Hosting online direct sales parties can be very smart especially if your hostesses are finding it hard to get your friends and family together in the same spot on the same day. Some direct sales companies even offer online parties to make it easy to pool sales together, but adding an online chat as part of the party can make the event a fun “girls night out” — without leaving the house!
Make sure to tell everyone you know that you’re hosting an online party. Excitement is contagious. Be sure to let everyone know how excited you are about the great products that will be presented. Send out emails that tell your guests the date and time as well as a link to the website where your party is going to be held. If you know of any special offers or discounts being offered, let them know in your email. A lot of direct sales companies now have special areas for their hostesses to provide their guests with online email invites and information.
Offer Some Incentives
Everyone likes to think they’re saving money or “getting a deal” so incentives can be a draw for your guests and they just might place a larger order, too. Often your company will have monthly guest discounts or other specials you can offer your guests. Send the company flyer in a subsequent reminder email or create a flyer offering your own special.
In addition to company sponsored incentives – or instead of them, if your company doesn’t offer anything- you might consider creating incentives of your own. If you’re trying to make sales then offer a discount or buy one, get one offer using your consultant discount. If you want to fill up your calendar with bookings, offer a special item or discount percentage to anyone that books a party on your available dates. If you have trouble coming up with ideas or think you’re spending too much money on extra incentives, talk to your up line leader. She will likely know how to help you in your particular situation.
Advertise, Advertise, Advertise
Make a list of places to advertise your online party. Think of forums, chat rooms and websites that might cater to someone interested in your company’s products. You must make sure to pay attention to the posting rules in the sites you are looking to place an advertisement. You don’t want to be accused of spamming since that will get you banned from future postings and make you look unprofessional. Forums for moms or for moms that work from home are excellent places to look for advertising your online party. Just remember – be respectful.
Enjoy The Party
Once you’ve send the invitation and reminder emails, advertised and thought up your sales and booking strategies then sit back, relax and enjoy the party. Be excited for your hostess and guests and share your enthusiasm for the products being offered. It is very likely that you will get others interested and excited too and that will lead to a fun and profitable online party
As you probably already know, the way to money and success in a direct sales business is to keep your calendar full and happy with parties, vendor fairs or other events focused on selling your company’s products. There are many ways to insure a full calendar when you first start with your company:
1. Host your own open house to introduce your business. The goal of an event like this is not to sell a ton of product (although that’s sometimes a nice side benefit) but to encourage others to hold parties for you.
2. Offer to do a class or presentation at your local park district or chamber of commerce meeting. This gets your name and your business known to a lot of people who can spread the word for you!
3. Ask your dearest friends to do an open house or party for you. I know, this drives fear into the heart of a lot of new direct sales reps but really, all you have to do is ask and the worst thing they can say is “no, I’d rather not”. But you’ll never know unless you ask!
4. Participate in local craft and vendor fairs to get your name out in the community. These might cost a bit of money for a booth or table but it’s a nice way to reach a lot of people in a short amount of time. Make sure you have some type of give-a-way or drawing to get names to add to your mailing list.
5. Advertise – both paid advertising as well as press releases and other forms of free advertising. A small ad in your local paper can do wonders. Notify your local “neighborhood” reporter of your business too.
Once you’ve got some events and direct sales parties scheduled on your calendar, the key is to keep the momentum going and continue booking. There are some great ways to do this as well:
1. Use the open date cards – at every party and event that you have, have your next open party dates listed on a calendar or index card and offer premiums for anyone who books those specific dates.
2. Play booking games at your parties.
3. Ask ask ask – at every party and event as each and every customer and guest if they’d be interested in having their own party. Don’t be shy! Start your presentation with a simple statement like “And because I don’t want anyone to feel left out I’ll ask everyone if they want to have a party with me. In fact, if I don’t ask you to host one, I’ll give you free shipping on your order!” That way you’re committed to asking and people are expecting it!
