Monthly Archives: May 2012

Putting your Direct Sales Business Cards to Work

Chances are you have business cards for your direct sales business.  But are they working as hard for you as you as they could be?  If you are not sure, read on to determine what types of jobs your business cards can do for you beyond the obvious of sharing your information.  If your card is not doing any of these jobs, it’s not working hard enough and you may want to re-consider how you use your cards.

business-card-front

Use your business card for many different purposes

Promotion Sticker – This is a great method to use your cards as you can create whatever you want to stick onto the back of your business card.  You may want to use a single time discount at a trade show – instead of having to tell everyone what it is, write it out, print it on an address sticker and put it on the back.  Tell everyone who stops at your booth to make sure to check the back of the cards.  Maybe you want to promote a monthly special, you could write something like “This months special: Buy X, and get Y for free!” or whatever it is.  The benefit here is that you can use a box of 500 business cards for multiple different promotions without having to buy a new box each time.

Referral Card – One way to get your card working harder is convert it into a referral card as well.  On the front, you would have the usual contact information but then you put the back to work.  The back would state something like, “Do you know someone who would love this product and want to purchase or sell?  Fill in your name in the blank provided and pass the card on.  If they make a purchase/sign up, you will get a free gift.”   Of course, this implies that you have some type of referral program which is easy enough to do.  Note:  At a party, give every guest 3 cards.  Tell them to put them in their purse right away (or pocket or bra).  One is for them to keep and the other two are for them to give away.

Loyalty Card – Chances are you have a loyalty card from somewhere.  Buy X amount and get something free or get a discount on next purchase.  Why not offer one yourself?  Many printing companies have a standard one they can print on the back of your business cards.  You just have to decide what the program is.  Do they have to spend so much to get X amount in credit or a free product?  Do they have to buy 12 of Y product and then they get the 13th free?  There are a lot of different options available to you.

No matter how you use your business cards, you have a lot of prime real estate on the back that you should be putting to work for you!  Do you do something else with the back of your cards that works great for you?  Please share!

 

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The Need For Organisation In A Business

Potential Pitfalls Can Be Avoided With Good Planning And Organisation   

It seems almost glib to be pointing out the importance of organisation and planning in a business; after all, businesses are often referred to as organisations and you wouldn’t even be able to begin day one without a business plan! But while it does seem glib, you would be surprised how many businesses fail to think about organisation and pay little heed to the plans that they’ve painstakingly written.

Good planning and organisation is a cultural agenda that takes time to sow, cultivate and then organically grow. Every time you bring a new employee into the team, they will be swept along with the existing employees who are in turn influenced by the agenda that you set.

An agenda for change consisting of direction, goals and reward is a must, even something as simple as a Mission Statement can help prevent confusion among staff, and a few small but significant tweaks can help you to avoid the pitfalls that come from steering a rudderless business.

First, you must start by knowing your goals; this will help feed your Mission Statement. Then think about how you want to achieve your goal. If your goal is to increase sales, think about your sales team and how you can help them achieve it. Set realistic sales targets (even a highly skilled sales team can wither in the shadow of unrealistically high targets) and distribute them fairly between senior and junior team members.

When goals are reached there should be a reward, perhaps in the form of praise and recognition? When goals are exceeded there should be further reward. In this case, a little more is required such as a set of business gifts. These small details are all part of your planning.

The example above of a sales team with unambiguous organisation, senior and junior members with pertinent targets and a clear plan with goals and reward is an example that you can translate to any team and to any industry or sector.

Without planning and organisation you are doomed to fail, or at best fail to realise your full potential – with an uncertain economic backdrop, this is not an option.

Written by Rebecca

Using Email Properly – Part 2

BCC– This means Blind Copy.  When you are emailing your customer list, you should use this option as it does not show the email address of everyone you emailed which keeps them from getting spammed by others.  Put your email addrss in the To: field and theirs in the BCC:

The old MSN Hotmail inbox

Using Email Properly

Be Polite – Consider email a written version of a conversation.  You should be pleasant, nice and to the point. It is possible to do this without being rude or curt.  Start you email with a greeting to the person, and sign off.  Use of please and thanks is always appreciated.

