If COVID taught us anything in the last years, it’s that it’s important to focus on people first. Whether it’s consultants, associates or customers. A number of brands in the direct sales industry did just that, prioritized the needs of consultants that lost their jobs, or had their household income affected by illness or uncertainty. For these people their direct sales occupation became the sole source of income and they had to figure out how to grow sales and adjust to the remote environment.
The brands that delivered digital tools, upskilling programs, and learning opportunities for their sellers saw an increase in sales. But they also saw an increase in consultant loyalty and their overall brand reputation strengthened. These results proved, once again, that doing good leads to good business.
While onboarding is recognized as one of the major challenges in consultant success and a significant contributor to consultant churn, it’s important to recognize that it’s just the beginning. Once a consistent learning pattern is established with onboarding, it makes way for a continuous learning process that supports each seller throughout their business journey.
With the amount of changes happening in the industry, the new tools and social channels available, imbuing consultants with a ‘lifetime learner’ mindset is imperative to sustaining successful business.
Building a Curriculum: Visibility and Insights
When it comes to ongoing learning, it’s important to understand the type of skills and knowledge the field is looking for and the type of content that makes the most impact. Visibility into the field’s needs, performance and trends is required to define the curriculum and prioritize learning opportunities.
In the Corporate Direct Sales survey we asked what level of visibility corporate has on distributors? The response was mixed across a wide range of answers, so we further defined visibility and analyzed responses based on that range. After analysing responses to this question in line with other responses, a trend emerged based on what information was easily accessible (high visibility) and where there were blind spots (low visibility).
- Customer orders
- Close to rank advance
- Time spent on platforms
- Upward/downward movement in business growth
- Size of downline
- Consultant wellness, mindset
- Time to first and consecutive sales
- What leads to prospecting success
- Size of consultant network
- The time it takes to onboard new consultants
- Customer sentiment towards consultant and brand
- Digital aptitude, comfort with available tools
Organizations focusing on short term sales indicators, might find that immediately visible metrics are enough. However, when organizations start to focus on people, looking to truly support their field, actively reduce consultant churn, improve consultant wellbeing and make the sales pipeline more efficient, the insights in the low visibility group become critical.
Not sure if my sponsor is still doing [COMPANY NAME]?
For example, take the above statement in response to What is your biggest challenge in adding new team members?
Does your company have a system in place for someone to find out if their sponsor or leader is still working their business? What will happen to this consultant next?
Pressures on Field Leaders, Sponsors and Uplines are increasing as the breadth of information and coaching they need to provide in the changing landscape of social commerce becomes too much. With the boom of e-learning, corporate has an incredible opportunity to reinvigorate formal field learning and development. In doing so, this will empower leaders to do what they do best providing coaching guidance and real time support.
And, as some direct sales company’s trial product-selling business models without the team building component, the need for a system to provide continuous learning and development will be even more important. For 2022, we can expect to see more company’s investing and strategizing for a future when upskilling consultants is an integral part of corporate’s revenue growth and churn reduction plan.
The Field’s Top Priorities VS Traditional Training Focus’:
The Need for Qualitative Data
After analysing the field’s responses and talking to network marketing training experts, we’ve narrowed down the 3 Top Priorities for Social Sellers, Network Marketers, Relationship Marketers etc.
Undoubtedly, the number one priority for every social seller is to make money.
Quantitative data helps corporate keep track of exactly that.
Validation is huge. That’s why early sales wins is often a tactic team leaders try to gain for their new team members.
Consultants want validation that they’re seeing progress, success and they made the right decision in starting this business.
People will stay with a company even when they’re struggling because of the network of friends they’ve made through the business.
It’s one of the major selling points of direct sales.
Quantitative data only provides information around the field’s first priority — making money. As more and more people are looking for jobs that provide emotional fulfillment and holistic care, acquiring qualitative data from the field is imperative for supporting the field’s wellbeing. In turn it will also help reduce the consultant churn rate by discovering the field’s pain points and implementing solutions to support them.
We asked the field a series of questions about their working habits.
- How long have you been in direct sales?
- How many days a week do you work your business? (On average)
- How long do you spend working on your business at any one time? (On average)
The aim? To find out if any of these factors changed how consultants ran their business.
We compared: How many days a week a consultant worked their business vs the Time Increments Spent on their business.
What was interesting is that the people who have the least amount of days to work their business, 1 – 2 days a week, were also the highest proportion of people working their business in less than 30 minute chunks at a time.
From a learning and training perspective it shows us that more than any other group these sellers need to be given just-in-time training. So they’re learning, while doing so they’re able to maximize the time they have to work on their business.