4. Whenever there are holes in your schedule pick up the phone and call those folks on your mailing list who expressed interest in possibly hosting a party or schedule an event yourself like a past hostess appreciation event, I love my customers fiesta or similar. And again, at that event, book more!
Once you’ve really built some momentum, it’s good to actually overbook a bit for a while. Start looking for other team members locally that you can pass your extra parties on to and you’ll really start to grow!
In direct sales, the work at home market and especially in this economy, you can be effective by being cheap and easy when marketing your business.
While we are all in business to make money, sometimes our budget can leave a lot to be desired. Dropping your advertising budget in this economic environment can be a killer. It seems like a vicious circle. We need to drive the traffic and sales, but our money is best used very wisely. We have to become very aggressive to market our business. But if you don’t have the time to research, here are some of my ideas that can help you that are cheap and easy; my favorite kind.
· Use mini mailers or flyers with samples or coupon attached and go door to door. No, you don’t have to knock, but be respectful of no soliciting signs. And don’t just go one time.
· Check with neighborhood stores that may allow you to leave information.
· Use fish bowls or information boxes to gather customer interest. Give away something once a month or so to encourage them to fill out your form.
· Bulletin boards are free and easy. Laundry mats, grocery stores, local stores, restaurants and many more places have them. Make sure to have a tear off tab with your phone number for someone to take.
· Team up with another business owner that has products compatible to yours and market together. She can introduce you to her customers and vise versa.
· Place small ads in the community paper or penny saver.
· Use your business cards like water. Place them everywhere you can.
· Many restaurants allow business card inserts or ads in the menu.
· If you sell a product, check to see if there are businesses that take consignments. Depending on the mark up of your products, you can move some product while advertising it as well. Make sure all products have your contact info on it.
· Donate product to a charitable organization for a raffle prize.
· Participate in local events where you can set up booths to give out information or sell product.
· Invest in a logo designed just for you and get a professional shirt made to wear as you are out. Make it your uniform, so get several.
· Invest in signs or graphics for your vehicle.
· Join the chamber of commerce and become an Ambassador. Work the meetings.
· Teach classes in your expertise. Look at senior centers, YMCA, churches and other local places that you can donate some time teaching others.
· Write articles and send them to the paper.
· If your business is also online, write articles and places them on article websites along with a nice tag line to drive business to your site.
This list comprises just a few of the things that I have done. How many can you incorporate into your marketing plan? Remember, you can still advertise without a lot of money. Most of these things I listed here are no cost besides your time or the cost of some product. Put on your thinking cap and see how many others you can come up with and keep your advertising cheap and easy.
Home Party Businesses Need Business Plan
I replaced my full time job with my home party business in about 9 months. I am often asked “what is your secret?” referring to my successes in my
home party plan business. The secret is that I treat it like a business or a profession. There are certain business practices that all successful businesses follow. They are called best-business-practices. One best-business-practice that all successful businesses follow is to write and rewrite annually a business plan. Home party businesses would benefit by a business plan as well.
A business plan has three purposes:
1. Provides clarity and purpose
2. Gives you IRS compliance when taking home office deduction
3. Gives you a road map for success over the next year
Not only does a good business plan spell out your goals, mission and purpose but it also provides you with actions to take. When you have a plan in place you will have a better understanding on where to invest your time and money.
Here is an example of what a plan may include:
The mission of Snuggy Bunny Baskets is to:
1. Have a customer base of at least 10 annual “repeat” customers
2. Service my customers in the best way I can
3. Sponsor active Independent Representatives
4. Support and train my recruits in the best way I can
5. Be an active part of the business community
6. Attend monthly & yearly business meetings
Marketing & Sales:
Snuggy Bunny Baskets will use the following marketing methods to promote the mission statement: (other methods will be incorporated as necessary)
1. Home Shows
2. Catalog (Book) Shows
4. Pass out business cards
5. Give gifts & promotions (of company products) to family, friends & potential customers
6. Attend (or join) local professional organizations
7. Fund Raisers/Basket Bingos
8. Business meetings over a meal
A IRS direct sales specific business plan template makes it easy to plug in your own details. Listen to the tele-seminar audio recording on Creating A Business Plan.