Reply – Always reply to email and as quickly as possible.  I always suggest checking at least once every 24 hours.  If you do not know the answer, reply and tell them you are not sure, but you will look into it and get back to them.  This helps you to be a rapport and establish trust.

Watch your Punctuation – One of the biggest issues with email is that people feel the need to use a lot of punctuation, especially exclamation marks. If something is important enough that you think you need five exclamation points, this should come through in your text and you will not need the extra four exclamation points.  If you think you still need them, maybe you need to change your text as it is not reflecting your excitement properly.

Use Plain Text – If your email program asks if you want to send an email in HTML format or Plain text, pick plain text.  Some email programs will filter you email into spam if it is in HTML and your customer will never see it.

Back Up Email – Once in a while it is a good idea to back up your email addresses and your email.  If you are using a web based service such as Hotmail or Gmail, you are fine but if you are using an actual program such as Outlook or Thunderbird, you will want to look up how to create a backup.  Ask someone whose computer has crashed about what they wish they had backed up, email is likely one of the items.

Learning to use email properly for your direct sales business does not need to take a lot of time and can help you improve business.  If customers get your emails, they can respond and you will see a definite improvement.

Did you miss Part 1?  Check it out here.  Using Email Properly – Part 1

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Using Email Properly – Part 1

These days, most people have access to email.  Whether they have an account through their provider, through one of the many free services on the Internet or just through their facebook account, you can email them.  But, there are many people who do not use their email account properly and accidentally offend others without meaning to.  Do you do this?  If so, you could be losing business due to it.

Using Email Properly in Direct Sales

ALL CAPS – Do not use all caps in your email, this is seen as shouting.  Don’t those letters look loud to you?

Spam – Spam is when someone gets unsolicited junk.  This means that you signed everyone in your address book up to get your emails, even if they didn’t ask to be added.  Or, you email them every day with your current specials.

Rambling – Email should be short and to the point.  Just like you do not like listening to a long message on your answering machine, you do not want to have to read a long message.  Most people will end up just deleting the message instead of bothering to look for any important information.

Subject Line – You are given a subject line for your email message, use it!  This is what people use to decide if/when they are going to open the email.  If it just says “Hello” they are less likely to open it and think it is spam.  If it says, “This month’s specials from ABC Company” or something similar, they will know it’s about ABC Company and their specials and they will open it if interested.

Signature – This is another item that you can use in email.  Somewhere in your settings you can set it up.  In direct sales, you likely want to put in a signature that says something like “To find out more, visit my website at http://yourwebsite.com” or “To take advantage of this month’s specials, check out my website at http://yourwebsite.com”.  Depending on what you use for email, you can use graphics as well.  Make sure they are not too big and take up an entire screen.

 

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Writing procedures builds your business

You want to work for yourself so you can keep the profits, set your own rules and enjoy working, right? So things like procedures and manuals seem a bit heavy and boring – especially when you’re busy trying to get things done.

I’m a bit of a free spirit myself – I hate being restricted and having to do things someone else’s way, and I never used to get excited by a procedure or manual either!

Consistency builds strong foundations

Consistency really is a key to business success.

Policies and procedures

Policies and procedures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being consistent builds your reputation and encourages people to come back and recommend you to others.

It also makes life easier for you – for example, if you always put the same information at the start or finish of a presentation it becomes habit and you won’t forget to say anything important.

A written procedure makes it much easier to stay consistent – just the act of writing it down will help cement the steps in your mind.

Once you build a team of consultants, a written procedure is a good way to help them remember their training and do things the most efficient or effective way. This way you get consistency throughout your team, not just from yourself.

Spending time to save time

Writing procedures will take some time – but probably not as much as you expect. Just jot down the steps as you do something and you have the basis of a procedure.

