.

We all know that we are working with mostly part-time volunteer sales forces.  But sometimes we forget just how much of their party plan business activity is driven by their “confidence and belief” in the business.  The more that we can give them proof that their peers and colleagues are enjoying success when they choose to work in this economy, the more our sellers will get their sales “mojo” back and our businesses will grow again.

Few people in the direct sales industry can match the experience, expertise and successes of Alan Luce. With over 25 years in senior management, guiding start-ups and established companies alike, Alan has met virtually every challenge a direct sales executive can face.  Learn more about how Alan can help your company at http://www.luceandassociates.com/Alan-Luce.html.