*Disclaimer: I sell clothes via a direct sales company with my mom and sister. We have an awesome time doing it and we collectively make an extra few thousand dollars each month. This is NOT typical, and this is NOT an advertisement for whatever it is I sell (wouldn’t you like to know? :-). I consider us “successful” because we have surpassed the financial goals that we set for ourselves when we started. I consider myself “not *that girl*” because my friends said so.
So you want to try your hand at direct sales?
Awesome! So many amazing companies are offering women (and men) options to provide for their families and work a business that they enjoy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something that you do JUST FOR YOU? Wouldn’t it be even better if you made some extra cash while you were doing that something? Direct sales might be for you!
Here’s the problem.
We all have *those* friends. The friends that sell XYZ and are constantly blowing up your Facebook, Instagram, and text messages. The friends that you’ve not heard from since freshman year of college and are suddenly (and constantly) pitching some product in your direction.
Can you be successful with a direct sales company that you’re passionate about WITHOUT being *that girl*? Absolutely. Here’s how:
This is a big one, maybe THE big one. I highly recommend that you start a Facebook GROUP and do NOT use your personal Facebook to promote your business on a regular basis. Occasionally (I’m talking maybe once a month) if we’re having a big event or some sort of special going on, I will post to my personal wall with a link to the group. “But how do I get my friends to join the group?” You add them yourself. Once they’re there, they can exit stage left if they’re not interested. “Who should I add?” I added every woman that I was friends with on Facebook that I thought might (1) want to feel good about herself and (2) wears clothes. Did everyone stay in the group? No. Does everyone that’s in the group follow the posts or even make purchases? No. But if they’re interested, or become interested, they know how to find me. We don’t post on our personal walls asking our friends to promote us, we don’t troll our friends’ friends and send them friend requests or messages to try and gain another customer. If you have a good product you will gain loyal customers, and if you have loyal customers they will add their friends to your group and help you grow your customer base.
2. Treat your business like a business
If you want to truly be successful, don’t treat it like a hobby. Track your expenses, inventory, customers, what incentives work and what incentives don’t work. If you’re going to keep your own inventory, order what your customers want and replace it with what they buy — not with what you want. Set aside time to work your business and have a schedule. Let your customers know your schedule! Brick and mortar businesses have hours of operation clearly posted — customers know what to expect and come to shop when the business is open. Be clear about when you’re having a sale, a Facebook live, an open house. Let your customers know what available dates you have for private parties. Make a plan and stick to it!
3. Trust your product
If you feel the need to shove info about your product down the throats of everyone you know that has a pulse, you don’t really think it’s that great. If you don’t use your product, you don’t really think it’s that great. A great product doesn’t require a constant attitude of “Look at me, I sell XYZ!” A great product sells itself. Wear your product, use your product; your friends, family, and random people on the street will notice and want to know more. If you don’t use whatever it is that you’re selling, people will notice, they will wonder why, and they will not try it for themselves. Imagine this conversation: “Nice to meet you, Sarah — what do you do?” “I’m a nurse practitioner and I sell XYZ clothes!” “Oh! Is that what you’re wearing? I love it!” Which do you think would be a better sales pitch: “No, um, I got this at the mall” or “It is! I’d love for you to come and check out my inventory!”
4. Know when to speak up and when to shut up
Certainly let people know that you have this new passion for XYZ and let them know why it’s so great. Maybe it’s great because you have something for yourself, or maybe because, like me, it gives you more time with your sister and mom. MAYBE it’s that it’s making you a ton of money (I wouldn’t necessarily start off with that one). But tell them once, maybe twice if it comes up again. Do not make XYZ the only thing you can talk about with your family and friends. Do not make it your sole identity. Occasionally I will reach out to friends or acquaintances, past customers or someone I’ve noticed lurking in my group and “liking” the inventory but never pulling the trigger. I ask them if they want to host a get together to snatch up some free items, or come to an open house. I’ve sent messages that have been seen (thank you little chat heads on Facebook Messenger) but not replied to. I’ve gotten flat out “no, I think your product is _____” (fill in that blank with whatever dumb thing people say). Is the next social interaction I have with them awkward? No. Do I bring it up again before they do? No. Maybe I would sell more clothes or have a bigger team if I were aggressive with these things, but if I can be successful, enjoy myself, AND not alienate my friends, I choose that instead.
5. Branch out
You cannot rely on your core group of friends and your family to make your business successful. Hopefully they will give you a nice boost at the beginning, and you should use that momentum, but how many leggings or bags or jeans or essential oils or face creams do your friends really need? That train is going to come back to the station eventually, and before that happens you need to broaden your customer base. Carry samples or gift certificates or whatever you can give away with your business cards EV-ER-Y-WHERE. Someone says they like how your skin is glowing? Give them a sample and a business card (with your Facebook group name or web address on it!). They like your outfit? Give them a $5 or $10 discount off of their first purchase from your shop with your business card. A lot of women I know say this is the most difficult part of direct sales for them. Refer to #3: trust your product! Get out there and share how amazing XYZ is!
6. BE GENEROUS
Treat your customers LIKE GOLD and they will keep coming back no matter what travesty occurs. We do giveaways in our Facebook group 3-4 times each week. We give away clothes, we give away cash or discounts to spend during a sale, free shipping, a pair of earrings to go with their outfit. Let your customers know that you appreciate them! Without them, you would not and will not continue to have success in your business. Yes this can cost you a little bit on the front end, but we find it is so worth it in the long run.