Rick Loy is a sales strategist and training specialist with more than 20 years of experience as a Senior Executive in direct selling.
As an Associate with Strategic Choice Partners, Rick helps companies update their sales efforts in a way that works in today’s direct selling climate while also taking into account the quickly moving landscape from a regulatory perspective.
Building GREAT Sponsors
IT’S AMAZING WHAT OUR PEOPLE DO!
Our businesses rely on the efforts of the sponsor (coach / upline) to equip, guide and support new recruits. It’s a fascinating process to observe, and so multifaceted that it’s hard to say any one component is more important than another. Used to, we at the corporate office let sponsors handle the onboarding of their new Distributors almost entirely. Today, that’s not the case, for several reasons.
Previously, I shared what I consider to be Part 1 of this series on “Becoming Brilliant in the Basics”. If you haven’t read that article, I suggest you do it now for a proper frame of reference. The corporate team is much more responsible for pretty much every area of a direct sales operation than it used to be. This is especially true when it comes to helping our people not just sell well, but also sponsor well. That’s what I want to focus on in today’s article.
Typically, sponsors serve as teachers, trainers, encouragers, product experts, compensation gurus, sources of inspiration, boundary enforcers, information centers, and much more. Additionally, many of these sponsors are actually very young in their journeys, and thus leaning on their sponsor for the same kind of help they are trying to give others. Each of them deserves a standing ovation for every day they stay in the mix.
KEY QUESTION: What is the company’s role in supporting and equipping sponsors to be GREAT at what they do? They want to be effective and successful, their sponsors want them to be successful, and the company wants them to be successful, no doubt. Yet frequently there is no specific training or defined pathway for becoming a great sponsor. Often, it’s more “Catch what you can, when you can, if you can!” for them.
No doubt some veterans take this very seriously and give their best efforts, but sadly, this needed training remains far from the top of the priority list in so many companies.
This is not optimal, but it’s understandable. The corporate team is busy, most associates are very part-time, time for training in general is scarce, and the upline veterans have their hands full already. However, there is a price to be paid for leaving skills training – such as being a great sponsor – to something akin to chance.
OPPORTUNITY IS STARING US IN THE FACE
We know that people respond to product offerings. Some purchase at full retail. Some go on to become preferred customers. Some go on to become Distributors.
Some engage the business casually. And some move through the ranks as they choose. In the midst of it all, quite a few purchasers / preferred customers will cross over from purchaser to seller. And every one of those people deserve the company’s best efforts to help them become competent, comfortable and confident.
“But that’s the role of the upline!” I understand this has been the typical approach for a long time, but the view has shifted dramatically over the past few years. Consider this:
- The highly-skilled sponsors in most companies comprise a small percentage of the active Distributors.
- A percentage of those choosing to become Distributors (sellers) are not structurally near the highly-skilled sponsor above them.
- Those who are close to a highly-skilled sponsor will typically not get a lot of time with her or him.
- There can be (and often is) notable variation in how different leaders present basic orientation and training.
- New Distributors need simple, absorbable and duplicable tools.
- Everyone using the same “playbook” is a win for each and every Distributor.
- Efforts invested here consistently can increase productivity.
- A collaborative content-creation group of corporate staff and veteran Distributors can design this in a relatively short period of time.
- Great sponsors support sales, volume, revenue and growth for the company.
Some in our companies will say, “We have videos on our website that address some of this.” We do well to look at it from a different angle: How many people have watched those videos all the way through? How frequently do we hear stories of people using the videos and increasing their retention and volume? Are we seeing any growth in retention of engaged associates, or is it flat-lined? Is the challenge to build GREAT sponsors worth the effort?
Some others in our companies will say, “The existing sponsors can handle it; we don’t need to get in that loop.” Again, look at it from a different angle: When a purchaser or preferred customer chooses to start selling, we owe them all the resources we can muster. They come with hope and the willingness to try something that is probably totally new for them. They are “buying into” more than just their upline; they are now willing to speak and act in support and endorsement of the brand at large. Many, if not most of them, have a sponsor not fully equipped to train them. Without guidance, a new seller – who will face “no’s” or “let me think about it” responses in their natural market- may quickly set selling aside and default to just purchasing.
