Guest author Alan Luce is Co-Founder and Managing Principal of Strategic Choice Partners (SCP), a consulting firm that provides strategic support and services to help today’s direct selling companies thrive.
Alan is a US DSA Hall of Famer, and member of the DSEF’s Circle of Honor. He’s served in executive roles at Tupperware, PartyLite, DK Family Learning and other companies, and has been a part of launching more than 30 direct selling companies over his career.
Guest Post by Alan Luce
For Today’s Direct Seller, It’s All About Choices
Today’s successful direct selling company understands that what their customers and potential sales people want is “choices.” As customers, they want and increasingly demand to be able to choose when, where and how they interact with a business to buy everything from cotton swabs to automobiles.
That demand to choose when, where and how they interact with a business or a product is why you can now buy everything online, including cars and houses! That is why big box stores are moving toward operating on a 24 hour basis in many urban and suburban areas. That is why it is becoming more and more common to be able to access a human customer service rep who can sell you a product or an airline ticket, give you selection advice or resolve your complaint or process your return at 2 am in the morning.
More and more customers will no longer tolerate having to do business with your business during your “normal” hours. If you want to succeed, you better be willing to do business with them when they choose to do business with you!
As an industry we sometimes forget that our sales people are, first and foremost, our customers. For decades, direct sellers took the position that if a person wanted to make some extra money or even a full-time living selling our products, then that person had to adapt to our sales programs, using our systems and interacting with us on our schedule. Stated more bluntly, if you wanted to do business with us, it was “My way or the highway!”.
We direct sellers could get away with this system because every other type of business worked pretty much the same way. Customers had to go to the store when the store was open to buy or return products. It was the same with doctors, dentists, lawyers and even churches. If we wanted to access a product or a service, we had to adapt to when, where and during what hours that product or service was being offered.
Starting in the 70’s, blue laws requiring businesses to shut down on Sundays began to be repealed. Early moderately-priced stores like Sears and K-Mart started to extend their hours later into the evening and seven days a week.
By the eighties, some Big Box stores and supermarkets were experimenting with being open 24 hours a day. The best direct mail marketers were promoting that their service reps were available by phone for more and more hours of the day and night.
With the advent of the Internet, companies selling products and services online figured out that they could have a competitive advantage over their brick and mortar competition simply by offering more hours of access to buy, talk or get problems solved.
Now, with the brick and mortar sellers also offering e-commerce sites and e-commerce sites such as Amazon opening local pick up locations, buyers have more choices than ever. Go to the store to buy and pick up, buy it online and have it delivered in one day or two days or four days, or order it online and go pick it up in minutes. Soon folks will be able to exercise all of those choices day or night seven days a week every day of the year! For buyers, it’s all about having choices. The more choices they have the better they like you as a seller.
And it follows like day follows night that when our customers think about looking for an income opportunity, they will gravitate to the company that offers them the most choices about how, when and where to do the business.
They want as many choices as they can get to sell in person at home, in the neighborhood or at work. They want to be able to sell online so that they never have to leave home and can run their business from their home office in the evening hours or weekends. They want their customers to have options about how quickly they can receive the products, even if it means paying more. They want customer clubs that offer discounts and special offers because that is what they would want for themselves. They want to be able to get help from the company to answer questions and solve problems when they are working the business, which in most cases will not be in the 8:00 am to 5:00 pm time frame.
In other words, they want choices! The more choices, the better.
The direct selling companies that understand the choices are imperative and provide the most choices for their customers and their sales force members are the companies that will thrive in the coming years.
It’s all about choices!