Having worked for large professional firms for most of my working life, once the sparkle wore off I’ve always contended that we professional types are really just glossy (in some cases at least), be-suited sales people.
We provide a service, be it legal advice, conveyancing, plastic surgery, wealth planning, etc etc which people want to buy for a certain price. The customers pay for it, we (in some cases at least) make a profit.
However many qualifications, professional institutes and so forth are required to produce the service in question to a particular standard, at the end of the day we make the money from the sales.
Having read that back, it seems so obvious (and I am a little worried that most of you will have stopped reading by now, but if you’re still here, do bear with me for a minute or two longer, Maybe get yourself a glass of wine :-)) that it’s amazing how many people I’ve worked with over the years would vehemently deny being salespeople, or shudder at the mere thought of being asked to sell something.
As selling professional services tends to involve talking to people, seeing how well you get on with them and if you can offer something of benefit to them, I have most of the time rather enjoyed it. I don’t like the bit where people don’t buy. Or say they will then don’t sign the contact. But the rest of the process is generally quite enjoyable.
So, why the antipathy towards the idea of selling?
Despite my assertion over the years that I am in fact a salesperson, I have never had the courage to set up my own business. So I started to wonder if I could in fact do it, outside of my particular (somewhat privileged) field of expertise.
Which brings me to the world of direct selling…or network marketing…or social selling…or even MLM which apparently means multi-level marketing (not sure about that one, the man who mentioned it at a recent networking event was not someone I warmed to).
As these things happen (to me anyway) I was at a local fete and got talking to one of the stallholders. She had been selling cards as an independent trader for over 10 years and it was her full time job. Her enthusiasm for the job was almost tangible.
So I decided to dabble at something similar. Being an almost compulsive card purchaser, the idea of being able to buy them at wholesale prices was rather compelling, and I realised it would give me an opportunity to see if I really could sell outside of my normal environment.
What is also very compelling about networking marketing is the team structure. I have someone to help me. Over time, I can build a team. If this works, this could be an excellent way to set myself up for a comfortable early retirement. I now have rather a lot of stock in the house…
Yes, I do have a tendency to get carried away. Interestingly, the usual suspects who get me to stop and think about the various hair-brained schemes which I launch myself into from time to time, in the main did the reverse. My mother was very excited. Friends offered to help and one or two even engineered sales opportunities for me. Other friends suggested other ideas for sales businesses. That one did start to run away with itself.
One of the discussions which took root was when a good friend (who incidentally has a very successful network marketing team) said that the main thing was to ensure the product was something you are passionate about, and that people would spend money on anyway. Lingerie and toys sprung to mind with somewhat indecent haste and wouldn’t go away.
So now the house has even more boxes of “stuff”. It’s pretty though. And silky. Or lacy 🙂
And I am beginning to find out how to convert some of the “stuff” into cash. Not yet in profit though 😦 Or even breaking even. This may take a while.
What has impressed me though is the level of support from the team leaders in both cases.
And how focused, energetic and organised they are. The thing which has really struck me is the attention to detail which goes into every step of the process from the business manual, promotional materials, producing the product, to following up with and incentivising the sales team.
Unbeknown to me previously, there is a huge army of people out there running extremely successful direct sales businesses, who in the main have learned from the ground up. It is extremely impressive. I have a lot to learn…but luckily there are lots of great people to learn from.