Why is Direct Sales Changing?

If you’ve been involved with direct selling for any length of time at all, you know that today’s direct sales (aka social selling) company looks a lot different from those of years past. It’s created quite a challenge for established companies who seek to be relevant to the next generation of salespeople and consumers. While it used to be that companies could rely on their salespeople to do all the marketing of products to their social circles and training consultants face to face, today the entire concept of “social circle,” along with the way consumers expect to have access to goods, services and information, has shifted dramatically. And this has created a massive shift for our industry.

What has caused this shift? Here are some of the reasons:

  • website-montageOnline Shopping: Online shopping is an amazing thing for today’s busy consumer. Rather than have to rely on store hours and leave the house or place of business, we can go online at anytime, when the need arises, and find exactly what we need. And this ease of access has changed consumer expectations about how they can get our products, too. It used to be that products “only available from a consultant” lent an air of mystery and desirability. Today’s direct sales company can still make products only available through a consultant, but that consultant better have a website with online shopping! And it had better be easy to shop immediately from the corporate website. If you expect a consumer to wait or jump through hoops to shop with your company, you will not survive in this competitive marketplace.
  • Amazon Prime: Another thing that has changed consumer expectations dramatically is Amazon Prime. If I can pay $99 bucks annually and get everything I want within 2 days with free shipping, why can’t I do that with you? This is a huge struggle for our industry, because the fact of the matter is that UPS, FedEx and the rest of them are expensive! Add to this that ground shipping across the country can take up to 7 days, and we can feel like dinosaurs when it comes to delivering our products in a timely way. In my opinion, direct selling companies are going to need to band together to achieve the critical mass necessary to qualify for lower shipping rates. Do it yourself warehousing is on the way out. And warehouses MUST be either centrally located in the middle of the US, or multiple warehouses throughout the United States must be put into place to achieve faster shipping times.
  • Virtual Party Facebook and other Social Networks: The entire concept of “social” has changed in the last few years. Direct sellers are no longer limited by a geographical area, and those that we think of as friends often expands to people we have never met in person but see everyday online. This is a huge opportunity for our industry, the original social sellers, but we have to enable our salesforce with the technology that will support sales and recruiting to this expanded social circle. This includes “virtual party” technology, autoresponders, online chat, and a host of other technologies that support and extend social selling and training beyond the living room.
  • Khan Academy, and other online learning platforms: The way our industry trains is affected too. In-person meetings, once the lifeblood of our industry, have met with dwindling attendees. Part of the reason is that just about everyone has discovered that they can learn just about anything online, even in a group setting, and it costs a whole lot less. Khan Academy, for example, provides a huge amount of outstanding video training, absolutely free! With direct sales trainers offering free and low-cost webinars all the time, it’s up to companies to provide similar learning experiences if they want to ensure that their salespeople get company-approved training that’s relevant and on-message. This means that every direct selling company needs a learning management platform, and content that takes into account the many different learning styles of people today. For example, I recently just completed the development of a new consultant training program that included video, on-screen content that mirrored the video content (for those that prefer to read instead of watch) and downloadable handouts (for those that want to take the content with them.) That combined with this company’s online community on Facebook and weekly webinars created an environment where people could learn without ever leaving their homes. And this is what today’s consultant expects from you too.

The new social selling, whether your company calls itself a party plan or an MLM or Network Marketing company, is necessarily something new. Technology-enabled companies that support salespeople in reaching their social circles wherever they may be, in both group and individual ways, is what the new direct sales company looks like. Companies that are willing to make the shift in a timely way are the ones that will excel in the next 5-10 years in this industry.

Your thoughts? Please share them in the comments!

5 Responses to Why is Direct Sales Changing?
  1. Grzegorz Szymański
    March 3, 2016 | 5:44 am

    Very good , substantive article . It’s a nice change from texts dripping with motivation and not much of applicants to the subject. I live in poland. In this market over the last twenty years , the direct selling industry has undergone tremendous evolution in the right direction . The emphasis on ethical operation , sales training, product quality , complex systems work. All these elements have been introduced and improved . I hope that I have written in an understandable way .
    Grzegorz Szymański recently posted..25 Powodów aby zacząć w marketingu sieciowym

  2. Ann
    March 20, 2015 | 6:53 pm

    I have been in direct sales/home parties since 1976. I made a six figure income in the 80’s and watched how new party plans were extremely successful and then slowly faded out as new companies evolved. I decided to start my own company three years ago and just as I was starting to become successful I suddenly lost my son and my husband. I have two websites that I have ignored due to grief. I am feeling better but I have realized that the party plan industry has totally changed. It is so difficult to get women to commit to having a party and the products look so much better in person than on a website on in a catalog. Most women want to sell from a website and not leave their homes. I sold tons of kits every week to very excited women but they could not book parties. I have had a website since 1980 and my name has become a brand generating lots of views and leads every day. How can I sell my on-line party plan business and/or leads and move on with my life? I have found that if you can join a company that sells products with a three month auto-ship that you will be guaranteed decent money but you have to continually replace the customers as they drop away after the three months are up. I find that is a hard sell and it is not what I want to do. Also in order to get parties you have to do lots of vendor events to get new chains going and the cost of the events takes away from your commissions because you never know how much you are going to sell. Party Plan has definitely changed through the years especially with I phones, I pads, and computers. Women now text to each other and never talk!!

    • Lizz
      March 11, 2016 | 2:38 pm

      Hi Ann –
      You are absolutely correct on this post. Did you ever get to where you wanted to with your business?

  3. janet wakeland
    February 5, 2015 | 12:45 pm

    This is on the mark and as an 18 year veteran of Direct sales/mlm home party plan , the social media support and forward thinking is exactly what drew me to my choice for my 2nd career and next phase in Direct Sales/party plan/MLM!

  4. Bernice
    February 4, 2015 | 8:39 pm

    You are so right on. I welcome online training, as having to drive to a meeting takes up a lot of valuable time, especially when it is 50-60+ miles round trip, freeway construction, traffic delays, traffic congestion, other time commitments, etc. A phone call, emails, texting, webinars, online information (videos, downloads) etc are so much more efficient for training purposes. The business still requires the one-on-one approach for establishing relationships with customers. However, the shipping costs and timeliness of orders is something that I hear about from customers a lot.

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