5 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started in Direct Sales

tupperware circa 1950, old direct sales, tupperware parties
tupperware circa 1950, old direct sales, tupperware parties
Image Source: Tupperdiva

When I started selling jewelry through ‘direct-sales’ (definition: the marketing and selling of products directly to consumers away from a fixed retail location) almost 6 years ago, I went into it completely blind with no prior experience. I had worked retail as a young woman, but I think I had been to one candle party, one Pampered Chef party and one Mary Kay party back when I was a little girl with my mom. I had been courted before by some Amway reps (back in the day when they gave you cassette tapes of conferences speeches!) and also by a Mary Kay rep when I was a young mother in my 20’s, but that was really my only dance with any kind of direct sales. Both of these experiences were a little creepy, and I knew in my gut that I didn’t want to be involved in anything like that. Not to disrespect the companies in any way of course, but there was sort of a no-hold-barred-cultish-ness to the way I was approached and I just knew that it felt icky. Fast forward 15-ish years when I discovered Stella & Dot via a friend, it just didn’t give me that same ‘ick’ feeling. The product was cool and the girls selling it were just like me. Normal. Interested in fashion. And just wanted to make a little extra money.

Disclaimer: I am no longer an Independent Sales Rep in Direct Sales with Stella & Dot

direct sales, 5 things I wish I had know when starting in direct sales, direct sales advice,

But hindsight is 20/20 or so the saying goes! I learned some valuable things along the way that I wish I would have known – about direct sales, leadership and business in general. Sharing them is the best thing I can do to pay it forward – and perhaps dispel some myths about starting your own direct sales business.

There will ALWAYS be people who think your business is a Pyramid Scheme.

What is a Pyramid Scheme anyway? I have heard that so many times, especially from older people that doubt the business model. They obviously have had that ‘ick’  feeling somewhere along the way also. By definition on WikipediaA pyramid scheme is an unsustainable business model that involves promising participants payment or services, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, rather than supplying any real investment or sale of products or services to the public. Well that does sound a little icky! But most businesses like mine and other competitors out there these days are far from a pyramid scheme. They are sustainable, above-board businesses that cut out the middle-man (retailer) and sell direct to customer. Especially if they offer multiple products like we have. However MLM’s or multi-level marketing can be a different animal: Again on Wikipedia: The network marketing or multi-level marketing (MLM) business has become associated with pyramid schemes. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, many MLM schemes “simply use the product to hide their pyramid structure”. While some people call MLMs in general “pyramid selling,” others use the term to denote an illegal pyramid scheme masquerading as an MLM.

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Okay so both the terms Pyramid Scheme and MLM’s give direct marketing and sales businesses a bad rap. So be prepared to answer these questions from nay-sayers early on the game. Because you will be running across them frequently from doubters and or maybe people who just don’t want to buy from you anyway. The sooner you know the difference and the sooner you know more about your company’s mission that you can recite verbatim, the easier it is to put these questions to bed! Nothing is worse than fumbling for answers! Or wondering yourself: Is it a pyramid scheme? #badrap tupperware party 1950s, home parties of yesterday, vintage images, scarlett stella & dot, image source tupperdiva

Not everyone that is in your inner circle will support your business. And that is okay.

The sooner you accept this, the better off you will be. Because it is actually easier to sell and deal with people that ARE NOT in your circle. Business is business and in a direct sales business, starting off with friends and family is common practice and quite accepted. However, the sooner that you get out of the friends and family circle, the better things will be for you. When I had my retail store, I blindly went into it thinking that ‘if everyone I know buys all of their makeup, body products and gifts from me, I will have a rocking business‘. And then when they didn’t, I was disappointed! It is much easier to sell product to people that really want to buy it because they love it and they don’t feel guilted into it. Because if they do, and then they don’t love what they bought, you will have to deal with that later anyhow! If you are selling a good product that YOU love and YOU believe in, get out there and find other people that do too. It’s as simple as that. #workhard

stella dot hoopla, stella&dot success
Conferences are some of the best times in Direct Sales.

You have to be willing to work hard.

We get paid a great commission for selling – most direct sales companies pay between 15-30% on product sales, and even more with team commissions. But you have to work to get those sales. They almost NEVER fall in your lap. If I have heard it once, I have heard it 25 times: “I am just going to give it a try and see if it takes off.” Just know that it will NEVER take off without any gas in the engine!! Or another favourite: “I am just going to play it low-key and see where I end up.” That will be no where. Because it doesn’t just happen. Unless you are coming from another very successful direct sales business where you had a massive customer base or a team of 10,000 people underneath you that want to join you on your new venture. I certainly knew that I had to work hard to get my business off the ground, but building a team and getting other people into the business so that I could earn more commissions, I learned that not everyone wants to work that hard. It’s a frustration that drove me crazy for a long while. And I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t know this?! There are multiple legs in this type of business and the sooner you realize that all you can control is your own actions, the better off you will be. #hopeisnotastrategy

Stella & Dot Fall 2014, stella fun, Stella dot, scarlett director

A volunteer army are not necessarily the soldiers you would choose.

