Direct Sales – Chapter 8

Believing in your product as well as believing in yourself

The manner in which you handle the products that you wish to sell to your customers is very important, especially when you are actually demonstrating their usage. In this day and age where money is often in short supply and items are expensive, it is critical to show people that they are paying for quality items. This also relates to the way in which you package each individual order. I mentioned this in an earlier chapter, but cannot emphasise enough just how important this part of the business is. Imagine spending several hundred bucks of hard earned cash on some exciting new products and then, when they are delivered to you, it is very apparent that they were roughly shoved into a plastic bag and just tied at the top with a knot. In the case of cosmetics, this kind of handling could result in broken lids and spilt contents. Care and consideration are the operative words at every turn if you wish to be seen as a reputable sales representative.

So, you really do believe in the products you sell, and you have many satisfied customers to attest to their vast benefits. However, do you believe in yourself? If you have a difficult time where interaction with others is concerned, then it’s a good idea to make a list of all your good points and feed yourself positive reinforcement by reading and re-reading each one of the qualities you have listed. You might feel that you are a good listener, or have a great sense of humour, or have a passion for young children or animals. Every one of these is a very positive trait and something which makes you, and you alone, unique. We all have days when we doubt our capabilities but once you start making money through direct selling, you will be amazed at just how much more confident you feel about yourself.

It is a sad fact of life that many human beings take great delight in offering sympathy when those around them are having a tough time. They may wallow in hearing about your struggles when you first start your new endeavour.  It makes these people feel superior in many cases and doesn’t do much for your upliftment. What you really need is to be motivated to dust yourself off, ands to get out there and do something which makes you feel positive once again. To be told by others that they know how you feel (which is usually a lot of garbage) when you are struggling with  actually trying to get your sales going, or even having to cope with a difficult customer, isn’t going to solve anything. These so-called well- meaning individuals need to be avoided at all costs when you are going through a bit of a rough patch. Far better to read a motivational book of one kind or another or watch a movie which makes you laugh a lot or better still, go for a jog or a nice brisk walk! A nice glass of wine is often just what is needed when all else fails!

“If you have a voice within you say “you cannot paint”, then by
all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
– Vincent van Gogh

Something else to avoid in order to feel confident and in control, is not to compare yourself and your sales with anyone else. This is not always easy when you attend sales meetings and recognition is given to those top achievers. Try to use times like this as a motivating factor which allows you to aim higher, knowing that if others are capable of doing so well in the business, then there is no reason  why you can’t do the same. It isn’t a case of comparison, it’s simply understanding that everyone has a different home life and for some, sales and making mega bucks is what makes the world go round. You may have a demanding family, and your selling business has to slot in with the needs of a spouse and children, and possibly even members of your extended family as well.

The best advice I was ever given was to only compare yourself with yourself. In other words, by keeping records of your previous months’ sales figures you, and only you, can decide to better those figures if you so wish. Your company will always be dangling that proverbial carrot in front of you and once they see your capabilities, that carrot becomes bigger and bigger! However, your success is in your own hands and it is up to you to either take up a sales challenge or just to ignore it and work at a pace which fits in with your personal life. The best part about working for yourself (and direct selling is working for yourself) is that, as your circumstances change over time, you can decide to spend more time and effort in increasing your business. You may even wish to become a sales leader and have a team of representatives in your group whom you train and motivate, and ultimately enjoy the benefits of their sales as well as your own.  Being involved in direct selling is an exciting world to be part of and you will probably be encouraged to attend training seminars over the years. The more you achieve and the more you receive recognition for your hard work and good results, the more you will find that believing in yourself, as well as the products which you promote, becomes second nature and your confidence will know no bounds.

I sincerely hope that the information which is contained in these chapters assists you in having a happy and productive time during your direct selling career. Good Luck!

“With realisation of one’s own potential and self-confidence
in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”
– Dalai Lama

Update and Comments: 8 March 2020

Wouldn’t it be great if …?

The whole world seems to be completely obsessed and paranoid regarding this rather frightening Coronavirus (Covid-19), and it might be a good idea just to change topics for a brief moment. Hence my latest, possibly rather frivolous, update which I hope lets you forget the doom and gloom of a possible impending annihilation of the entire human race as well as the endless discussions of the need for facemasks  and hand sanitiser which have dominated the media over the past few days.

