There has been an explosion of home-based, multilevel marketing type businesses over the past decade. It is no surprise that women are latching on to these type of companies because they can make an earning on a flexible schedule and, if they have children, maybe even stay at home. But this trend has brought up a lot of etiquette issues. I can’t tell you how many emails I receive about this very topic. Finally, I am addressing it (or going to try to address it!).
You may have read an article floating around the internet a few weeks ago about how one mom’s fake facebook friends were trying to sell her things. I think many of us can all relate to the pseudo-friend from ages past reaching out to us randomly and insincerely. But for the most part – or at least in my experience – I think the women selling these products are genuinely sincere about them and just trying to be successful. So if that “fake friendship” thing that has happened to you, first of all, give grace. We’ve all had new jobs and made mistakes or missteps along the way (or at least I know I have!) so we need to be a bit more understanding as our friends try to navigate their new ventures. And second, remember that there are two sides to every encounter. Here are tips to make sure both sides are gracious:
For the potential customer:
- Always respond. It’s just the polite thing to do! I’m sure I’ve been guilty of not responding to all the emails I receive, but I really try to! Even though it may be awkward, is so much better to respond than to ignore. Here are some things you can say/email/text:
- “Thank you so much for thinking of me and sharing your new business with me! I love that you are doing this, however, I am not interested in trying it at this time.” You don’t have to give a reason!
- However, if you feel you need to give specific reasons be honest. “I am so sorry but these products are just not in our budget right now, we are trying to save for xyz.” Or “My dermatologist just put me on this new regimen so I am going to stick with that for now.”
- Don’t lead them on. Again, many of us don’t want to hurt people’s feelings so we immediately follow up our decline with a “but maybe in a few months!”. If you are genuinely interested in the products, then absolutely give the consultant a time frame for when they should contact you again. (“Please feel free to call me in June when things aren’t so crazy!“) But if you have absolutely no desire to continue this conversation, don’t waste her time or get her hopes up. She is trying to run a small business and you are actually helping her be more efficient if you are up front in the beginning.
- Encourage/Not Bad-Mouth. Most of the people I have talked who are part of these home-based companies told me this, “I never thought I would be doing direct sales.” Direct sales is awkward and, as I said above, missteps are going to be made. But let’s not put a label on all the women who are working hard to help their families. And you don’t have to buy a lipstick from your friend to encourage her. I mean you can, but there are other ways as well: ask her how business is going, send her a note of encouragement, or perhaps think of friends/family who might be potential customers.
If you are the consultant:
- Be genuine. Of course, you are super excited to share your new business and part of your strategy is to reach people through social media. But instead of doing the fake friendship thing as that article referenced, just be authentic. If your marketing strategy includes reaching out to long lost friends on Facebook, try something like, “Hey, I know we haven’t talked in a while, but I am just starting this new venture and the scoping out who may be interested in these products, and am starting with my Facebook friends first.” I have a friend who just started selling Rodan & Fields and she said she reluctantly reached out to someone and the person said, “Oh I am so glad you did; I’ve been wanting to try that line but just didn’t know how to go about it.” You just never know and most likely will be a better saleswoman if you are authentic!
- Try waiting for a natural opportunity to share. Sometimes the best customers come to you organically. My cousin, who is a Beautycounter consultant gave some great advice about the matter: “No one wants to feel like you are just reaching out to them because you feel that you could make a sale. If there is a kind way to reach out to someone who you have not talked to in a while, and you sincerely want to catch up, I think it’s more than appropriate to bring up your new business opportunity. However, if your primary motive is making money, I would recommend holding off until another opportunity arises to share with that individual.”
- One follow up is probably plenty. If you send am email/text/facebook message and get radio silence in return, I think it is okay to try a different mean of communication to try to get in touch. If you are ignored a second time, then take the hint. It’s really not you, more likely that the person just doesn’t know how to say no (and probably needs to read this post – which you might want to share on Facebook!).
- Watch the fine line of promoting your product/line and over-sharing on social media. You don’t want your Facebook friends to select the “I don’t like this post” option because then your posts won’t show up as much in your friends’ feeds! Another idea: start a business page on Facebook. You can actually get in front of more potential customers that way.
- Don’t get your feelings hurt. I have a few friends who have been discouraged with the slow start of their direct sales business. I think it’s good to keep in mind that the people you are reaching out to may have already been approached by other direct sales businesses – not necessarily your particular company – but nonetheless probably several companies, several times in the past month. Like any business, it just may take time to get your footing, but you will!
I am sure my readers have a lot more tips on this subject. If you are in this line of businesses, please share your tips for graciously sharing about your products!