This is a volunteer army. People choose to do this, and basically buy themselves a job for the cost of startup. Which is why these businesses do so well in a recession – you can be employed in a day! But with this comes some difficulties sometimes….these are not people that you would hire perhaps. But you are required to mentor them, lead them and/coach them. Our head trainer at Stella & Dot spoke at one of our conferences a few years ago about how we all feel like we all have our little team of ‘weirdos’ – everyone has their team of stylists that they mentor that may be people with eccentricities or quirks – people that we would NEVER hire if we were in the corporate world.  The sooner that you realize that there is not a lot you can do about ‘betty-basement-who-thinks-she-will-become-rich-in-6-months’ and just gently guide her along the way the best you can, the better you will be for it! Accept these people for who they are and what they can teach you. There really is a silver lining in every dark cloud. #truestory

marykay cadillac
The coveted Mary Kay cadillac…

Success is whatever YOU want it to be.

In a business like this it is very easy to get caught up in comparisons. Because really, everyone is doing the same Lather-Rinse-Repeat steps, just maybe at different speeds or with different techniques. But you don’t go to university and learn the ‘trade’ of direct-sales, like you would learn drafting or engineering or micro-biology. So it is very easy to look at others and wonder why they are more successful than you. I knew when I started back in 2008 that I wanted to make at least $2500 a month. That was my benchmark of success. And it still is actually! However 11/12 months of the year I make much more than this. But for awhile I got caught up in our inner-world of titles and comparison. And I became unhappy with myself! And I doubted my abilities and got cynical and snarky about others that were more successful (she lives in a better area, the American girls have more population to draw from, etc.). It took me a VE-RY long time to get to the place of being happy with my own measure of success. But that also means not achieving every company goal, or not earning the plaques and incentives that they challenge us with each season. Learning not to compare yourself with others and sticking to your own barometer will help you be successful in the long run. #hardlesson

After all, we are all entrepreneurs, and we do this business so that we can work for ourselves.

Because we are our own weirdos! perfect, you are perfect

What did you learn when you started in your own direct sales business? Click Here to Shop my Stock Photos for Bloggers, Direct Sellers and Social Sellers. Don’t get caught using images that you don’t own the rights to! Read more about copyright infringement HERE.

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If you Like this article you may like these posts:

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What? You Want To Leave Your Direct Sales Business? 

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5 Things I Wish I Had Know When I started in Direct Sales, A Real Girl's Guide to Direct Sales


28 comments on “5 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started in Direct Sales

  1. Great post! I love it! I’m local (South Surrey), an entrepreneur and also a Stella & Dot Stylist, I would love to meet you! let me know if you’d like to meet for a coffee sometime 🙂

  2. I was at one of your trunk shows years ago, and you made it look effortless. It was like a feeding frenzy. The women were all trying things on, telling each other how fabulous they looked, and placing orders. That’s why Betty Basement types – like me – get into it without realizing what it takes just to get people to host or show up.

  3. Love this, Scarlette! I find myself saying many of these same things to the people who are interested in signing up who don’t have direct sales experience. This is a must-read for anyone who’s thinking of joining our industry AND for mentors who can share w. their teams. Thanks!

  4. Your perspective is spot on, Scarlett! One of the most important things we do as leaders is help new team members navigate the “realities” of the industry – they can be extremely successful if they know just a few simple strategies and truths from the beginning! Thank you for writing this – it will be passed along!

  5. Scarlett,
    Loved your article, everything about it.

    I love your belief in your product but more importantly your belief in yourself and others on your team. Have an incredible Fall season!

  6. I am just starting and loving the process. I am doing this for me, my family, my life and enjoying the journey. I posted this to my FB page since I found it so helpful. Thank you!

  7. Your absolutely correct about wanting to sell to your friends and family. I know now that yes it doesnt always work the way i thought it would. I kmow i need to get out of that circle and find a new circle but im having trouble finding the new circle. Where to begin???

  8. Wow, this is amazing and such perfect timing! I’m hosting my launch party for Lipsense today and it was great to read this before diving in head first. Thank you!

  9. Informative post. Something I have been thinking of writing on myself!

    p.s. Great photo! One of my funnest moments with S&D 😉

  10. Scarlett! Well said and you’ve just inspired me to start my blog. I wish I would have know what I know now. Kudos to you and much success to you!

  11. This is a wonderful article and I love the comparisons of pyramid scheme and MLM. I completely agree with you. Being an entrepreneur myself and enjoying the freedom and benefits of direct sales with Seacret Direct (www.seacretdirect.com/kxekominos) and others, I understand that any business that you have takes work. The amount that you put in will be directly related to the earnings that you receive. Having the notion that you begin a business and put little or no effort into it and expect a bag of money to fall from the sky is cray!!

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