With all the incredible inventions, as well as technological advances which surround us and seem to be racing ahead on a day to day basis, why hasn’t someone managed to invent a way of eliminating dust once and for all? It would be amazing, and a wonderful time saver, if once the mindless job of dusting was completed, it did not need to be repeated ad infinitum throughout one’s lifetime. Removing dust from every nook and cranny is just one of those irritating and necessary chores which never goes away. It’s fine if you are someone who can ignore that murky looking film, covering every possible surface, which arrives out of nowhere just when you have the least time and so many important matters which need your attention.  Now for your own sanity as well as your sinuses, you have to drop what you are doing and dust! What a pain!

Another thought is that it would be ideal if one were able to slow down hair growth when time and money are important factors in one’s life.  When you finally find a hairdresser who does exactly what you want after you have spent valuable hours sitting in the salon and the expensive result makes you look quite amazing, why can’t you slow down your hair growth for several months so that you can have time to really enjoy your new look? What happens? Two weeks down the line and that fringe needs a trim, the colour you paid a fortune to achieve is fading and your roots are beginning to show.  You have hardly managed to get used to the “new you” and you are rapidly heading back to the “old you”!

I am not wanting to create even more unemployment than is currently the case and dusting does create jobs, but it would be nice sometimes to be able to slow certain things down such as cleaning as well as hair growth (apologies here for those who are trying so hard to speed up the work of the follicles – nothing personal meant at all). If anyone is desperately planning on becoming an inventor, well maybe these are two avenues you could consider exploring. I won’t even ask for a commission for giving you the idea!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and Comments: 14 February 2020

Pavlov and the salivating dog scenario

Well, our dear Kelly, who is now 16 months old and an almost fully grown, very spoilt and rather bolshy German Shepherd, has finally decided that the pool can be a lot of fun. It has been a bit of an effort to get her to realise that, if she gets in on the top step, she can stand quite comfortably. Ever since she was a young puppy, she has had an obsession with water. She was the only member of her puppy socialisation class who raced straight over to the large bowl of water in the middle of their cordoned off area and proceeded to splash around like a lunatic. Here at home, being sprayed all over whilst the garden is being watered, is the fun activity on a hot afternoon, but this summer she has been reticent about getting into our pool.

Allthough last summer we did manage to encourage her to venture into the pool on two occasions, she made sure to get as far away as possible from me each time I had a swim. Obviously dreading my trying to get her to join me. So, last week, we decided that it was time to get her over that barrier of avoidance and try to coax her into the water. After all, we are heading towards the end of summer, so it’s now or never. My better half (so named for this article at least!) put the chain on Kelly and she soon decided to slide onto the top step of the pool. That first day we didn’t force any swimming, but she seemed to enjoy the wading around for several minutes, before trying to clamber out on her own. She has serious hip dysplasia (which was never revealed to us by the breeder) and swimming is highly recommended for her.

On day two, as soon as she had the chain around her neck, it did the trick and she didn’t need to be chased around the garden. I removed the chain as soon as she was in the pool and that day, I actually pulled her off the top step and she swam like an Olympic athlete and appeared to be very proud of her achievement. We had decided that we should put a few layers of bricks on the top step to assist her so that, instead of her having to struggle with her weak back legs, she is able to clamber out with her dignity intact.

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The point I am making here is that, when one looks at how relatively easy it is to teach a young dog, then Pavlov’s theory of Classical Conditioning is certainly what it’s all about. She associates the chain with the fun of getting into the water. Fortunately, there is no food involved in Kelly’s swimming training, so it is far more pleasant to see her doing her strong strokes in the water than salivating all over the place! Maybe I will soon be able to show her the chain without actually putting it around her neck, and she will get into the pool with no encouragement so she can have her daily swim. It makes one feel a bit more comfortable knowing that, if she were to fall in the water, she now recognizes that she has to swim to the shallow end in order to be able to get out.

