Direct sales isn't for everyone.
(I'll be straight with you: It definitely wasn't for me.)
But I did well, even though my heart wasn't in it.
It took me quite a while to figure that out, but that's a story for a different platform.
This post isn't about trying to talk you out of it, nor talk you into it. It's for those of you who have decided to join an MLM or are thinking about it still, and want to make it as successful an endeavor as possible.
First off, making a direct sales venture a successful undertaking takes a leader—business-minded, hard-working, and willing to take risks, step on toes, and even step on people to get to where you need to go.
Don't be fooled—no one becomes successful in direct sales without leaving even a small wake of hurt people behind you.
A direct sales business will put all your friendships and relationships to the test.
But the same can be said about any sales-based business, really.
Network Marketing (or Direct Sales) can be a "test drive" for entrepreneurship or a "full-throttle" venture, if you choose to ride that wave to the top.
It's up to you to pave the road and run that road relentlessly (and hope you never get sick or nothing goes horribly awry in your life where you'll get knocked back to the near-bottom and go back through the motions to re-earn your stripes).
With that said, if you're looking for "butterflies and rainbows" and an unbiased review, this is not the place to be.
I hold little back when I tell you that I screwed up, got sucked in, drank the poisoned Kool-Aid, and hurt a lot of people getting up to a leadership position in direct sales.
My negative actions haunted me (after I re-grew a conscience) until I finally gave myself permission to forgive and, instead, built this business on honesty, integrity, and personal development—hopefully making up for the damage I caused.
With that, this post is to help you do things the right way, if you absolutely must try out a direct sales business for such-and-such reason.
Before we begin:
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Anyhow, when I started my direct sales business, I was a pregnant, newly stay-at-home mom and I was crawling out of my skin for something "meaningful" to do.
I liked the products and wanted to get the 50% discount on them, and in my "free time", I'd see if I could make a little money on the side.
I was talked into making an "initial inventory purchase" of $600 to "earn all the extra bonuses" (cheap frills) that came with it.
Of course, my director wanted me to purchase more, but thankfully my husband and I were in the midst of buying our house so "frivolous spending" was out of the question.
Okay, without further adieu, I'll tell you that I learned a great deal from direct sales.
Everything I took away—negative and positive—helped to shape me as a human being, as an entrepreneur, and as a woman amongst women.
(Hence why I could forgive, after all.)
And if I could go back and do it all over again, the following is what I'd want to tell my former self:
- Know yourself [first]. (Seriously, why are you doing it?)
- Forget what "they" tell you: Do your research, know what you're getting into wholly.
- Have a plan and work it.
Simple, and applicable to more than just business...
Starting With The Journey Of Self
Who are you?
What do you love?
What don't you like very much? (Hate is such a strong word, right?)
Discovering WHO you are is the bridge connecting you to your road of success.
...for any business.
And a part of who you are comes down to figuring out your personality type to work your business the way that best suits you.
Plus, it helps in communicating with people too.
Learn your strengths and how to play on them, your weaknesses and how to overcome them, and find your motivation. You know, that thing that will keep you pushing forward when it seems like your business is in a downslide.
DiSC® Personal Profile
Heard of it?
There are a few personality profile indicators out there, however, I prefer the DiSC assessment because it's:
- easy to understand
- easy to apply
Looking at this replacement pie chart to the original graph display, the DiSC assessment is, well, simple.
You can quickly assess where you are in the spectrum of your most prominent personality trait.
- (D) Dominance | An accomplishment-focused, results-oriented, career-driven individual. S/he wants to learn about leadership and income potential. S/he wants conversation to be direct and to-the-point. You like Challenge, you want Results, and you take Action.
- (i) Influence | S/he will talk about themselves and what they like. They're people-oriented and enjoy recognition for their accomplishments. You like Action, you're Enthusiastic, and you like Collaborating with people.
- (S) Steadiness | S/he is focused on family and the work they do for their family, friends, or volunteered time. Interested in security, loyalty and is generally easy-going. You like Stability, you want Support, and you like Collaborating with people too.
- (C) Conscientiousness | A detail-oriented person. Analytical, precise and organized. S/he's interested in entrepreneurship and leadership and appreciates education and learning. You're not afraid of a Challenge, you want Accuracy, and you like Stability.
(See how that works with the pie chart?)
