DSA 2018: Direct Selling Recruitment & Retention with Sylvina Consulting

The Gig Economy Group talks with Jay Leisner, President of  compensation planning and direct selling advisory company Sylvina Consulting. Part of our exploration of the future of direct selling, Leisner explains the role of residual value in differentiating the direct-selling business from emerging gig options that may attract distributors. Leisner also co-produces the Direct Selling Edge Conference in Salt Lake City this July, as well as other cities around the U.S.

LifeVantage and GEG Partner to Transform Sales Through Artificial Intelligence

New sales enablement technology changes the way companies and associations can engage and support sales teams and members in a time of digital transformation

Gig Economy Group June 21, 2018 11:29

SAN MATEO, Calif, June 21, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — (GEG), a Business Process Management (BPM) Platform and LifeVantage Corporation (Nasdaq:LFVN), a pioneer in Nutrigenomics, today announced a strategic partnership designed to enable direct sales businesses and membership organizations to create and support a more informed and successful sales force and to significantly increase revenue by leveraging machine learning. The collaboration is transforming sales support by proactively delivering personalized training, content and suggested actions at the moment of impact. The GEG engine provides automated intelligence by tracking what content and actions are most successful, analyzing sales outcomes, and delivering updated best-practices in real-time across the organization.

“The GEG platform has fundamentally changed our training and support for all LifeVantage consultants, providing confidence and increasing revenue for everyone,” stated Darren Jensen, CEO, LifeVantage. “Additionally, it has provided us unprecedented visibility into our business which allows us to pivot faster versus waiting for revenue numbers to indicate momentum shifts. Lastly, it has replaced three separate applications, therefore making everyone’s life simple and more efficient.”

Yak Gertmenian, SVP of Sales at Gig Economy Group, joins LifeVantage CEO Darren Jensen on stage at DSA 2018

Machine learning and a unique approach to AI enables GEG to harness the power of human knowledge and experience to proactively surface and present the most appropriate content or action for each individual user in every situation that they face. GEG uses this technology to help address the uniquely human and personal challenges of onboarding, building momentum and confidence, and moving successfully toward business goals. This value enables sales, service and marketing teams to work more effectively to grow their pipelines, collaborate more effectively, move deals through the sales process faster, and increase win rates.

LifeVantage sought capabilities that were beyond the reach of existing sales enablement platform. GEG’s features and functionality set it apart from the competition in providing a training and content engine that learns in real-time how to better inform management and salespeople on an ongoing basis. By isolating each action between seller, product and customer, GEG’s machine learning platform tests and identifies actions that work best for every seller and situation, and automatically delivers the training and content at the precise time the seller needs to take the next step.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with LifeVantage to enable GEG’s proprietary technology to deliver the right content to the customer at the right moment, with the right messaging to help their sales teams determine what to do next in the sales process to increase revenue generation,” said Dave Toole, Co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Gig Economy Group. “By determining which attributes will drive larger deal sizes, longer-term lifetime value and greater loyalty will change how LifeVantage assigns territories, prioritizes prospects and drives customer success management for its customers. This is precisely why we developed the GEG platform.”

For more information about the GEG platform, please visit our website at: www.gigeconomygroup.com or request a demo by emailing us at support@gigeconomygroup.com.  Stay updated on GEG’s developments and news by visiting our social channels at: Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

About Gig Economy Group:

Gig Economy Group’s Business Process Management (BPM) Platform enables direct sales businesses (and membership organizations) to create and support a more informed and successful independent sales force.

The company’s software proactively delivers the customer content and sales training information that individual reps require at the moment they need it at any point in the sales cycle. To determine what content, coaching, and recommended next steps to present, GEG uses data-driven insights, machine learning, and ‘augmented emotional intelligence’ to harness an organization’s own collective human intelligence and experience. Through use of the Gig Economy Group platform, reps become more confident, productive, and successful, while companies experience faster onboarding, greater retention, increased overall performance, and growth in sales revenue.

For more information please contact Gig Economy Group at www.gigeconomygroup.com

Media contact:

Beth Trier
Trier and Company for GEG
beth@triercompany.com
415-285-6147

DSA 2018: Direct Selling Trends with Avalara inc.

We sat down with DSA attendee Colt Passey, Strategic Alliances Manager for Direct Selling at Avalara Inc. to talk about the trends reshaping direct selling. The sales tax processing vendor handles domestic and trans-national sales taxes for many of the largest direct selling companies at the show.

