Source: The World of Direct Selling
Written by Meredith Berkich. Meredith is a direct selling “champion” with a proven 30-year track record as both independent distributor and C-suite executive, leading companies from trailblazer to legacy. Her deep-rooted passion lies in empowering entrepreneurs and organizations to achieve their highest and best potential.
At Jenkon, Meredith serves as Chief Growth Officer, working with corporate leadership seeking solutions to digital transformation, innovative user experience, and business evolution.
How to Lose Your Salesforce in 90 Days
We’ve seen it over and over and over again. In the beginning, a fledgling direct selling company’s key stakeholders LOVE the direct selling model. They are captivated by the speed to market, the lower start-up costs, the ability to manage the entire customer lifecycle from beginning to end. Leadership is twitterpated with salesforce engagement, customer stickiness, and results-driven marketing. So, founders and their colleagues define their vision and begin heavily investing time and resources in executing:
- The Business Plan
- Investor Relations
- Products Development
- Software & Technology
- Corporate Hires
They devote months or sometimes years:
- Ideating the perfect User Experience
- Creating the Sales System and Tools
- Designing Compensation and Incentives
All of this to attract THE TALENT who will take the foundational vision out into the world. The leaders who will exhibit the qualities others are inspired to emulate. People who will apply themselves and learn what makes the company and products unique and share with unbridled enthusiasm. Most importantly, individuals who will live success with such integrity the masses can take action and follow in their footsteps. As stated by John C. Maxwell “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Everything has been created for them, and the table is set.
As the energy builds, countless sacrifices are made, and finally – it’s launch time. At first, the sheer excitement and adrenaline propels everyone along. Victories are celebrated, setbacks noted, course corrections implemented, and eventually the bumpy jeep ride smooths out (we hope) as travelers move through the deepest part of the jungle. Upon reaching the clearing, the superhighway appears on the not-too-distant horizon and the journey becomes more stable. That’s the plan, anyway.
But unfortunately as time passes, and there is enough data to conduct solid analysis, the harshest reality of direct selling becomes crystal clear: LEADERSHIP LEAVES. For a hundred different reasons, attrition (or churn) is inescapable and is, in fact, within the DNA of our sector. Numbers prove it, year after year, we are in the revolving door business.
Year #1: 80% of Direct Sellers leave
Year #1: 60% of Party Plan Sellers leave
And of those exiting Sellers – over 50% of them leave within the first 90 days.
In horror, executive leadership is left to ask themselves: WHAT DID WE DO WRONG?
The good news: The answer can be summarized in one word
The bad news: Once you lose it, you may never get it back
Or rather shall we say… THE LOSS OF IT. While there are plenty of solutions available to analyze ways to slow the “burn of churn” as they say, at the crux of it all is understanding what specifically is building belief, and what is eroding belief within your organization.
Belief is the Holy Grail of Direct Selling. After 30 years in this sector, having sat in on countless executive committees, leading and participating in hundreds of focus groups, and pouring over thousands of customer exit interviews, I can say the following without a shadow of a doubt. The ancient proverb is true: “Without vision, people perish”. Or in this case, “Without belief, people leave”.
The mishaps, failed strategy, or just plain bad luck which causes loss of belief come in all shapes and sizes, but through the years experts agree they fall into 1 of 5 broad categories. So, if you want to join the status quo in losing your salesforce in their first 90 days, it’s really pretty simple. All you have to do is follow at minimum two proven steps in each of the five “Belief Buckets” and you can accomplish the goal:
Bucket #1 Belief in the Company & Vision
Don’t spend time sharing your vision for the future
Don’t listen to experts about building a culture
Bucket #2 Belief in the Corporate & Field Leadership
Don’t hire management with direct selling experience
Don’t value personal brand or leadership development
Bucket #3 Belief in the Products, Goods, or Services
Don’t create products that are unique or competitive
Don’t provide educational, compliant marketing materials
Bucket #4 Belief in the Direct Selling Business Model
Don’t care about the perception of competing with your field
Don’t engage or support trade associations or publication
Bucket #5 Belief in Self
Don’t invest in technology, tools, or digital transformation
Don’t seek to connect or communicate with customers or distributors
Remember: The internal monolog going through the minds of every person, whether they admit it or not: Can I do this? Is it worth it? Keep in mind at every event, on every webinar, in every conversation – these questions are rolling through the minds of the Talent you need to grow the enterprise.
On a more serious note, if this isn’t what you want (and of course, it isn’t), here is some advice from the specialists: Plan a 2-day, offsite “Creative Session” with your executive team and a 3rd party consultant or advisor. Build an agenda around the following belief-building questions, identify areas where your business needs focus, and come away with a corrective action plan.
Here are the five core beliefs again, with a few suggested conversation areas to get the creative juices flowing.
- Belief in the Company – Vision casting for a long-term, sustainable future
- What inspires and motivates your people to engage and share?
- Why should the salesforce invest their time/talent/treasure with your company?
- Where/How do you communicate the founder/corporate vision – consistently?
- Belief in the Leadership – Authentic leadership is required in all areas, corporate and field
- What is the approach to personal branding for both inside and outside leadership?
- Why should the masses respect and reflect the business practices of your team?
- Where/How are your “influencers” visual in order to build personal credibility?
- Belief in the Products – Brand integrity to be strategically applied to services and compensation
- What is the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for your products?
- Why should customers and associates be excited to share with their circle of influence?
- Where/How do you communicate your differentiators to the field organization?
- Belief in the Business Model
- Why did the founders and key stakeholders choose to enter the direct selling space?
- What is your company’s long-term outlook on the direct selling sector?
- Where/How does the organization promote and engage with trade associations?
- Belief in Self
- What duplication system do you have in place for the average seller?
- Why is digitization and digital transformation important to your company?
- Where/How do you empower people, celebrating them where they are?
Most importantly, take concrete action to win the field. Capture their hearts and minds. Retain the talent. Remember, increasing retention by 5% leads to a 25-95% increase in profit. – Harvard Business
We have the power in direct selling to change the world, one story at a time. Together we can do it, AND the work IS always worth it!