Once you have a procedure written down, it can save you time by:

  1. You don’t have to remember how to do something you don’t do very often (for example recording unusual items in your accounts or completing an online tax return)
  2. Training recruits is easier as you need only show them once and let the procedure remind them
  3. Giving a copy to your team so they don’t have to ask you about basic processes and concepts as often
  4. Ensuring tasks are done correctly and accurately, saving you needing to retrain
  5. Knowing your team has the procedures to do things correctly without extra effort on your part – which means less work for you when it comes to training.

Professionalism starts with little things

Being seen as professional builds trust and credibility for you and your business. That doesn’t mean you have to be impersonal and formal, but you do need to take care of the details.

Professionalism is built on consistency and perceptions.

Once you build a team and need to train people, you will appear much more professional handing out written procedures than giving some unprepared talks without notes. Impressing your team with your professionalism makes it more likely they will act professionally and try to live up to your standard.

Not sure where to start or need to learn more? Tash has written a no-nonsense eBook on writing procedures, as well as giving tips on effective communications in her blog.

 

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Responding to Booking Concerns in Direct Sales

The direct seller knows about the importance of booking parties to make money.  But, as long as there are parties on the book, the direct seller likely doesn’t worry about learning how to get bookings (a subtle difference).  This is not something that a person can remain ignorant about because there will be a day when the calendar is empty or they are trying to increase their business and knowing how to get bookings will come in handy.

The biggest aspect of getting bookings is learning how to ask for them.  While that sounds easy, how likely are you to put up the phone and say “Hey Jane, will you book a party with me?” – Probably not too likely.  This is going to tackle how to do that while being comfortable and natural.

Identify Concerns – They say that there are six main concerns that you will encounter. You likely can easily identify them if you think about it for a few minutes.  So you need to be prepared for these and provide a response.  You may have answers in the training materials you received when you joined your company or you can talk to your upline.

Turn it into a Question – Many of us do not want to ask for what we want as we are afraid of rejection.  But what about turning it around and seeing it as a need for more information instead of being turned down?  For instance, if Jane says she doesn’t know enough people, it could be that she is actually saying, could I just have a few people attend?  Or if she says that she does not have the time, what she is really saying how long will this take or why should I spare you the time?  Once you look at it this way, you can likely come up with a response to get what you want.

Another method that you can use to address concerns customers have is the “feel, felt, found” method.  It allows you to stay in agreement with your hostess but you are able to offer another view on the concern.

Taking the example of your hostess being too busy, you can turn it to something like this.

“Jane, I understand how you feel about being busy.  Many of the hostesses I deal with feel that they need a lot of time to prepare.  But, in reality, I find it only takes them about 45 minutes to prepare their guest list, make some calls and email everyone else. That’s all you need to do!  I keep my presentation simple the night of the evening and bring everything needed.  You get to enjoy a night with the girls, have fun, and earn free product.”

By approaching your customers in this method, it will feel more natural and comfortable for you which will come across.  Your customers will not feel that you are pushing them and you should have better success.

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8 Ways to Re-purpose Extra Stock in Direct Sales

If you have been in direct sales for any amount of time, chances are you have accumulated inventory that you do not need.  Maybe it was free with a purchase and a customer didn’t want it, maybe it was a hostess gift not taken or maybe it was a purchase at 50% off.  Regardless, you have these items taking up space in your home.  Instead of them taking up room and having them cost you money (especially if it was stock product you paid for), put them to work earning income for you.

Bookings – Offer a gift when someone books a party.  Maybe you already do – you can sweeten the pot with something extra.  Bring the list, talk to the hostess about their likes, or find some other method to remove something from your stock pile to their house for hosting.

Customer Orders – Another great incentive is offering a gift or discount when a customer spends a certain amount.  You could offer ½ off an item from a list (your stock list) or maybe a free gift.  It is up to you.  You will be surprised how many people will spend an extra 10 or 15 bucks to earn something free!

