There are over 15.6 million people working in direct sales in the United States. People can sell anything from nutritional supplements to fine jewelry to vacuum cleaners from hundreds of different direct sales companies. According to the Direct Sales Association, the “annual turnover rate is 56%”; however the other half of the direct sales population stays with their company for an average of 5+ years. That begs the question – how can direct sales companies encourage sales consultants to stay?
Many consultants join direct sales as a temporary way to earn extra money for short-term goals or seasonal purchases. But for those consultants that choose direct sales for a long-term commitment either as supplemental or primary income, they tend to stay with their employer based on two criteria: 1.) passion for the product they are selling and 2.) support and guidance provided that aid their success.
Direct sales companies can only affect the second objective; therefore, the most successful direct sales companies make mentorship a primary goal. Mentorship breeds a cycle of success within direct sales companies. New consultants feel engaged and learn tricks of the trade which leads to increased sales for themselves, their managers, and their larger teams.
Within most direct sales organizations, there is a complicated and detailed genealogy of consultants. This lends itself to many opportunities for mentorship within the organization. While mentorship may be difficult in a geographically disparate industry, today’s technology lessens this burden. The following three ideas are great ways to induce mentorship within your organization.
Create an open culture of sharing tips and best practices
Everyone knows that being a new employee is scary. Where are the files kept? What is the most effective way to prospect? What’s appropriate protocol for speaking to a manager? Being a new employee is even scarier for employees that don’t have the comfort of meeting other employees face to face. By creating a transparent, open forum for communication, companies can alleviate this fear and allow consultants to openly collaborate. Because sales leaders and consultants are spread out nationally and sometimes globally, this focus relies on advanced internal technology to provide necessary support. Consultants should have a communication channel to their managers for feedback and their fellow consultants for advice.
If you can’t be available, make the information available
A lifestyle benefit of direct sales is a consultant’s ability to control their schedule. Consultants can choose to work on weekends, late nights, or at lunchtime. However this makes consultant support that much more onerous. Sales managers and upper management should be easily accessible when possible, although it is unrealistic to expect all managers to be checking emails and responding to inquiries 24/7. To offer continued support to consultants, all sales information and corporate data must be available on mobile devices. Consultants can refer to this database before, during, and after a show and will never feel in the dark.
Recognize wins and accomplishments
Last but certainly not least, consultants need to be supported emotionally. While team leaders may be responsible for dozens of consultants, highlighting wins and big sales can do wonders for team morale while healthily boosting competition. If consultants feel successful and part of the team, they’ll have a stronger desire to stick with their company. Send out a team-wide communication when a consultant has her first big party. Spotlight your best seller that month. Set team goals for motivation and communicate when consultants exceed those goals.
If your direct sales organization hasn’t instituted a mentorship program, these three steps are a great place to start. When consultants valued and supported they succeed. Their success is evident through increased sales and retention which effects their teams, management, and the organization’s bottom line.