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When working with field leaders, I’m often asked how to sponsor “good” people – ones who aspire to become leaders.  And on occasion, a leader tells me she only talks to people who “prequalify” as a solid prospective consultant. Ouch! I believe, without hesitation, that we can’t tell if someone will be wildly successful. We can have a hunch, for sure. But too many times I’ve worked with new consultants who just needed encouragement and someone who believed in them. What a rush to see them succeed! I would hate to eliminate them from the start. So I always respond by saying, “Sponsor everyone because you never know – you just never know.”

Recently I learned about an informal field test from Shelley Whitmarsh, VP of Sales for SimplyFun. When Shelley was in the field, she and a fellow team leader noticed that Shelley’s team grew proportionately faster so they set out to determine why. Was it personal sponsoring? No – they sponsored about the same number each year. Was it the amount of time they dedicated to building their business? No – that was also roughly the same. Yet when Shelley’s team tripled in size, her friends team doubled.

Here’s what they came up with. When Shelley presented the business opportunity – to everyone – she presented it as just that – a business opportunity. Her friend had a different approach. When she presented the business opportunity – to everyone – she positioned it as a part-time job. That “full-time vs. part-time” mentality worked it’s way through their organization. In Shelley’s team, more aspired to become team leaders, which led to overall team growth. Now, when asked if there is a secret ingredient to sponsoring future leaders, I’ll say, “Sponsor everyone and tell them about the advantages of building a substantial business from the start –because you never know – you just never know.”

.With over 25 years of direct sales experience, Lori develops training packages for start up companies and works with established companies to update sales training and methods.  Lori is an accomplished speaker and specializes in creating presentations tailored to meet each company’s specific needs.

Do I have your attention? Sure hope so.  Because whether you are a sales representative in the field, a corporate sales leader or simply checking out the industry, this tip will serve you well.

While exciting new products, elaborate trip promotions and “raise the roof” conventions can increase performance; the best overall strategy to build sales and recruiting is to focus on finding and nurturing Prospective Team Leaders.

A Prospective Team Leader is one who is working to reach the first level of leadership as outlined in the company’s compensation plan. This typically involves a personal sales, sponsoring and team sales requirement. When these performance minimums are met, the Prospective receives a new title and substantial bonus increase.

Why are Prospective Leaders so important?  Because they need to sell more and recruit more in order to reach their goal. And when they succeed, their increased activity will be reflected in your company’s overall performance.  It’s a simple concept but one that can easily get by us.

Now, how do we find those prospective leaders?  Stay tuned…

Image Credit: pasukara76

With over 25 years of direct sales experience, Lori develops training packages for start up companies and works with established companies to update sales training and methods. Lori is an accomplished speaker and  specializes in creating presentations tailored to meet each company’s specific needs.

This post was originally published on Jennifer Fong’s Direct Sales and Social Media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com.

Last night I signed up for NetFlix.  Now I realize that I am probably the last living American to do so.  But I’ve been a Blockbuster Video loyalist for decades, and wasn’t in any hurry to change that status.  But the Netflix business model finally hooked me, when I discovered we could stream videos on demand to our TV through our Wii, and have 1 DVD at a time, all for a monthly fee that was less than 2 videos a month at Blockbuster.

And it really got me to thinking about business models, and how getting too comfortable with ours can cause us to lose touch with what appeals to even our most loyal customers.  You see, Blockbuster was on top for a really long time.  And holding that percentage of the market share, in my opinion, made them short-sighted.  They didn’t even consider the competition anymore.

Yet the competition was innovating.  It started through a mail order service…where DVDs from a list you create online would be shipped to you to keep as long as you like. Then, when you’re done, you ship it back (postage free) and get another DVD on your list.  For some people this was super convenient.  Yet for people like me, their loyalists, we wanted to choose the movie we were in the mood for the night we wanted to watch it.  The NetFlix model didn’t meet that need, and so we stayed with Blockbuster.

The next thing I was aware of was the on-demand model.  We’re not big TV watchers in my house (heck, I’ve still got a VCR!), so we didn’t upgrade to a cable box until we were forced to by our cable company.  At that point we got a whole collection of on-demand programming that we could access for a fee similar to what we would pay at Blockbuster (as well as a collection of free children’s programming).  Without leaving our house.  You couldn’t keep your movie for a week (my kids like to watch things multiple times), but it was sure convenient to not have to leave the house on rainy nights.  We took advantage of some programming through the cable company. Yet we still remained loyal to Blockbuster too, signing up for the loyalty program, etc.