It is much easier to waterproof a dog than a child, but the responsibility of ensuring that there are no unforeseen occurrences is something which one has to be aware of in order to prevent a tragedy. Taking responsibility is part and parcel of life, whether we like it or not.  Therefore, it is with a certain degree of relief that we now know that Kelly is a good swimmer and knows how to get both in and out of the water without any discomfort.  In fact, today she didn’t need to use the bricks at all and clambered out with total ease. Success!

I am off now to get the canine family member back in the pool, as rainy weather could arrive unexpectedly judging by the rather threatening clouds I can see from my office window.

“I’m trying to do the best I can
– Michael Phelps

Oh, nearly forgot – for those of you who are romantics – A very Happy Valentine’s Day for 14 February.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and Comments: 3 February 2020

Never Just Another Day !

Every day is a clean slate in many ways, and you just never know what you are likely to experience. Sometimes you tend to feel battered and bruised, especially when you are let down by friends and family who somehow just don’t do what you would have expected them to do. The only way to cope with these disappointments is to always try to remember that, no matter how much we think we know another person, everyone has their own unique agenda, and way of going about life.  It is somewhat egocentric to think that somebody else is actually capable of even knowing how you feel and what you expect from them. The upside is that life is rarely dull and boring when you are in contact with other members of the human race. That having been said, even one’s four- legged family members are often a complete enigma and can be full of surprises – not always what you would have anticipated or even considered when they came into your life.  That is another story entirely.

If you are, like me, a person who has always been labelled as talkative (at least one junior school report stated, “Judith would do better to listen more, and talk less!”) then it can really be a big advantage once you leave the restrictive school environment. When it comes to getting to know other people then it really is far easier if one tends to be more of an extrovert than an introvert. The years should have taught us to use our ears twice as much as our mouths, and then the interaction with new acquaintances is likely to yield some amazing facts. Nothing is more rewarding than finding that you connect really comfortably with someone you just happened to meet along life’s way, purely by starting a conversation.

There is always likely to be something which any two people have in common, be it age, culture, career, one’s children, pets or even just being in the same place at the same time. So often you stand in a queue waiting to be served and the person in front of you may seem quite unfriendly, judging by their demeanour. However, just a word about the weather or a comment regarding the products you have purchased, may result in a total change of mood and you find you have a very pleasant interaction until it is your turn to be served. Poking fun at yourself is also an ice breaker and it is good if we are able to take ourselves less seriously than we may have done when we were younger.

The reason for this piece of writing is due to my having had a really great experience last week. Walking through a local shopping centre, I happened to find myself passing a woman who was working on her laptop whilst having a cup of coffee. I couldn’t resist just making a comment regarding never being able to get away from one’s work. She responded immediately and it was very refreshing to discover that we had quite a similar outlook on life despite a difference in age as well as culture.  When I left I just felt that I needed to give her my business card, purely so she would have my mobile number as well as my e-mail address. A few days later I was absolutely thrilled to receive a short message from her saying how much she had enjoyed our conversation. I will definitely be keeping in touch with her as, seeing what it is that she does for a living, opens up many areas of common interest which would make for great future conversations.

So, my words of wisdom, for what they are worth, are that the best way to handle each day with all its potential challenges and stresses is to go out there and face the world and expect the unexpected! With a bit of luck, whatever the day may bring, as long as you have the right state of mind, you will experience more positives than negatives which should leave you feeling satisfied when evening comes and you finally drift off into the Land of Nod.

“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect
– Oscar Wilde

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Direct Sales – Chapter 7

Giving Quality Service

One of the first things that needs to be borne in mind as you enter the exciting world of direct selling, is that most of us have become used to receiving poor service far too often. If your aim is to strive to always give your customers the best possible service, then you will gain their trust and loyalty. It takes just as much time to do things properly as it does to be slapdash in your approach to anything you may be undertaking. Therefore, regardless of how small or large a customer’s order is, treat each one with the respect and gratitude which they deserve. Even a small order should be packaged with as much care as your biggest order of the month. To use a piece of curled ribbon to close the package and then to add a small handwritten thank you tag adds a very professional, personal touch.

