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

Direct Sales – Chapter 4

Learn about your product!

You will only gain the confidence you need regarding the products you are hoping to sell, once you have as much knowledge as possible about them.

Using the items yourself is obviously very important as you are then talking from personal experience. Listening to comments received from your customers is also critical and a way in which to gain more information without actually having to have first hand experience of some of the other items on the range. Keep notes on the products and constantly refresh your memory, particularly in the early days of your new venture.

Most direct sales companies will offer on-going training and it is in your interest to attend these training sessions and take written notes of what is being said. It is a proven fact that once you write something down, you are far more likely to remember it than just recording what is said onto your cellphone, or a recording machine. You can pick up so many tips and hints from other people who are selling the same products as yourself. They have obviously been successful with their sales, and you can always learn from hearing them talk about their experiences as well as beginning to know more about the products.

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Your new customers, knowing that you have only recently joined the company, will appreciate your offering to find out facts of which you might not as yet be aware. Instead of bluffing your way through if you are asked to give advice about a specific item, it is far better to offer to ask your area manager or local distributor for their help.  You will lose respect from customers if you pretend to know something regarding an item when you actually have no idea at all. Far better to make that contact with someone else in the company who has a lot more experience and who will be able to give you the right information for you to give back to your customer.

If you are selling a product which needs to be demonstrated, a good idea in the beginning of your career is to use some cue cards to help you.  I continued using cue cards all through my many years of direct selling as a means of keeping continuity for my demonstration, in the even that I was side tracked by customers’ questions. If you have your range of products displayed on a table, you can discuss each item in turn and once you have given the benefits and uses of a particular product, you actually need to place the cue card next to that item on the table. This enables the customers to come up to the table once you have finished your talk, and they can identify the product by the picture and will see the price as well. Usually you would have catalogues which can be used for making your cue cards by cutting out the relevant pictures together with the descriptions and current prices.

An important factor is that you need to be organized regarding your new career and this means organizing your thoughts before you address a group of potential customers. It is no good just handing out brochures and expecting people to understand what it is that would benefit them most. This is particularly relevant when it relates to products such as Tupperware, as make-up and clothing items are far more personal and everyone usually has a good idea of what will suit them and their particular taste. However, when it comes to household items the input of an expert (and you are aiming to be that expert sooner rather than later) is indispensable to avoid making an expensive purchase which becomes something of a white elephant. This is likely to create a resistance in the customer to purchasing anything from you again in the future. Taking their type of lifestyle and living situation into account, you will soon be in a position to give good advice on what they should buy to make their life easier and to save money. This will gain you their trust as you are not pushing for sales to benefit yourself, but have their needs in mind. Once again, it is a case of getting to know as much about your product as quickly as possible as well as listening to your customers.

Whilst you are still very new to this venture, it is far better to feel really confident and have first hand knowledge of a few products and offer to get feedback regarding others with which you are not necessarily au fait. Over time it is advisable to invest some of your monthly income in purchasing a variety of items across the range to use yourself in order to boost your confidence as well as your sales.

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If you are selling make-up items you will be able to help your customers by letting them try out samples to make sure that they make the right choice of colour or texture. If the company has samples available for you to buy, then that makes it easy for you. Otherwise you could buy some very small plastic jars and use them for dispensing a portion of a product (such as moisturiser, or hand cream, or shampoo) to give to your customer for them to try out. If they decide to buy the full sized product you will make back the amount you have spent in a short space of time. They also feel that you actually care about their decisions instead of expecting them to order only from pictures in brochures.  Again, as far as selling makeup is concerned, there are usually shade charts which you can purchase as sales tools which assist customers in matching products with their specific skin tone.

The bottom line is that you will grow your business much faster if your knowledge of the products you are able to offer is comprehensive and your customers come to trust you with the choices they make.  By going the extra mile to help prevent incorrect purchases, you will soon gain the respect of those people whom you are serving. Happy customers tell their friends and family. It is a fact that word of mouth advertising is the very best kind there is.

“Today Knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity
and advancement.” – Peter Drucker (1909-2005)

Direct Sales – Chapter 2

Choosing the company which suits you best!

The first step when considering becoming involved in direct selling, is to find a product which you can believe in and enjoy selling. In years gone by, items such as expensive vacuum cleaners and encyclopaedias were sold by salespeople who had to carry heavy demonstration items with them when going door to door to try to sell their product. With the incredible advances in technology things have changed dramatically when it comes to direct selling. It no longer has the stigma with which the “door to door” salesman of the past had to contend.  By the same token there are many people today who wouldn’t know what a set of encyclopaedias looked like!

The most popular direct sales companies nowadays would appear to be those selling household products such as Tupperware, and companies such as Avon, which has salespeople in many corners of the world making a comfortable living from selling their range of goods of which cosmetics form a large percentage. When one is putting out feelers to find a company which you would be happy to represent there are several factors to consider. First of all, is the warehouse which houses the company’s products easily accessible or will there be a considerable time lag between the placing of an order and receiving it?  Buyers tend to be very keen to receive their orders once they have placed them with a representative and If you live in a rather remote area, then it stands to reason that you may not have deliveries as frequently as if you were living in a larger town. The solution here is to collect your customers’ orders early in the month in order to place and receive them in time for month-end deliveries. This applies mainly to countries where people receive monthly pay cheques and budget for their purchases accordingly.

