Direct Selling after Covid 19

No-one can accurately predict how life will continue once this virus is under control, and the new phrase seems to be, “normal will be a different normal”. When it comes to how people will shop, then there is obviously the question of how will they feel about handling and trying products which have more than likely been previously touched by other shoppers?

I heard a radio discussion recently which involved the beauty counters of many up-market retail stores. The concern is that when one is given the opportunity to test certain cosmetics and fragrances, they could have been handled by someone who is carrying the virus. Items such as perfume testers are always a great temptation when one is browsing in a shop, but is it wise to pick them up and try them out? Lipstick testers as well as foundation samples are usually available for trying on one’s hand to get an idea of whether or not they suit your colouring. It could be that in the future people will be less inclined to buy their cosmetics from a store but might feel much happier choosing their products via the pages of a well designed catalogue.

The economy in many countries has been negatively impacted due to the coronavirus and we are likely to see many shopping centres with shops which have been forced to close down. The face of these centres could change completely, and it may be that shopping online or through a direct sales representative becomes more and more desirable. For anyone who has been looking for a way to earn some extra money, or to start a new career, then this could be the ideal time to start being involved in direct selling.

One needs to try to stay positive despite all the negative feedback with which we are bombarded every time we listen to a news broadcast or buy a newspaper. This is often a difficult call, but necessary if we are to avoid deep depression, and planning on doing something new could help lift the feelings of doom and gloom.  Starting a new career is always full of challenges, but there are most definitely going to be a lot of advantages for your future customers when they are given the option of avoiding busy shopping malls by opting for distance purchasing instead.  When it comes to being able to shop from the relative safety of one’s home, and even receive personal delivery of the products purchased, then the benefits are huge. Valuable time is saved, as well as having peace of mind that the products you are purchasing have not been handled by many. It is far easier to sanitize the packages and bottles when you receive your order than worrying about all the potential germs on items on display at beauty counters.

It isn’t only cosmetics which are handled by many when they are displayed in a retail outlet. What about products like Tupperware? Yes, to gain the full benefit of the products they should ideally be demonstrated by a well-versed salesperson but that necessitates a lot of handling by all and sundry who are keen to get the feel of the product being demonstrated. However, training customers in the use of the products can always be done in the form of written instructions or through an on-line video. The latter is something which direct sales companies need to take seriously at this time.

So, if you feel that direct selling is something which suits your personality and could benefit you financially as well as emotionally, then I trust that the foregoing chapters which I have produced will prove invaluable as you start out in this new direction. For those who are already involved in this kind of business, you may just find that reading through the relevant information is a memory jogger as well as a way for you to improve your sales skills.

Update and Comments: 16 May 2020

The end of the world as we know it?

It is getting more and more difficult to stay positive here in South Africa during the lockdown and being isolated from family and friends. Unlike in other parts of the world, it seems to be more about turning the country into a police state than protecting the vulnerable. There are just way too many ridiculous rules being made with no explanation given as to the reasoning behind them. There is also an unacceptable level of violence being committed by those whose job it should be to protect the public. How are we meant to maintain sound mental health when we are bombarded constantly with distressing statistics and reports of violent behaviour.

Hundreds of South African schools have been vandalised, and in many cases set on fire, during the past few weeks of lockdown, and this is a country desperately in need of education. There is absolutely zero control over crime, and this has been the situation for years now. Currently many things have gone completely crazy, as the emphasis is on checking for illegal cigarettes and contraband alcohol, due to the ban of the sale of these products during lockdown. This kind of draconian control has no intelligent reasoning behind it. No-one had the common sense to consider that there should have been 24-hour armed surveillance at all schools whilst they were unoccupied. Instead, they became an easy target with laboratory equipment, computers, in fact anything the thieving swines could get their hands on was stolen.

The control is over the middle-income (not going to be middle-income for much longer) group as the poor do not heed such things as social distancing as it is not part of their culture. They are the ones who are suffering from food shortages due to so many employers being unable to continue with their businesses and being unable to pay their staff. Some will receive a smaller amount than their usual income from unemployment pay-outs, but this is likely to take quite a while to be implemented and people need to survive in the here and now. The government are proving to be totally inept when it comes to preventing hunger among millions of poverty-stricken individuals.

It has been so easy to convince the masses, mainly uneducated and usually totally illiterate, to always vote for the ANC, as for many they honestly think that Nelson Mandela has something to do with the party today. How very wrong can they be?

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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: 18 April 2020 – Lockdown!

Lockdown

I heard the best ever reaction to our lockdown, from my 6 year old grandson. When he was told by his mother that our president had extended the period for our isolation, he apparently was absolutely thrilled, “Oh, great! I love lockdown. I wish we could always have lockdown!” The reason for this euphoria is all due to his parents devoting hours and hours (whilst they still have had to try to work from home) finding exciting and unusual ways to entertain two boys of 6 (going on 7) and 2 (going on 3)years of age.

I imagine that when this is all over, and we are able to return to some semblance of normality, the parents of these two children will breathe a united sigh of relief as they will probably be far less exhausted being back in their respective work environments than they are in their own homes right now. Everything from finger painting, building Lego, making a fort using their bunk beds as well as outdoor furniture, having an indoor obstacle course created for them, bouncing as a family on the trampoline, chasing around the garden, making muffins ….the list goes on and on. They are very lucky to be living in a home where there are parents who are able to give them this kind of attention and also where the fear of having no food to eat is not part of the equation.

At the other end of the continuum are the millions of poor families who suffer so badly whenever anything unexpected takes place. Whether this is bad weather, illness, a collapse in the economy resulting in job losses or, as is the current situation, a previously unknown epidemic, they are the ones who need to be remembered and helped wherever possible. Unfortunately, where a country has an almost collapsed economy the plight of millions of people becomes a bigger problem than the epidemic itself.  It is, however, heartening to hear of the extremely generous donations being made by people such as Nicky and Oppenheimer – R1 billion; Mary Oppenheimer and daughters  – R1 billion;  the Rupert family and Remgro Ltd. – R1 billion; the Motsepe family and associated businesses – R1 billion, as well as R1.5 billion donated by Naspers, part of which will go towards the Solidarity Response Fund established by the government to help limit the lockdown’s impact on the economy and those who are living in poverty.

As is so often the case, there are normal individuals who have put their hands in their pockets to give whatever they are able to afford, as well as giving time to assist where they can, for example sewing masks for local hospitals.   Radio stations have come on board together with big companies in trying to help those suffering the most but only time will tell just how bad the outbreak is going to be and how quickly all the informal workers as well as the self-employed can start working once again and avoid an even greater disaster than the pandemic itself.

The whole world is reeling from the shock of this epidemic and all we can do is to try to remain positive and to keep in touch with others who may be in isolation and alone. A phone call to say that you are thinking about them may make a big difference in their lives at this challenging time, just knowing that someone cares.

Wash your hands, sanitize, wear that mask if you go out, and more than that let’s all try to enjoy the day we have today and hope that tomorrow is here for us all and finds us well and still sane!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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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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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,
but a habit” – Aristotle (Greek Philosopher)DS 7-3 350x345

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)