Prepare a Newcomer for Direct Selling Success
For the field, the direct sales USP is a job opportunity that allows anyone to start their own business. This creates a large, diverse workforce with countless benefits for the industry, but it also has unique challenges, in particular, when it comes to training. With people joining from all walks of life, with varying levels of experience, onboarding and training play a crucial role in giving everyone the specific tools they need to succeed. The onboarding process needs to be tailored and informative, but not overwhelming. Below we look at the unique onboarding challenges and opportunities for direct sales and consider the impact of gamification on the training programs' success.
The challenges most direct sales companies are all too familiar with
- Often distributors have no previous selling experience
- There’s a large learning curve for distributors to make the first sale
- Fighting negative, outdated perceptions of the industry
- Distributors often underestimate the necessity of consistency
- Confidence can be easily knocked in the first month
- Lack of time to learn the business basics while also growing their business
- With so much information it’s easy to overwhelm newcomers
- A plethora of backgrounds all with different skill sets and strengths
- Little to no direct contact with consultants to ensure training is carried out effectively
These challenges may be unique to direct sales as an industry, but similar hurdles are challenging a series of organizations. What’s great is that these innovations can be applied and adapted for distributors. From app-based sports training programs to traditional office jobs forced into remote hiring cultures because of the pandemic, the move to digital training environments is here to stay. The key to success with these programs is the ability to actively engage new users, develop repeatable processes and ensure they achieve quick wins within the first months of joining an organization. Let’s review where the direct sales onboarding process currently stands and where it’s heading.
Product-based Onboarding Programs
- Product-focused and text based training materials.
- A business plan focused on the WHAT (sales and recruitment) and not on the HOW (building relationships and growing a client base)
Processed-based Onboarding Programs
- Customer-focused approach focused on building genuine experiences and loyalty
- Teaching distributors to build efficient, repeatable habits from day one
- Leveraging micro-learning opportunities
- A system focused on creating authentic relationships, through curated 1x1 interaction
- Navigating the first 5-8 points of contact for a sale to occur
How to Create it?
The evolution of these onboarding programs needs to refocus on teaching sellers how to efficiently deliver a stellar customer experience at every touchpoint — from the start of the relationship, all the way through to product delivery. This is different from the earlier focus on product and industry based education. By shifting onboarding processes to empower the field and enable authentic customer experiences, organizations see an increase in field engagement and a reduction in churn for both consultants and customers.
When you buy a new phone, do you read the manual? Or do you crack on and then consult Google when your phone’s magically set itself to a language you can’t read…
With limited time, competing priorities and an eagerness to start, very few distributors dedicate the time necessary to read up on how to run their business. (In fact, a lot of distributors' advice to one another is not to worry about the details in the beginning). It can then be frustrating for companies when distributors churn and say the reason why is because they didn’t know what to do, or they’re not making any sales, or the company didn’t support them... when, in reality, all the information is provided.
By weaving the training and onboarding process into the business setup and workflow, training becomes an inevitable and natural part of a new distributor's journey at your company. By gamifying training into small, bite-sized chunks that happen while they’re starting their business, distributors complete training almost without realizing it!
Check out these examples from Appcues of Common user onboarding patterns to get an idea of modern best practices.
Creating a digital-first learning experience removes the lengthy and often tedious process of reading a step-by-step guide. By cementing the training and onboarding into business setup, the rate of completion will drastically increase.
The benefits of digital onboarding and training go beyond improving training completion rates:
- Increase in data on training turnaround
- Opportunity for timely check-ins and reminders from corporate
- Instant access to the field
- Quality assurance with automated checks, warnings and suggestions
- Easy to update and add to training as programs develop
- In-app support
2. Going straight to the field
Leaders currently make or break the training and onboarding process. When a new consultant signs up, even if you send them all the training material, without the leader promoting the onboarding process it’s unlikely to be completed and understood during the overwhelming early days of someone starting their business.
However, if the training is loaded into the systems that distributors are using to grow their business then they’ll be learning while doing. Maximizing time, ensuring the training is completed and relieving the onus on the leader to ensure initial training is complete.
3. Working with leaders and ongoing mentorship
Leaders are the intermediaries and gatekeepers to a company’s brand. An excellent training program is one thing, but without leader buy-in and support it’s difficult to ensure the training plan is well-executed and actively encouraged.
When the training program stops a consultant can feel alone. They’ve been through the training cycle, they’ve started to build out their client base and now they’re looking to get their first sale. They have the tools for success… but now they need ongoing support and motivation to ensure that they don’t give up. Leaders need their own training plan or action plan to continue to nurture consultants after the initial, digital onboarding is complete.
Leaders’ real focus should be on supporting their team, sharing their own tips, tricks, winning scripts and methodologies and tracking the overall health of their business so they can support their downline.
Work with leaders so they understand the benefits of a digital training program and how it will help free up their time so they can do what they do best!
“Companies that put in place tools that take a new rep from initial onboarding to sales success by instilling daily habits and best practices around selling, customer care, and recruiting will outperform their industry peers and significantly reduce that churn.”
– Mark Hughes, VP of Sales, Penny
4. Routine check-ins and steady progress
It’s well documented the struggles corporate faces connecting directly with the field. By creating a digital-first, interactive and fun onboarding process, it sets up a positive relationship between the field and corporate from the beginning. To further that relationship, pepper training with routine check-ins. Perhaps a video from the CEO welcoming them to the company or a congratulations badge halfway through training from the Director of Marketing, or if a trip is coming up include a teaser video from the Head of Global Events.
Marrying these check-ins with frequent positive notifications congratulating consultants on training and business setup milestones will go a long way to improve:
- Consultants’ mindset
- Training completion rates
- Fostering a good relationship between corporate and the field from the beginning
5. Show a path to success
If all your training is automated there are so many opportunities to tailor the experience. You can incorporate real-life stories of success as part of the training so new consultants can see where they’re heading. Have a clear map overview of the training they need to complete and how long each section is expected to take so consultants aren’t overwhelmed.
The trouble with the old onboarding process is that after reading a lengthy training document consultants still feel no step closer to starting their business. Combining learning with doing gives consultants the instant win they need to start their business with confidence.
Get visibility into the blindspots of your field data: prospecting volumes and trends, social channels and reach of your top performers, content, scripts and promotions that work, plus much more!
Bringing the Ultimate Experience Together with Gamification
Gamification is the practice of imbuing activities with game-like qualities to improve enjoyability.
From a marketing perspective, it improves the experience people have with your brand.
From an education perspective, it encourages learning through having fun.
Digital gamification can include:
- Points systems
- Frequent rewards
- Goals with pleasing checkpoints
- A personable guide
It’s easy to see how direct selling reward systems and rank advancement maps well into digital gamification. Combining all these elements (onboarding, training, continuous development, rank advancement, etc.) into one seamless digital experience would take the consultant experience to the next level.
The pros of gamification
- Training becomes fun
- Training happens in real-time while running their business
- Visible goals and accomplishments improve motivation
- All the information is in one place
- Creating a connection with corporate and the brand from day one
- Takes the pressure off enforcing training and instead can focus on supporting the training
- Knows that every consultant is getting a tailored experience
- Customize training based on skills, time, current growth appetite
- Data into consultant stumbling blocks - Where in the training do consultants struggle the most?
- Opens up a conversation between the consultant and corporate (if a chat functionality is included)
- Ensures everyone receives the same quality and level of training
- Easy to make changes
- Creates a culture of ongoing training and communication