Why Direct Sales Get a Bad Rap: The Realities of Startups

Vietnamese business lady pondering over ideas for new business project

Not everyone can start a business. There. I said it. It takes a lot. It’s not just about having the money, because some businesses don’t cost much to start. It’s not that they don’t want it enough. Maybe it’s that they don’t NEED it bad enough. Back when I started my business (coming up on 5 years ago), I had gotten to a point where I was SO disenchanted with working for other people, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I worked for a lot of different people. In sales, hospitality and marketing. I couldn’t stand the decisions other people made. I couldn’t stand when I could so clearly see the issue from the birds eye view, but didn’t have control of the elements really needed to change. The issue I have with working for other people is that it doesn’t really matter what you actually DO, if you go above and beyond, there’s no real TRUE authentic thank you. You can never revolutionize someone else’s business without their buy in. So I became disenchanted. Miserable. I deplored going into work. I had no control.

When I saw my opportunity, I took it. Believe me, it wasn’t easy. We cut our bills down and lived without luxuries. We cancelled cable, stopped going out to eat, got rid of the lawn service, and stopped going out for drinks with friends. We had as little as $50-$75 after the bills were paid to live off for two weeks. We made it work, because I wanted it. It has its own list of challenges, I seriously struggled to build the business. I’ve struggled to keep clients. I’ve failed to market myself properly over the course of having two children. I even had to let go of the best employee I’ve ever had and an amazing friend who was 8 weeks pregnant at the time. I cried when I told her.

The challenges are legit and they are many. Sometimes my clients don’t pay on time. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with work and have to work every night after-hours for weeks at a time. There is no such thing as vacation. They say that being an entrepreneur means living for a period like most people never would so that you can one day live like most people never will. And because most people never will, only 50% of small businesses will last 5 years. Half of business owners will abandon their dream.

Now, lets talk about task specialization. I swear all this applies, just bear with me. If you’ve ever taken a business or economics class, you might have hear the term task specialization. Task specialization is basically like one of those math problems where Suzie makes 3 shirts in an hours and Bobby makes 5 shirts in an hour. Task specialization is about a select individual taking on a single task rather than multiple so that they can become a specialist in it.

where_focus_foes_robbins_1x1Now. Consider most Direct Sales people. The majority of them already have a job. They’re doing this part time at best. I don’t know about you, but when I get home from work I’m FREAKING TIRED. I can barely deal with my kids, let alone sit down and work for ANOTHER job. It’s like that saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” You need task specialization in order to be really really effective at something. Where focus goes, energy flows.

So all of these things, these doubts, these norms are pushed up against a Direct Sales rep before they even get started. But that’s not all. Because depending on WHY that consultant got started, that reason is going to have a huge impact on whether or not they continue. Are they in it for a “little extra money” or “for the discount” or “free products” or because someone pressured them into it? You can’t make someone passionate about something. And that’s probably my personal belief as to why most Direct Sales reps end up failing – they’re not passionate enough about what they’re doing. They don’t believe in their cause.

Ironically, that is the number one reason that I see other businesses fail, the lack of cause and focus behind it.

But what else? Direct Sales people market like shit. In case you haven’t noticed – no one likes to be interrupted. We’re shutting out the advertising that interrupts our lives on an every day basis. Television commercials, radio ads, pop-up blockers, direct mail, billboards. “It’s branding” they say. But it’s really just interruption. “We interrupt this regularly scheduled program in hopes that this MIGHT apply to you.” —- and that’s the way that Direct Sales reps are marketing. It’s like fucking spaghetti. They throw that shit against the wall and see who sticks.

But the problem with that is that, like my own marketing clients, they’ve forgotten about the human. I won’t launch to far into it. I already went on a rant telling Direct Sales people why “No one wants to buy your direct sales shit.”

So, how are you successful in Direct Sales? Here are my tips. For the record, I have never been successful in Direct Sales, for the some of above reasons, but I’ve been marketing for a decent amount of time and I know which businesses stick. Take it or leave it, here are my tips.

  1. Find a CAUSE that you’re passionate about. You can’t just jump into this shit because your cousin told you it was a “great opportunity” or – “You get a discount if you join” – because getting a discount only matters so much to you. But if you can find a cause that you love and products that you’re really passionate about that solve a problem – you’re going to do much better than marketing something because you can get it 30%-50% off.
  2. Commit to it. Commitment problems suck. People are so ADD these days we can’t even get onto our phones to check the time without checking Facebook or going on an cat meme binge. But so many of these businesses don’t succeed because the women starting them aren’t committed to that success. Which brings me to my next tip…
  3. Set your goals words written on lined paper with a pen on itSet a goal. Nothing will happen unless you make it. It’s like Newton’s Law, right? Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in a state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. If you don’t set a goal and start working towards it and put no effort into getting to a place of success, you can only expect to stay in the exact same spot. Without a goal, there’s no plan of action, with no action there is no progress. You are your own external force, so decide which way you’re moving and spend your energy on ways you’ll get there.
  4. Don’t give up. Getting discouraged happens a lot in business, but tenacity is almost always rewarded. I’d say the average amount of time I’ve watched a direct salesperson on Facebook that doesn’t succeed actually work on their business is 1-2 months. When I think of any journey that I’ve made, I never became extremely successful at anything in that amount of time. Shit, my business is coming up on its 5 year anniversary next month and I STILL am not sure whether or not I can call it a success. But one thing is certain, you will not succeed if you give up. It will end. The world is not magic. You can’t stop putting effort into something and expect something to happen.
  5. Give a shit. The reason I ask you to find something you’re passionate about, is because you’ll care so much more about your business, your products and your customer base if you have a cause that you’re passionate about. It won’t feel like sales and marketing, it’ll feel like changing people’s lives. The magic of successful marketing doesn’t come in the stuff, it comes in the message. Take care of your customers, care about service and their experience with your products and you’ll succeed.
  6. Be fucking ethical.
    I could go on for days about the crappy marketing tactics I’ve seen, but – I already wrote that blog. The opposite side of that spectrum is don’t be shady. Don’t use tactics to get someone to purchase your products or sign up with your team. Be real. Be honest. And golden rule some bitches. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right. Do unto others. The more ethical you are, the more karma will come back in the form of referrals, new business and great strategic partnerships. You can’t create interest where there is none, so don’t just get into a numbers game where you spam people with information until someone finally caves. It’s not how you would want to be marketed to if you had no interest in something, so don’t do that to other people.

I know they’re kinda basic. But there’s no one certain recipe for success, it’s mainly about experimenting. Go hard at this. It could be the key to your freedom. But go hard in a way that people can relate to. We spend so much time blocking out sales messaging, that you have to approach it in a way that’s authentic. And authenticity almost never comes out of someone else’s tactical strategy. Use the resources that your mentors give you, but produce your own spin on it. Never come across like a robot, never ask for sale, just keep helping and you’ll inevitably build an empire of passionate people that trust you and turn to you to solve their problems.

Next up we’ll chat about some direct sales opportunities that I’ve seen and I’ll give my honest opinion on the opportunities and products.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *