Before I signed an agreement and bought a kit with a direct sales company, I knew nothing about the industry nor the sales model. I just knew that I had found a product I loved and a way that I could love it more and earn money and free products at the same time. It wasn’t until I had been sharing my products through cooking shows for quite a while that I learned the “dark side” of what I was doing. It’s unfortunate, it’s often ugly and quite frankly, I hate it. So, buckle up buttercup, I’m going to tell you what I hate about being in direct sales.
First off, please let me share with you all of the things I love about direct sales. I love that I get to share something I love with others who enjoy the same things I do (cooking and eating). Everybody eats. So, taking my love of kitchen things and sharing it with others isn’t difficult or a chore. I love all of the people I have had the opportunity to “work” with over the years, whether I joined their team or they joined mine, it’s a family. I love the people who invite me into their homes and albeit momentarily into their families and circles of friends to share my products with them. I love my customers who love the products I share and I love the company that I work with and how they support me. I also love the people I’ve met who have found their own company or product that they love who are doing direct sales their way.
But… Here it is, the thing I hate about direct sales: the “Oh” response. It’s more of an attitude. And it is simply down-right rude. People who respond with “Oh” may not realize what they are doing. But I’m here to tell you, they’re figuratively slapping people in the face (myself included) far too often. And it has to stop.
In a passing moment, it conveys the assumption that I’m going to jump you, not let go, keep you for 30 minutes or demand your first-born child before setting you free from my evil sales tactics (Mwua ha ha ha). In a social setting, it says, you don’t want to get to know me, learn whether or not we could be friends, or spend any further time hearing anything I have to say.
Now I know and realize full well that there are many, MANY people who have helped form this very negative and unsavory image of direct sales. They have cold called and pressured you. They conned you into attending an “event” that turned into an uncomfortable 2 hour sales pitch with dollar signs and cruise ships and all you could think about was how to extricate yourself from the room. They indiscriminately tagged you and added you to groups on Facebook without asking. They have pressed you to buy their products, host their shows or join their team until they are blue in the face and you avoid them at all costs. There are “those people” out there. They’re still out there. And without good training and leadership, more will be added to their number every day. It’s unfortunate.
I admit I had blindly followed this pattern for a time. Believe me, there are times it felt as icky and uncomfortable from my side as it probably did from yours. So I rejected this way of doing things. I found a better way. However, since I gave all that up and got the training I needed to do things differently, I still unfortunately receive the “Oh” response when people learn what I do for a living. And really, I promise you, I’m not interested in pushing you to do something you truly do not want to do. I’ll grant you the past history of being pressed into something you don’t like, but if only you could give me the benefit of the doubt.
IF I were given the benefit of the doubt, you may learn that I’m passionate about my products. This does not mean I’m interested in forcing you to chuck every knife, cutting board and baking pan you currently own into the trash and replace everything with the products that I sell. It means I believe we carry a high quality product and I am thrilled with how they work for me in my own kitchen. If you gave me the benefit of the doubt, you might hear how much being in direct sales has blessed me and my family over the years. If you didn’t do your darndest to shut me down before I could even say one more word, you might hear and learn something about me as a person that is tied to what I do for a living – which I see as a means of getting to know people.
You see the reasons to listen, or endure probably outweigh a momentary discomfort. One reason to continue listening after hearing the words ‘direct sales’ might just be plain old manners. Etiquette. Politeness. Sparing the other person’s feelings used to be rather important. When you respond with a curt one word answer like, “Oh” and wrinkle up your nose at what I do (or anyone else in direct sales) you are effectively saying, “You have nothing else to say that I have any interest in. This conversation is over.” Really. Yes, that’s what you’re saying. If you hate direct sales that much I’m asking you to keep reading.
Perhaps there is a bit more information about what is happening in direct sales that could help. You see, there are many reasons why someone joins a direct sales company, as many as there are people in direct sales. Some of the major reasons are money, flexibility, family time, adult conversation, recognition, a sense of belonging. My major reason was just a love for the products. So you may meet someone who is in love with press on nail designs. Don’t wear nail polish? That’s fine. Listen to them anyway. You don’t have to buy anything. You may talk to someone who is raising toddlers while also building a skin care empire. Love your drug store moisturizer? Great. Hear her out. You don’t have to become her next team member. There are stay at home moms who are getting to be with their babies and raise the next generation while still earning a paycheck and helping to support the family. There are single moms who work a full-time job outside the home who are supplementing their income so a child can participate in little league or soccer. These aren’t “get rich quick” schemes, they are actual businesses (some of which have been around for decades) that provide extra income to people who need it.
As more and more companies adopt a direct sales model, more and more products become available through a sales force that works from home. Make up, cleaning products, health and wellness products, kitchen tools, clothing, children’s educational products, skin care. The list grows every day. Yes, you may feel surrounded but it’s not a bad thing. You may well need or want the products that are available all around you one day. And the person you’re shutting down with your short one word “don’t bother me with that” response may be the person you need somewhere down the road. How we shop for and buy products is changing. Downtown and retail are being replaced by online and direct sales. Having connections to people who sell direct to consumers is becoming more important.
The good news? There IS another way. There is a way to be in direct sales without being the modern day equivalent of a used car salesman in a polyester suit with a slicked back hairdo. I learned it from a business coach and mentor who teaches relationship marketing and how to use social media in a non-spammy way. I am sure I still make mistakes, but I know I am not doing a lot of the things that I used to do that turn people away. Wanting to do it the “right” way is great and Brenda Ster and her SassySuite website and trainings helped me. And if you’re reading this and you are also in direct sales, I know she can help you too.
Even though a better way is out there, we in direct sales will always have to swim upstream against everyone’s assumptions, prejudices, and pre-conceived notions until or unless those who respond with, “Oh” simply listen politely and learn to say, “No thank you.”