Sept. 13, 2010 -- In a challenging economy, many people have not only turned to direct sales to supplement their income, but they've also turned up the heat on their commitment to generating a serious paycheck in this $28 billion industry.
Only a quarter of all active direct sellers earn more than $10,000 a year, so I set out to learn their success secrets.
Avon: Grace CampbellSuccess Secret: Ask Around FirstGrace Campbell's 's husband owns a plumbing business that tanked in the recession, which forced Grace to find a way to help pay the bills. When someone suggested Avon, Grace worried that she'd become the "pest who's always pushing something" on other people, so she first asked friends and family what they would think if she became an independent representative. Would they be interested in the product? Would they buy from her? When everyone answered with an enthusiastic yes, she had the confidence to go for it. (Plus, the starter fee of just $10 was a big draw.) Don't sign up with a company until you've done some research among your likely target market.
Stella & Dot: Zandra GaySuccess Secret: Build a Team with Serious NetworkingZandra Gay is a stay at home mom of three kids under 6—and at the end of last year her husband lost his job in internet sales. Within 10 days, she snapped into action with jewelry giant Stella & Dot because she needed the money and the flexibility. She loves the jewelry, wears it every day and naturally gets a lot of compliments. That's an obvious segue into sharing what she does. She also has another secret: Zandra asks everyone what they do, and they in turn ask what she does. (Smart for any professional!) That's helped her recruit other reps who are now on her team. She makes money on her own sales – and on the sales of the people under her. With any legitimate direct sales opportunity, you will only make money on your recruits if you're also an active seller.
Lia Sophia: Kim PhillipsSuccess Secret: Share Your Personal StoryKim Phillips and her husband both lost their jobs, wound up on food stamps, living in a friend's home, and sharing a '93 Buick. They're both college educated—she's a classically-trained pianist too—and she kept asking, how did things get like this? Kim admits she always turned her nose when invited to direct sales parties, but when someone said there was real money to be made, she dove in with another jewelry leader: Lia Sophia. Now this is her full-time job, and she tells everyone her story. So many of the women she meets are down and out because of the economy or a troubled marriage, and they're buoyed by Kim's triumph over adversity.
Barefoot Books: Chaunci PirhallaSuccess Secret: Pursue Innovative Marketing that Matches Your Lifestyle Chaunci Pirhalla and her husband ran a language learning business that went under because of the economy. She homeschools her 6-year-old son and has always had a passion for books. That passion, plus the need for a new paycheck, led her to Barefoot Books, a unique line of more than 400 books and activity packs for children. She's found really innovative ways to incorporate this business into her lifestyle. She markets to a homeschooling co-op of 500 families. She partners with farm co-ops in her area to promote the books related to healthy eating and cooking. She's convinced baby boutiques to carry the books on consignment. Chaunci's check average $3,000 a month.
Pampered Chef: Cinnamon BurkSuccess Secret: Follow "3, 2, 1" RuleCinnamon Burk lost her sales job and realized it would be difficult to find a similar position. A friend suggested Pampered Chef and she had nothing to lose by giving it a shot. Cinnamon says success boils down to a rule called, "3, 2, 1," which is part of the training she receives: Make 3 contacts every day, host 2 cooking shows a week and recruit 1 person per month. Research the training tools and support available before signing on with any company. The amount the company invests in videos, pamphlets, catalogues, coaching calls will tell you a lot about the support available.
Other Success Secret Tidbits:
Dove Chocolate Discoveries, which is all about chocolate decadence, recommends that its sellers host fundraisers where a portion of their commission is donated to a cause.
Stream Cosmetics, which sells airbrush makeup and tanning kits, suggests that its sellers use live events, including those attended by professional women, to demonstrate the virtues of its product line. (Confession: I was hooked—and I use the makeup machine every day.)
Every direct seller should embrace social media to spread the word about your products and to stay connected with your growing customer base. Be sure to seek company-offered training. The best direct sales companies offer coaching calls, videos and more, but you have to be willing to participate—and then follow the advice and direction. Finally, check out DirectSelling411.com, the most comprehensive resource on getting started, avoiding scams, and growing successfully in the field of direct sales.