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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Let's Be Direct

Once upon a time, Jamie and I got on this crazy bandwagon selling Herbalife products.  We had both lost weight and experienced huge amounts of energy and well, there was money to be made and we were so swept up in the possible fortune that could be made that we never really questioned the "system" as it were.  We weren't money hungry or anything, just desperate to stay together.  You see, this was right before he was gearing up for deployment.  He joined the Navy a single dude, then met me and we became three and the thought of leaving us was more than he could bear.  He wanted out and thought if he could do something else, he'd be able to do that instead (He didn't plan to like leave the Navy, but at that time felt he would be career Navy and was looking for an alternative.)  Anyhoo, so we sold this crap and did okay.  Okay enough to make it to the national conference thing that is supposed to get you pumped up to sell even more by parading millionaires and success stories in front of you for two full days.  It was fun, but didn't really inspire me to greatness.  All I could see was this stadium filled with hopeful people being told if they just "worked the business" they too would be millionaires. It left a bad taste in my mouth....for many, many years.

First off, I will say, at this point in my life, I don't think selling health products just because you bought a kit is a great idea.  That's an entire realm of personality responsibility that really doesn't lend itself to willy nilly representation.  You kind of need to know about the human body and nutrition and the reality that eating ANYTHING besides crap will usher in positive changes so that magical powdered shake may not really be doing what it says it's doing....it may just be the abstinence of the customer's daily Big Mac doing it.  So yeah, I'm not a huge fan of selling magical health products to people just because you signed up to sell it. (Now, I will say that some people selling these products absolutely DO know what they are talking about and are very knowledgeable and worth talking to!) I just think there needs to be more to it than that....but....My disdain for direct sales based on this past experience has been misplaced.  This is something I've been thinking about a LOT lately, even before I signed up with a company that employs this type of marketing.  Just the topic of consumerism in general fascinates me. Why do we buy what we buy and why do people sell what they sell?  Is it to make a quick buck?  What drives our decision making in all things money? I LOVE talking about that.

The other day an article came out bashing women (and just for the record, moron, it's not just women or "moms" selling products, so that was just dumb) who use social media to sell products they represent.  I kind of understand because some people are hugely obnoxious when it comes to what they are peddling (shut up...I can be counted among those people right now, but for good reason, which I'll explain below) but when you really examine what direct sales MEAN, it might change your perspective a bit.

What are direct sales anyway?  Long story short, the people who create or design these products skip Walmart and use people, like actual PEOPLE, to sell their products.  And this benefits YOU the consumer, hugely.  Why?  Well let's just examine that, shall we?

1. The salesperson is (most often) a customer themselves.  Go to Walmart. Pick up anything.  Now go ask an employee how to use it, how they like it and what they think of the product in general.  Chances are, they are going to shrug, look at you like you've lost your marbles and mumble some version of "I just work here..."  If you are buying from a direct sales company you are going to get way more information about what you are exchanging your money for.  You will be talking to someone who has actually USED this product or products from this company.  It's kind of like trading stocks with inside information (Shout out to Martha S. right here!!)  You aren't taking as much of a risk with your money when you purchase from a direct sales company...period.

2. But that person is just SELLING can totally b/s me, can't they?  I mean OF COURSE they will tell me this product is great...they just want to make money.  Uhm..dudes...direct sales representatives build their business from their inner circle on out...We don't start by selling to random strangers.  We generally share this great thing with the people we like the most first and we would not be taking the risk of pissing off our favorite people and stealing their money by selling them crap that doesn't work.  And...our "people" know each other.  If this thing is crap and not worth the money, our people will tell our other people and then we're hosed.  This is HONEST marketing.  We bank on the fact that what we are offering is worth it.  Otherwise, it wouldn't work.  You would sell this crappy thing to friend A who would tell friend B to steer clear...and then you are forced into early retirement a week after opening your doors.  The only way...and really let this sink in...the ONLY way direct sales works is by offering a product that does what it says it will.  It's based ENTIRELY on word of mouth.  Think about that for a few minutes....

