We Need to Reimagine the Direct Sales Party

As part of my consulting work, I often sit in meetings with direct selling companies where at least one person at the table is from Generation Y. And almost without exception, that young person confides at some point during the meeting that they would never host a direct selling party with their friends. It doesn’t matter the company, the product line, or the part of the country, the attitude is always the same.

Does this shock you? It should. And it’s indicative of a massive shift that’s occurring right under our noses.

Right now business as usual is probably going to be OK because our target market is slightly older than Gen Y. But they’re coming. Within 10 years they are going to be our main target market. Maybe some of them will “come around” as they move out of their parents’ houses and buy their own, but can we bank on that? That MAYBE they will change their attitude about the party?

And so our industry is going to have to do something we traditionally find difficult. We are going to have to be nimble. We are going to have to reimagine the shopping experience. Because “business as usual” is only going to take us so far in this rapidly changing environment.

Some companies are already starting to go down this path. Stella & Dot, for example, no longer has a formal presentation. Instead, they simply put out the jewelry and let people try it on. The stylist highlights features more socially than formally as people interact with the product. Other companies need to follow suit.

I recommended to the Direct Selling Association that they include a session on this topic at Annual Meeting, and I’m pleased to see that they have taken that recommendation. It’s incredibly important that we all take a step back and look at our parties. Even if we offer our party in different “flavors,” so to speak, to appeal to different generations, we must go down the path of becoming more social and less formal.

Are you associated with a party plan company? Do you find that members of Generation Y are interested in hosting? Has your company done anything to reimagine the party? What? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

image credit: Cassandra Kinaviaq Rae

25 Responses to We Need to Reimagine the Direct Sales Party
  1. Joie Lehman
    January 31, 2015 | 9:12 am

    I too am in Direct Sales and my focus is on Appreciation Marketing. I don’t do home parties, but I do a great deal of speaking on subject matters that pertain to small business needs. So I stumbled here as a research quest, how I can help others who businesses do thrive on those party sales.

    I read every post, and each and everyone of you have shared wonderful thoughts, which include the dilemmas and resolutions. Thank you Jennifer Fong and all of you who have shared, all of the information is very beneficial to everyone.

  2. Leah
    November 26, 2014 | 1:00 am

    I’m 19 years old and have had 3 party’s already. I love them! All of my friends love them too. You just need to make them more fun and upbeat. Lot’s of nibbles, music, alcohol (my generation LOVE to drink alcohol) and some demo’s, have a bit of fun with it all. Get all the women to go out afterwards, it has to be a fun DAY. Not just a fun 2 or so hours.

  3. Nicolette
    November 19, 2013 | 12:12 pm

    I’m 32 years old. My mom sold house of lloyd when I was a kid and I remember going to the parties to “help entertain the kids” my mom was adamant that the party not interfere with the hostess home as much as possible. I started in DS in April and I see a huge difference in how receptive people are of hosting parties now. It has been my experience that people are more than willing to go to a party they just don’t want to host it in their home because they fear how much it will disrupt their home. People now feel more and more like there needs to be a separation of home from work, from social interaction. Home is more of a sanctuary to many people and they would rather host parties outside of the home… That can be taken literally as in I have done multiple when I suggested bringing a pop up tent and setting it up in the back yard, in restaurants over coffee anywhere but home… offering up my home has become a fast yes to get bookings… Home parties seem like a sales pitch to many people now days… going to a party in my home seems like a personalized shopping spree! Mine are run less like a party and more like a trip to the store. very fast rundown as I hand out refreshments and snacks about the company etc. then I let them shop. I am there to ask questions, I offer them the ability to sit and chat and have more refreshments and snack afterwards and most do! If they don’t I walk them to the door as I thank them ask them if they would like to host a party just like this, I offer the options many ask about the business at that point if not i toss a tid bit in. for those that stay a do another really fast booking session and opportunity session and I do as as in if anyone is interested but hasn’t had a chance to ask yet yada yada…

  4. jan
    January 21, 2013 | 3:05 pm

    I have to say that whole “don’t do a presentation” business is terrible advice! Maybe you don’t want to call it a “presentation” but a game, an activity – something. MUST do something! I’ve walked into parties where everyone acts like the last thing they want to ever do is host a party, but then always leaves with 2+ bookings because I did my game/activity and they got to know me. AND NOT because I twisted any arms. Direct selling is personal! Let them see you as a PERSON!