But then Blockbuster began to betray our trust.  They switched from 7 day rentals to 5 day rentals, and didn’t tell anyone (well I assume it was on our paper receipt, but they failed to mention it.)  We racked up late fees as a result (didn’t Blockbuster a while back do away with late fees?  Yeah, not anymore.  We didn’t know that either.)  The loyalists that they should have been rewarding and courting were experiencing betrayal after betrayal.  We didn’t matter to them!

Then I saw a blog post about how we could have 1 DVD at a time in the mail, plus on demand programming to our TV, for under $10 a month through NetFlix. I fiddled a bit and saw how easy it would be to set up. It was a no-brainer.

By the way, have YOU seen any online social efforts to reach me through Blockbuster, either through sponsored blog posts, Twitter, etc.?  To retain my business?  I certainly haven’t. Other than the regular email I get trying to sell me stuff, I never hear from them at all.

And so Blockbuster has lost another loyal customer.  Because they weren’t listening.  And they weren’t paying attention to my needs.

As direct sellers, we have to be very careful that we don’t make the same mistake.  We are VERY fond of our business model, and very slow to change.  And that’s because it works.  But if we don’t continue to adapt to modern technology, and the way our customers want to shop, we could easily go the way of Blockbuster.  It’s hard to believe, but in this day and age there are still direct selling companies that don’t provide their reps with personal websites for shopping.  There are still companies that aren’t reaching out to customers through the social web.  And yet consumers are telling us, loudly, that they EXPECT to be able to interact with their brands online.

Look at Stella and Dot as an example.  How did this direct sales jewelry company get so big so fast? By taking advantage of the social web, and encouraging its reps to do the same.  They haven’t abandoned direct selling principles.  But they’re smart enough to add online technology to the mix, in order to provide their customers with the shopping experience that fits into their lives.  And as a result, they are on par with the Silpadas and Cookie Lees of the world, who have been around a LOT longer.

Customers aren’t going to bend to your traditions.  At least not very long.  They expect you to adapt to them.  Are you prepared to do so?

Your thoughts?

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic social media consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.

How to Ask for a Decision With Confidence

This is a mighty tall order for many who are new to sales. Actually, it is often a challenge for seasoned people.  But in virtually every sales situation, it is a necessary piece – the sale just won’t happen without it. Why?  Because before you can “close a sale”, you need to know if the person is interested in what you’re offering. You have to ask!

So it’s imperative that you help your sales force feel comfortable about asking for a decision. I’ve taken many a stab at this one throughout the years.  I’ve explained why this step is important. I’ve offered word choices to make it easier.  I’ve tried to minimize the natural fear of being pushy and of hearing the dreaded word, “no”. But then, I happened upon something that consistently brings it home. It speaks to everyone.  And it’s one simple sentence:  “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask.” Let me show you in context.

Jane: “Mary, you really seemed to enjoy the party this evening.  How would you feel about hosting your own?”

Mary: “No, Jane. I really don’t want to do that”.

Jane: “That’s fine, Mary.  I just wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask.”

Now, there’s a chance that Jane could still turn this into a party, but that’s for another time.  Right now, let’s think about why this sentence works. It all goes back to those basic fears – your sales people don’t want to be pushy and they don’t like to hear “no”.  But this gives them an out – a legitimate reason to ask for a decision. They are just trying to do a good job.  Who could think negatively of that?  Who wouldn’t respect that?

So teach your sales force to ask.  Let them know it’s OK to ask.  Help them feel proud to ask. It will bring them that much closer to success.

image credit Horia Varlan

Lori Moser

Lori Moser built a personal sales organization of thousands, and now helps direct selling companies with the salesforce training they need to succeed.  Lori can help your organization by both creating and delivering training that brings results!  For more information, contact her at lori@luceandassociates.com

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.

Ah, the fall selling season. Isn’t it wonderful?  We pretty much know that sales will increase as the holidays approach.  It’s a magical time – but it also takes preparation and training to help your sales force receive the full benefits of the gift-giving season.  One way is by doing some math.

Turn Sales into Income: Help your sales people understand in dollars and cents just how much they will earn by doing one more party, meeting one more customer, running one more event. Make it real for them.  Show them the numbers.

Calculate the Real Cut-Off Date. Have you announced the cut off date for guaranteed holiday delivery?  Great!  But your salesforce needs to keep a few things in mind:

  • Will the order be delivered to the host?  She won’t want to be running around delivering orders at the last minute.  So move up the date.
  • Are your products great to have before the holidays – for entertaining, preparing food or attending parties? Well then, move it up some more!

While it could seem like you have seven or eight weeks to bring in the sales, you might, in reality, only have four.  Basic stuff? Yes. But has that really sunk in with your sales people?  You can help them understand and create a sense of urgency by just doing the math.