We also compared – How long people had been running their business VS How many days a week they worked their business – to see if there had been any shift in how new consultants are managing their days.
It’s interesting that a clear majority of people who have been in direct sales for less than a year work on their business every single day.
From a training perspective, this speaks volumes for why small, bitesize, in the moment training and upskilling works so well because day by day these consultants can improve their skills so they can keep growing their business.
We compared: How long people had been in a direct sales company VS their top priority — gaining customers or building a team.
People who have been in direct sales for less than a year are so much more focused on looking for customers. At almost 80% that’s an incredible indicator of the type of training consultants need in their first year of running a direct sales business.
Emotional Stress & Learning
Continuous learning is key for many reasons but one of them is because of the emotional journey that distributors go through when starting and building their business.
As indicated in these graphs, at different phases of a direct sales journey sellers priorities are different and so too should be their training.
Emotional Stress allows for short term memory capture so people can get the job done. But, once the stress is over, that short term memory is largely dropped. Many people join direct sales at a time of struggle, often because they needed money to support their family and make it through a difficult time. While this isn’t true for all, the heightened stress of starting a business, not sure what to do next, worries and fears that you won’t succeed and how others will react… all contributes to the original onboarding process happening at a time when a brain is not fully committed to long term memory.
It’s crucial to provide continuous learning and development so that sellers have the opportunity to learn at their own pace and when their brains are ready.
Bombarding consultants with information about how to grow a team in the beginning isn’t beneficial when almost 80% of new direct sellers are just focused on growing their customer base.
Creating customized development tracks for each seller’s business journey through a psychology-led, bespoke e-learning program will undoubtedly increase business revenue and reduce churn.
Direct Sellers Need to be Learning while Doing
In order for learning to work, it must be effective, relevant, just enough, and just in time. These principles of learning are essential for adult learners and critical for any learner short on time and attention. Let’s be honest, that’s most of us. The rise of online learning was transformative in delivering accessible learning across time and geography, but the “always on” shift in our work culture and the blurring of boundaries between home and work pose evolving learning challenges. These learning challenges (effectiveness, relevance, just enough learning, and just in time learning) are especially significant for learners who are juggling multiple roles, multiple contexts, and multiple demands – cue new Direct Seller.
Learning in the flow of work with bite-sized learning relevant to the task at hand is the most effective way to enable learners to immediately apply new knowledge and skills and increase their performance. This can be accomplished with four leading practices: 1) anticipate learners needs by understanding what they do, 2) accelerate learning by bringing them into the flow of work (bonus for bringing them into the technologies learners are already using), 3) augment performance with actionable and relevant data, 4) empower and reward learners with meaningful recognition and encouragement (Deloitte, 2019).
Why Direct Sellers need to develop the sales skills for success
While so many direct sellers are focused on the buzz around social selling, attraction marketing and becoming the next influencer, it’s a passive selling strategy and not actually getting results. For direct sellers to truly be successful in 2022, it is critical to refocus on fine tuning active selling strategies – by actually getting in front of new customers, building authentic relationships, having conversations and actually selling. The “post & pray” method doesn’t work. Building a direct sales business in 2022 takes work and direct sellers need to develop the sales skills to be set up for success.
With increasing pressures facing sellers, it’s imperative that companies continue to support the field. The takeaway from COVID? The world has changed. People are juggling more and need to learn more but are also craving support and fulfillment. To give leaders back the time to do what they do best and coach their teams, corporate has the opportunity to take control of sellers formal learning. But, while pushing information out, perhaps more importantly it can pull information in to understand the general sentiment of the field and support people when they need it most.
What will the impact be of interactive, long-term, customized corporate led continuous learning and development?
Develop a long-lasting relationship with every seller at their organization. Instead of being divided, corporate and the field will be united under a common form of communication, pushing and pulling information so everyone is connected. These tools will give corporate the ability to react with speed and efficiency to deliver training around new regulations, new social media trends but ALSO respond to field concerns and worries. E-learning, baked into existing field-enablement platforms will also streamline infrastructure and free up time for IT to focus on back office operations and updates.
For the Field
A greater connection with corporate. Community is everything, by bringing corporate and the field together routinely to learn from each other in a safe environment, change for the better will happen much faster.
An empowered field = happy customers! As shown in Reputation, customers have a negative experience when sellers use outdated or misguided practices to sell their products. By training the field so everyone knows the best way to gain customers and manage a customer care cycle, the customer is guaranteed an incredible experience every time.
With the pace of change only accelerating, doing what worked last year is no longer an option. By corporate and the field working together to stay up to date with the latest changes and developments, the industry will continue to be seen as forward thinking and innovative and set an example for distributed workforce models in the social commerce era.