DSA 2018: Mapping The Future Together

Gig Economy Group present at the Direct Selling Association’s annual conference. Please join us to discuss the future of in-home and local sales enabled by brand content and smart sales coaching. We’re also conducting interviews with direct sales company leadership, vendors, and advisors to lay out the challenges facing the industry in pursuit of its biggest opportunities.

Join Darren Jensen, President and CEO of LifeVantage, and Gig Economy Group Senior Vice President of Business Development Yak Gertmenian for Improving Distributor Success with Artificial Intelligence Tools, at 3:30 PM on Monday, June 18 in Grand Ballroom 4. We will be recording the presentation and collect your ideas in interviews after the session.

We built the Gig Economy Group platform to allow anyone to sell anything using the right branded content and brand sales processes to ensure a comprehensive and satisfying customer experience. Our analysis of the e-commerce and retail world made clear that person-to-person relationships will endure and become more essential, not less, as the economy shifts toward care and service-centric customer experience. Empowering people will more information will ignite new intimate sales opportunities.

Would you join us to talk for 15 to 20 minutes for our podcasts and research program? If you’d like a demo of the Gig platform, we can share that, too. Schedule your session here.

Our demo and recording station will be set up in Marriott Suite #1871.

We look forward to meeting you at DSA 2018.

International Opportunity: Scaling Revenue Globally With Smart Platforms

While it may not always feel like it in the United States, the world is becoming middle-class and people are adopting healthy, prosperous lifestyles that will reshape decades of established market behavior. As digital technology proliferates, global expansion is the greatest revenue opportunity for established and new direct selling companies, which could even grab market share from retailers struggling to bring customers into stores around the world.

Growth outside the U.S. has accelerated, beating domestic economic gains by 44 percent over the past couple years, according to the International Monetary Fund. China’s embrace of direct selling, which generated $33.9 billion in 2016 sales, just behind the U.S. total of $35.5 billion, is representative of the explosion in international opportunity. Direct selling must adapt to different regulatory and cultural settings to step into the void between modern retail, which has not penetrated many regions nor the in-home market, before new consumer behaviors consolidate. Once set, these habits will be long-lasting.

Are companies in the United States ready to adapt to the global marketplace? They’ll need smart tools that assist in identifying market-appropriate content and sales messaging in each international market. Brand content libraries will swell with variations on existing programming, as well as market-specific training for distributors, who must blend brand and local culture to create great customer experience. The same tools that personalize a U.S. sales relationship will provide support for localization of services globally.

The “Metail” Opportunity Goes Worldwide

The direct selling model may be more suited to delivery of goods and services in many countries where mobile phones and wireless infrastructure were the first digital infrastructure available. In these regions, consumers are already used to ecommerce, but more complex sales and services are challenging to deliver without a personal relationship. Retailers face massive capital and marketing investments in each territory they enter. Global consumers, like younger Americans, want a “metail” experience in which products and services align with their personal preferences and they have a human contact  with which to meet and exchange ideas and feedback — online or in-person.

It’s notable that direct selling is growing faster on an annual basis than retail across the world. Euromonitor International found that direct selling has seen higher annual growth than retail since 2012. While direct selling accounted for only 0.06 percent of global retail as of 2016, the industry has an opportunity to carve out one or more percentage points of retail sales by focusing on home-based relationships in emerging markets. That would more than double the size of the direct selling market.

Coresight Research adds a compelling idea: Using local influencers as  hubs of direct-selling networks who market products fulfilled by distributors: “In the digital age, the rise of influencers, or key opinion leaders (KOL) as they are called in China, has been dramatic. Influencers gain popularity on social media, which they monetize by advertising and selling products.” It is not necessary that everyone in the network be a closer. Adjusting compensation models to enable influencer marketing is another unique opportunity, which may be captured by direct sellers, ecommerce, or, even, retailers who solve the problem of compensation. But direct selling’s business model is the most prepared for virtual-physical hybrid selling.

Brands, too, may be more open to direct selling relationships in overseas markets. They can be the first in regions that have never heard of their competition, establishing brand beachheads through personal relationships.

For instance, Lenovo, the Chinese-owned computer maker, pioneered small-store distribution in China in the ’00s by giving shopkeepers in rural communities an ordering app to quickly replace each computer sold. The on-demand approach minimized the shop-keepers’ inventory risk while giving Lenovo virtually real-time access to consumer data in China. Even a shack without a paved floor could carry Lenovo products this way, and it lead to widespread adoption by Chinese consumers of a PC originally made by IBM.