Your business plan is a perpetual work in progress. It will change from time to time and year to year and without one your goals will most likely elude you. I encourage you to complete your business plan as soon as you can. It is amazing what it will do for your business.
In our last article we talked about some ways to get the word out about your direct sales business without spending too much money. As a direct sales business owner you want to have the opportunity to promote as much as possible and as naturally as possible!
1. Ask for referrals at your parties – the events that you do for your business are the most natural place to promote and find new customers as well. You have a captive audience already! When you have a customer enthusiastically ordering at a party, don’t be shy. Simply say, “Jane, I’m so glad you enjoy our products so much. I’d love it if you’d share what I have to offer with some of your friends. Can I give you some of my discount cards to hand out or better yet, let’s schedule a party like this at your place so we can have another night of fun!”
2. Follow up right away – If you happen to get some names from your enthusiastic customer, don’t wait to follow up with them. Pick up the phone the next day and give them a call. It doesn’t have to be a big sales pitch. Just something simple like “I met your friend Jane last night at a party and she mentioned you…”
3. Along those lines, make it a point to call at least 3 calls to potential new customers each and every day. The phone is your best friend in your party plan direct sales business – if you use it consistently with a goal of 3 calls a day before long you’ll look forward to making those calls more and more.
4. Use your email signature – Every time you send an email you can be advertising your business for free. But don’t just put a link to your website. Use that little section of your email to create some sizzle and demand a response. A one line invitation before your web address invites them to click even faster, email you to find out your specials, cash in a coupon or get a freebie from you.
5. Get a car magnet. Much like a giant sizzle card, a car magnet or decal shouts out your business to any and everyone out there. Make it colorful, fun and make sure the words include a call to action. Add some card pockets when you are parked so interested people can walk up and get information on their own without having to write down your phone number and web address themselves.
6. Your answering machine. Get a separate phone number for your business and make sure that your outgoing message is a clear promotion of your business. Even here you can be voicing a call to action on your message.
7. Carry your product with you. Keep samples of your direct sales company products on hand and show or give them out freely. Keep a box of “refills” in your trunk so you can put more in your purse or bag when you run out.
8. Booths and fairs – participate in local vendor events with the goal of getting the word out about your business and networking with other direct sales reps to look for joint venture arrangements.
9. Send thank you notes – one of the most powerful ways you can keep a customer and gain referrals is with a personal note to them in the mail thanking them for their order or just to say hello.
10. Plan customer appreciation events and hostess only previews. Make your current customers feel special by letting them in on your upcoming promotions first – before anyone else. Have a monthly preview party or take some time just to call those folks whenever you can let them in on something special that’s upcoming.
If you keep your business in the front of your own mind at all times, you will be able to share it with others very naturally throughout your every day comings and goings. Make the most of every opportunity and share from the heart!
Manage Your Inbox
Is your email out of control? Does it take you longer to sift through your inbox than you have time to spend in the office? Don’t be afraid to turn your computer on! I did a tele-seminar a few months back on time management. During the call we spoke very briefly on managing your email system for better productivity. Recently at a live seminar one of the attendees said that she incorporated my inbox management system into her office routine and has streamlined her daily email operations.
Check Your Email Daily
I get a ton of emails every time I turn my computer on. The first secret to this system is going to be a very simple technique. Make a habit of checking your email at least once a day, preferably twice. This alone will make a huge impact on the manageability factor in your inbox. I am always amazed at how many entrepreneurs go for weeks without ever checking their emails. Your email is a revenue generation system. It may not be easy to physically see the cash flow from checking your email, yet prompt attention to your inbox will increase your ability to produce income. Anyone in business needs to check the email and respond daily. Just yesterday, Thursday, I had an email from some one who wants me to speak to her company’s national conference in the Spring. She planned on making a decision on the following Monday in regard to whom she was going to hire. Had I not checked my email daily, I would have missed this opportunity to create income. Systematically checking your email reduces the enormity of it and generates income. If you are in business to make money then, check your email daily.
