Direct sales has been a popular “side hustle” or “side gig” before we even began using those terms. Companies such as Avon and Tupperware have been around for as long as most of us can remember. New companies seem to join them every year. Opinions about these businesses vary as widely as the products and services offered, with some insisting they’re all one small step away from pyramid schemes, and some insisting they’re a sure path to wealth, friendship, and a life free of stress. Of course,the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Many of these direct selling companies are known for manipulation, hounding, and other shady practices. Some direct sales companies have a remarkably low tolerance for this type of behavior. Regardless of the reputation of the company, the person you see signing up to sell for them is probably your friend, coworker, relative, or loved one. Here is how to support that person….without buying everything in their catalog and signing up half your neighborhood to sell on their team.
Warn them privately if you see they have signed up with a company with a truly horrendous reputation.
Most of us know which ones these are by now. They’re the ones that charge exorbitant sign-up fees, require representatives to sell high volumes in order to earn their commission, offer subpar products for the price point, and shut people down for not selling constantly. Their representatives are encouraged to humiliate, manipulate, even bully people into signing up, hound people to buy from them, and lie about how much money they make.
But even if your friend has signed up for one of these companies, commenting and posting right on the friend’s social media pages or professional webpages, or giving them a tutorial on the brand right in front of everyone at the local hangout does nothing but embarrass your friend. Take them aside offline, or send a private message or email to share your concerns.
Avoid promoting rival products in their social media posts.
Friends and family members who are not interested in or able to purchase the product or service their loved one has signed up to sell can still help by commenting something encouraging and/or interesting about the products or company. “We used to have family picnics every year, and everyone always brought food in Tupperware,” is a helpful comment for your cousin who has started selling Tupperware, even if your kitchen cabinets couldn’t hold another storage container. Or “I can still remember a special cup or bowl from childhood that came from Tupperware.”
If they’re selling cosmetics, comment on the colors of the items, or note the kind of look you think the products they’re promoting might be good for. Don’t mention another company’s products. “That mascara looks like it’s right on trend for those false lashes looks everybody is doing,” is a helpful comment. “I only use Brand X mascara,” doesn’t do anything but advertise another company’s brand on your friend’s sales post.
Comments that make it sound like you’re helping the person out or doing them a favor by buying from them hinder, rather than help, their sales.
Those who can and want to purchase products from their direct selling friend should make their purchases as they would from any other source. Everyone who buys from anywhere “helps out” everyone who benefits from those sales. Every time you shop at Walmart or Target or your local grocery store, your dollars are part of the reason everyone from the CEO to the high school kid who gathers the shopping carts are employed. If everyone in the world decided they would no longer purchase products from any Walmart store, all of those people would be out of a job. (The benefits tilt much heavier toward those CEOs than the shopping cart attendant, and the loss is much more harmful for the lower end employee.. but that’s another issue.)
Avoid commenting on your direct sales’ representative’s posts or page with “I hope this helps you out!” or “I only bought $50 worth of stuff. I’m so sorry. I wish I could do more.” This sends the message to others who read the post that the products aren’t really worth buying and anyone who shops with the person is just doing it out of pity. This is not the impression anyone doing any type of sales work is trying to make.
Even if you did just buy from them as a favor, keep that information to yourself. Informing them, even privately, that you’ll “place one more order then you’re done,” or that you thought you’d “do this for them,” is embarrassing and discouraging.
Don’t flood or “spam” other people with the direct seller’s links or do anything else that could cause trouble in an attempt to help.
Wanting to support your friend who has just signed up for direct sales is admirable. And spreading the word for them will help. But just share their posts to your page, or let your friends and family members who might be interested in shopping with your direct selling friend know they are now a representative for the company. Filling everybody’s email inbox, messenger message inbox, or facebook wall with constant links from the direct sales company will only get everyone to ignore you.
Quietly mentioning that your friend sells for the company when the topic comes up in conversation, mentioning their sales when someone notices a perfume or household item you purchased from them, or even just announcing their new venture on your webpage or to your group of friends once or twice is much more helpful than sending all 200 of your facebook friends a link to 50 different products in their catalog every day. You don’t want people you know avoiding someone they haven’t even met yet.
Make sure you’re allowed to distribute sales materials anywhere you decide to leave a brochure or catalog for your friend. Remember, their name and contact information is on it, so it’s going to look like they put the materials out there.
Don’t take advantage of the person to get free items or services.
There are some companies whose representatives sell their products by holding sales parties. These parties are often excuses for groups of friends to get together and hang out, even if everyone knows they’re mainly there to hear a sales pitch. And while it’s fine to allow a sales party from a home goods company to provide some of the beverages and snacks for your get together, or schedule a day of beauty with the cosmetics company representative you know, make sure at least half the people you invite are genuine potential customers. Scheduling a party with a representative only to take advantage of the free services and/or samples is not “giving them practice” for future parties. It’s wasting their time, energy, and supplies.
Supporting a friend in direct sales does not require filling your home with the products they sell, turning yourself into their assistant, or signing up to work under them. It only requires a bit of thoughtfulness and respect.
by Jess Szabo originally published on Artist Cafe Utica www.artistcafeutica.com