That early presence in villages outside Chinese cities gave Lenovo an overwhelming advantage in the PC market as it gained footing in the country. By 2010, Lenovo held a 28.8 percent market share, with Dell trailing in a distant second place at 10 percent. It was constructed on person-to-person relationships augmented by digital tools.

First-movers With Smart Tools

Applying this approach to direct selling, a brand can be represented by an individual distributor even in the most difficult economic circumstances. Distributors are in a position to hold inventory briefly, deliver personal service that establishes a customer relationship that increases likelihood of follow-on purchase, and provide feedback that can be used to better target products.

Being first, whether to offer wellness products, beauty products, or technology in a market is an undeniable advantage. Much of the world is waiting for better consumer products and experience. With half the planet using mobile phones, 4.93 billion people in 2018, according to eMarketer, there are many new distributors and customers waiting for opportunities to earn, learn, and enjoy products introduced by friends, family, and local entrepreneurs using direct selling tools.

Great tools also create engaged distributors. Mobile and personalized training and sales coaching, especially in emerging economies, will establish strong distributor networks in new markets. Once engaged and earning, these workers will be far less likely to leave the organization, because it may represent their first middle-class work. As the world settles into greater overall prosperity, the first work relationships people have may be, like the fading notion of a career, permanent for generations.

Smart platforms that analyze the distributor’s behavior, the customer’s buying signs or objections (recorded by the distributor), and adjust sales programming and steps appropriately, are the foundation of a new distributed approach to sales. The technology-enabled customer-centric approach to direct sales counters the weak trust relationships of ecommerce without the overhead of retail.

The era of customers flocking to stores isn’t over, but that model no longer exists in isolation from ecommerce and direct selling competition. The question remains to be decided: Will U.S. and other direct selling companies step into these uncharted sales environments with confidence? They can with tools that help them learn from every interaction and tune their established communications and sales rhythms to newly opened markets.

 

 

Can Direct-Selling Compete With The Gig Economy?

The times they are-a changin’, especially in the world of work. “Gig” roles now make up a significant portion of young and old workers’ time, though many still retain traditional jobs. Younger workers seek work that aligns with their life mission, generally to make the world a better place. The notion that multiple revenue streams are necessary to be prosperous, or even to take a vacation, has become a standard part of career planning. Gig platforms are emerging as the easiest way to establish additional revenue sources in the emerging economy.

Will direct-selling companies be ready to compete for part-time and full-time distributors in this new job market? There are several challenges facing any firm that wants to win and keep gig workers, and e-commerce and retail companies are investing heavily to be compete for sales and support staff who can bring the sales relationship into the home:

It is a plain fact that part-time work is on the rise. Although the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the traditional job market is still alive and well as of May 2018, the agency’s count did not include part-time work in its count of employment arrangements. The DOL suggests that only 3.8 percent of workers are in “alternative or contingent” work arrangements as their primary employment.

During the same month Labor issued its reassuring report, the Federal Reserve found a very different total by counting all work arrangements, not just workers’ primary employment. According to The Fed, 30 percent of adults are working on side jobs to raise their income. The gig today is viewed as necessary to making a sufficient living, consequently the gigs that fit most conveniently in a worker’s life are preferred by potential hires.

People are driving for Uber and Lyft, doing side jobs on TaskRabbit and, critically, many small and medium-sized businesses are turning to online marketplaces to find customers. Intuit reported 34 percent of U.S. workers were working side jobs in 2017 and projects the share of gig workers will rise to 43 percent by 2020. Today’s “hustlers” are choosing software-enabled work opportunities.

Put yourself in the distributor’s shoes

Direct sales opportunities may appear riskier than the typical gig job that promise lower but consistent income. Workers are willing to take the lower pay in lieu of higher income that isn’t certain, according to the Fed: “Three-fifths of workers would prefer a hypothetical job with stable pay over one with varying but somewhat higher pay.”

This is the lens direct sales recruitment must use when assessing its pitch to prospective enrollees. The worker has many choices for a side-income and, if they are going to engage in direct selling full-time need a successful program with world-class onboarding for distributors as well as better tools for selling than competitors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggested in a 2007 study that flexibility and a sense of being in control of one’s time and choices are key motivators for workers, across all generations. That’s an implicit endorsement of the benefits offered by direct selling. As the labor market has tightened, prospective direct sellers are able to measure their options and pick selectively based on social feedback about companies, how distributors are treated, and the tools provided to help them achieve success.

