Effectiveness of Direct Marketing
I have been building my Shaklee business in direct sales as an independent sales representative for the past eight years. As an independent sales representative, I run all the activities of my business. In the course of my duties, I have learned the importance of product knowledge, customer service and marketing. Being in direct sales has given me the freedom I need to pursue my dreams such as finishing school. I also have enough time for personal obligations such as spending time with my family.
I. CONCRETE EXPERIENCE
While I was dating my fiancé, my future mother in-law invited me to a Shaklee house presentation. Initially, I was offered a complimentary facial and was introduced to the direct selling company’s products which I liked and began using. After using the products for a short while, I was utterly impressed and immediately decided to join the company, since the members of the company enjoyed quite a number of privileges. I decided to join the company for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is that as a member of the company, I would not pay at a retail price for the products, but at a much lower price. Another reason is that I liked the regional president of Southern California since we held the same beliefs in regards to faith, family, and career. I knew that if these three facets of my life were in place, I would be successful in my career, despite the fact that I had limited experience in direct sales.
Selling is not the most important aspect of my business. My main personal goal is to help others, not considering if they are my customers or not, or if they are my business associates. This has helped me put to practice the teachings of the Bible, that we should not focus too much on seeking material wealth, but do what God would want us to do, since it is much more rewarding and satisfying.
Another reason why I chose to become a direct sales representative is that I had a lot of support from those around me. I also had a chance to get free training on how to go about it. During the training sessions, I learned the importance of product knowledge and customer service. My product knowledge was enhanced by my experience as a customer of the company, when I started using the products. My experience as a customer helped me improve on the sales I made, since I was able to deal with my customers from their point of view. When I remember how things were from a customer point of view, I appreciated the knowledge I received regarding my skin problems. I believe being knowledgeable in my products allows me to meet the needs of my customers in a much better way. I now can advise on the best product to a customer to help solve their problem, whether dry skin, or a rash they may be experiencing, or any other skin problem that they may be having. From the training, I also learned what to tell a customer and how to help them got to the root of their problem.
I have learned the importance of maintaining a good rapport with my customers. Creating a good rapport with customers helps win their loyalty. It is also important to maintain a good rapport with other participants of business such as the suppliers and distributors. Dealing with customers directly is one way of creating a good rapport, since one is able to have physical contact with them. In a face to face situation, one is able to know exactly what the problems of a customer are, and what they need to satisfy their needs. I have also learned that some customers do not want to be contacted. Instead, they prefer to contact you when they need something or when they have a problem. It becomes easier for them to communicate when a good relationship exists between the sales representative and them.
While working with Shaklee, I learned that customer needs and marketing are closely related in direct sales. As a sales representative, I have the responsibility of informing my customers of new products that come into the market and are being promoted. Besides marketing new products, I have the responsibility of meeting the needs of my customers. This means I have to be well skilled in understanding exactly what the customer needs, and making it available to them.
After being a customer of the natural nutrition and cosmetic departments, I strongly feel that being part of direct sales team is one of the most satisfying departments to serve customers from. After working in the direct sales industry for four months, another sales opportunity was made available to me. The new opportunity entailed working in retail sales for a well-known sunglasses company. Since I was not in school at the time I decided that it would be a great way to be exposed to potential new customers for my own business. While working in the sunglasses industry I learned how to manage my time and be able do to different things at the same time. While working for Sunglasses Hut, I did my best to remain focused and sold as much as I could. I made a number of friends and learned a lot. The knowledge gained from my working experience and from the new friends made it possible for me to start up my own business and work on it during my breaks and evenings.
Coming into the natural nutrition and cosmetic industry from a customer’s point of view, I feel that direct sales are one of the most satisfying industries. After I had been working in the direct sales industry for four months, another sales opportunity was made available to me. This new opportunity was working retail sales for a well-known sunglasses company. Since, I was not in school at the time I decided that it would be a great way to be exposed to potential new customers for my own business. While working in the sunglasses industry I remembered to keep my work time separate. While working for Sunglasses Hut I always focused and did my best to sell their products. After making new friends in the store I eventually felt comfortable to work my business after work and during breaks. All of my experiences have helped me to become a better businessperson.
