Ah, November, you certainly snuck up on us. The holiday season is now in full ramp, and that means invites to lots of parties. And who doesn’t love a party?
Of course, there’s one type of party invite that always brings me anxiety, and that is the Direct Sales Party. If you’re not familiar with the term direct sales, you’ll definitely be familiar with some of its followers, like Scentsy, dōTERRA, Pampered Chef, Avon, the list goes on for days. Direct sales is a huge business. According to the Direct Selling Association, “The 2013 estimated retail sales of USD 32.67 billion for the direct selling channel were up 3.3% in the United States, from USD 31.63 billion in 2012.” The number of people doing these direct sales has increased as well, with roughly 16.8 million people within the US alone in 2013, and over two thirds of those sellers are women. Last year, 23% of that USD 31.63 billion was sold through the home party.
What does all this market research mean for you, dear reader? It means that more than likely you will be invited to someone’s party or may be asked to host someone’s party. This is where the dichotomy of direct sales parties hit me. After all, these people are my friends and I want them to succeed in their business ventures. Unfortunately, their success is directly tied to people like me investing in their business, and that means being encouraged to buy things that I may not want. This isn’t always the case. Some direct selling companies I truly love and have purchased items from them multiple times. But there are some that I have no interest in, and no matter how tight the bonds of our sisterhood are, I’m not buying stuff from you. Don’t take it personally.
When you first start your business you’re given packets of information that give you tips on how to host an amazing party. But these are written from the prospective of the seller, not the customer. Maybe it’s time to hear from the other side. So, to all my direct marketers gearing up for a busy holiday season, I humbly submit to you the Rules of the Direct Marketing Party from the Viewpoint of the Sap You’re Trying to Sell to.
Rule #1: There’s a reason there’s complimentary champagne in fancy stores. After all, alcohol is relaxing, it encourages you to stay for a while, and most importantly, it lowers your inhibitions and makes the grip on your wallet looser. This may work for retail, but as a direct seller you are trying to earn return clientele from a limited pool. If you get me 2-3 glasses of wine deep, yes, I will probably buy that overpriced make-up that you assure me will make me look like Gwyneth Paltrow, but the next day I’ll be pissed. Most importantly, I won’t be going to your parties anymore and telling others to avoid them. So, avoid serving booze, and if you do, keep it very limited so no one gets buzzed and starts making bad decision. The mark of a true professional would be to refuse the sale of a buzzing customer and call the next day once the person has sobered up to see if they’re still interested.
Rule #2: When you invite me to your sales party, you’re not just inviting Lauren your friend, your inviting Lauren your customer. That means I want to understand why the merchandise you’re peddling is better than the similar and often less expensive counterparts I can find retail. Be prepared to answer tough questions, including “Why should I pay this much for (fill in the blank here)?”. This is not an attack on you, so if you’re sensitive to questions that hit hard, you’re not tough enough for this business. The best parties I have ever been aren’t the fanciest with the best side dishes, but the ones run by people who know their stuff. Obviously, this comes with time, but you should plan on dry running your party before you have it. Have someone drill you on questions on your product. Know what you’re selling.
Rule #3: Speaking of food and décor, your party should be a reflection of the business you’re selling. If your business is food, give me a smorgasbord of delicious tastes. If you’re selling candles, I want to be hit with a wave of Tahitian Vanilla. Make-up? Give me a free makeover! Pamper me as your costumer.
Rule #4: Do you want people to offer to host? It helps to do something more than just a free sample package. I have had direct sellers offer to get my house cleaned the day of if I would be interested in hosting. I promise you, you get my house cleaned, I’m your party slave and people will hear about how amazing you and your product are. You may be saying, “I can’t afford to pay for someone else’s house to be cleaned!” Well, go over a few hours earlier and clean the party area yourself. Go above and beyond and you’ll reap the reward.
Rule #5: Inviting etiquette. If I haven’t talked to you since high school, what are the chances I’m going to the direct sales party you’re throwing? Zero. One mass invitee list to all of your Facebook friends does not encourage party attendance. And please, do not email me asking me to invite friends and relatives you’ve never met to drum up sales. This is your party, not mine. Now, if your product is impressive I will suggest it to them on my own and tell them to contact you so make sure to have business cards ready.
Rule #6: At the end of the day, sometimes people just don’t care to go to your parties. This isn’t a reflection on their friendship with you. After all, you invited the customer, not the friend (refer to Rule #2 here). Don’t take it personally. And don’t email or text multiple times telling me there’s still time to RSVP or take advantage of this great deal. I didn’t respond the first time. You spamming me isn’t going to suddenly interest me.
Some of these rules may sound harsh, but follow them and I promise you’ll have happy party goers who don’t feel used and abused for their money. After all, it’s the holidays, and retail is already doing that.