Just as pre-sales determines which sales program will be most successful, distributor recruitment today requires early engagement of prospects with targeted video and audio content, sales messaging delivered through the tools the prospect will use to sell, and a stellar onboarding process to keep them moving toward early success.

Turn the prospective enrollee’s view on your companies offerings: Are the tool mobile and designed to provide training that converts sales rapidly? Are marketing and sales messages reinforcing the importance of distributor success at every step? Has your content library developed to support personalization of sales experience, and does that include helping new distributors embrace and make your sales process their own? Without complete distributor engagement, customers will quickly come to doubt the marketing message overall.

The Brookings Institute reported in 2016 that gig work is thriving in cities, which direct sellers need to target with increasingly diverse personalized messaging. Brookings found that 81 percent of four-year net growth in non-employer firms took place in cities, where huge groups of transient workers are mixing, networking, and making life-long connections that direct sellers can leverage to build revenue. The gig wave will reach the suburbs and rural communities in the next five years.

The next generation of self-starters are entrepreneurial by nature. Millennials, Gen-Z and the newly born Gen-A have grown up in a world where information tools give them extraordinary powers of choice. They also tend to think in terms of building service relationships with customers, a natural fit with direct selling that, without the right tools, quickly leads to frustration and distributor attrition.

The first wave of gig work made commodity labor delivery more efficient. But the sales challenge in the 2020s will revolve around deep customer relationships facilitated by smart content platforms. This gives direct sales an advantage, because the industry has focused on one-to-one relationship for decades. Without the right tools and a clear socially responsible message expressed daily through sales training content, customer messaging, and within the sales network, direct selling will face declines in recruitment.

Even as retail and ecommerce companies launch campaigns to get a foothold in direct selling’s traditional stronghold, the home, potential direct salespeople are juggling more options than at any time in history. Is your direct-selling network ready to engage and support the next generation of self-starters who are willing to work hard for a profitable business and satisfying lifestyle?

See You In San Diego

Gig Economy Group and LifeVantage will be presenting at the upcoming Direct Selling Association 2018 Annual Meeting in San Diego, June 17 through 19. We look forward to meeting you at the event, where our team will be exploring critical questions about the future of direct selling. Schedule a demo or reach out to meet and talk at our suite during the event.

We would also appreciate your joining our blog team for a discussion at the event about the challenges facing the industry. We will be writing about direct-selling in the weeks before DSA 2018 and would like to include your thoughts in our reports. Send email to schedule an interview.

Delivering Actionable Sales Process Analytics

Sales managers must interpret and act on more data than ever. Since the appearance of the PC in the enterprise, the burden carried by sales management in every industry has grown heavier. Support roles, from the administrative assistant to accounting staff who helped with various aspects of reporting, have vanished from many organizations. Those jobs were taken over by software, starting with the spreadsheet, leaving managers with fewer people with which to consult and share ideas when making sales process decisions.

Personalization of the direct sales process was impossible in the traditional data reporting environment, but there is a change afoot. If your team is not listening to its market every day, it is falling behind competitors who do and as a result can deploy new targeted content to appeal to changing consumer preferences. Intelligent content management and sales coaching platforms provide coaching to sales managers, summarizing vast amounts of activity to identify patterns that can be applied to existing content and training libraries to deliver personalized customer journeys at scale.

After many years of growing data burdens, leadership can spend less time exploring data and more on refining the details of the customer journey. If an organization has mapped its sales process for machine analysis, each step a distributor takes with a customer becomes actionable data that signals to management how to adjust content and messaging for success. Intelligent content platforms look at past patterns, compares that history to current activity, and applies probabilistic analysis to the data to catch significant changes in customer sentiment early. Machine learning-enabled tools will also assist management with distributor training, engagement, and retention with insight into which salespeople are struggling and excelling, even before the close.

For example, a video shared early in the customer engagement may begin to perform poorly because the because market attitudes have shifted — even a phrase that has become a negative meme in social networks can change the perceived meaning of a corporate message if left unaddressed. The signal a machine learner sends focuses on the conversion expectations for the video. If customers start to express lower purchasing intent after viewing the video, the tool alerts management. It is not necessary to wait to see whether the prospect becomes a customer. The system can point out emerging misalignment of messages with a high degree of certainty and determine whether a change is significant rather than temporary. There is no need to hunt for what changed, the conversion data makes the emerging problem clear.

Sales and marketing teams can quickly review the asset to identify what changes are needed, produce a new video and release it immediately. Today, the signal is also much less noisy than in the spreadsheet era when outliers often stood out without context, leading to false urgency and unneeded content production expenses.

Personalization, without the noise

The rise of highly targeted customer messaging could drown an organization in data without machine learning to assist with separating meaningful changes in content performance from normal variations in a marketplace. Because personalization delivers stronger results, it can make heroes of sales leaders who anticipate and respond to changing market conditions.

Direct sales companies, which have typically relied on quarterly outcomes, not daily insights, to recognize which marketing and sales messaging work and which are misdirected, are used to building intimate customer relationships. If your company is ahead of that curve, it is better prepared to compete in the on-demand marketplace emerging today. If not, take a look at the retailers seeking to step into one-to-one in-home sales relationships with consumers.

Direct sellers that ignore the opportunity to personalize the one-to-one sales experience using media and targeted messages could lose customers to retailers aiming to deliver everything a consumer might want within hours. Amazon even has a key to many customers’ door.

Improved distributor coaching and resource allocation within a sales network in the mobile-first environment transforms the customer relationship. Personalization makes the customer the star of their own show, concentrating all of a brand’s resources of communicating consumer expectations back to headquarter and translating that into improved products and experience. A company’s response to customer feedback is essential to building customer trust and establishing shared values.

The same kind of coaching delivered to reps in the field through an app can provide sales managers insight in real-time into how their expectations and actual sales performance align or diverge. It is a practice every company is preparing to embrace, and the companies that succeed first will retain long-term advantages over competitors.

Once made, in-home relationships are tough to break, as direct sellers well know. Retailers understand this too after seeing foot traffic decline as ecommerce nears 10 percent of the total market.

Smart content now or, perhaps, never

The level of feedback available today enables individual communication with distributors based on their personal skills, personality, and product knowledge. Sales management can take a systematic approach to coaching, sending videos, training, or product collateral to distributors, and following the results conversion data the same day. After sharing a video about a product the distributor has not sold effectively, the platform can tell if their presentation improved based on customer feedback captured during the presentation. If distributors consistently over-estimate their chance of closing, the platform can also provide coaching and report to management that additional attention may be needed.

Intelligent content delivery is a window into every sales engagement. Gig Economy Group’s What’s Next approach to sales coaching tracks each interaction, suggesting content to share and analyzing messaging for terms and phrases that ignite customer interest. Positive changes can be propagated through the entire sales organization rapidly, with each new customer exchange testing the underlying assumptions of the management team to confirm strategic alignment and efficacy.

By matching distributor strengths to customer’s expectations captured through distributor feedback in a mobile app even the individual sales relationship can be tuned for improvements. As the data set available to a machine learning system grows, more sophisticated insights become available. For instance, an introverted rep could be coached to share more with an extroverted prospect or remain quiet and ask questions of another introvert.

In direct selling, content programming and messaging guidance has been considered less important than the one-to-one encounter between distributors and prospects. Rightly so, in the past, but that is changing as online becomes the primary venue for brand discovery by shoppers. With in-home selling investments by retail reaching record levels, direct sellers must study how content, salespeople, and customers interact.

The insights available at each step in the sales process can convert a prospect into a lifetime customer, right in their living room, where direct sellers already have the advantage over retail and ecommerce competitors. The alternative is giving up the home field advantage direct selling brings to the game.

See You In San Diego

Gig Economy Group and LifeVantage will be presenting at the upcoming Direct Selling Association 2018 Annual Meeting in San Diego, June 17 through 19. We look forward to meeting you at the event, where our team will be exploring critical questions about the future of direct selling. Schedule a demo or reach out to meet and talk at our suite during the event.

We would also appreciate your joining our blog team for a discussion at the event about the challenges facing the industry. We will be writing about direct-selling in the weeks before DSA 2018 and would like to include your thoughts in our reports. Send email to schedule an interview.

What’s Next Is Personalization

Personalization of customer experience requires two investments: machine learning-based targeting technology, and; human intelligence to interpret customer moods and feedback, as well as curate the media and messages served up for sales use. One without the other will create an inhuman and untrustworthy customer experience that feels to both worker and customer like following rules instead of exercising their passion and fulfilling their needs.