When I remember how things were from a customer’s point of view, I appreciated the knowledge I received regarding my skin problems. Upon seeing the improvement of my complexion in a couple of weeks, that convinced me of the quality of the claims of the products, which guaranteed a 100% satisfaction. As I began to enhance my product knowledge, I grew to recognize how important it is to fit the product to the person or the problem. It quickly became apparent to me that I would need to become adept at quickly understanding the individual’s needs in order to best find the product that would meet them and equally, that I would need strong knowledge of all products in order to do this as efficiently as possible. The challenge of this was to remember a lot of information whilst also applying it to specific, individual contexts. However, I found that by talking to the individual and listening carefully to their responses, I was often able to match key words to key products and help them to find the solution to their problem. This became almost addictive in the end and I enjoyed meeting this challenge on a regular basis.
In the past, I have always worked in the nurturing field with children, who were either developmentally delayed or physically disabled. This experience stirred up the desire in me to want to help other people. This has even made me better in my business since I have learned that being helpful to other people helps to boost my business in one way or another. In my experience, customers are more likely to return if they are happy with the service they have received.
After working both retail and direct sales, I have come to realize the importance of customer service. While waiting on customers in the store, it was important to give them my fullest attention. I felt it was important to give a person my best even if they were not interested in purchasing my sunglasses. Instead of ignoring that person, I made sure that I handed them over to someone who could better meet their needs. I enjoyed the satisfaction of a customer being appreciative of the time I took to help them make their sunglasses decision. I felt that even though they did not buy my sunglasses, that maybe in the future they would be more likely to choose mine next time because I would leave a friendly and pleasant lasting impression.
As I reflect on my experience when I was working for other companies and when working for my own company, I feel that working for my business is more rewarding than working for someone else. I realize I am the same person when I work for someone else as when I work for myself and that my customers appreciate me more than any company I have ever worked for. Customer service is more important in direct sales, because my customers end up being my boss and when I make them happy I am successful. Marketing is, after all, focused entirely on the customers and their needs: if I cannot give great customer service then I am failing to use marketing correctly. For instance, during an initial phone call to a customer, it is important to speak politely and listen to their responses which demonstrates that you are interested in them rather than in solely making a sale.
III. ABSTRACT CONCEPTUALIZATION
Direct Sales companies are available for people who do not want or do not have the ability to have the retail mall experience. A large portion of the population has embraced alternative shopping solutions, such as a mail order catalog, online internet shopping services and telephone catalog ordering for making their day- to- day buying decisions. By using these alternatives, many people are taking more control of their spending habits. When people shop at the mall, they are rarely in contact with the same salesperson twice: this takes away any chance of establishing a personal rapport. Therefore, it is important to establish this rapport as early in the interaction as possible (Nierenberg, 2005, p37).
A handsome portion of the population prefers ordering from catalogs or the internet, due to the convenience associated with it. Most of these people have probably never thought of having someone come to their home and give them personalized sales attention. They are falling in line with a world that is continually becoming more and more dehumanized. Still others desire the face-to- face service that one gets from going into their hometown stores. The many people who order from catalogs and the internet do this for a number of different reasons. They are saving the time of driving, parking and having to wait in lines or the hassle of dealing with human contact (Schmid, 2000, p95). Catalog and internet shopping aside from the danger of giving an unseen, unknown person your credit card number is appealing. Using these services, a person can ideally shop 24 hours a day without ever leaving the safe confines of their home.