Delete all irrelevant messages before beginning the review process. When you first open your email on a daily basis, start at the top, and highlight the first on in the list that is to be deleted. Holding the control button down, go down the column and highlight each one to be deleted. When you hold the control button down, you can just go down the column and touch everyone that you want to delete. You should be able to tell by the subject bar which ones those are. Also highlight all of the ones that are forwarded. A little discretion can be used here although not much. It is pretty safe to say that it is a rare email that has been forwarded that is worth keeping or that needs your attention. Do not mess with forwarded email, spam, social games or any rubbish. This is a really quick process, just hold the control button down and touch each one to be highlighted. You will have a column of blue highlighted emails, then just push delete. And Wam! They are all gone! This morning when I hit delete, a huge column of emails went off the page, and zip………it went down to only 6 that needed my attention. The deleted ones probably numbered 30 or more. Later on in the afternoon when I checked back, I did the same thing and zip……only had 3 to attend too. You will be thrilled at how well this technique works.
Deal With It And Move It
Deal with each email as you have the time. After it is taken care of, responded too, printed out, etc. you can either file it or delete it. If it is an email that you want to save move it to a pre-set up folder on the side. You can have as many folders as you want under your inbox. For example, publicity, direct sales consultants, tech adviser, potential hosts, opportunity leads, etc. If you do not have time to take care of something, maybe it will take more time than you have at the moment, then just leave it in the inbox. Your inbox is only for incoming mail and mail not dealt with yet. What is in your inbox should all fit in one view pane at all times. Once it is taken care of either delete it or move it to a folder for future reference. If you send a reply back and you are waiting for a return reply, then keep it in the inbox so that you do not forget about it. The folders at the side are like filing cabinets for future reference. Deal with it, delete it, or move it to a file. Pretty simple, huh? This system really works and frees you up to generate income.
Email Tips For Business Owners
- Keep your email for business. If you are a social emailer, then have two identities. Don’t clutter up your office or your time with personal emails.
- Don’t forward junk. Don’t forward at all. If it is important, save it to a file and attach it to your own outgoing email.
- Keep you outgoing emails clean. If you are replying, then delete what is irrelevant, in the reply and change the subject bar to a new subject.
- Keep emails brief. If it fills a page or takes up more space than the window then maybe you should be talking in person.
- Be professional. You are conducting business and your business deserves to be represented professionally in print. Do not fall into the casual mode of no caps, and poor spelling or cute abbreviations.
- Beware of email addiction. When used correctly email is a tool that will compliment your other business tools. When used incorrectly it can become and obsession and an excuse not to provide real customer service.
- Did I say check your email every day?!
You will be amazed and impressed at how easy it is to keep your emails manageable with these simple strategies. And don’t forget to check your email every day! It only makes good business sense.
In this final installment on our series of posts on finding success in Direct Sales by being persistent and working consistently, I wanted to talk briefly about something most women (and people in general) dread – some even more than public speaking.
And that thing is – picking up the phone to make business calls. Studies have shown that making phone calls ranks up on the fear scale with death for some people. Now that’s a pretty powerful statement.
First things first – the telephone cannot hurt you. Really it can’t. Short of picking the thing up and whacking yourself on the head with it to get a good sized bump there is very little damage that the phone can do. So befriend your telephone now if you want to be successful in direct sales.
One of the “selling points” about direct sales it that it involved face to face or at least voice to voice contact with your customers. Yes, a lot can be done via email and the internet but honestly, everyone is being bombarded with email, web pages and information that is typed. Set yourself apart as someone special by using the phone along with some fun handwritten notes to help build trust with your client base and have them loyal to you for life.
