A Facebook notification pops up on my phone. “A message from a childhood friend? So fun! What is she up to these days?” I wonder, as I click to see.
Oh. She thinks I would be perfect for her new home-based business that is making her so much money. “I’m so flattered,” I mumble sarcastically.
To say these recruitments annoyed me would be an understatement. Partly because I genuinely love to connect with friends (so I was bummed to find a form letter), but mostly because I enjoy sales as much as Rosie enjoys Donald.
I could not sell water in the desert, so selling literally anything does not interest me ― mascara, vitamins, jewelry, clothing, skin care, a workout regimen... I was an equal opportunity hater.
But I have this weird quirk where I do not like to criticize that which I am unwilling to try.
When my children complain that their suburban lives in their climate-controlled home with parents who adore them are SO HARD, my repeat mantra is “We Do Hard Things.” Some children in the world walk barefoot for miles and miles to school, but I can understand how asking you to change out of your pajamas is SO HARD. But we do hard things in this family, sweet children of mine with zero perspective on actual hard things.
I could not sell water in the desert, so selling literally anything does not interest me.
I adopted that same mantra (and also their fake dramatics) and decided to try home-based direct sales. Some women work three jobs to barely provide for their family, but you have to understand that asking women to purchase beautiful jewelry with an important purpose is just SO HARD for me.
I hope you are giving me the biggest eye roll right now. Because I kinda hate myself for even admitting it.
I signed up for a company whose mission I believed in and wanted to support. And decided to give direct sales a try. (Full disclosure: this particular company is not actually multi-level marketing and involves no diamonds or cars. I was taking baby steps into this world. Selling was hard enough. Asking people to join under me was definitely not happening.)
And, you guys, this was WAY HARDER (to be clear: first world hard) than I ever would have anticipated. I was ashamed of how hard I had judged my friends for recruiting me for their sales teams. To me, the form letters and Facebook invites felt disingenuous, but in actuality, it takes a lot of courage for my friends to ask. My theory was correct in that I should never criticize that which I am unwilling to try. Because I had it all wrong.
I definitely underestimated how hard direct sales is, but I never even considered how awesome it could be. Even though I can’t speak for every company, I imagine it to be a somewhat universal experience... the camaraderie I found in this group of women is indescribable. Long distance friends have become some of my very best friends (thank you, Voxer). If I were being honest, if the Facebook messages led with this rather than the promise of a huge income, I would have jumped on board a long time ago. (This may or may not be a not-so-subtle hint. Do with it what you may.)
Because this is the thing: I know myself well enough to know I will never sell my way to a million dollars. Or even 12 dollars. But I will do nearly anything for really great friends. (A knowing that has proven true as I’ve discovered amazing truths about myself this year.)
If I learned anything from my year in direct sales, it’s that it is 100 percent not for me. I suck at sales even more than I thought I sucked at sales. But not everyone does. Just because I can’t do it well doesn’t mean no one should do it. And I have become infinitely less critical of those trying.
Because no matter if you jump on every new sales company or roll your eyes at them, every single sales person I know is simply trying to help their families. They believe in the product enough to humbly ask their friends and family to try it out. I promise you that this is not even 1 percent easy to do. Sure, there are certain pushy people who seem to ignore any and all social cues that kind of ruin it for the rest of us, but generally speaking, it’s just a mom trying to figure out how to pay for braces.
The judgements I had were because I was too concerned with my own self (and apparently the thirty seconds it took to respond to a Facebook message) to pay attention to the “why” behind the ask.
Sure, there are certain pushy people who seem to ignore any and all social cues that kind of ruin it for the rest of us, but generally speaking, it’s just a mom trying to figure out how to pay for braces.
As I’ve become more self-aware, I understand why sales are nearly impossible for me. I have many strengths, and I have many areas to develop. And I have loved learning to differentiate the two.
Which is why another year of direct sales is likely not in my future. But another year of writing is. Building connections through writing is super important to me. I wish you could all be my BFFs and that we sit down together over a cup of coffee. I have come to realize that I would rather support my friends in their endeavors than attempt my own. I am a great wing man, but that’s where my skill set stops with sales. And that’s okay.
Knowing yourself is so valuable. Understanding how you function explains why some people have the pink Cadillac and some people can’t understand why that’s even a thing. This truth applies to most every aspect of life, not just direct sales.
Long story short, my year in direct sales has taught me you can’t be someone you’re not, but you can do you really well. And being the best you is the best.