There is no magic bullet. Building an initial field sales force will require a multi-faceted strategy and will take 3-6 months. Learn the steps to building your Field Sales Force Strategy.
The Basic Principles
In establishing a strategy to build an initial field sales force, there are some basic principles that are vital to remember.
First, there are some key differences between MLM and Party Plan. Field leaders for party plan companies will be attracted more by a passion for the product and the “experiences” being offered, and less by the compensation plan. As we have conducted hundreds of interviews with top field leaders of large party plan companies, we find a very common theme. Most had no intention of earning an income when they signed up. They just loved the product and wanted to get it at the best possible price–and the way to do that was to become a field rep for the company. Then, at some point in time the light went on for them and they said, “Hey, people are making money doing this–I think I can make money doing this.” MLM leaders will be attracted more by the income opportunity– the “dream” if you will. Product quality has to be there, but they are looking for a unique “story” to tell and a powerful income opportunity has to be part of that story.
Next, remember that all networkers (both MLM and Party Plan) are attracted to a “cause,” something that will help make the world a better place and enhance the lives of those they introduce to the product and company. They all want a unique story to tell. The elements of that unique story revolve around the product or service being offered, the company and key leaders involved, and the income opportunity.
It is also important to realize that early efforts will have to be driven by the corporate staff as they find and mentor the first group of leaders. However, the first rank of leaders must be taught self-sufficiency and must be given the tools from the home office they need to continue to build and help others build their organizations. There must be a simple formula they adopt and follow–three or four steps that, if repeated over and over again, will lead them to succeed in building their sales organizations.
Know your target market. Carefully consider the demographics, characteristics, lifestyle, behavioral patterns, etc. of those you envision using your products and services and joining your sales force. Make sure your efforts are targeted to this group. However, stay light on your feet–because your initial perceptions may not exactly match the reality of those who actually join.
In addition, remember the old adage: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. You must have enough of your operating and sales and marketing systems in place so people are impressed with your company and have a good experience when they join. They have to have confidence in you and know that those they bring will have a great experience and that you won’t embarrass them in any way.
Finally, remember there is no magic bullet. Building an initial field sales force will require a multi-faceted strategy and will take 3-6 months. With that, let’s get a bit more specific.
Work With What You Have
The very first thing not to overlook is to work with what you have. If you have an existing product line that is being sold and marketed through other channels, think about how you can leverage that side of your business to find leaders. As you are preparing to launch, let your corporate staff know that they need to shoulder the load of talking to friends and family. Believe it or not, it is from their warm market that some of your strong initial leaders can be found.
Use Public Relations
Work with the media in your immediate and regional markets to get media coverage of the launch of your business. Center the coverage around meetings, events, tours of the home office, product demonstrations, etc. Drive traffic to places where you can meet people, build relationships, tell your story, capture names, and follow up.
The power of early events cannot be overstated. Get involved in appropriate trade shows, county fairs, events that you create, etc. Again, tell your story, show your products, capture names, and follow up.
Work From Your Home Town Out
Always start in your home town or city and other communities within easy driving range. This will keep costs down and allow you to have people come to your home office and rub shoulders with key corporate leaders. It will allow you to stage recruiting events without incurring substantial costs. Also, advertising costs can be very reasonable in smaller regional newspapers and with regional television and radio stations. You can literally saturate your region and gain a strong sense of momentum.
For instance, Melaleuca is a $700 million company in our hometown of Idaho Falls. At the base of the Teton Mountain range, about an hour’s drive from here, is the small community of Driggs, Idaho– population 2,583. Driggs is home to several of the millionaire earners in Melaleuca; these are the locals who gave it a try and took it to the nation through their friends and family.
Pour Gas on the Fire
As you begin to attract some early leaders, pour gas on their fire of excitement while it is burning hot–don’t let it cool off. Turn your corporate office into a fun and exciting recruiting center. Provide cubicles and phones. Allow emerging leaders to work there and work together to make their contact lists and share approaches that are working well for them. Provide events and conference calls they can invite prospects to attend. Have key corporate leaders get on three-way calls with them. Keep a scoreboard in the home office. Have competitions. Offer cash incentives. Create a contagious sense of excitement. Some companies have brought in promising leaders for a week or two and created “sales teams” who make their prospect lists, initiate contacts from the office in the spirit of launch, and who derive mutual energy and support at a critical tipping point for the company.
Follow Pockets of Energy
As leaders begin to emerge in other geographic areas, you will quickly see pockets of energy emerge–people who are excited and working it hard. Support these people with events in their areas. Ask them what they need and help them be successful.
If you have a strong personality at the home office such as a founder who is central to the product story, use that person effectively at events, on three-way calls, on conference calls, etc. People want to be lead. Early leaders value a strong personal connection to key people in your company.
Use the Internet
Make sure you have a top-notch website and work with technology specialists to drive traffic to that site. Direct those who visit the site to call the home office for more information, and when they call, have designated staff to greet them and tie them into a 3-way call with one of your early field leaders. Make sure your website is a powerful tool that you and your emerging leaders can use to tell your story.
Use Advertising Judiciously
There are a few reputable network marketing and direct sales publications that focus on field representatives as their readers. Consider advertising with them–but be sure to track costs and response rates. Widespread advertising campaigns can be very costly and are generally more effective for MLM recruiting than for party plan companies.
Pay for Performance
You will have some come to you early and say: “I can bring 500 people with me to your company. What are you going to do for me?” They will ask for up front money, a special position in your sales organization, and other special considerations. Simply stated, welcome them with open arms, pay them as they perform, and remember they could leave you just as fast as they left their current company to join you. With some special care, you can establish your compensation plan and some early bonuses and leadership pools that will reward early emerging leaders.
Recruit to Retain
Remember that you do not want people to join you “at all costs.” You want people who are a good fit and who will be there with you for the long haul. A couple of keys to follow and to teach your emerging leaders: 1) don’t oversell, 2) manage each new person’s expectations, and 3) provide exceptional support to new recruits. Make sure they have a clear picture of the benefits of involvement and what they will have to do to experience those benefits.
David Taylor has founded and sold 6 private businesses, including 2 national training companies offering hundreds of workshops and seminars per-month nationwide. His expertise lies in sales and marketing systems, communications, and customer service.
Dave served for 7 years as a strategic planning director for a 12,000-person Department of Energy laboratory. He is a certified communications trainer and uses the internationally recognized Crucial Conversations® Curriculum. He has served as an advisor to such companies as Herbalife, USANA, Longaberger, Creative Memories, Avon, AmeriPlan, and Nature’s Sunshine. Dave joined ServiceQuest in 2002 as co-owner and CEO. ServiceQuest provides training systems to increase field growth and retention, and builds blue ribbon customer service organizations.
In addition, ServiceQuest guides start-up companies through the launch process, building a foundation of tried-and-proven best practices. Mr. David Taylor has an undergraduate degree in communications and an MBA.