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July 01, 2010

Publisher's Note

Letter from John Fleming, July 2010

John FlemingOne half of another year means so many different things, depending on one’s perspective. The discussion about the economy continues and is often one of much debate. While some success stories have emerged in the first six months of the new year, challenges remain, and celebrating the economic recovery appears to still be on hold in most mature markets. These times call for careful analysis of the editorial calendar for publications like ours, as “content relevance” becomes even more important with so much uncertainty.

As we discussed the direct selling business model, we chose an issue that is one of the most important questions a company has to address: What matters most when attempting to support a new person who chooses to build a direct selling business? For anyone who has had any experience at all with the direct selling business model, one thing is for sure: When it comes to predicting success, it’s as simple as some will and some won’t.

Our writer for the story conducted many interviews and engaged in many conversations. I also asked a few questions when talking to friends in the industry who work in areas ranging from incentives to sales training/development and monitoring their company’s compensation plan. Of course, the difference in products and services will obviously dictate differences in approach to the question of what matters most. Supporting recruits in achieving success could make a difference in not only the yield for the new independent contractor, but also the overall gain experienced by the company.

During my years of involvement within a direct selling company, I have had the opportunity to observe many approaches to recruitment and development of independent contractors and analyze many statistics in an attempt to understand the metrics associated with desired performance. The work that went into this month’s cover story convinced me that some things never change, but also that many things are changing! That a company still has to encourage the recruitment process is not new, but how a company encourages or supports the process is changing. Incentives to trigger quick results have always been thought necessary to ensure a “fast start” and some measure of success.

The philosophy behind these tactics has not changed, but the methods vary. How incentives are used still appears to be of great concern, and companies are being very careful. A good incentive inspires the right behaviors and good performance. The wrong behavior and, ultimately, a less-than-desired performance can also be triggered by an incentive designed for short-term gain versus long-term strategic growth.

The importance of a good, fair and rewarding compensation plan has always been integral to the new direct seller’s goal-setting, belief in a vision for what can be accomplished and, ultimately, their retention. And though we did not get into the details about any compensation plan, its importance still rings loud and clear.

 Recognition has historically been viewed as critical and remains important. The relationship between a sponsor and recruit remains as important as ever, but how the relationship starts and is nurtured is dramatically changing. New technology is being used creatively by so many companies in so many different ways. Messages conveyed by familiar tools, including brochures, CDs and DVDs, are now supported by new tools and functionalities never imagined just a few short years ago.

I have visited my local Best Buy store several times over the past month, and I am intrigued by the small crowds that seem to always be hovering around the iPad display. I don’t have one yet, but I am constantly looking and thinking about the world of new possibilities and efficiencies this gadget affords me. Others must be thinking the same way, because the store is always out of stock for iPads, but the crowds are always there!

I remember vividly the days of direct selling when everything was conducted “face to face.” The sales manuals usually referred to “one on one” or “group” when discussing ways to present the product/service or opportunity. Today, a one-on-one meeting could be conducted with tools, and the two people could be thousands of miles apart. A telephone with a camera is no longer fantasy; it is a part of our new reality. Today, a group could be thousands engaged in an online social network. Being able to touch hundreds—or even thousands—with a few keystrokes on an iPad or computer is not fantasy… this is our new reality! What matters most to the new person joining a direct selling company today is an important question.

Until next month… enjoy the issue!

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief