Today there are more than 10,000 direct selling companies worldwide earning hundreds of billions in revenue. According to The Direct Selling Association over five thousand people a day continue to join network marketing companies, whether to supplement their full-time jobs and income, or to commit full-time to the endeavor.
Within the direct selling industry, Avon is one of the oldest and largest companies. It was originally founded as the California Perfume Company in 1886, long before women would even get the right to vote. Its unique business model gave women an opportunity to earn an independent income. It would first use the Avon name and logo in 1929.
I recently interviewed Betty Palm for the LEADx Leadership Podcast, where she gave her top three tips to being successful in the challenging world of direct selling.
Palm started her career in the direct selling industry as a PR intern at Avon and today she President of Social Selling for New Avon. Along the way she held high level roles at Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Mars, and Jones Apparel before landing back at the company that started it all. She credits her gutsiness with her quick ascension within the industry. “The willingness to take risks, and to try things that I had never tried before,” she explains, “I think it was also a comfort around asking for what I wanted. So while my career started in a public relations department, I enjoyed exposure to lots of different aspects of the business; product, publicity, people publicity, event marketing, all of those type of things.”
Tip #1: Salespeople should start by falling in love with the product. As a result, Palm says, “They become a product of the product, and they know how to recommend products. They're users of it, they have their own personal testimonials.” Palm goes on to explain that caring about a customer’s needs is paramount, and being able to relate to them and recommend something you know from personal experience will work, is one of the best ways to sell.
Tip #2: Stay in a service mindset. “They care about meeting their customers' needs,” Palm emphasizes. Understanding your function as one that provides a valuable service is the best way to approach a sale. You are about filling a need or providing information first, and a salesperson second.
Tip #3: Listen. “If I had to wrap it up in one sentence; they're good listeners. They're always listening for clues from the customer or from a team member.” People often drop clues as to their wants or needs, and it’s important to listen attentively because you never know what might yield a sale. “Whether it's a customer who is looking for a perfect gift for the holidays, for stocking stuffers, or for other people in her life, [from] the babysitter to the dog sitter, if there's a need for gift-giving items, I'm listening for that,” Palm says. Often people might not even realize they are looking for something until you listen and offer up thoughtful suggestions.
Palm’s journey from intern to President of Social Selling is the result of allowing herself to be curious about her career and interests. Through her various experiences and positions in the industry she’s seen what it takes to succeed as an independent consultant with the ambition to sell. By focusing on extensive product knowledge, committing to a service mindset, and attentive listening, you are guaranteed to serve your customers well and advance your career.