Recruits – Have someone new signing up or thinking of signing?  Offer to give them extra stock to help them get started.  But, make it contingent on them achieving various levels of sales or some other incentive.

New Catalogue Party – Host a party at your house when the new catalogue comes out.  Put your stock out for sale at discounted prices.  Keep any current product and sell it at current rates, but anything that is no longer available – discount it and get it out!

Rewards – Do you have team contests and offer prizes?  Give them items from your stockpile!  Depending on where they are in their business, they can then give it away for hostess gifts or sell it.  Win, win for everyone!

Donations – Is there a cause that is near and dear to your heart looking for prizes to give away or raffle?   Here is a great time to contribute something – you get a tax receipt and exposure and the charity can earn money from your product.

Trade – Have products that you would like from other companies?  See if they would like something of yours and do a trade for it.

Gifts – Do you have something in your stock pile that you know that your aunt would love?  Why not give it to her as a gift?  It could be for her birthday, the holidays or a just because type of gift.

Do you use your stockpile of goods for any other purpose?  What do you think is the best use for it?  Please share in the comments.

Can Social Media Improve A Direct Sales Business?

In this day and age, direct sales businesses are often struggling to attract new customers. Bringing in the revenue is never a simple affair. These companies must do what they can to succeed on a day-to-day basis, which means striving to bring new customers to the table. Perhaps the most effective and inexpensive option involves social media. Of course, social media is not a new concept, but its business applications are constantly evolving these days and cannot be ignored.

A direct sales business does not rely upon retail stores to bring in revenue. In fact, independent operators must directly bring the product to consumers. That might mean going door-to-door for sales or putting on an exhibition for individual companies. It all depends upon what a particular business is trying to sell as far as inventory is concerned. Luckily, all direct sales companies can benefit from the use of social media in various ways right now without spending money.

For starters, simply signing up for a social media account does not cost a penny. Running these accounts is relatively hassle-free even when a business utilizes multiple sites. All of these accounts can further a company’s goal of selling more products and raking in more profits. Someone who runs a business and properly uses social media to further their sales can see great results right away. Without a doubt, social media is the single most effective advertising tool available today.

Since direct sales businesses must go directly to the consumer, social media is only second to face-to-face interactions with potential customers in effectiveness. This is the case whether you are Zivelo or Amtrak. With that in mind, an independent operator can directly advertise to customers and offer plenty of extra bonuses. Social media can be used to bring in more sales because more potential customers can be reached with ease. The Internet runs at every moment of each day, so reaching customers is not an issue. Obviously, this fact cannot be denied.

For a direct sales business, social media does not guarantee increased sales and success. Business owners that can successfully utilize and manage these accounts will reap the benefits right away. Social media boost the connection between companies and potential customers, and such a connection is otherwise difficult to make. Direct sales are especially difficult nowadays for numerous reasons. However, social media can improve any direct sales business with the right moves. Nobody should count out the power of such sites.

Written by David

 

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Facebook as a Platform for Social Networking and Marketing

It’s amazing how much controversy as well as addiction a social networking site can create. From the time of its conception Facebook (FB) has faced the heat of both fans as well as detractors; the latter consider it a waste of time and an identity threat. Given the current rise in usage of social media and the need people have to connect on the go, FB has become indispensible though there are people who consciously do without it.

This is icon for social networking website. Th...

This is icon for social networking website. This is part of Open Icon Library’s webpage icon package. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marketing and advertising are features that are attracting not only companies but private entrepreneurs too.  For those starting out as freelancers or doing gigs, the page making facility helps get one posted for free on a platform that’s bound to win an audience.

However, 2012 has brought in some amusing incidents where it seems the Facebook team will have to admit, you just can’t please them all. It all started out with the new enemy list application. Now instead of just being able to elevate friends to the status of best buddies or close chums, Facebook allows you to also display an enemy list! It’s rather amusing as some enthusiastic users have waged a war against tomatoes by adding it to this enemy list!  But on the more serious side, the advertisement offering services as most users will note, are a big hit as you have ‘n’ amount of people who’ll have a look at your ad .