We each have a little bit of everything in us. But we all tend to have a prominent one or two traits that define who we are and how we interact with people.
If you've followed me for even one or two posts, you probably know I'm a prominent "C", then a "D".
Anyhow, finding your prominent trait is the first step to starting strong in any entrepreneurial endeavor.
Discover your strengths.
- What are you great at?
- What makes you feel most confident?
- What do people often ask you advice about?
- What are you good at that you taught yourself to do?
- What do you feel most comfortable talking or sharing about?
- What do you enjoy helping people with most?
Discover your weaknesses.
- What makes you feel unconfident or uncomfortable?
- What is a task or activity that makes you feel small or inferior?
- What is a task, skill or activity that you have the most difficult time performing (no matter how many times you've encountered it)?
- What do you feel least comfortable talking or sharing about?
Play on your strengths. Acknowledge and work on overcoming your weaknesses.
The strongest leaders acknowledge that they're flawed humans beings.
However, they don't let their weaknesses overcome them.
Weaknesses aren't excuses or back-peddles or a justifiable reason why you're not reaching your goals.
You can overcome weaknesses when you embody your strengths, recognize your weaknesses, and never stop trying to work through them.
For example, a previous weakness of mine was my desire to please "everyone".
I came to the conclusion that there was never going to be a way for me to please every person. Nor every single customer or close friend or relative.
To constantly put that pressure on myself was a waste of energy, mental health, and brain-power.
With the first rude and demeaning email from a website visitor who belittled me for a simple [free] document upload error—if I let her get to me, my work would suffer.
And if my work suffers, so does my mental health. And with the mental suffering, my family is unhappy too.
See where I'm going with this?
In this case, the error was noted, fixed online and made right with the irate woman. I told myself that she was having a rough day and went on my merry way—back to my work, life, and family.
This was a defining moment in my career.
By overcoming a weakness, professionally, it became imbedded in my family life too. So now when my youngest grabs one of her sister's cups and spills orange juice or almond milk all over the floor, or when they break my mother's seascape relic for the third time, it's okay.
I can't control everything and everyone around me.
Give them a towel. Whip out the super-glue.
There's no point in stressing over what's entirely out of your control.
(Although the seascape relic has now been placed on top of the kitchen cabinets. Safe and Gorilla Glued -sound.)
So, what's your most prominent strength? How could you use that strength to overcome a professionally inhibiting weakness?
What's your WHY?
What will motivate you when you start to downslide?
There's no "if" in that. It's a "when".
We all hit a downslide in business and in life.
Sometimes a few... It's going to happen. Simple as that.
So, what will keep you pushing forward and fighting when you just want to give up? What will encourage you to stretch yourself further to make progress?
What makes you get up every single day and take on the world?
Now, I want to make something very clear here:
Your WHY isn't something you can truly rely on if it's built around others.
It's the same thing as going to church only because your husband does or signing up for a dating site because your mom keeps reminding you that you "need" to settle down and find a partner.
You have to do it for you.
Sure, you can make and set goals for yourself based on your spouse, your child, your mom or your dog... but none of it holds firm unless it's for you.
Things to consider when deciding on your "Why"—your motivation to keep fighting when the shit hits the fan:
- Your future
- Your wants
- Your needs
- You becoming a better person
- The path to giving yourself the gift of _______
Starting to form an idea now?
Sure, your WHY can directly benefit the people you love, but it shouldn't be solely based on them.
what you can really expect to invest
Your Time. Your schedule.
How much time can you spend working a direct sales business?
Don't let anyone con you into "there's 168 hours in a week and on average you spend 'X' hours sleeping, 'X' hours working, 'X' hours with loved ones..." crap.
It's a cute concept used tirelessly in recruiting. Although we all could somehow find 10 plus hours a week (I bet even Jack Dorsey could, too...), that's still a shady recruiting tool.
We're each different. Each with our own desires and motivations.
I can tell you that if you cut out watching TV shows and swapped it with one movie a week for an entertainment-fill, you'll miraculously come up with an additional 5 to 12 hours (or more—I don't judge) per week to use for self-advancement.
But, if you love TV and aren't willing to compromise that, I'd be wasting both of our time trying to convince you to make the switch.
So, decide how much time you're truly willing to dedicate to working your business.
When you're in it or shooting for a goal or trying to make professional changes, you tend to defer from that initial apprehension to reach the next level.