Minimal efforts to equip new Distributors get minimal results. And, while maximal efforts here do not guarantee anything, real-world and relevant training will capture the attention of some new Distributors. And that can…
- Accelerate their learning curve,
- Build their confidence,
- Increase their sales,
- Support retention of their purchasing base,
- Lead to duplication of these their skills in more new associates.
What if there was a 3% growth in retention of active Distributors? What if it was 5%?
The point here is simple: The business relies on committed, competent, confident and consistent Distributors. So, taking a minimal or arms-length approach to equipping them is unwise.
We can take this statement to the bank: “People don’t respond much to what is said or published; they respond to what is EMPHASIZED!” If we believe strongly that GREAT sponsors are keys to our future growth in all categories, then creating and continually emphasizing solid tools for them makes perfect sense.
TRAINING WE CAN OFFER OUR NEW SPONSORS / DISTRIBUTORS
New sponsoring Distributors have much to learn and master. Most of them need specific guidance and direction, enabling them to start building their own business. Even more important is their ability to then transmit the learning to their downline. This is why simple and duplicable strategies are essential, and companies who choose to own the training will be in an advantaged position.
Here are some example modules we can create and provide for our associates:
I. CELEBRATE THEIR DECISION TO BUILD!
A. Thank them for their trust, affirm their choice, and pledge support / help
B. Give them a vision of what’s ahead
1. Influencing the thinking, behavior and development of others
2. Adding value to their lives with our products
3. Learning as you go and increasing leadership skills
4. Receiving help and coaching from your upline
5. Growing in competence, comfort and competence
C. You’ll enjoy the intangible and tangible rewards that can come with our business
II. PERSPECTIVE ON THE PROCESS THEY ARE BEGINNING
A. There is so much common ground
1. You AND your new Distributors are all “volunteers”; you do what you do for reasons that matter to you
2. You and your Distributors work your businesses with discretionary time (Free to choose how much time / effort you will invest)
3. Your leverage with others is your character, commitment and consistency
4. Leading others here is influence, not management
5. Your role is to guide and equip those who want to build
B. Your upline knows all of this; ask for their help and support as you go
C. The target is to make progress in the process
1. Keep a narrow focus initially: what do I do next?
2. Emphasize action; knowledge will come as you go
3. There is a learning curve with anything new; be patient with yourself
4. You may move fast; others may move slower or faster; it’s not a contest
III. STRATEGIES AND MECHANICS TO MASTER
A. Learn and role-play key behaviors (repetition increases skill)
1. The mindset for a relaxed conversation with a prospect
2. Learn to share a story that’s real in you and relevant to others
3. Speak confidently about products you value; simple and short
4. Ask relevant questions, and listen carefully to what’s said
5. Embrace the reality of questions; they are to be expected and most often are a signal of interest
6. Respond well to “No” or “Not now”
B. Develop language for comfortably moving to a decision; stay with it
1. Summarize: “Here’s what I heard you say…”
2. Identify: “I really hear that…I remember my own experience with…”
3. Affirm: “I’m confident I can help you, and I pledge that I will…”
4. Recommend: An affordable group of products that meets the target
5. Ask: “Let’s go ahead and place your order now, okay?”
C. Having business conversations with downline associates
1. Reinforcement: “Let’s walk through this again and nail it down”
2. Clarifying: “Tell me where you are with this; I want to serve you well”
3. Corrective: “Your energy is great; let me help you with some changes we need to look at…”
4. Boundaries: “I’m for you; I’m sensing resistance to what we agreed we would do together… Can we talk about that?”
IT’S WORTH IT FOR EVERYONE
Distributors are the most valuable assets. When equipped and enthusiastic, they can accomplish so much that matters to so many. Knowing that, helping them become GREAT sponsors makes perfect sense.
Many years ago, my mentors in the financial services industry modeled for me extreme ownership of their highly successful business. They understood that the quality of their investment in a client could literally change the trajectory of that client’s life. They never handed key / critical matters off to other members of their team. They counted it their responsibility and privilege to ensure that clients received the best counsel and support possible, personally. I’m now an advocate of that approach. One of their favorite sayings is timely for us right now: “If you own your own business, then be SURE you OWN your business.” Let’s own our businesses, and give our people the tools they need to succeed.
Video modules make the most sense, with a corporate team member and a respected Distributor guiding the conversation. Six to eight minutes is common, but remember that people who really want to learn will stay with you longer if the content is solid. And, spreading out the content in absorbable segments is preferred over attempting to cover everything in one setting.
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