William Shakespeare had asked, ‘What’s in a name?’ According to Facebook, it could be fake or fabricated and so worthy of being blocked. That’s what happened recently to a community of thousands of Facebook subscribers from the Indian state of Assam as they are named ‘Chutia’ pronounced ‘Sutiya’ whose spelling in Hindi is an expletive.

Another name that generated a lot of heat but unfortunately little light is the controversy about Salman’s Rushdie’s first name which the site insisted was not Salman but a more Islamic sounding one. For his part, Salman insisted that it should be ‘Salman’ as that is the name fans of his books know him.

If you go through the community lists on Facebook, you might end up finding your favorite café digging cyber space with your favorite brand of chocolate or even favorite movie. The marketers have used the fan attracting facility to their advantage as well as the ‘like’ button. What can be a better way to get friends of friends interested in a product or concert than by an advert of it popping up stating so many mutual friends are game on this? Funnily, it has been noted that around three million people have signed a petition for an ‘unlike’ button too!

Our educators too are showing themselves Facebook savvy and many a time you’ll find a professor posting about new notes being distributed or a scheduled class test. Nor are budding writers deterred as making a page devoted to their writings is just a click away. Thus, the world is in its own individual ways using Facebook as a means of social connectivity as well as marketing. Perhaps its ease of use and well designed layout lend it charm that has made many a college student an addict.

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Anthony is an freelancer and he has written many topics on social media 
and web marketing.

How a Blog can Help Direct Sales

If you’re online, you’ve heard of blogs – you’ve probably even read a couple of them. So you have an idea of what a blog is.

But have you thought about using a blog as a marketing tool in your own business?

It seems too hard

mappa_blog

mappa_blog (Photo credit: francescopozzi)

Let’s look at the usual negatives first as you need to answer these before you can see the value of a blog.

  1. I don’t have any money for marketing
    Blogging costs more time than money – blog software is free and you can have it hosted for free, too (whether that’s the best option we can discuss another time!) All you have to do is write some posts – any other expenses are optional.
  2. What can I write?
    About your products and parties is the simple answer – include stories of people using your products (as intended and in creative ways), testimonials and unusual parties (different times, locations and themes are interesting). Add in company and personal news and things you learn along the way, and your blog is filling up
  3. I’m not good at writing
    You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write a blog so don’t be too hard on yourself. If you really can’t write, get some help with the writing or have your work edited, and start reading up to improve your writing skills
  4. My direct sales company won’t let me
    Make sure you understand the rules properly – you may be able to blog without naming the company for instance – but this point must be considered to stay with any agreements you have signed.

Advantages of blogging

You’re running a business and you want people to know about it, yes? Well, here are some ways that a blog can help you achieve your goals:

  1. You get more exposure to potential customers and recruits – directly through the blog but also for additional traffic to your main website if you have one
  2. It is cheap so you can blog even if you can’t afford much else in the way of marketing
  3. You can show people who you are – if I read your blog and feel friendly about you I am more likely to host a party with you than if I just see your name in a directory.
  4. You get to show off your knowledge of your products so I can trust you to lead me to the right product for my situation
  5. You show you are generous and caring by sharing information so I trust you – this could be really important if I am dubious about direct sales people
  6. You can build relationships with people – answer queries in the comments section, use real life questions and situations as posts, and refer to real people you do business with (you may be surprised at how happy Mary will be if you post a story about her party and the to-die-for chocolate cake she served.)
  7. If you don’t have a website, a blog can be a central place for people to find your contact details (I bet many people would call you back even years later if only they could find your details again), display testimonials and refer any social media efforts towards

Have you used a blog in your business? What rewards did it give you?

Interested in blogging but unsure of where to start? Tash Hughes’ blog contains tips and ideas about blogging, improving writing skills and communicating effectively.

 

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