Want to make it easy? Combine a handwritten note with phone calling to take the pressure of the fear factor. How? Simply send a postcard or greeting card first and in your handwritten note telling your customer that you’ll be calling next week just to follow up and say hi! That commits you to it and lets her know ahead of time that you are not calling to pressure her. Keep it light – you are building trust – and if you work with your clientele this way consistently you’ll make the sales very naturally. Use the Sandy or 3×5 system along with phone calling and you’ve got a fabulous follow-up machine that will help you manage your business easily.
Need some ideas on what to say? Try this: “Hi Holly, it’s Jane. Do you have a quick minute? I just wanted to follow up on the postcard I sent last week about our specials. Did you get it? Great. Did you have any questions or can I help you with anything?”
Let the conversation flow naturally from there. If you’ve taken good notes on your customers you can ask about her family and other things too. Feel free to let her know about anything else business wise or something like “I know you mentioned you might be interested in having a party before the holidays. Should we try to set a date now or shall I call you next month when it’s a little closer?”
It’s not difficult, you are not hard selling and you are setting yourself apart from the average direct sales consultant who is just sending out a generic email to everyone on her list. Does it take a little extra time? You bet. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
Success in Direct Sales – Part 3
In our previous discussion I mentioned a little free online service called I Want Sandy.com. I’m still not quite sure how I discovered this little gem but I will tell you, it’s a direct sellers dream come true.
First, it’s free – that’s enough reason to give it a try. Second, it’s easy and if you know anything about me, if I can figure out how to use it, and use it well, then anyone can (in other words, my brain doesn’t work like it used to so easy is good). Third, it’s practical. Most direct sales moms are multi tasking maniacs and need something that will work in a practical way for their business. This does.
So let’s talk about how it works. Sandy is like a virtual reminder gal who will remind you of your appointments and notes through email and/or your cell phone. You set up your free account and then can add in any appointments you need either via email or through the iwantsandy.com site itself. When it comes time for that appointment, Sandy sends you an email reminder 15 minutes before (or a text message to your cell phone or both). It’s fabulous!
So, let’s talk about a few real life ways to Sandy it in your direct sales business.
1. Phone appointment reminders – This is by far what I used Sandy the most for. When I’m talking to a hostess about an upcoming party and I say to her, “I’ll call you the day before your party just to confirm everything is still a go and get a final head count” immediately I shoot off a reminder email to Sandy that says, “Remind me to call Holly Hostess at 2pm on November 3” with Holly’s phone number and any other info I need. Because I’m set up for email and text message reminders I get an email/text at exactly 1:45pm on November 3rd with the reminder notification. I can then reply with “Sleep for 14 minutes” if I want Sandy to remind me again right before I’m supposed to call.
2. To Do Lists – Although I love the TodoodList.com system, sometimes I need a little additional backup. Sandy provides that for me. I can send an email with a little tag @todo to her and she’ll add it to my virtual to do list. I use it specifically when I’m running and think of a clever article title I want to remember to write, etc. No more post it notes for me!
3. Contacts – Sandy also maintains a virtual address book with your contacts if you want. I like this idea for any web based contacts that I need but would caution you about using it for personal information only because you will need to be connected to the internet to gain access to the information.
This is just a really small overview of how you can use the IWantSandy.com service to help you find success in your direct sales business. Sign up for your free account and play around with it – you’ll love it!
In our last article we talked about two important characteristics of a successful direct sales representative. Successful direct sellers must be both consistent and persistent.
When we talk about consistency in our business it really just means having a plan to work your direct sales business and then working that plan. It doesn’t have to be complicated or involved. It can be as simple as 15 minutes a day, 4 days a week doing a simple system like the one I’ll explain now.
