Introduction to direct marketing
As an independent representative, also known as independent distributor, sales representative or consultant, you will market products through person-to-person contact, home parties and the internet.
When you represent a multilevel marketing organization, you receive compensation for personal product sales, as well as the sales of your recruits and your recruits’ recruits. In addition to paying sales commissions, many multilevel marketing organizations offer their representatives the potential of earning free trips, bonuses and special prizes. A few examples of multilevel marketing companies include Amway, Avon and Pampered Chef.
You can earn income in direct marketing as a business, but many spouses choose to do it for fun. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the mean annual wage for direct selling establishments in 2019 as $47,460. According to the Direct Selling Association, a trade association for companies that manufacture and distribute goods and services directly, about 89% of direct sellers run their business part-time. Many reps just want to buy their favorite products at a discount, have fun and earn a little cash with no intention of selling or recruiting. It’s important to understand the distinction if you plan to make direct sales your career choice, instead of a way to have fun and make a bit of extra money.
Getting started in direct sales
Building your own business, setting flexible work hours and making money may be appealing to you, but do your homework before you invest your time and money. Determine if you can earn your desired income and don’t quit your day job until you are well on your way as a direct marketer. As you choose your business, take the following steps:
- Do your research. Investigate the company, their leadership and their reputation and choose wisely.
- Represent quality products and services that people need and you are passionate about.
- Understand the compensation plan to determine how you will earn income.
- Investigate the organization’s support, training and business systems.
When you decide on the company and products you will represent, consider these steps to get started on the road to success.
- Work with company mentors and follow their advice. Mentors want you to be successful because it makes them successful. They have knowledge to share so be open to their coaching.
- Set goals and objectives, work your plan and find ways to share your product every day.
- Teach, train and mentor the team you recruit. Build relationships with them and teach them to build relationships with others. Their sales will be important to building your earnings.
- Learn to use the internet effectively and remember the importance of follow-up. Effective follow-up is a key to successful direct marketing.
- Learn business accounting or hire an accountant to manage your business and tax records.
- Ask friends to recommend you and your products.
Beware of scams
A legitimate multilevel marketing organization charges a relatively small fee for their starter kits, distributes products purchased and used by an end user and normally offers representatives refunds for unsold items.
People are often wary of direct marketing as a career path because of “scam” horror stories. Protect yourself from making a bad business decision by avoiding the following:
- "Too good to be true" job descriptions
- Strange job interviews — trust your gut
- Unproven or exaggerated product claims
- Pressure to buy a quantity of inventory
- High-pressure sales tactics
- Push on recruiting reps versus selling products
- Need to pay for training or other business items
Find more information by reviewing the Federal Trade Commission Multilevel Marketing webpage.
Professional organizations and networking
Join a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Network with other professionals in your industry to give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to get an interview at your new location.
Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.
Direct sales may fit your need for a portable, flexible career path that you can continue to grow as you move from location to location. You may have a ready source of potential customers and recruits, who are interested in buying your products or becoming part of your selling team. To be successful, make sure to do your homework, find a product you love and a company that makes sense to work with. Most importantly, make sure that you are willing and able to invest the time and money you will need to get your business up and running.
Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 and speak with a SECO career coach for help with choosing a career path, locating resources or finding a mentor. For additional guidance, use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website.