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If possible, find out whether or not the customer is able to purchase the product which they wish to order this month, at a reduced price next month. By doing some homework (often by asking your area manager) you are sometimes able to tell your customer that, if they wait until the start of the next promotion then they stand to save a fair amount on their purchase. If you ignore this, and just happily place orders which you know may be reduced in the following month, your customer is going to feel cheated when they realise that they have paid more than they needed to had they waited a few weeks. Obviously, this doesn’t always work out to their benefit if they need the product in a hurry. However, they will probably appreciate the fact that you bothered to try to help them save some money.

Another tip is to keep a record of the kind of products which each regular customer seems to be interested in buying. Then, if you see a good deal coming up which includes these products, call them and inform them that they will soon be able to buy items in that range which may be of use to them. Once again, a small thing to do, but it can certainly gain you those much needed brownie points which put you ahead of many of your competitors out there in the sales world. There are always going to be many other people selling the same products as you, but by being one step ahead when it comes to service, this will pay dividends in the long run.

When a mistake is made on an order (and it can happen easily when you are tired, and keying in your product codes at night) then you have to do your level best to rectify the error without inconveniencing your customer. This often can be done with the assistance of your area manager if he/she is giving you the support which you need in this business. Sometimes the customer never even realises that you have made a mistake provided you correct the error as timeously as you are able. Should the worst case scenario be that the product which you mis-ordered or omitted is no longer available, then you need to placate the customer as best you can. Sometimes a small gift in apology may be enough as most people are relatively tolerant where genuine mistakes are concerned, especially if one is honest about the situation.

When someone asks you about a product which no longer seems to appear in the current catalogue, then do your best to find out for them whether it is off range, coming back soon, or totally discontinued. Then you may be able to offer them a suitable replacement item at a similar price. Once again, you are showing that you care about their needs and concerns and, by getting back to them speedily, you will be held in high regard as far as customer service is concerned.  Never be slow at getting information back to your customers, as it takes very little time to pick up your phone and explain to them what you have found out.

“I never dreamed about success – I worked for it.
– Estee Lauder

Most importantly, and I am sure that I have mentioned this in a previous chapter, always do what you promise to do. If you tell a customer that you will deliver her order on a certain day at a specific time, then make sure that you fulfil your promise. If you are running late, then make sure that you inform the customer so that they are not hanging around waiting for you and getting agitated by the delay. Everyone’s time is valuable, and you need to bear this in mind at all times. When you phone someone, it is courteous to ask them whether or not this is a convenient time to talk to them before you start trying to engage in conversation. If you are unable to speak to them on the phone, then an sms or WhatsApp  message or voice note can be used as an acceptable substitute on certain occasions. Bear in mind though that nothing is better than actually speaking to another person rather than relying on the sending of messages. Too often it happens that the meaning of a message is misconstrued due to the lack of tone. Something might appear to be rude or abrasive when it is only read, whereas when one speaks there is feeling in the words being used.

When you treat your customers well they will tend to have a good feeling towards spending their hard earned cash when buying your products. We have all had experiences with bad salespeople when we have been forced out of necessity to purchase something from them and then feel cheated by the way in which we have been treated by them. The more money that we paid makes the experience the more sickening. What a difference it makes when the salesperson goes one step further than necessary just to make the entire interaction a “wow” one! This tends to be far too rare in this day and age, but you can re-invent the wheel and show your customers just what good service is all about.

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One final point and that is to try to put yourself in the shoes of your customer, so to speak, and to imagine how you would like to be treated, and what would make you, as a customer, become loyal to this particular salesperson. Loyalty is as rare a commodity as good service these days, so it is no mean feat to gain customers who are unlikely to start buying your range of products from another sales agent. With a little bit of caring and doing the job as best you can, there is no reason for you not being respected for what you are doing out there in the world of direct selling.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act,
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Direct Sales – Chapter 6

Money Management

One of the most important aspects pertaining to your new career in direct sales, is how you are going to handle the money side of your new business. Right from the very start you need to be very strict with yourself and understand that the money which your customers hand over to you does not belong to you. You only receive your portion once you have paid your account with your company. The difference between the amount of money which you collect from each customer as you deliver their orders to them and the total which you need to hand over to the company equals your commission.  This is your salary.