First, buy a spiral bound notebook that has 4 “subject” dividers in it. Alternately you can get a 3 ring binder and use tabs to divide out the 4 sections or even 4 labeled file folders. Next, comes a dependable timer or alarm clock that will mark off your 15 minutes. Finally, get a 3×5 card box with number and month tabs.
Now, label each divided subject for one area of your direct sales business that needs to be worked on in order for you to make money. The four most common areas of money making in direct sales are the following: customers, hostesses, potential recruits and current downline. So these are the four categories that you’re going to “touch” during your 15 minute work sessions.
Now here’s where the fun beings. Monday morning comes and you’ve set aside 15 minutes of your kids morning nap time to “work”. Pull out your notebook and flip to your “Customer” tab. If you have existing customers use the 15 minutes to follow up with them. Take notes in your notebook. Make sure you date your entries. If you talk to a customer and need to follow up later with her, fill out a 3×5 card for her and put it on the date you promised to call her. Or send your “Sandy” a reminder email so she’ll remind you to call that customer on the expected date. Keep calling customers until the timer goes off. Close your notebook until your next work session.
Tuesday comes and you’ve only got time when junior is sitting in the high chair. Great! Set your timer and pull out your notebook and flip to the hostess tab. Hostesses are the lifeblood of your direct sales party plan business so you better start and keep a system to stay in touch with past, current and future hostesses. Your notebook, file box and/or “Sandy” can help you do that. Use your 15 minutes to do follow up calls with upcoming hostesses or thank you calls to your hostesses from the past week. Call at least one potential new hostess today too before the timer goes off again. Close your book. You’re done for today.
You get the idea, right? Over simplified? Maybe. But it works and can work really well once you tweak the system and work it well and consistently. Remember, you have to persist through those days where you are phone calling and no one is home, or they hang up in your face; because those days will come.
In the next article of this series we’ll talk in more detail about the 3×5 card system and how this one step alone can help to create order and balance in your direct sales business.
I’m a big believer in working a direct sales or network marketing business as a real business. Unfortunately too many times moms, in particular, jump into direct sales without any real plan of how to really make it work as a business and so they end up either doing nothing, becoming a wholesale buyer and ending up with way too much product around their house or a statistic in the “direct sales isn’t for me” sorority.
Although I am convinced that not everyone has the time, energy or desire to be in the top money category for their particular direct sales company, I do think that anyone who invests in a starter kit with a company they believe in CAN make it a business and make some money. They must, however, invest time and energy to do so and they must must must work it consistently and be persistent.
First they must work it consistently. That just means they have to have a plan to work their business somewhat either every day or every other day, or even a few times a week. There absolutely must be a commitment to work it, consistently and methodically. In the other parts of this article series we’ll talk about a simple plan for the average direct sales mom to do that that really works.
Second, they must be persistent. Now relax. I don’t mean persistent in that you need to just keep hounding your friends and family even if they’re running at break neck speed in the other direction when they see you coming. Nope, I don’t believe in that strategy at all. What I do believe is you must be persistent in this business and be willing to ride over some rough waters that will come with every (and I do mean every) direct sales business out there. What that means is simple. When things don’t seem to be going the way you want them to, change course a bit but keep going! If your company home office makes some changes that you don’t agree with, don’t quit. Make adjustments and keep working the business. If your upline isn’t providing the support you think you need, find another mentor in the company and ask for support from them or contact your home office directly. Just keep working.
What happens in our industry is this roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s inevitable given the nature of our business plan. We’re the owners of our own business but we still have accountability, policies and procedures to follow from a parent company. We call the shots, but only to a certain degree. Because we’re not fully in control, there will be conflict. Persist through it. Keep riding the roller coaster and it will start to climb again.
Is it worth it? You bet it is! Because with each down dip there will be an upward peak. If you’re consistently working your business and persistent through the tough times, you’ll reap some great rewards. Plus you’ll have a whole lot more fun!