Written by Brett Duncan. Brett is a “transitionist” who specializes in helping direct selling companies as they transition into the new era of direct selling. He is co-founder and managing partner of Strategic Choice Partners, a business development firm that helps direct selling companies take their next steps.
Embracing a Next-Steps Mentality
I go to a church that is built on a simple but profound principle: help people take their next step in their spiritual journey. When you hear it explained, it’s a pretty powerful concept. The idea is that everyone, no matter where on their journey they are, has a next step to take. Everyone can progress. Everyone can still become more.
In many ways, I feel like this is the underlying promise that every direct sales company offers. As an industry that celebrates personal development, what we really embrace is this idea that anyone, no matter where they’re at or their level of experience, can take a next step toward becoming whatever it is they want to become. The company and its products and its rewards can help with that, but they are really just a vehicle to a greater development in that person’s life.
Direct sales companies help people take a next step in their lives.
But a next-steps mentality isn’t just good for personal development; it’s really smart for business, too. Our channel, probably more than any other, leverages the small steps of many to generate revenue and profit and growth. Sure, every business has its “all-stars,” and its “top dogs,” but companies that are growing are companies that are embracing small progress made by thousands.
In my last article, 3 Stats Direct Selling Companies Must Pay More Attention to in 2022, I shared some very practical reports and data you should have handy to get a handle on where your business is at today. Those reports aren’t the end-all, be-all of KPIs, for sure, but they do a great job at getting down to identifying what I think really matters for us all: creating a next-steps culture.
The underlying question with everyone who interacts with our company and our brand is this: “what do you want out of this?” It can’t be “Here’s what we want out of your involvement with our company.” It must be centered on what they want. Only when we can deliver what they want out of interacting with our company will they ever be open to all the other things they may be interested in down the road.
With the rest of this article, I want to share some thoughts and prompt you to think through where your company could do a better job of embracing a next-steps culture. We too often focus on the big plays, the “giant leaps,” when our model is specifically created with more of a “next steps” mentality in mind.
My question is, are we really embracing that as well as we could?
Here are some thoughts to get your company taking a next step toward a next-step culture.
Next Steps for Your Customers
In the previous article I reference above, I give guidance on a way you can segment your Customers based on their buying habits over a year with your company. Here’s a short excerpt for reference:
“What you need to understand is how often and how much your current Customers and Distributors purchase from you over the span of 12 months. To do this, I like to create about five buckets, or segments, and place all of your current Customers and Distributors into one of these buckets:
- Purchased only 1 time the past 12 months.
- Purchased 2-3 times …
- Purchased 4-6 times …
- Purchased 7-10 times …
- Purchased 11+ times …
Then, for each segment, I want to know the total revenue generated by that segment, the total # of orders and the average order size.”
There are many other ways you could segment your Customer base, so do as it makes sense for your company. Regardless, what you really want to focus on is how to help each segment take a next step with your brand. In some cases, these “next steps” will be central to a sales program or promotion you put in place. In other cases, it could just be timely communication.
Let’s take a look at the Customer who has purchased only one time in the last year. What could be a logical next step for them?
Well, first let’s think about what might not be the most logical next step. They probably aren’t quite ready to sign up for our autoship program (because they haven’t even reordered at all). And it’s probably not likely that they’re ready for our referral program yet (since they jury is still probably out for themselves). And yet, for many direct selling companies, these are prominent next steps offered to a Customer who has ordered only once.
The most logical next step for this Customer is… (wait for it…)… a second order. Is there something we can do to prompt a second order from this Customer. Is there a way that we can clarify how a second order will bring value to their life? Is there an incentive (like a discount code) that could help? Or maybe just timely information about our products?
And what if that next step is still a stretch for them? Do we have clear next steps in place that don’t require a second purchase? Maybe it’s a review, or maybe we can send them testimonials of others who have used the same product.
Just think of the impact on your business if you could optimize the next steps for this segment of your Customers. If you could focus on helping them get just a little bit more out of their journey with your company.
Of course, you can (and should) play this thinking out with all of your Customer segments. What’s a proper next step for those who have ordered from you twice? Maybe their ready to join your Preferred Customer program. Or your autoship program? What about people who have ordered 10 times this year? They may even be ready to become a Distributor, who participate in your referral program. Or try a new product.
For Customer alone, if you could get just 10% more to take a logical next step in their journey with you, it would do wonders for your business (and them).
Next Steps for New Distributors
You can obviously play this thinking out for your Distributors, too. If we look at the other two reports mentioned in my previous article, you’ll see that they focus on your segments of Distributors in terms of annual activity, as well as the engagement of new Distributors with your Fast Start Program.
I think a next steps mentality is even more critical to use with our Distributors, as we too often push giant leaps on them, assuming they are as committed to building their business as we want them to be. But all the signs points to that not being the case, so how can we help them achieve what they want to achieve with us?
If you can segment your training and field development appropriately, it can have a dramatic impact on how to best leverage your training opportunities. Some quick segments, and possible next steps, are as follows:
- Distributors who have still not made their first sale; next steps include a) conversation starters, b) tips on social media posting c) prompts on who to reach out to, d) specific scripts or talking points to bring up.
- Distributors who have not sponsored anyone; next steps include a) clarifying benefits on building a team, b) how to identify someone who may want to be a Distributor, c) how to bring up the opportunity without being pushy
- Distributors who have built wide but not deep; next steps include a) how to be a great sponsor, b) how to leverage our Fast Start program with your new Distributors, c) how to duplicate yourself
The options here are endless. And while every direct sales company has a leadership ranking system in place that inherently helps with this segmentation, so few are really focused on the intentional and specific work of getting someone from one rank to the next, let alone the smaller “next steps” between each rank.
How can you clarify the next steps for your new Distributors better? More importantly, how can you make sure you aren’t wasting their time with talking about next steps that they clearly aren’t ready for?
Next Steps for Leaders
Quite possibly the hardest next steps to line out are those for your top leaders. In many ways, they’ve figured it out. It can feel like they really don’t have a next step to take; they’ve taken them all.
Of course, we know this isn’t true. As soon as your leaders don’t feel like there’s a next step for them to take, crazy stuff will start happening. They’ll come up with a new system or get more involved in something else (or even another company). Who knows what it can be, but just know that we all as humans are seeking out ways to progress, so even your leaders are susceptible to this. If they can’t find their next step at your company, they will start looking for it elsewhere. It’s not a business issue; it’s human nature.
So, make sure you’re nurturing this process as much as possible. Sometimes, you just need to facilitate it and let the leaders run with it. Other times, you need to truly line it out for them. But make sure you’re in tune with what they want out of the business now (as their original “why” may now be a reality, so they need something more).
More importantly, make sure they stay connected to the mission and vision of the company, and understand their role in it. One of the other things I love about my church’s teaching on next steps is this: “When you take your next step, you’re opening up a space for someone else to take their next step.” How powerful is that!
For your leaders, this is the leadership culture you want to cultivate. In some cases, your leaders’ primary role is to build up the next generation of leaders.
What’s Your Next Step?
This next step mentality can really play itself out in every area of your business (and your life). I’m just scratching the surface here. But what I do know is that we all have a clear next step in paying more attention to nurturing and prompting the next steps of our people in a way that makes sense for them.
How do you do this at your company? What are some practical ways you’ve seen this play out?
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