Direct Selling Must Embrace the Virtual Party

Direct Selling Must Embrace the Virtual Party from http://jenfongspeaks.comThe virtual party is swiftly becoming an important part of business for both the party plan and MLM/network marketing sides of the direct sales business model. As consumer shopping preferences evolve, it is becoming increasingly evident that companies must adapt in order to survive. Our salespeople find virtual parties more efficient and far-reaching. They can do more of them in a shorter amount of time. And often our customers are more willing to show up to something for 30 minutes online without having to give up an evening for a shopping experience.

So why are we so bad at them? True, there are some direct sellers who are having success with the virtual party. But companies have been slow to create consistent corporate models that offer the duplication success that our model requires.

Some of this is due to a lack of understanding of what works. Companies must study what is working both within the industry, as well as with their individual salespeople, to identify best practices. But the other challenge is the technology required to create a seamless experience for customers. Facebook by itself does not offer the complete solution. When it comes time to shop, we as an industry need to provide an easy way for customers to add items to a cart without leaving the party experience.

Fortunately, there are industry software providers who are starting to create solutions that hold a lot of promise for our industry. But our industry has been slow to adapt, holding out the adage that the in-person party is still the core business. And while in-person experiences may be ideal, dwindling attendance tells us that we can’t stop adapting. We MUST let our customer lead us in the ways they want to shop, and want to interact with us. What makes us most comfortable, what we’ve designed all of our materials for, may not be the best solution anymore.

It is time for the industry to get fully behind virtual parties, put a serious effort behind creating the materials needed for consistent success, and invest in the technology to support these shopping experiences. It’s time to stop kicking and screaming against change. Because like it or not, the world will evolve with our without us.

Does your company support virtual parties? How is your shopping experience? What best practices have you identified? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments.

Jennifer Fong is a direct sales business consultant who helps startup and established direct sales companies adapt to today’s changing business environment. If your business needs a checkup, contact Jennifer today.

Outdated Technology is Direct Selling’s Biggest Challenge…and Opportunity

Outdated Technology is Direct Sellings Biggest Challenge...and OpportunityWhen you ask a direct selling company what their biggest challenges are, you’ll get a variety of answers, but many are related to technology. “Our software doesn’t support the promotion we want to run.” “Our shopping experience is hard for customers to navigate.” “We can’t run the reports we really need to understand our business.” Poor, outdated technology can have an extremely negative impact on a direct sales business. And because choosing a backend platform is such a large financial investment for a direct sales company, it’s often extremely difficult to fix because changing requires another large outlay of capital.

And tied into these challenges is your consultant portal…the place where your consultants log in to get their information related to the business, run their reports, place orders, and more. These providers often prioritize functionality over user experience, leaving poorly designed portals that frustrate consultants and waste their time. This all negatively impacts a direct sales company’s bottom line.

I believe that our commissioning software providers have an obligation to make significant investments in continuously upgrading their technology platforms to support today’s direct sales business needs. Because of the financial investment required for companies to change, these providers have not been pushed hard enough to stay current, leaving the entire industry with antiquated systems that no longer serve the model. There is not enough fear of financial loss in these providers to force them to make the rapid investments that the industry requires.

There is also an opportunity for new players to enter the market. While our systems are complex, strong technology providers build complex systems for other industries every day, and they do not seem to deal with the same outdated technology issues by which our industry is constantly crippled. Our industry’s needs are related to a robust, programmable commissioning engine, customizable realtime reporting and dashboards, user-friendly and intuitive shopping experiences and replicated websites, robust and customizable promotions engine, and a searchable content and customer management system that enables consultant communication and productivity.

It’s time for every direct sales company to map out the use case scenarios for their ideal business operations. What do you want your system to do from a corporate level? From a consultant level? What is the functionality that will truly help you thrive? Instead of starting from the standpoint of what your system can do, start from your business needs. Collectively our industry needs to be asking our software providers to offer these functionalities so that when companies ask for things they don’t keep hearing “no one else wants that” (tied to a big price tag for customization.) Your software company doesn’t understand your business the way you do. So map it out for them, and help them understand what they need to do to keep your company’s business.

And this helps the software providers too! They want to be your partners. They want to help you be successful because it makes them more successful. But in order to make this happen, we all have to get a lot better at communicating with one another. And our software providers have to be committed to continuous improvement based on the rapidly changing business environment that we are all finding ourselves in today.

The software backbone that supports our industry is only going to get better when we work together. None of us want to become irrelevant due to outdated technology. We have to step up and work together to create the platforms that serve all of us.

Your thoughts? Please share them in the comments below!

Jennifer Fong is a direct sales business consultant who helps startup and established direct sales companies adapt to today’s changing business environment. If your business needs a checkup, contact Jennifer today.

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