Having learned the different preferences of shopping for different people, we have found that it is important to apply excellent skills of product knowledge, marketing and customer service through the ever-growing field of network marketing or direct sales. This is needed to help reduce the number of people that are shying away from physical shopping, in other words, direct sales. A number of complaints have been launched into the way that many large stores lack enough employees to offer personalized services to their customers. These complaints are common in stores or companies that have large department stores. It has hence become necessary that those in charge of these stores know every detail concerning their lines, lest they will be unsuccessful in business. They need to hire more personnel to help improve on their customer service. The success of this personalized approach is prevalent in online stories such as Amazon who, after monitoring the purchases and page views of their customers, will recommend other products that might be of interest to them (Conrad & Leonard, 2010, p118). It is clear that real-life stores need to make alterations in order to retain their customers rather than lose them to this more convenient way of shopping.
Being dependable and having excellent customer service will enable the direct sales individual to capitalize on where the department stores are weak. Many times people think that selling is only a technique that can be applied to any product. In reality a person will be more successful in their sales when they have first studied their product thoroughly. That begins with actually using the products daily. Anyone who thinks they can sell their product without using it is selling themselves short and leaving extra dollars on the table (Anthony, 2003, p140). When a person becomes an expert about their product they are doing their customers a service. Being the most knowledgeable and efficient salesperson leads us into the next important facet of a successful business. This is known as selling with emotional intelligence (Anthony, 2003, p140). Since more and more people desire to have a personal touch in their shopping, it is important for network marketers to realize the important role they will now be embarking on. More and more people will be coming their way through referrals from their regular customers. This means they will need to give an extra personal touch and always remember to be a person of their word. This is where under promising and over delivering come into play.
In between receiving referrals we need to learn how to market ourselves to become and remain successful. The best ways to look for prospects is by developing a genuine interest in people and meeting their needs. Sometimes people feel like they are being pushy by promoting their products to their friends and family members, but if you really believe in your products, then you will want to share them with the people that are closest to you. These people know you best, and they will be the best at giving an honest opinion of the products you are promoting. When you have developed a customer base from your family and friends, then you will need to ask for referrals from them to help your business grow wider (Ciletti, 2010, p112). This may slow down, but do not forget to go back and ask for more referrals later as people develop new friendships regularly.
Another source of finding prospects is directly from marketing groups, in which other people involved in direct sales are willing to share their customer base provided they are not in a related field (Stone, & Jacobs, 2007). When looking for a network marketing group make certain there are no other real estate sales people if that is your field. A marketing group will usually limit their professions allowed, so as not to create competition. When a group begins to bring in more representatives of the same market then a person should move on and look for another group. Ultimately, a person looking for potential customers will be more successful finding prospects in person. When someone is not in contact with many people there are many things one can do to generate leads. For instance, scanning the newspapers looking for birth announcements can be successful if you are in the field of baby supplies, or looking through wedding announcements, if you are in the bridal business.
When marketing a business, the first place to look for prospects is the environment one is in (Ciletti, 2010, p128). If you are involved with your children then you will find your prospects at their activities. If you are involved with your church then you will find your prospects at church. The lack of looking for prospects comes from fear but the secret to combating this is by remembering that fear is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real. When a person overcomes the fear of talking to people and begins to develop their customer base then they need to be informed on how to keep their customers satisfied.
Customer service and satisfaction is one of the most important basics of succeeding in a business (Murley, 1997, p238). When a person goes shopping in a store, their biggest complaint is lack of customer service. So, a smaller business needs to make sure that they offer exemplary excellent customer service. The simplest way to offer excellent customer service is to treat every person as though they are wearing a sign that says, “Make me feel special” (Murley, 1997, p238). When we begin to treat people how we want to be treated then we begin to enjoy our business. Unfortunately, when people shop in the stores, they know that they will not likely encounter the same sales person again, so, they may be impatient or rude. The salesperson in turn gives less than desirable service in reaction to the impatient or rude behavior and thus the cycle is perpetuated.