Personal and family sacrifices.
Be prepared to give up some personal and familial activities.
Sure, you can go in, from the very beginning, and set up non-negotiable time blocks. This time you'll spend with your family and/or yourself that "absolutely nothing" will disrupt this.
Then reality sets in and the business-advancing party "with that awesome woman" can only be on Family Sunday.
Or, maybe a new recruit you promised to hold her hand to get her started books her first party on your Family Sunday and you know you need to be there.
You tell yourself, well, just this one time will be okay. Then one time turns into two—and two into three...
When you go in knowing that this will happen, you [and your life partner] will have an easier time swallowing the sacrifices needed to pave the way to your success in direct sales.
Personal [very educated] opinion here:
Be careful with "FREE to START!" direct sales companies.
Nothing is ever really free.
How can I say that when I offer free content that I could easily charge for?
Because it leads to more sales and business for me.
Transparent [to non-marketers] moment here:
By offering a free course and free resources, this free blog content and more, I earn a large amount of subscribers each day, week, and month.
Email subscribers are more likely to become customers than a first-time hit on your site.
Rarely does a non-franchised small business warrant an immediate sale from a first-time visitor.
They're tempted into subscribing to you because of an offer or they read a blog post that "spoke to them", or helped them personally or professionally.
I realized sharing this with you also gives you an early tip on why blogging is so important, so I won't edit that part out for not directly benefiting this post's purpose.
*Note to future-editing self.
Consider and plan for:
Start up costs—price of "starter kit", sales tools, and other supplies.
Marketing—cost of a website and blog (100% necessary on both), etc.
Inventory—what do you need to position yourself as a professional? I won't put this in brackets because most all consultants will need demonstrative products, at the very least.
Travel—party plan business model? You'll be driving around often. Consider travel for the following two points, also:
Meetings/Training—most all companies offer training and/or weekly to monthly consultant meetings. Some allow guests to earn a potential profit while training, and others are strictly for training. Generally these cost to attend. Factor travel expense as well.
Events—most companies have large training/recognition events up to four times per year. Your director or up-line will recommend these as non-negotiable on attendance if you want to advance.
Organization—office, planner/software, bookkeeping software, other systems, etc.
Additional expenses—food, vehicle maintenance, gifts, further education, and more.
Taxes [when profiting]—set aside upwards of 30% of your in-pocket earnings for income taxes. Sales tax is generally paid through individual orders/inventory orders to your company which then will send you a 1099 tax form for your filing needs.
[Potential of] Child care—value time with your spouse? Or maybe hubs isn't too fond of being a babysitter on his nights off several times a month. Factor the cost of a babysitter or child care facility.
You may only have 1 to 3 initial expenses at the beginning of a direct sales business, however, if you plan to take your business seriously, plan for all of them.
Some things can be forgone—like the larger events.
Some things you don't have to think about till the end of the fiscal year—like accounting and taxes.
But, they all need to be planted in your mind from the onset.
You will have to face them at some point or another.
set yourself up for success
Assuming you've already selected a direct sales company to contract with, it's time to start setting goals and creating a game plan:
Set up S.M.A.R.T. goals—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely goals. I can't say I want to double my income before the end of the year and not have a realistic plan mapped out and ready for action. Of course it'd be riddled with SMART daily and weekly goals to propel you forward, too. ;-)
Get my low-cost goal planning workbook here »
Lightly engage your warm market—Ask your friends, family, and acquaintances about what their favorite type of [your type of direct selling] product is? How often they'd need or want it? Maybe your product isn't cared for in your area yet, but vastly desired in another. (Just keep in mind, with family and friends—ask ONCE. Don't push it or bring it up again, because you risk losing those closest to you when you push-push-push. It's not worth it.)
Make a plan—Okay, it's a direct sales business and not a storefront with $100,000 in inventory, daily shipments and more, but even us small solopreneurs need to have a business plan. That's why I love the Lean Canvas planning model.
Create an action plan—an action plan is a document that lists the steps you need to take in order to reach a specific goal. And yes, I made a doc that's available to you...
In Mary Kay?
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It's time to put your feet on the path now.
Go back and click through all the links in this post if you haven't already.
Each one will guide you to the next steps you need to take to get your new or established direct sales venture on the right track.
- Get to know yourself.
- Learn what to expect.
- Set yourself up for success.
Get started now.