Once you have given some serious thought to joining a particular company as a sales representative, you need to find out whether there is a cost involved. You don’t want to have to take a bank loan in order to begin selling! In most cases the initial outlay is minimal and usually your payment will provide you with a starter pack of catalogues showing the current range of available items, and in some cases a few products for you to show to your prospective buyers. Once you start making some money, you can build up a reasonable supply of items which you can demonstrate to help increase your sales.

Another question to ask is whether or not you will be granted credit when you sign up with the company. In other words, will you have a certain amount of time to collect the money from your customers before having to pay your account or is it purely a cash business. If the latter is the case, then you will always need to collect the necessary amount from your customer as you take their order. You give them a written receipt for the amount paid to you and be very strict on how you handle this money. When you pay your account, the difference between the amount you have received from your customers and the amount you pay your company is your commission.  If you are granted credit then you deliver the products to the customer and only hand them over when you are given the amount due.

It is normal practice when you sign up with a direct sales company to be allocated to an area manager whose job it is to assist you when you have problems. This person may or may not give you regular training sessions themselves, or it may be company policy to encourage you to attend regular sales meetings run at the branch of the company closest to you. It is very important for you to learn as much as you can about the products you will be selling as buyers expect you to be knowledgeable regardless of the length of time that you have been with the company.

Depending upon how well you sell once you have started with your chosen company, there may be seminars which you are invited to attend where you will receive on-going training as well as motivation. Things change according to economic factors as well as management policy but you will find that the more successful you are at selling, the more your company should recognise your efforts.

“Success is never final. Failure is never fatal.
It is courage that counts” – Winston Churchill

Direct Sales – Chapter 1.

Personal experiences and an introduction
to the world of Direct Selling!

After several years of long distance studying to obtain my degrees, I found that I was becoming somewhat isolated and also needed to earn some money of my own. Having seen several family members do a somewhat half-hearted job of selling various products such as Tupperware and a range of linen, I was sure that I was capable of making a success of such an endeavour.

I approached a Tupperware representative and basically recruited myself. Over a period of around 14 years I was very successful as a sales person and later as a manager, a position which included having a company car (dependent upon maintaining a certain level of monthly sales) and being responsible for a team of sales people. This was whilst raising children, running a home, being involved in a charitable organisation which cared for HIV patients, and continuing with my studies.  At a later stage, I also taught an African language, namely Northern Sotho, at a local private school.

The excellent on-going training which I was fortunate enough to have received during my years of direct selling gave me the confidence to succeed in other avenues such as the aforementioned teaching, lecturing psychology to students of natural healing modalities, being a co-owner and full time manager of a well-known, Irish themed, 72 seater pub/restaurant for 5 years, as well as continuing to be involved in different forms of direct selling. Enough for now, but I would love to share some of the most important factors which I feel could be of help to those of you who may know very little if anything about how to earn money through direct selling.

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For the uninitiated, direct selling actually means offering products to prospective buyers who have the benefit of being able to see, touch and often sample an item before purchasing it. The advantage of this kind of purchasing is the personal interaction between the person selling the product and the buyer. Unlike having to spend hours hunting for goods, and being faced with umpteen confusing options, having a professional salesperson guiding you in the right choice of product, is not only time saving, but can help prevent spending money on the wrong item. Another bonus for the buyer is that the order will be delivered to them personally by the salesperson.

One needs to be aware that direct selling should not be confused with pyramid schemes where money is made, not through the sale of products, but by recruiting more and more people into the scheme and coercing them into parting with hard earned cash in order to buy “necessary” training material as well as paying high prices on a regular basis to attend so-called inspirational seminars.   Although there may be levels within a direct selling company for the earning of commissions, there is no catch. It is purely about buying the product which appears in the catalogue or on the display table and not a case of being hoodwinked into becoming part of a “get rich quick” scheme. There are many reputable companies who rely totally on representatives placing orders on a regular basis.

I plan to post around 10 chapters on a regular basis which I hope will cover a wide range of information regarding the whole subject of direct selling.

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Training and Education

“People don’t care how much you know
until they know how much you care” – Theodore Roosevelt

I do apologise if my comments regarding this upcoming section of my blog appear to be egocentric as this is not my intention at all. However, over the coming months I would love to share some knowledge and personal experiences relating to subjects such as Reflexology, Aromatherapy, Relaxation, Running a pub/restaurant,  the importance of balance in one’s life and various other topics as I decide what is worthwhile sharing with you, my reader.

As I think I have said previously in one of my posts – knowledge is of no use whatsoever if it is not shared with others. Here’s hoping that there will be someone who is able to benefit from some of the things I write about, and maybe you will enjoy the various topics which I hope to cover.