If you're looking for a way to earn money on the side of your current job, or you want to work independently full time while setting your own schedule, a career in direct sales might be a good idea for you. The direct sales model involves taking orders for and distributing products or services from a parent company. You might do this by going door to door, hosting in-person or virtual parties, or building a client list through other means. Popular examples of direct sales companies include Avon, LuLaRoe, Arbonne, Nu Skin, doTerra, and Stella & Dot.
Is a career in direct sales right for you?
A direct sales career might be best if you want to have some independence and flexibility, or to work from home. According to Connie Tang, president and CEO of Princess House, women and millennials are especially active in this industry.
Tang told Business News Daily that anyone who is coachable, values their independence and is dedicated can succeed in direct sales. People who have a passion for helping others succeed will find the most success in direct sales, since everyone benefits from one person's success in this industry, she said.
"All direct selling skills can be gained by being self-motivated, disciplined and determined," Tang added. "It's all about making a plan, and working your plan to completion. Staying organized, setting goals and developing a plan for achieving personal sales objectives are the keys to success."
Choosing a direct sales company (and avoiding pyramid schemes)
If you've decided that a career in direct sales will work for you, it's important that you choose to work with a reputable company that is as invested in your success as you are. You should also be interested in the product or service you're selling, and you should be careful not to get caught up in a pyramid scheme.
Jeff Olson, founder and CEO of Nerium International, pointed out that direct sales is a business of duplication. In other words, companies should provide messages that direct salespeople can duplicate. If you're interested in direct sales, you should try to find a company that supports its representatives and builds confidence and success through its training programs and other support avenues.
"[Nerium International] executes our communication platform through conference calls, email and text blasts, so a whole team can get the same information at the same time," Olson said. "Our training system is called Nerium Rhythm. We train and reinforce this system and [its] tools at regional meetings and leadership events through our Nerium Leadership Academy."
You should also look into a company's track record, Tang said.
"They must assess a company by … how long it's been in business," Tang said. "A healthy direct selling company also has a large number of dedicated representatives who collaborate together to build their individual businesses."
Finally, look at the company's practices to make sure you're not signing up for a pyramid scheme. Multilevel marketing (MLM) businesses get a bad rap because they're often confused for pyramid schemes. However, many MLM businesses are safe and reputable. One key factor is the focus of the company. If the focus is to build distributors instead of customers, there may be cause for concern.
Consider the cost to begin your business as a distributor, and whether or not the company will buy back unsold inventory. If a company requires you to purchase a large amount of inventory to distribute upfront and makes you absorb the cost of unsold items, that might be indicative of a pyramid scheme.
Social media and direct sales
There are many ways to build a successful career in direct sales. As you've probably noticed on your own social feeds, this industry has a large presence on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
"Social media is a huge component for direct sales," Olson said. "Ninety-four percent of digital purchases are influenced by family and friends' recommendations. Therefore, social media is a natural way for direct sellers to recommend a product they love to their networks."
Patrick Crosson, senior vice president and managing director at Hyperwallet, told Business News Daily it's important to be active on the social media platforms that most closely match your goals. Different social platforms are better for different audiences and post types, he said, so knowing your goals can help you choose the best social media site to promote your business.
"Having a presence on a social networking site without being active is a mistake," Crosson said. "Users that try to engage with the direct selling company online may find that their replies come slowly – if at all – and could develop a negative perception of the brand. Rather than create corporate accounts for every social platform, organizations should look carefully at which makes sense for their purposes and commit to them."
Crosson noted that Facebook is the most popular platform for driving online sales, citing the Direct Selling Association's (DSA) annual Web Presence and Technology Systems Survey, "whereas Twitter is preferred for fast information sharing, LinkedIn for recruitment, Instagram for brand awareness and so on," he said.
It's also important to engage your audience on social media and not just push sales via those channels.
"Direct selling companies can market their products and highlight their benefits through social media, but organizations that bring nothing else to the table are missing the point," Crosson said.