  5. Scentsy
    March 20, 2012 | 12:57 am

    I honestly host most of my parties and have had them at work after hours of course lol home and online we always have a fun time! I am so open to new fun ideas so i have very much enjoyed reading all these posts and I am super glad I found your webiste! thanks so much

  6. Pat Zahn
    March 8, 2012 | 6:05 pm

    I don’t think it’s just generational since I am well beyond Gen Y and so are most of the customers and potential customers I encounter. There is just a subset of people who don’t like the “party experience.” I’ve always had more luck holding events and introducing people to my products at these events, doing parties as I find those who are into them (I always ask and mention it.) I hear more and more about Consultant self-host parties…
    Pat Zahn recently posted..Scrapbook Confessions – I Used to Like Pinking Sheers

  7. Sue Fernandez
    March 8, 2012 | 11:04 am

    I struggle with this…I love Direct Sales, and used to have a lot of home parties…but now, even I wouldn’t want to do it. People are busy, moms have to cram too much into a day, and honestly…socializing is socializing…they know this isn’t that (if we’re being honest). I liked the idea of meeting out for coffee, wine, etc…this generation is more used to that, and I look forward to other comments. We can pretend it hasn’t changed…but it has. And, with technology…it will continue to change faster than we can imagine.

  8. Vicky
    March 8, 2012 | 9:43 am

    I recently hosted my first Virtual Party by Facebbok with one of the most active ‘attendees’ being Generation Y. My formal script, quiz questions etc. went out of the window as discussions were entered into about the products and ideas for using them. I found this much more personal and positve for sales.

    • Tanya Johnson
      March 8, 2012 | 10:27 pm

      Love this idea, Vicky! Facebook is so Gen Y!
      Tanya Johnson recently posted..Liebster Blog Award!

    • Rhonda Langford
      March 9, 2012 | 6:03 am

      Vicki, could you explain just how you did this Virtual Party? This sounds like something I’d like to try.

  9. Leea Nutson
    March 8, 2012 | 8:11 am

    It would seem at first glance, that the informal party would be easier and simpler to conduct. I have been with PartyLite for 18 years and there have been many changes in the industry, that is for sure. At the same time, I find it really difficult to give people all of the benefits of our product line, plus introduce them to to new items and and show them the versatility of what I have to offer, without some kind of presentation. I want my guests engaged and participating, and I want my show to be fun. But I have found that the stop and shop type of show is exhausting and takes forever. I once had to do ten mini demos for group when the host wanted an informal show. None of the guests had been to a show before and the host wanted me to explain everything to each person as they came in. It took and hour and a half to get that done, whereas a normal show would have taken me a half an hour. I think the key is to streamline your demo and find different ways to present, but nonetheless, it is still our job to make sure that guests know all of the benefits of what we have to offer. If we can’t convey that, then we are doing them a disservice.

    • Tanya Johnson
      March 8, 2012 | 9:09 pm

      Hi Leea!

      Could you break your parties down to focus on a specific product? Instead of trying to showcase every product in your range and spending time on each one, pick one product to focus on at each party. If the guests or host want more information, let them know you can cover that at the next party. It will mean you get more bookings, but can still showcase all your products – just not in one night. That way, your customers still get a chance to have a hands-on experience, without taking up your whole day.

      Our catalogue is quite big, so for me to go through every product we sell would take two days! At each party, I give a demo (presentation) on two things, then everyone gets a chance to play with the third item. I still get questions on how to use the other items in our catalogue, but unless I’m having the party in my own home, I don’t have the product with me. I understand that each company is different, and selling different things means changing your party strategy to suit. Perhaps ask your host what product she’s most interested in, and go with that for your presentation.
      Tanya Johnson recently posted..Liebster Blog Award!

  10. Tanya Johnson
    March 7, 2012 | 6:16 pm

    I fit into the category of Gen Y (just!). A lot of my Gen Y friends are reluctant or unwilling to host a party because:
    – they believe it is just a sales pitch
    – they don’t think their friends will come and
    – they don’t see the benefit of hosting a party

    I think these reasons are based on their idea of what they think party plan is like, or a bad party experience either they’ve had (host), been a part of (guest), or from watching/learning from older women (like their mother’s).

    I run at least one event from home each month and some of these same friends will happily come to my place for all the fun associated with being at a party, without having the perceived issues of hosting one themselves. Of course they also miss out on the host benefits.

    I think with Gen Y’s it’s important to change their perception of what a party looks like! Maybe what we need is to focus more on having fun? What a Gen Y considers a party isn’t the same as what Direct Sellers call a party!
    Tanya Johnson recently posted..Liebster Blog Award!

    • Paula
      March 7, 2012 | 11:40 pm

      I just recently started with a home party company and I prefer to have the parties at my home at this point. I don’t like going to home parties to hear a slick sales pitch and someone trying to coerce me into choosing this date or that date for a party I don’t even want to have. I’m one of the youngest baby boomers and I prefer to have a little bit of information, time to check out what is being sold, sampling it if appropriate, ask questions and being able to order something, or not, without being nudged to spend more money. So, the type of party described in the article is more my speed and I feel more comfortable inviting people when I know it will be like that – especially since I know it will be since I am the Consultant. So far I’ve gotten positive feedback about the parties and the products.