When people pay you in cash it is very advisable to immediately put this money into a separate box or wallet, away from your day to day cash flow until you have to pay your account. There are some direct selling companies who ask you to pay them as you place your order. In this situation you have to tell your customers that they need to give you the relevant amount of money as they place their order with you. Issue them with a receipt for the amount they give you so there is no conflict at a later stage.  Depending on the sophistication of your customer, you may find that some of them prefer to do a bank transfer into your account instead of dealing with cash. By the same token, you may be able to do a transfer into the account of the company for whom you are selling, thereby ruling out the need to carry large amounts of cash around. It all boils down to understanding and facilitating your own as well as your customers’ specific needs.

It is critical to always be very strict with your money handling as nothing could be worse than thinking you have more to spend than you actually do, and then finding out to your horror that you have been using cash which was given to you by a customer when they placed their order with you.

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Try not to become despondent in the early days when you see that you have made a very small amount of profit after having to purchase catalogues, and maybe some sample products as well. Rome was not built in a day, and it takes patience, dedication and a certain amount of hard work to build up your new direct selling business. Eventually you will come to realise that there will be good months and then much leaner ones as well, and sometimes this may be linked to the time of year. However, my advice is to try to ignore the idea that January will be a tough month for sales, as often you may find it to be one of the very best months for you. People will tell you that in South Africa where April is full of public holidays, your sales will suffer. This is certainly not a fact to worry about as it all depends on how you approach your business. By keeping your customers updated and telling them about any special offers and promotions the time of year may prove to be unimportant.  For example, after spending a lot of hard- earned cash on gifts for other people at Christmastime customers often feel the need to spoil themselves at the start of a new year.

I cannot emphasise enough just how important it is to conduct your monetary affairs efficiently in order to prevent problems popping up which could be very detrimental to the success of your new career. If you become known as a late account payer you may find that any credit facilities which your company gave you in the beginning get taken away, and you now have to pay before taking delivery of your orders. This, of course, is the situation if you were previously allowed credit which enabled you to take delivery and then pay later.

I have heard over and over again the story of how someone joined a direct selling company only to land up with non-payments by customers. The only way to prevent this from happening is either to ask for payment up front before ordering the items or not to hand over the product until you have been paid. In the latter situation, should the customer give you a story as to why they no longer have the money to pay you, you at least have the option to either re-sell the item or to send it back to your company for a credit on your account, explaining why you are sending it back.

Another piece of advice which you may find useful is to set yourself a goal and even to put a picture of what it is that you are striving to achieve, up on the wall in your office, or on the front of your fridge. This will serve to reinforce your determination to make a success of your sales business. If the money you make from direct selling is going to be extra income then it is obviously going to be much easier for you to set a goal which may be viewed as a luxury e.g. a trip away, an item for the home or something for yourself which you have always wanted but couldn’t afford on your regular income. Obviously, if you are starting out in direct selling and are feeling pretty cash strapped, then maybe your goal should be more in the line of finding more customers in order to boost your sales. After all, the more you put into the job, the more you are likely to get out of it in the long run. Be that as it may, a goal is always a good idea as it gives you the motivation to carry on carrying on even when you are feeling a bit down and despondent due to perhaps having lost a customer or finding that this particular month is harder than the previous ones have been .

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The only way to increase your income is by selling more products and having more customers. It is an ongoing situation whereby you constantly have to let everyone with whom you come in contact know what it is you do for a living. Carry catalogues and business cards (if you decide that you need to have some to assist with your sales) in your bag, in your car, and in your pocket. Nothing indicates more clearly to a prospective customer that you are disorganized and unprofessional than if you are unable to give them something which identifies you as their point of contact should they decide to do business with you. Although catalogues tend to be quite a costly sales tool, they are critical to the ongoing success of your business.

It is important to keep a strict record of your expenses, in order to monitor your profit margin once you are earning money from your sales. By keeping a tight grip on the financial side of your business, you will always be in control. A casual attitude to money is one of the greatest mistakes one can make as it is just too easy to spend indiscriminately, especially when the excitement of having some extra cash in one’s wallet tempts you to splash out recklessly. Oh well, we all need some fun in our lives, and without the finances to afford them, there is little prospect of too much fun. So, get out there and sell, and enjoy the fruits of your labours. Good luck!

