What you need to know before you begin a direct sales career

Before You Begin Direct Sales

by Debra Karplus

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If you're of a certain age, you may remember the days of the Fuller Brush man, the Avon Lady, or the Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman, all unfamiliar persons selling familiar products, appearing unexpectedly at your front door carrying a case full of enticing products they were certain that you needed and were insistent on demonstrating their value right in your own living room. Some of these people actually sold their wares and earned a small profit, but others had doors slam in the smiling faces.

The concept of direct sales is often misunderstood.

This method of selling was known as Direct Sales, and promised competitive prices to customers because the middleman, typically a retail store, was eliminated. Multi-level or pyramid sales are methods of direct selling. They sometimes have an unfavorable reputation because those making the largest income have done so more by recruiting other people as sales representatives, rather than by actually selling the products themselves.

Fuller Brush, established in 1906, Kirby founded in the 1920s, and Avon in 1932, some of the earliest direct sales enterprises, are still vital companies with impressive products. However, their sales technique has changed with the times since few people are home during the day, and those who are home are skeptical about allowing a stranger into the house.

There are numerous direct sales companies that promise the opportunity to earn income, rewards, and free products.

Today, direct sales companies offer three main ways to increase one's income. The main method for selling is by establishing connections with people everywhere you go, including your job (yes, you probably still need to keep your job), church, etc.

A second way to increase your sales is to host parties where people can socialize and have fun while viewing, using, and trying on your wares. Serving snacks can entice guests. Be sure your "friends' know to bring their credit card. Often, discounted prices are offered for party attendees who "buy now."

The Internet appears to be present in all arenas of life. Direct sales companies are no exception. Simply get online, choose your products, click "add to cart," and complete your sale. Your local sales consultant will receive a percentage of your purchase.

Some of the smaller direct sales companies offer rewards and products rather than income.

If you enjoy hosting parties or asking your friends to host parties, selling jewelry, candles, lingerie, or other products may be what you're looking for. You absolutely must love the product, because you are paid in goods not cash. Expect to pay a start-up cost to establish your initial inventory.

Larger, more established, direct sales companies offer the potential for substantial income and also rewards and free products.

When you think of direct sales, the Mary Kay Company probably comes to mind. Since 1963, it has sold a wide array of high quality cosmetics for women and men. To sell Mary Kay products, expect to pay a start-up cost of about $75 for inventory. You'll earn about fifty percent on each sale. For more information, visit MaryKay.com.

Avon sells much more than just cosmetics. You may have seen their catalogue in the employee lounge with the name of your local sales representative, probably a co-worker who is moonlighting by selling Avon products. You'll need to invest in a start-up inventory to sell Avon products. Learn more at Avon.com.

Who doesn't love Tupperware? Founded in 1946, the company sells storage containers to preserve and organize just about anything. Hosting or attending a Tupperware party can be fun. Think of all the creative uses for these containers. Expect your start-up inventory to cost about $80. Check out Tupperware.com.

Shaklee products have been around since 1956. About $300 can get you started as a Shaklee rep, selling nutritional aids and other products. To learn how to sell Shaklee, see Shaklee.com.

Since 1988, Reliv International has been selling nutritional supplements and related products around the world through direct sales. A start-up cost for inventory is necessary. To decide if selling Reliv is right for you, visit Reliv.com.

Discovery Toys has been selling educational toys to parents and others since 1978. You can host fun parties and get substantial discounts on toys. If you have children, this might be fantastic. Go to DiscoveryToys.com for more information.

Mary Kay Ash, founder of the Mary Kay Company says, "A company is only as good as the people it keeps." Hard-working people who have been most successful in direct sales are people who view it as their own business, surround themselves with a growing network of "friends" and potential and repeat customers, are "on" 24/7, and seem to have boundless enthusiasm for their products. If this concept fits into your lifestyle, perhaps you may be able to earn a respectable income in direct sales.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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