Kate Godfrey’s comment yesterday got me thinking about party plans and direct selling, which is interesting because I doubt I’ll ever actually do it again. Never say never and all that, but I don’t think it’s my cup of tea. And that’s fine because I’m on a mission to find what is my cup of tea.
Kate was my team leader during my brief stint as a rep for Usborne Books At Home, and she was a great team leader – and no, she’s not paying me to say this! She was always available for advice, she was upbeat, positive and had a sales background too. This made her knowledgeable about how to sell and a mine of creative ideas for selling books that went way beyond simply parties. Best of all, she knew when to pick you up and dust you down after an underwhelming party without making you feel remotely under pressure.
Kate’s comment got me thinking about why I wanted to write about direct selling. Firstly, if you’re thinking about giving it a try it’s very difficult to get balanced information. You’re either given a glowing review by someone who is trying to recruit you to their team or you get the cynical view of someone who has tried it and not succeeded. You’ll also hear from people who are sick of being hassled by friends who are trying to sell to them. Which is a shame because you need to go into any business with your eyes wide open and the facts in front of you.
Secondly, direct selling has such potential – where else would you get a chance to start your own business with minimum risk, a low initial investment (usually), needing no business experience and with a team leader to mentor you?
What intrigued me was this: why do people who try direct selling often fail make any more than pocket money? The flip side of the easy entry means that direct selling attracts people without business, sales or marketing experience, leading to a steep learning curve and therefore probably a high drop-out rate. Although it’s easy to get in the door, success depends on the same factors as for any other business – hard work, consistent, regular marketing, a good quality product and great customer service. All this takes time, effort and experience to learn. I would also argue that, compared to setting up your own business, the scales are weighted slightly against new starters because part of the price of the product you’re selling will effectively be commission for people higher up the network, so making the product more expensive.
I’ve heard people say that anyone with an outgoing personality and a love of the product will do well at party plans. I disagree. That’s like saying anyone introverted will automatically make a good computer programmer. Selling is a skill that is undervalued – true, some of us are naturally better at it than others, but like any other skill it needs to be learned however fabulous your product is.
So when the end of your maternity leave is looming and you’re looking for a way to avoid going back to your old job, direct selling could be for you. But it certainly isn’t a quick or easy fix. To earn more than pin money will take the same skills, hard work and determination that you’ll need in any business.