“Never spend your money before you have earned it.
– Thomas Jefferson (American President)

Update and Comments: 6 December 2019

I seem to do nothing except make excuses and apologies for my lack of writing every time that I manage to sit down and start bashing away on my keyboard. However, this time around I am laying the blame totally at the feet of that always unseen, and criminally inclined creature with whom I have had dealings before, the very dislikeable time thief. He lurks out there somewhere and, when there is just so much to be done, and so many ends to be tied up, he wields his evil magic, and steals precious hours, and even sometimes days! In this case, and I know that I am not alone in my belief that 2019 did not have the usual numbers of days, weeks or months, he really surpassed himself! I say “he”, but the culprit could just as easily be a “she” or even an “it”. Whatever the case may be, I sincerely hope that 2020 and the start of a brand new decade sees the creature retiring or expiring completely. I need 365 days – oh bonus! 2020 is a leap year and we get that extra day in February! Now all that is required is for each day to have 24 hours with not a minute being stolen, hidden or removed in any other fashion. Too much life to be lived and words to be written.

I hope that you, my readers, are coping successfully with the end of year wind-down (often extremely hot in the southern hemisphere), and chilly festive preparations (in the northern regions) and may we all look forward to the end of a particularly challenging 2019  (for most of us here in South Africa at any rate, and possibly elsewhere too) and a bright new 2020!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and Comments: 29 October 2019

Could someone possibly tell me what has caused this year to be only half as long as previous years? It seems just the other day that I was decorating my Christmas tree in time for the 2018 festive season, and now it’s almost that time yet again. I am beginning to think that there is an invisible and very devious time thief lurking out there, conniving and scheming to steal that very precious commodity from those of us who really could use a few extra months each year just to catch up on ourselves!

When a year begins with huge amounts of heavy rain resulting in a lounge having its own version of Niagara Falls, then I suppose it stands to reason that the rest of the year could be somewhat challenging. Roof and ceiling repairs, replacing a door, then small appliances deciding to give up the ghost, all played their part this year. Then last week my faithful laptop just made up its mind to go AWOL. No indication that it was suffering from stress, was overworked and under paid, and generally feeling frustrated and needing a long holiday. It just bit the dust, so to speak. It might have been a sign of loyalty if I had been given some kind of warning – but, no! Just a blank, non- responding screen.

Unfortunately, when one is totally dependent upon one’s computer, a quick decision needs to be made, and time is of the essence. Therefore, I am now getting my head around a new laptop with a more up to date version of Windows, and I hope that I haven’t lost too much of my writing due to the changeover. From now on, I think that the Cloud needs to become my new best friend. Cannot bear the thought of hours of work disappearing into thin air ever again!

All the above chit chat is just a way of letting you know that I am still here, in body if not always in mind, and back to bashing away on my brand new keyboard.

Until next time, it’s my hope that none of you are spooked out this Halloween!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Resignation

Dear Michael and Jane

It is with a great deal of regret and sadness that I am sending you this letter. We have been housemates now for roughly 4 years and I have got to the stage where, to coin a much used phrase, enough is enough. I am quitting as from today.

For all these years I have had your safety and needs at the forefront of my mind. I have never been able to do all the things that I really wanted to do, but only what you allowed. So many rules to obey and when I disobeyed them I was made to feel like an absolute loser, and you often threatened to get rid of me. Do you have any idea at all how that made me feel? You often made the comment that I looked upset, and maybe a bit guilty? Well, I actually did often feel hurt by your words and rough treatment of me, but all I was able to do was convey my feelings with my body language without saying a single word in my own defence.

You have been able to go out for expensive meals and have trips to the theatre whenever you felt like it, knowing that I was looking after your fancy house with all its precious antiques. I never ever broke a single item, and everything was always in perfect condition when you got home. You rarely even bothered thanking me for my loyalty, let alone having to stay awake until late at night until you both stumbled in, often reeking of alcohol. I must say that I was very glad when, several months ago, after your last run in with the traffic police, that you started using Uber to go out in the evenings. I used to worry as to what would happen to me should you be involved in a serious accident and not come home. I know it sounds very selfish, but we have been very much dependent on each other these past 4 years or so.

