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Direct Sales Success: Lessons from ‘The Wrong CEO’s"

Merry Christmas! Just had to get that in before the article:

On twitter the other day, someone tweeted a post about “celebrating the wrong CEO’s”. The article, from the Harvard Business Review, talks about the metrics we SHOULD be using when we celebrate the accomplishments of CEO’s.

Too often, the media darling of the minute is someone that has made a big success, turnaround, or otherwise made a ‘big splash’ in the short term.

Instead, the article asserts we should be looking at the integrity of the long-term record of these CEO’s – how thay have performed overall – before we start handing out awards and patting them on the back.

I found an immediate correlation to Direct Sales leadership and had to shake my head.

All too often, companies bestow big prizes, gifts and awards on the “top” recruiter, sales leader, etc, and yet, the next year, that same leader is nowhere to be seen in the company hierarchy, let alone in the top rankings of the company. We laud and honor these big achievers, and don’t think about the message that’s being sent to our teams.

For years, I’ve used a combination of recogniton to help celebrate the right people, and still encourage leaders (and consultants) to strive to achieve more. Including longevity, consistency and what I like to call “repeat offenders” in the recognition encourages everyone to do their part to grow your organization – AND their own personal business.

I’ve only seen a handful of Direct Sales/Home Party companies that actually include this kind of recognition at the corporate level, and to me it seems like a no-brainer.

As a business builder, you want people who are in it for the long-haul, yet companies usually offer a 3-month incentive for consultants to stay on board. The industry statistics show that most consultants drop off after abotu 3 months. Belinda Ellsworth is noted for reminding people that at all times “a third are coming, a third are going, and a third are staying”. Then what are we doing to encourage retention beyond those first 3 months?

While I didn’t have the biggest team in my company, I had a solid team with average longevity of over 2 years, and an attrition rate under 20%. That means for every 10 people I signed up, less than 2 quit and most of them stayed longer than 2 years.

I don’t usually talk about those numbers, mostly because I didn’t think it was a big deal. But this year, I’ve realized it’s a HUGE deal. There are hundreds, if not tens of thousands of leaders in this industry that are pluggin along, actively working thier business, being consistent, but that will probably not ever be in the top 10 or 20 of their companies. They’ll never walk across the stage and win the awards that other leaders will, when THEY are the unsung heroines of most Direct Sales companies. These folks are working their businesses consistently – and isn’t that what we want in our business?

I watched this happen first hand in one of my former companies. Sitting at one of my first ever National Conferences, I watched my own leader and her upline teach a class about recruiting – because my leader was the top recruiter for the company that year. What wasn’t made public was that she earned that title because she promoted to Director because she transferred half her team from her former company to ours. By the time the next national confernce rolled around, she wasn’t even an active consultant anymore, let alone a leader!

And yet, at that conference, we were led to believe she had the golden ticket to promoting to director in less than a year. Well, I don’t know about you, but that feels kind of dishonest to me. Our company never remarked about it, and there was never an asterisk placed by her name in the “record books”, and yet, we were all talking in hshed tones about how “she didn’t really earn that title fairly”.

She earned it fairly, she just shouldn’t have been the one teaching strategies that she herself didn’t use to attain that title. And everyone in the room knew it.

As a consultant, you need to be watching your leaders – even if your leader is MIA. Watch other leaders that are “doing things right” with a track record of longevity. find out what works for them and find ways to incorporate those strategies and tools into your business.

As a leader, you need to be honest with your teams. If you rightfully earned a title, stop fretting about competition, and help them learn how you did it. A rising tide – particularly in direct sales – raises all ships. Plus, they’ll be ready to share with you when they are having successes of their own.

As company owners, we need to be looking for ways to recognize our ranks that will inspire others and not put the brass ring out of reach for the workhorses of our company. It’s not hard to recognize people who consistently submit shows, regardless of the show size. Or to recognize people who consistenly add one new recruit every month. Leaders should be giving recognition for the daily actions (making the calls, holding the shows), but it’s the company responsibility to encourage retention in meaningful ways beyond the almighty dollar.

In fact, the potential cash bonus is usually much less an incentive than the marketing potential of a professionally written press release or feature in the monthly magazine that helps build their crediblity in a way that directly connects them back to your brand in a positive way. It also shows potential recruits that you don’t need to be the tops in the division, just consistent – something that is more attainable for more people.

This is a topic I harp on about once a year, but only because I’m so strong a proponent. I know people who tirelessly do everything their leader tells them to, and still get beat out month after month for those top slots. What a great way to recognize them for doing what we really want them to do – build a strong solid business that’s designed to last a lifetime.