A couple months ago, I did something I didn’t think I’d ever do. I signed up as a consultant for a direct sales company. Honestly, I have never been a fan of any direct sales or MLM business, although I’ve tried to support friends who did them. At the time, when I was considering additional ways to make income staying at home, it seemed like a good idea. (More about my why here.)
However, I soon discovered it was not at all for me. There are many things I wish I had considered before joining. It cost a decent amount of money, but moreover, it cost a lot of time I could have used on other things, not to mention stress.
On the other hand, a friend of mine joined another business at the same time, and is now seeing a lot of success! So I simply want to share my experience with whoever might be considering this option. Here are some things to consider before starting a direct sales or MLM business. Hopefully you can think through these things and decide what’s right for you.
1. With these companies, you are still working for someone. One of the draws of a direct sales or MLM business for me was the promise of “being your own boss,” and “having your own business”. The truth is, you still answer to your director, who answers to their director, who answers to the company board, etc. They receive income based on what you sell. So you are still working for someone. I’m not trying to be a downer – just realistic.
Of course, in every job, you’re working for and answer to someone. Because money doesn’t appear out of thin air. (When you find a way for that to happen, lemme know!) But if you’re seeking more freedom, I think there are other alternatives.
I do think that you have more freedom in your hours and method than you would at an ordinary job situation. On the plus side.
2. Do you believe in what you’re selling? First off, I am not a sales person. I flat can’t promote a product I don’t believe in. I want the best deal, and I want it for you, too. So if I don’t believe it is, it’s hard for me to find a good thing about it. Don’t put yourself in a position to sell something you only feel halfway good about.
I found that to be the case with the product I was trying to sell. When I got samples of it, I just didn’t feel great about it. I couldn’t give it a glowing review. Still, I tried to sell it, hoping I’d find a customer who did like it. But it didn’t have my whole heart.
3. Do you believe in the business and brand overall? Do you know what you’re representing? See above. It’s hard to sell something, or someone, you don’t really believe in or agree with. There are lots of companies that have great morals. But do they practice what they preach? Are their statistics valid, or skewed to make them look good? Do your homework before you sign the dotted line. Search online for real people’s experiences with the company.
Unfortunately, there were some ways that the company runs that I did not agree with and felt frustrated about. I wish I had done some research beforehand.
4. Where are you looking to go with it? The best piece of advice I got from training with this company was to quantify your goals. Are you working toward a dream, like being able to quit your current job? Or continue to stay home with your kids? Put a number on it. It gives you a real, solid goal to work towards.
Also, consider if you’re looking for an “easy” or “get rich quick” situation. Because these rarely work that way. (Does anything? Again, lemme know.) I wasn’t expecting that with this opportunity, but I was disappointed that my input was not creating much of an output.
5. Are you able to make the financial investment? Some companies let you start for little to no start-up cost, which is great. But many come with an initial investment, like many self-starting businesses. And sometimes it’s a big cost. Make sure you know what you’re getting into, and if there’s any hidden fees or more subtle expectations. (Like that you need to make or spend a certain amount a month to stay a consultant. Or the extra expenses you might have, like displays, business cards, etc.)
6. Are you able to make the time commitment? This is usually an even bigger investment than the financial one. Starting a new business is a lot of work. If you’re willing to put the time in for the training, the sales calls, the parties you likely have to throw, etc. I found myself spending lots of time on these things, and again, barely seeing any sales. For me, it wasn’t worth it. For some, it’s just something to push through until you start seeing some success.
Again, my friend started with a business around the same time I did. She has been cranking to do it, alongside her full-time job and her family. But she has a goal in mind, and she is already seeing so much success. So if it is for you, go for it!
7. Are you comfortable with being persistent? (Some might say, a little pushy?) Again, I am not a sales person. Instead, I’m more likely to shy away from situations where I have to request things from people or follow up with them. What was I thinking when I signed up for direct sales?? Following up and staying in there with people are part of the whole sales tactic. I am just not good at it. If someone says no, I’m all, “okay, never mind, let’s pretend this never happened.”
Again, this is my personality. I’m also an introvert, so mingling at parties is not my thing. You may be find it so much easier to sell to people, especially if it’s a product you love. It might come more naturally for you to ask again, or follow up.
8. Are you good under pressure? Like I said, you’re working for someone, who will reap a benefit if you do well. Direct sales companies are good with selling themselves, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the business. Be prepared to feel pressure to sell, even if everyone is super friendly and at the beginning, it seems really laid back.
Or maybe the pressure is coming from you. Since I had made the initial investment, I felt strongly that I had to make it work. When really, I should have considered beforehand what I was getting into, and know for sure that I felt great about it before I got into it.
9. Get advice. Talk to people who know you – like your spouse and your good friends. Explain the opportunity and see if they think it’s a good fit for you. Even find out if they think the product is “sellable”. Good friends will let you know whether something would be a good fit, knowing you, your community, and your situation. Plus it helps you have an outside perspective when it’s easy for you to be caught up in the moment. I know it was for me.
There are definitely pros to direct sales. It seems like there are a lot of people who have great success with it, and are earning cars and promotions and all. I will continue to support friends who host parties and sell products that work well for me. But at the end of the day, being in direct sales is not my calling.
What do you think? Do you have any experience with direct sales or multi-level marketing, either as a consultant or from an outside perspective? What things would you consider about the choice to work for one?