IV. ACTIVE EXPERIMENTATION
The one thing I have learned in owning my own business is that personal service is more satisfying when achieved through direct sales rather than retail sales. Owning my own business and working with the Shaklee Natural Nutrition Company has allowed me to have the freedom of sharing my faith while making new friends. I love the fact that I work with a company that is internationally known for being the best in the natural nutrition company year after year. Shaklee opened its first international venture in Japan in 1975. Now you can find us in six international markets. This indicates that we offer excellent services in all three of my key concepts: customer service, marketing and product knowledge. From my experience and based on what I have learned, it is clear that these three things do not work autonomously from one another but rather each relies on the others in order to make a truly strong direct marketing campaign.
Everything I learn from my business is applicable in all areas of my life. The basic beliefs I hold strong from Shaklee are living by the golden rule, put God first, family second, and my career third. I can really do this by being involved in a home-based business. Going to school to train as a teacher is my way of being around people who are caring and kind. This I know is what it takes to build a business that requires that you have the desire to help people look and feel great. Being an aggressive and pushy salesperson is one of the most ineffective ways to ensure a person will become a repeat buyer and is more apt to push the customers away.
I am not totally sure what God has planned for me. As a result of this Human Development program I am uncertain about whether to go into teaching or to continue with the Registered Nurse program. I do know that I want to finish my college education and this feels like the perfect time to achieve it. I look forward to being at the top in whatever field I pursue. Some of the greatest learning experiences I have received so far have been from the training workshops I have gone through during my Shaklee business. Every Year I look forward to going to the Career Seminar, at one of the many different destinations elected by the top ranking sellers of the year. The training and support is irreplaceable.
I love helping people, so I look forward to all the doors that are going to be opened to me in the Human Development field. It does not matter if I teach children or if I decide to work as a nurse. I am confident that the knowledge I have gained will enable me to inspire others and have a positive impact on their lives.
In the future, I will be able to apply this knowledge in a succession of other contexts. For example, whilst I understood the importance of customer service before now, I feel much more proficient in my application of it. When reflecting upon the impact that internet and catalog shopping has had upon the face-to-face marketplace, it is clear that customer service is the driving force behind why retail stores are still open now. Despite their inability to provide quite such a personalized service, stores and salespeople must ensure that they are providing the customer with the highest degree of customer service possible. If they don’t, the customer will be unlikely to return and in all likelihood, will take their custom elsewhere – most likely to an online retailer. The fact is that more and more people are reluctant to face the crowds and queues that a busy shopping mall can endure on a busy weekend day. If a customer does queue for a long time in order to be served, that service must be second to none in courtesy and helpfulness. Customer service is, in practice, the last remaining bastion of face-to-face retail and is one of the few tools that we have which can retain customers.
Equally, product knowledge is the same: for many customers, online shopping presents a myriad of problems such as knowing which product is the best for their needs, not being able to see it before they buy it, and also knowing that they can easily return it if it is wrong. Therefore, product knowledge in the hands of a good salesperson can be the deciding factor in whether the customer chooses to buy in-store or from the salesperson who visits their home, or whether they buy it online for a slightly reduced price. Those extra dollars they might pay in person could be worth it if they are provided with excellent service and presented with strong product knowledge too. In short, salespeople must secure the sale by using their personality, charm and understanding of the product. Having looked into this further now, I will endeavor to have used the product before I try to sell it as this will give me a strong, more personal affinity with the client as well as the product and will, arguably, make it easier to be persuasive in my sales technique. In the face of internet retail giants, these are the skills which will continue to make in person retailing a success.
Finally, my approach to direct marketing will also change as a result of what I have learned here. Internet companies have a far stronger approach to this currently as their systems are all computerized, meaning that customers can be digitally added to databases with a great amount of ease, meaning that customers can be directly approached with regards to their specific interests and needs with an extreme amount of simplicity. For example, the Amazon emails which only contain information about specific types of products. However, it is important to make note of who buys what and to store this information on a database. This is because I will be able to contact specific individuals with an interest in particular products and who are more likely to purchase such things. I will keep and up to date database from now on which will allow me to do this easily.
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Stone Bob, & Jacobs Ron. (2007). Successful Direct Marketing Methods. New York: McGraw Hill.