Anyway, as I said just now, enough is enough and I am leaving. At this stage I have not made up my mind exactly how I am going to move on with my life, but running away seems to be the best option. I am going to wait until I have had my breakfast tomorrow and, when you open the gate to bring in the rubbish bin, I am going to make a dash for it. I have made good friends with the woman who runs the local doggy grooming parlour, and she and her workers are very fond of me. I know that they will help me to find another job. They are sure to be prepared to give me a good recommendation, should it be required. They have always been suspicious of the way you two have treated me – almost like a poor, mentally deficient relative.

So, come what may, this letter is to tell you that you both need to look at your selfish behaviour and, before it is too late, make serious changes. Even at this stage things could be improved, but it’s all up to you. I have done my best to be hard working and honest, and I have never attacked you or made a mess in the house. I have been faithful, loving and courteous to your ghastly relatives with their ill-bred brats. I so often wanted to nip their overweight backsides, and really had to force myself to be well controlled when they visited you. You can be very grateful that I didn’t savage either of you two either, and believe me there have been many times when I would willingly have taken a big chunk out of you both. Especially when you sit on the couch, watching a rugby match, drinking beer and munching away on delicious biltong and offering me not a single solitary piece. Greedy devils that you are!

Well, you will find this letter once I have left, and hopefully you will come to your senses, see just what you have lost, and perhaps we can come to some or other amicable arrangement for the future. However, this is all up to you – the ball is totally in your court! Maybe you could consider buying me a couple of new ones if I do agree to any new terms and conditions which I feel may improve my life should I return to your home.

Anyway, you may find me at the parlour, unless I have already found a new home.

Regards

Mickey the Mutt

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Direct Sales – Chapter 5

How to project a professional image to your customers.
Your Appearance does matter !

Now that you have embarked upon your new career, you need to feel confident and in control. This may take quite a bit of time and practice, especially if your background has not necessitated your meeting new people on a regular basis. It can be rather daunting to wake up in the morning knowing that you are going to have to make a serious effort to generate some business in order to start making money.

One of the most important tips which I was given very early in my sales career was to make sure that you are dressed and ready for the day before you start getting in touch with anyone in connection with your job. You cannot focus on projecting a business-like manner on the phone if you are still dressed in last night’s pyjamas.

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Dress for Success is the motto you should try to keep in your mind at all times. Get up, get showered, have a bite to eat and then dress in a presentable manner, especially if you are going out to meet clients. Even if you are planning on spending the day at your desk doing phone calling, it is not a good idea to wear scruffy old gardening clothes. Obviously you don’t dress in the same way as when you go out, but you still need to feel business-like.

Whenever you leave the home, remember that you never know whom you are going to bump into whether at the shops, outside your children’s school or in the doctor’s waiting room etc. Try to get into the habit of always looking neat and presentable, and wear that identifying badge of yours at all times. You will be surprised at how often people will ask you about your line of business, purely because they have seen your name badge.

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Can you imagine how embarrassing it could be if you rushed out to buy a loaf of bread at lunchtime, wearing a scruffy, paint splattered tee shirt and shabby shorts, only to bump into a new customer of yours who has just spent a large amount of money purchasing some of your products? Not a good image to project at all! I am not saying that you have to wear business clothes when you are at the coast on a family vacation, but in the normal scheme of things, think before you leave home and ask yourself whether you are looking  neat enough for any eventuality.

Another tip which I found useful was to make a note of the clothes which you wear when you go to a customer’s home, either for a product demonstration for her friends, or a one on one advice session.   Even on a rather limited budget, you should be able to mix and match just a few attractive items of clothing, so you don’t appear to be wearing a monotonous uniform.  Of course, it could well be that the company you represent has a designated dress code in a specific style and colour which you are expected to wear.  Otherwise, it’s wise to try to look as though you have a varied selection of business clothes.

Personal hygiene is critical, and one should always be aware of the fact that last night’s garlic loaded dinner is not conducive to comfortable interactions with anyone the following day, let alone customers.  If you happen to be a smoker then this can also become a problem when dealing with the public. Nothing is worse for a non-smoker than to have the smell of tobacco wafting into your space from either a cigarette or a smoker’s clothing. Being vigilant regarding one’s total appearance as well as one’s breath are all part and parcel of being able to feel confident in one’s job. Having breath fresheners, deodorant as well as touch up make-up products with you at all times, especially when you are expecting to be away from home for several hours, all help you to feel more relaxed and confident in your dealings with the public.

