- To make the world a better place, Diversity is something all businesses should be actively working on.
- To ensure the longevity of business success, product and services Diversification is paramount to all companies.
What are the true pillars of a new-generation direct sales company?
How can you ensure your corporate strategy focuses on people – Diversification & Diversity. The uniqueness of the direct sales industry often means that by achieving one, you achieve the other. How? Because, with Direct Sales, there are two unique values being provided. Firstly, the physical product or tangible service but equally the incredible Direct Sellers that are the lifeblood of this industry. By diversifying the field, through a greater focus on diversity, a natural byproduct will be direct access to a larger, more diverse customer base.
Beyond the obvious reasons for wanting a larger customer base, there are several unique issues surfacing that demand that direct sales starts to look at how to attract a wider audience of sellers, in order to attract a wider customer base.
Firstly, over 30% of survey respondents said that Finding People – be it customers or team members was their greatest challenge. Many even stated that their area was over-saturated, or that their demographic wasn’t interested in their products.
Secondly, some legacy direct sales companies are prospering with most sellers having been with the company for over 20 years, but the average age of their consultant is 60 + now and their sign-up for new sellers is falling rapidly. They’ve realised that if they don’t change their communication strategy and diversify their field, their company will go out of business as sellers look to retire. Attracting a different, new demographic is critical for business survival.
Personality, stories, shared life experiences, human interaction, this is of far greater value than cold prospecting. Social media has enabled this at scale so now consultants can connect with people from around the world. But, customers identify with people that share similar struggles and pain points. Celebrating and supporting field diversity, means your company can create connections with the widest customer base possible which is key for growing a global business.
Looking back at the three pillars of direct sales success – Product, Distributors and Corporate – what strategies are likely to be implemented to improve diversity in 2022 and beyond.
The traditional way of marketing often starts by creating a detailed description of your ideal customer, often based on the customer pool you have already. But, in doing so, marketing and advertising professionals have inadvertently been so focused on their target customer that they’ve neglected those who don’t fall into this specific customer persona.
A more inclusive marketing strategy is to look at the personality of the customer and define what problems the product is solving for them. This shift in perspective massively changes the way a product is marketed and thus the customers attracted.
Questions to ask
- Is our product being marketed in a way that attracts a large audience group?
- What message does our product and brand convey?
The churn rate of distributors in the direct sales industry is a well-known problem. When companies start implementing their strategies to attract a more diverse customer and then distributor base, it’s important that internal processes are in place to support and nurture minority distributors. When new sellers join your company you want to guarantee that everyone feels welcome, supported and has a clear pathway to success.
Questions to ask
- Are there mechanisms in place to support minority distributors?
- Is there training in place to support distributors’ own learning and knowledge around diversity?
- Are internal communications inclusive?
While corporate is building out a strategy that focuses on people, it is worth looking inward and assessing how diverse your company is from a corporate perspective. Much like with many industries, direct sales suffers from a lack of diversity at the top end of corporate.
With diversity, comes new perspectives. If you’re sat in a room with people who all come from similar backgrounds with similar lived experiences, your company is missing out on insights and perspectives from all different vantage points.
Questions to ask
- Do you have a function to assess and progress diversity within your corporate leadership team?
- Is there a goal your company is aiming for?
- Who’s responsible for your diversity goals?
- Is the hiring and recruitment team equipped and empowered to reduce unconscious bias and focus on expanding diversity?
In the Gartner CEB report Creating Competitive Advantage Through Workforce Diversity they identified the Seven Imperatives a company needs to create competitive advantage through workforce diversity.
- Enable regional ownership of diversity and inclusion challenges
- Assess and reward progress not just outcomes
- Leverage trusted sources to expand the pool of diverse talent
- Hire for inclusive behaviours
- Reinforce inclusive behaviours during critical moments
- Promote a leadership value proposition that attracts high performers
- Neutralise biases in talent management decisions
Applying the lens of direct sales over these seven imperatives, a company can determine if they’re on track to create their competitive advantage.
