From Jennifer: Today is the final post in our series of guest posts while I’m on vacation. Many, many thanks to all the great contributors who gave us lots to think about this week. (And many thanks from my kids, too, who got to spend some quality time with mom!)
Today’s post is from my friend Brett Duncan, Senior Director of Global Online Solutions for Mannatech. I first met Brett at the DSA Marketing and Communications seminar in Las Vegas last December, and have enjoyed continuing that relationship through Facebook, Twitter, and his excellent blog, Marketing in Progress. Today, he offers some great advice for how direct sales companies can best help their distributors by facilitating relationships. Enjoy!
What Jimmy Carter Knows About Running a Direct Sales Company
by Brett Duncan
I confess: I don’t know much about President Jimmy Carter. When I hear his name, I think of a near perfect southern drawl, Habitat for Humanity, and the guy before Reagan. And, mostly, I see the picture you see here. This is probably familiar to you, too. This is when Carter brought together the leaders of Egypt and Israel and negotiated peace between them in the Camp David Accord. A monumental moment; an iconic photo.
One thing I do know a little something about, though, is working on the corporate side of a direct sales company. I’ve been doing it for most of the past eight years, and I’ve seen my ideas and ideals of how things work best evolve at almost light speed. A couple weeks ago, though, I came to this conclusion: the corporate office works best playing the role of Jimmy Carter.
Think about it. What’s Jimmy doing? He’s essentially bringing two people together who really need to meet each other. He’s stepped in as the US President and used his power, influence, connections, experience and budget to spark this introduction. He’s doing what they individually cannot. It’s a win-win-win situation.
And this is what we should be doing at corporate. We can’t sell product. We can’t recruit people. We can’t host parties (not those parties, anyway). We completely rely on our distributors to do that. That’s at the very hub of our industry. Many a direct sales company has lost sight of that over the years, and it NEVER works.
But that doesn’t mean we at corporate don’t play a critical role in this process. Our first job is to facilitate evangelism. This can come in many forms: developing amazing products that are easy to sell; creating a compensation plan that is lucrative and rewards the right people; shipping out product consistently; mailing checks on time; answering the phone with a friendly voice. The list can go on.
And we can also foster relationships. That’s what Jimmy’s doing in this picture. He’s introducing two people, and letting them take it from there. If the direct seller is the greatest feature AND benefit of direct sales (and she is), then the more prospects that can be introduced to the direct seller, the better off everyone will be.
Fostering Relationships Takes Many Forms
So what does this look like? It’s hard to describe, but I think some examples could do the trick:
- Endorsements with major athletes is an excellent conversation starter and ice breaker that helps distributors introduce themselves to certain markets.
- Putting together sample versions of products is another great way to help distributors feel comfortable talking about the product.
- Advertising, be it traditional or newer media, can sometimes generate leads for distributors. This could be as varied as full TV campaigns to targeted pay-per-click advertising. (I say sometimes because there are plenty of examples where this has not worked in our industry, unfortunately.)
- Simply producing impressive, effective tools is all many distributors need to help them make more calls and have more meetings.
- Nationwide direct mail campaigns to promote specials or upcoming events gives distributors a reason to follow up with new prospects and current customers.
- Establishing a fair but effective leads program that benefits the prospect as much or more than the distributor. (I know this this can be a hot topic.)
In all the above examples, it really does take a corporate structure (and budget) to make it happen. But it’s up to the distributor to take it from there.
I normally lean toward the whole “the government that governs least governs best” sort of mentality when it comes to corporate’s role in direct sales. Yes, there must be clear policies, and yes, we must be good stewards of the brand and our people, but we also must remember that we give our distributors the ability to build their own business. In other words, I love it when distributors don’t rely on corporate and take the opportunity and go hog-wild with it. Still, we “at the office” have to remember that we have capabilities at our disposal that our sales force simply doesn’t. If they can be used to foster more relationships and introduce more people to our people, then we should do it.
Just like Jimmy did.
What are some good examples of how your corporate team helps introduce YOU to more people?
Brett Duncan is Senior Director of Global Online Solutions for Mannatech. His marketing and communications blog, MarketingInProgress.com, tries to make sense of the blur that is marketing today for the entrepreneur. Check it out, and follow him on Twitter: @bdunc1. His opinions in this post are solely his own and don’t reflect those of any current, former or even future employer.