I like to tell people that, in another life, I was a rep in direct sales.
I actually was one (more than once), but it feels like another lifetime ago.
And I was not a successful one at that. Success as in I didn’t earn a profit from it (except for that one summer that I was a Cutco rep when I made well more than my initial investment). But regardless of how those ventures panned out, the experience of them taught me several things that I’ve carried on with me ever since.
Here are 3 noteworthy lessons I learned from the crazy world of direct sales:
Motivation will only take you so far
One of the things I loved most about my experience as a rep for Cutco Cutlery, New Vision, Monavie, and Mary Kay Cosmetics was the motivating atmosphere and culture that those companies provided us as representatives. Motivational support from your up-line, phone calls, CDs, webinars, and business conferences were a-plenty. There was never a lack of places to turn to for encouragement.
However, no matter how much I enjoyed all the pat-on-the-backs and go-get-um pep talks, I learned that motivation will only take your business so far.
At the end of the day, motivation isn’t going to help you sell the product or sign up a new rep. Motivation wasn’t going to do the hard work necessary to build your business. Motivation alone wasn’t going to help you to grow a team, and it sure wasn’t going to help you become a leader.
There is actual work that you have to do on top of receiving motivation that will help your business grow. Work in the form of income producing activities. In direct sales, that meant that I had to make those phone calls to prospective customers, schedule appointments to meet with people, put on a product presentation, and ask them for the sale. If I didn’t, I was just a business owner according to my business card because without customers, I really had no business.
Motivation can give you the courage to do those income producing activities, but seeking out motivation isn’t an income producing activity on it’s own.
In any business, you should, no doubt, be turning to motivational business materials for encouragement. Seeking out motivation from others is absolutely an important part of being a business owner.
But, again, motivation means little without income producing activities. And you should know what those are for your particular business, as every business is different.
You have to be willing to do the uncomfortable
Every business owner has to face a part of business that they are uncomfortable with. For some of you, uncomfortable might look like introducing yourself as a business owner to complete strangers. For others, uncomfortable might look like raising your prices.
In direct sales, the most uncomfortable thing for me was contacting people to schedule an appointment with them. In the beginning, these were people that I knew, so it wasn’t that uncomfortable. However, as I collected referrals, I needed to call people who had no idea who I was.
That was scary!
But, the only way for me to make money as a sales rep was to actually make sales, and I couldn’t make sales if I didn’t schedule appointments in order to have the opportunity to present the product to them.
Luckily, I had a well rehearsed phone script to follow so that I always knew what to say. But first, I had to embrace the uncomfortable phone conversations by actually picking up the phone and making them.
Eventually, those calls became easier and weren’t uncomfortable to make. I’m willing to bet that whatever it is that you are currently avoiding in your business because it is uncomfortable will also become easier for you to do over time once you get over your fear and just do it.
You have to look for support beyond friends
Just because you opened a new business, don’t expect all your friends and family to jump on board. Everyone you know isn’t going to flock to you and schedule an appointment and throw money at you to buy whatever you’re selling.
In fact, you might find that your friends and family suddenly dodge all your calls, texts, and emails. They might stop inviting you to events because they want to avoid hearing you talk about your new business.
Just don’t take it personally.
Not everyone has the courage to start their own business and much of the cold shoulder you’ll suddenly receive is because of pure jealousy.
And if you’re a life coach, expect your friends and family to really start acting weird around you. (I’m not a life coach, but I do write an inspirational blog at Life Spark with Lauren about how I’ve overcome stress and anxiety in my own life and I’ve definitely noticed a shift in some of my relationships.)
Of course, there will be some who will absolutely make appointments right away and buy from you and that’s great! Make sure that you seek their help by asking them for referrals – their referrals are often the best ones. But tread lightly. You don’t want to abuse your relationship by only turning to them for business help. They will sense the shift in your relationship and will not respond kindly.