      • Tanya Johnson
        March 8, 2012 | 9:54 pm

        That’s great, Paula! No one likes being felt pressured into buying, hosting or joining – sounds like you’ve found a way that works well for you! Good luck with your new enterprise!
        Tanya Johnson recently posted..Liebster Blog Award!

  11. Christy Busbey
    March 7, 2012 | 10:32 am

    I have seen my “open house” parties result in higher sales and easier bookings. This is where I give a 5 – 10 minute overview of my company, highlight my shopping guide, embroidery guide and then let them shop. Maybe this is the way to go?

  12. Melody
    March 7, 2012 | 10:16 am

    Yes we’ve been focusing on doing home parties differently for more than 5 years now. We teach our consultants to focus on these three: Simple, Sampling and Socializing. Which reminds me I should include this in another training newsletter for my team, haven’t covered it lately.
    Melody recently posted..Do Onions Make You Cry

  13. Becky G
    March 7, 2012 | 9:20 am

    I’m with a high quality kitchen tool/entertaining products direct sales company and we’ve moved toward a very hands-on/interactive party where guests help with the recipe. The company has strongly encouraged consultants to do these interactive shows and good training has been provided on doing them this way. It not only makes it a more informal/relaxed atmosphere (kind of like just hanging out with friends around the kitchen island/counter), but it gets guests’ hands on the tools which helps them see how they can help in their own kitchens. I think this more informal setting is more appealing to the younger generations because it’s not as much of a lecture-type atmosphere.

    • Tanya Johnson
      March 7, 2012 | 5:59 pm

      Hi Becky! The parties I run through my Direct Selling Company have a hands-on component. Personally I believe this is the way to go. Not everyone likes shopping online because when you go to a store you can pick the product up, hold it, examine it. Touch provides an emotional response. This is especially important when introducing your product to a new audience. Re-orders over the phone or from a catalogue might be okay after you’ve introduced your products because they have a better understanding of what to expect. As you say, having a hands-on experience helps the customer to see the potential of the product in their own homes! We try and promote party bookings by telling potential hosts how much fun they’ll have at our parties – what’s fun about sitting in someone else’s home for an hour and a half listening to a stranger talk (read sell) to you? I think in today’s busy world, a hands-on, fun approach will work for all people – not just the Gen Y’s! Imagine the bookings you’ll get when word gets round that your parties are actually fun!
      Tanya Johnson recently posted..Liebster Blog Award!

  14. Rhonda Langford
    March 7, 2012 | 9:20 am

    Suzanne, how do you suggest we handle the “refreshment” aspect of Snap parties, since the host usually provides those?

    • Tanya Johnson
      March 7, 2012 | 6:26 pm

      Rhonda, I think the idea is to meet at a place where you can purchase your own refreshment! I can see how this would appeal to a Gen Y host. Unless she has an interest in cooking and entertaining, or is hosting a cooking/kitchenware/entertaining-style party, the idea of getting domestic for a party can be quite daunting. Unlike their parents, Gen Y’s aren’t necessarily accustomed to inviting friends over for coffee. They’d much rather go out for coffee. Since this is the norm, it would make sense to take the party out for coffee (or lunch) too, if possible!
      Tanya Johnson recently posted..Liebster Blog Award!

  15. Mark Bosworth
    March 7, 2012 | 9:09 am

    I find this topic fascinating. Being older than most people who read this blog, I can vividly remember the year 1986 when I got into the Direct Selling industry with Tupperware. Can you guess what the headlines in the papers were saying about party plan direct selling? “The Party Is Dead”!

    And yet, the party plan method of selling revived with amazing growth from Longaberger, Partylite, Creative Memories, Pampered Chef, Southern Living and many others. In my opinion, all those people who who said they would not participate in a party were saying they would not participate in the parties they experienced with their mothers.

    I think there is something fundamentally human about shopping in an interactive social environment with an interesting product. I think the key will be in knowing what things to change and what to keep the same. However, I’m totally confident that 50 years from now some product will be demonstrated and sold at a “party” in someone’s home. And I look forward to finding out how things change and evolve!

  16. suzanne
    March 7, 2012 | 9:04 am

    Interesting info, Jenn……we’ve talked more about what we call parties in a SNAP…..meet somewhere for lunch or drinks, show a handful of products and talk about them for a few minutes, then let people shop. It may be the trend like you are saying, to get away from home parties, and more toward gatherings in public places……hmmmmm……..need to change our gears a little, I guess. thanks!

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