Brett Duncan is a “transitionist” who specializes in helping direct selling companies define their best next steps as they transition into the new era of direct selling. He is co-founder and managing partner of Strategic Choice Partners, a consulting firm that offers strategic support and services to direct selling companies.
Guest Post by Brett Duncan
Our Story Is Better Than Their Story. Are You Telling It?
A lot of people have a lot to say about direct selling these days. Have you noticed?
From company announcements to proclamations from the investing world to regulatory agency decisions to even a TV series, there is no shortage of hot opinions and big news in the world of direct selling.
As the old saying goes, “any news is good news.” But is that really true here? It seems the only news we’re getting falls in the “bad news” category. Further, the only opinions those of us in the industry are giving are just opinions and pontifications on that bad news.
Maybe the reason it seems the bad news is standing out so much is mostly because we’re doing a bad job spreading the good news. Put another way, when there’s an absence of a good story, the bad stories inevitably fill the void.
Are there major shifts occurring in direct selling? Of course there are. Are there changes being forced upon some of the fundamentals of how we’ve done business? Most definitely. Are there bad actors and people and companies who spend a little too much time trying to stretch the boundaries instead of just playing well within them? Unfortunately, yes. And are there tried and true methods that have worked for years that are proving to be a tad over-tried and not so true anymore? Indeed.
Guess what? That makes us like every other channel in the world. Everyone has to deal with swift changes in the marketplace, and updated regulatory pressures and new approaches to business, and, well, people being people. We aren’t as unique as we like to think we are here.
But we are unique in so many other ways. Really good ways. Ways that can warm your heart and fire up your soul. If you’ve been in direct selling for any period of time, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Sure, you also see those areas that need to change, but you don’t lose sight of all the good that comes out of our channel. It’s something worth cherishing, and it’s something worth fighting for.
Our biggest issue may actually be that we’ve been horrible at telling our story. At showcasing the good stories that come from direct selling (and there are lots of them).
Notice I use the phrase “our story.” Not “your” story, or “my” story. I’m not necessarily talking about your company’s story; many of us are very good at that. I’m talking about the bigger story, the collective story. I’m talking about the story of this channel, regardless of the company. It’s obviously important for you to keep telling your company’s story, but that story will get associated first and foremost with your company, not the direct selling channel. What we need are more stories that celebrate the good of our channel and the role it has played in so many lives through the years, regardless of the company.
I’m wondering how we could start telling that story even better.
To get us started, here are just a few thought-starters in terms of all the great stories we can tell about direct selling. I’m sure I’m missing a lot. More than anything, I challenge you to take a look at the list and look for one or two items that stands out to you. Ask yourself why, and then ask yourself how you could tell that story a little better and a little louder.
Here are just a few of the great stories we can tell, and be proud of, about direct selling:
A great first step into entrepreneurship.
I listen to a lot of podcasts. I’m pleasantly surprised how often I hear from extremely successful entrepreneurs who tell of how they first got started into entrepreneurship by joining a direct selling company. Whether they were selling knives and books during college, or sharing nutritional supplements, or holding home shows sharing jewelry to friends and family, it sparked their entrepreneurial itch and gave them a safe (and low-cost) environment to learn how to develop that interest. And now, they’ve gone on to launch huge companies, crediting much of their journey on direct selling. What a legacy! What a story! Let’s not overlook the impact our channel has on raising up new business leaders in the world.
The original “Gig.”
The Gig Economy is all around us. That comes with both its share of opportunities and challenges for direct selling. But in many ways, direct selling was the original gig in the modern world. While we should all be thankful for how accessible business opportunities are now for people, it wasn’t that long ago that direct selling was just about the only choice when it came to side hustles. So let’s celebrate the booming Gig Economy by celebrating our rightful place in it, and celebrate our “giggers.”
An opportunity for anyone.
Direct selling is available to anyone. There are no prerequisites, no resumes required, no degrees insisted upon. Sure, you learn how certain skills can help you be more successful, but you don’t even need to know those skills to get started. You simply need to decide you want to get started. How can we celebrate those stories more, of how untrained, unexperienced people can enjoy great success within our channel?
A channel for women.
Roughly 75% of direct selling is made up of women. It’s pretty much always been this way. It’s a channel that has seen countless women rise up in ways they didn’t know was possible. It’s helped thousands of single moms provide for their families, and thousands more women contribute in substantial and meaningful ways. And for those women who choose to do so, it’s allowed them to stay home and raise their family they way they want to, when that may not have been possible otherwise. In a society that is increasingly recognizing the importance of women in all parts of life, direct selling is way ahead of the curve.
A channel of innovative products.
Think of all the types of products that wouldn’t have become major categories without the help of direct selling. And think of all the major brands and companies that have come from it, too. Where would wickless candles be without Scentsy? Where would food storage be without Tupperware? Where would the nutritional and skin care industries be? Where would the beauty market be without Avon and Mary Kay? And where would CBD be? Direct selling is a channel tailor-made to bring bold innovations to the world. Don’t let the lazy criticism of “snake oil” hold you back. We have so many examples of how direct selling is responsible for introducing the world to innovations that really matter.
Reducing debt and financial burdens.
Money and income are only a means to an end. They are really only valuable once they are applied to something else. For many of our Distributors, the income they have earned while part of our companies has allowed them to crawl out from under huge financial burdens and experience true freedom in their lives. Yes, we have to be careful how we make these “income claims,” but the stories are real, and they deserve us coming up with a way to tell them. In a world where student debt, consumer debt, healthcare debt and just about every other form of debt continues to charge ahead, stories of overcoming the norm are both inspiring and important.
People become a better version of themselves.
What we hear most in direct selling is the personal journeys that our Distributors find themselves on, and what they discover about themselves in the process of building their business. They stretch beyond their pre-conceived limitations for themselves. They do things they never dreamed they would do. They spark an energy and an excitement and a hope that simply wasn’t there before. And it shows up in every area of their lives. Outside of the income, or the income potential, is the greater reward: we help so many people become better versions of themselves, and tap into potential that they never even considered before.
People impact the world in amazing ways.
As people become more personally, it also leads to them giving back and impacting the world in a greater capacity. Beyond the confines of our companies, we see Distributors who are making a difference in their community, at schools, at non-profit organizations, and far beyond. We all know Distributors who start churches, who coach teams, who support charities, who invest in community centers, who volunteer, etc. And most of the time, they will tell you that wouldn’t be possible without their involvement in direct selling.
We have so many great stories. I’ve only scratched the surface here. I’d love to know what other stories you can think of.
Here’s the thing: a story is only good if you’re telling it. Let’s not let outsiders be the only ones telling our story. Yes, let’s address what needs to be addressed, but don’t lose sight of all the good we’ve done and continue to do as a channel. Our story is better than theirs; let’s tell it!
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