Communication

You may not be very comfortable with using your telephone to conduct your business but, practice can make perfect!  There is nothing more irritating than phoning someone and that person answers with “hello”. The correct manner for answering a call should be to identify either yourself or the company for which you work.  “Jane Smith speaking. How can I help you” or “Brown’s Engineering, Jane speaking”, is so much more professional and the caller then knows they have contacted the right person or company. Working for yourself in direct sales, it will be your name which you use when phoning out or answering a call.

Never assume that the person you are calling will remember you. It is far better to identify yourself to the person on the other end of the phone, for example in this way: “hello Mary, this is Jane Smith, your representative for …….”. They will in time recognise your voice, but it is presumptuous to expect people to instantly know who you are especially if it is some time since you last spoke to them.

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Another good tip is to “put a smile in your voice” when either dialling out or answering an incoming call. Nothing is more off-putting than a gruff or decidedly unfriendly voice on the other end of the line. I personally have known a woman for many years and, if I didn’t know her as well as I do, I would immediately put down the phone without speaking to her. She answers with a very rude and unfriendly “hello!” and only mellows once she knows who she is speaking to. She is most definitely not a candidate for dealing with the public in general!

If you are unsure of how you sound on the phone, then record yourself speaking and play it back. This way you can change your tone and, if it helps, look in a mirror while you smile and talk on the phone. The way in which you are able to communicate comfortably with your customers is also a reflection of your professionalism.  Once again, old adage applies: Practice makes perfect!

Remember to record a voice message on your telephones, the landline as well as your mobile and regularly check your messages. It is so bad mannered to ignore a message and people never cease to be surprised when you actually call them back! This world we are living in has forgotten what it is to be polite and if your break the mould by being courteous it will pay dividends in the long run. You will be known as being reliable and polite and, above all, professional.

We all need to feel special

I may have mentioned in a previous chapter the importance of keeping notes regarding your customers. Either by using the old style index filing system or utilising your smart phone, you can have many snippets of information about people who buy from you which is sure to impress them when you refer to them. Things such as birthdays, anniversaries, a child’s illness, a husband having some sort of crisis – all these facts can be mentioned in a caring way when next you speak to the customer. They will often be amazed that you have bothered to remember what they told you, and that you  are not only interested in them buying more products from you but that you value them as people and not just customers.

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A small gift at Christmas with a note thanking a customer for their loyalty during the year will not only be well received but will usually cement the relationship with them, and they are likely to recommend you to their friends and relatives in the future. Sometimes it helps to actually use an old style desk diary each year in order to jot down memory joggers such as the customer’s birthday and also to remind you at Christmastime of the small gift you gave them the previous year. You don’t want to be perceived as the kind of salesperson who gives a gift as an afterthought with no memory of having given the identical item the previous year! Suddenly your professionalism could take a nasty knock!

Punctuality is also critical in making people feel that they are valued. If you make an appointment with a customer make sure that you are organized and get to your destination on time. If you are delayed by a crisis, then it is critical that you let the other person know that you have a problem and how you plan to remedy it. Time is important to everyone and when someone makes a habit of arriving late, it is a sign of disrespect and shows that you are not professional in your field.  Curved balls are a part of everyday life, and no-one will be angry with you if you get your car out of the garage and realise that you have a flat tyre. As long as you contact the person you are scheduled to see, then you have done the right thing. If you just arrive an hour late without any indication that you have been delayed, and expect to be well received, the truth is that you will have burnt your bridges as far as building trust and being perceived as a reliable sales representative.

One last thing in this chapter which I would like to mention is the importance of keeping your word. Nothing is worse than insincerity and making false promises. Think before you commit and make sure that you have noted down (in your desk diary or on your phone) what it is you have promised to do – and do it! There is just way too much insincerity in the world today, and when people go back on their word it is very easy for the person who was promised something to feel rejected and unworthy.  After all, these tips are all about remembering that we all like to feel special.

“What I adore is supreme professionalism. I’m bored
by writers who can write only when it’s raining.

– Noel Coward