3. But you're offended by this friend "selling" something to you...talking so much about it..."trying to get ME to try that crap"....Okay, but you're NOT offended by mutli-million dollar companies paying ga-jillions of dollars to pay other people to convince you your life completely sucks because you don't own whatever crap THEY are trying to sell you on?  Really?  You are more offended by that girl you went to high school with telling you about this amazing kitchen gadget that she has USED and that WORKS than you are by that guy shouting at you to "CALL RIGHT NOW for this LIMITED TIME OFFER???"  You live in a world that tries to separate you from your money every second of every day.  It's amazing to me that people are more comfortable giving their money away to complete strangers than to people they know selling a product they are using themselves and vouching for it's worthiness. All you see is a salesperson, not a happy customer. The reality is you are looking at BOTH.  If we lived in a world that required every product sold had to be used by the seller first, can you imagine how much different the world would be??

4.Well, why are there SO MANY companies selling so many different things?  It's annoying....right??  Have  you SEEN how many kinds of cereal there are in a grocery store?  We are a society that wants choices....and oh boy, do we have them.  You probably know someone who sells bags, someone who sells makeup, someone who sells house decor and someone who sells nail wraps (You know ME, so you know someone who sells nail wraps) and you might wonder....why?  Why is this person selling this particular thing? Well, why do you do what YOU do?  I have friends that sell a variety of different things but if I ask any one of them why they are selling that thing, the answer is always the same "We love the products.."  For whatever reason, the item WE are selling spoke to us, made some sort of difference in our lives.  It could be the quality surpassing other similar products we have used, it could be that the product changed a specific aspect of our lives (this is me with the nail thing...my nails sucked SO bad and this product completely obliterated this thing that embarrassed me for so long...), it could be sheer happiness the company or the product afforded us....but there's always the bottom line of "We love this and truly want to share it with you...with everyone!!"

The thing is, with direct sales, it's direct.  It's personal.  We mean what we say and say what we mean and it's astonishing to me how many people are uncomfortable with that.  We're okay with someone recommending a restaurant or a movie or even an entire neighborhood if we're house hunting, but the second someone tries to share a product with you that they are SELLING, we're looking up the ACLU, quite sure at least one of our rights is being trampled on.

I can't speak for the entirety of direct sales reps in the entire country, but I'd bet the vast majority are people like you (like me)  Honest, hard-working and actively seeking to live the best life possible.  The product they are vested in is part of that picture.  It's really as simple as that.  Think about something in your life that provides pleasure, comfort, entertainment or sheer joy!  How many people know that about you? Are they offended that you post pictures of your motorcycle, the awesome cake you decorated or the curtains you just found on clearance?  Hopefully they aren't.  My passions have been blasted across facebook every day for the past few years.   I've put up hundreds of pictures of our remodeling efforts, my children, yarn (and more yarn and well....just LOTS of yarny things), our chickens and goats and vegetables and links to things I've found hilarious, beautiful or inspiring.  I share ME with my friends and right now that includes what I'm selling (before my writing gigs dried up and become inappropriate, I shared that too!)  Not to offend but to include...

The thing is I wouldn't put my name on ANYTHING I didn't believe in.  For me, the end game is this question "If money was not even a thing, would I want to put this product/thing/hobby into the hands of the people I love?"  And the answer is yes.  I would want to give Jamberry to ALL my friends, I'd want to teach them to knit, I'd want to invite them over to see our latest home project and to play with my kids.  I truly believe in sharing any good thing I've found and I love it when my circle of people does the same.  We might live in a world that is more comfortable with passive, elusive and deals better with third-party randomness than face to face directness, but I really think we should question that on a grand scale. I think we should embrace as much of the personal (even how we shop) as we possibly can and rail against the system that has us "Pressing one for English." (and that's not a dig on Spanish speakers, it's a dig on "talking" to freakin computers by pressing buttons!!!)  I guess what I'm saying is what's wrong with getting a little personal, a little real, a little honest?  Intentional.  Passionate.  And direct!

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