Lori Moser

Lori Moser built a personal sales organization of thousands, and now helps direct selling companies put the salesforce training in place they need to succeed.  Lori can help your organization by both creating and delivering training that brings results!  For more information, contact her at lori (at) luceandassociates (dot) com.

photo credit: cogdogblog

We as an industry have always been big on barriers to entry.  If someone wants to order something, we want them to do it at a party.  We must preserve the rules of first contact.  Every order must go through a consultant!  And while the reasoning of avoiding even the hint of competition with the sales force makes a lot of sense, and we really would like people to go to parties, there are ways to credit things to consultants and encourage parties without throwing up barriers to entry that are driving away our business.

In this interconnected world we now live in, people expect things immediately.  I decide to join your company at midnight…I want to do so RIGHT NOW.  I don’t want to wait for that email form I submitted to reach someone in your office, and then for you to connect it with the right consultant, and then that person to call me. That could take days! I expect to be able to sign up RIGHT NOW and you can do your backoffice procedures later.  Same goes for ordering.  If I want to order something (especially if I’ve looked at your catalog via a mobile app) and you tell me after I’ve made my choices that now I have to pick up a phone or in some other way interrupt my flow to do something else…well, frankly, you’ve lost me again.

This generation expects immediacy.  If we stay tied to our barriers to entry, we’re going to very quickly find that we are becoming irrelevant and outdated.  I’m not saying we should take recruits or orders away from the sales force.  Goodness, no.  And we should encourage people who want to join or order to identify their consultant at every step in the process.  But if I don’t have someone I’m working with (or, dare I say it, don’t particularly WANT to deal with a particular person in your sales force), don’t make me jump through hoops to connect with you.  It’s completely the opposite to the way the world expects to do business today.

Barriers to entry must become a thing of the past if we hope as an industry to remain a relevant way to do business.  Young companies get this and build those systems from the beginning.  Older companies are finding it a much harder process to change the minds of both our internal and external stakeholders on this issue.  But it must be done.  If we allow outdated ways of doing business, and fear, to guide our decision making, very soon we’re not going to have a business that appeals to a new generation of buyers and recruits.  To build a sustainable, long-term business, we must adapt, and barriers to entry have to be eliminated.

What are your thoughts on this?  What are the challenges to eliminating barriers?  Have you had experiences in attempting their removal?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments.

Jennifer Fong

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.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com.

image credit: Mark Hillary

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.

Videos are among the most virally-shared content on the internet

Videos are among the most virally-shared content on the internet

Social media is an excellent tool for finding people that have an interest in your company’s product or service.  Once a company has defined its social media strategy, along with its targeted niche market, then it’s time to use content marketing to provide value to that niche, and engage them in ways that lead to the behaviors the company seeking.

For example, if your goal is to find additional customers for your business, then you would provide content that provides solutions to problems that your targeted niche has.  This could be done through blog posts on the topic,  “how-to” videos, live events, etc.  If you sell skincare, the content might discuss how to keep your skin looking young.  If you sell kitchenware, your targeted niche may be looking for quick and simple ways to prepare family meals.  Whatever it is, you need to find your prospects’ common problems, and then give them solutions they can use RIGHT NOW without having to buy a thing.  This might mean changing up the way you’ve been used to presenting your product line.  If you’ve been used to just selling the features and benefits of your products, you are going to have to go further and become a true expert in your field.  Read what others are writing about.  Find the solutions your prospects are seeking.  By doing so, you will provide much greater value to your niche.

Once you have the content, use it on your blog, your YouTube channel, or your Ustream live events.  Provide content that offers solutions to your targeted niche.  Invite and encourage comments in order to engage your prospects.  And always give them a place to sign up so they can get more info from you, as well as virally share your content with their social networks.  After all, you’re positioning your company as the expert that gives them solutions they can use.  Why wouldn’t they want more?  Why wouldn’t they share with and refer their friends?

As you build a group of targeted followers on social networking sites, send them to your content that offers solutions, and then invite them to join your list, you help people work their way down your sales funnel.  You can then engage these highly-targeted content consumers on a level impossible through social networking (just conversing on tools such as Facebook and Twitter) alone.  They can join groups, receive targeted offers, participate in online events you offer, etc.  And the people who remain engaged become some of your very best customers.

Jennifer Fong, Social Media Associate

Jennifer Fong, Social Media Associate

So as you craft your social media strategy, be sure to keep content marketing in mind.  It is the strategy that works best in a social media arena that doesn’t want to be “sold,” but that consumes information passionately.  Be a part of their solutions, and new customers and recruits will follow.

Learn more about how we can help you with your direct sales company’s social media strategy at http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html

What do you think?  Would love to hear how you are using a content marketing strategy below!