Diversity means including and involving all people.
Many direct sales companies are making efforts to diversify their client base, but in doing so there is a risk of alienating their existing distributors.
In the Field Survey, when it came to technology there was a clear disconnect between what the field wanted and/or needed.
It’s clear that while direct sales companies are looking to diversify and find consultants from all backgrounds it’s important to ensure that the tools offered support people from all backgrounds.
In much the same way that a leader and a beginner will use technology differently, someone who is technically savvy and someone who rarely uses digital tools will have different needs and will use your company tools differently.
While attracting a diverse consultant and customer base is a clear priority for corporate, the responses from the field show that more thought needs to be given on how to support people from all backgrounds, in particular when it came to confidence levels in technology.
One way of solving this is ensuring that the tools provided to the field allow users to self-select their technology confidence level so they can be given the training they need to use the tool to its best ability. Knowing what to do and knowing how to use a tool effectively to do it are two different things.
Check out the Continuous Learning & Development section to dive into the tailored, digital, learning revolution guided by psychology, powered by AI.
Diversity at The Top
In the Corporate survey we asked, Do you think your company has made an effort to diversify its consultant base?
These statistics are promising. With over 61% of responders saying yes it’s clear that following through on being a Diverse, Inclusive & Equitable workplace is going to be a key company goal for the future.
In the meantime, we evaluated a random selection of top Direct Sales Companies Globally to take a look at their leadership team.
Only 20% of the companies had 50% women on their senior leadership team. Zero of the companies evaluated had over 50% and the lowest was 8%.
When it came to evaluating people of colour present on the senior leadership team 10% of companies reached 50%. Again, zero of the companies evaluated had over 50%, the lowest percentage was 25%.
When looking at the Board of Directors the presence of women and people of colour was even lower. With only 10% having 30% women, and only 20% having 20% people of colour.
Every company evaluated had a diverse image profile showing various ages, races, sexes in photographs.
But, only 30% of the companies made any active statement or dedicated a web presence to their diversity and inclusion priorities.
What does this mean?
Progress is being made but for a company to be truly diverse it must start with leadership.
Diversity & Inclusivity is not only imperative, it’s essential to the health of the network marketing industry in 2022 and beyond.
The current landscape has put a microscope on network marketing and its deficiency in the area of opportunity for all people. With more network marketing companies and distributors on social media than ever before, it’s impossible to ignore who is and who isn’t in a company.
How can diversity happen? The belief that diversity comes organically from the field is officially antiquated. In order to truly create an environment that is welcoming and attractive to many cultures, it must be a two-pronged approach:
- Ensure that diversity is a pillar in everything corporate touches, from the product, to the marketing and even to the faces in leadership.
- Recruit, support, and develop teams that embody diversity.
2021 saw the beginning of this with new network marketing companies intentionally incorporating diversity by offering products that can be used by many, using diverse marketing on their websites and in social media, and recruiting seasoned leaders dedicated to building diverse teams.
Intentionality and focus on diversity as an industry ensures that network marketing remains relevant and continues to serve the world at large.
Diversity only works when companies are truly committed to ensuring that everyone feels like they belong and know that their unique perspective is welcomed and valued. Recognising, accepting and celebrating everyone’s differences is crucial for businesses to thrive in 2022 and beyond. The benefits of a diverse workforce are being seen time and time again impacting company culture, innovation and revenue.
How will diversification and diversity affect the direct sales industry?
A greater breadth of knowledge, insight and skills to drive business decisions and infer nuances from data and feedback that would otherwise be missed. And a larger, more robust field to drive increased product sales.
For the Field
A wider pool of customers and a better understanding of what different customers’ pain points are and how the product can support them.
An incredible team of direct sellers who inspire diversity and representation and make every customer feel like they too belong.
From an outside perspective, the world of direct sales will look radically different, truly practicing what the industry claims – that this is a business model for all.