No one wants to be automated, subjected to rigid rules that cannot change, but anyone dealing with lots of information can appreciate being helped by automation. The choice to be assisted by your company’s automation is the critical offer every future employee, contractor, and a customer will consider. The future will be decided outside your organization, by those who can make it a success. These are the personalization-readiness questions to answer in 2018:

  • Is your company’s sales team ready to change based on measurable feedback?
  • Are sales and marketing teams equipped with content and tools, including mobile apps and social network integrations, that help capture feedback that crafts a personalized experience?
  • Is your company organized around constant progress towards distributor and customer personalization?

“Digital technology makes the customer the star,” according to ZEITGUIDE, an influential trend-watcher in New York, and while stars need technology it is the audience they need most to achieve stardom. The What’s Next model, which serves the right content to a salesperson at the appropriate moment to close or move a sale forward, can be extended to provide unparalleled post-sales engagement.

Human interaction is the basis for turning each customer into a star influencer on behalf of the brand – these person-to-person interactions are where creativity and variations on machine rules invented by a human create the surprising experiences that customers remember and share.

Here is the essential shift of context necessary to achieve personalization with limited resources: Think of your marketing, sales, and support teams as the customer’s audience. Companies have tended to think of the relationship the other way, treating the customer as the audience. The brand’s job is to deeply understand the customer, reflect the customer’s desires through the organization, and deliver the fulfillment of those needs as “star treatment.”

Think of your marketing, sales, and support teams as the customer’s audience. The brand’s job is to deeply understand the customer, reflect the customer’s desires through the organization, and deliver the fulfillment of those needs as “star treatment.”

The star experience is based on a series of actions, literally what the expected next step in the marketing and sales funnel, laid out by company leadership and tested through interaction with distributors and customers. A rigid and unresponsive customer experience will always fail because every customer and all the sales and marketing people who interact with them brings different criteria for success. Every star is unique and wants to be treated as their own end, not simply the means to revenue.

The star treatment is a form of mass customization. Applying available content to telling a personalized story based on targeting factors. The next step in the evolution of on-demand markets will require breaking down content, processes, and the measurement of success into micro-steps that can be personalized more efficiently.

Rise of the Augmented Worker

The rise of the machine intelligence is widely seen as a threat to human employment. We see a new challenge for human workers, an increased focus on service and care, which will extend far beyond familiar caregiver roles, such as assisted-living for seniors and physicians’ assistants using AI to replace doctors in many clinics. Doctors are now freed up to spend more time with emergent and chronic care patients – they are not disappearing, just moving to a different level of caregiving.

The next generation of care-delivery roles will be the interface between highly efficient supply chains and customers. Market research firm IDC projects that the combination of customer data and artificial intelligence will create 471,819 new jobs this year, as people augmented by machine learning fan out to improve customer experience in novels niches, adding $1.1 Trillion in new revenue top the economy by 2021.

The business of caring will include marketing, which must understand and anticipate customers’ needs during pre-sales engagements, sales staff that modulate the delivery of marketing content and personal messages to the customer, and a wide range of post-sales services. For example, many direct-selling distributors provide personal training services along with the products they sell. Markets are fusing products, services, and human functions into a continuous customer experience in which the salespeople play essential supporting roles for the organization and customer.

Winning and keeping customers, not just conversions is will be the defining challenge in sales during the 2020s. Every company will need a process that preserves its brand and policies while supporting the flexibility required by customer-centric personalization.

Brand Consistent, Human Creative

How can a branded organization interact with a constantly changing cast of human contributors to their sales and service experience? Since the commercial World Wide Web was introduced in 1993, the rigidity of corporate boundaries has been under assault and C-level executives have agonized over finding and keeping the best talent engaged in a sea of mobile workers.

We suggest “What’s Next.” The idea is simple: Use the brand’s existing marketing content and sales processes to analyze what is effective and racking the variations introduced by individual salespeople during their interactions with customers. A machine learning platform trained to understand the process and measure how variations impact sales outcomes watches all marketing and sales activity to find the most effective variations. Successful variations on the steps are rolled into organization-wide best practices delivered through the brand’s marketing content and sales processes.

It is not necessary to throw away the playbook your company operates with today. By launching a new level of customer-centric care using existing marketing content and sales processes, an organization can minimize upfront investments to free more resources that can be applied to filling content gaps, upgrading and expanding sales communication channels – leading toward an omnichannel customer experience – and find the optimal sales/support-to-customer ratio to maximize average revenue per customer. The challenge is deciding to change from a long feedback cycle to a short one, a finger on the pulse of your market every day.

What’s Next can be applied from the first encounter with a prospective distributor by a direct selling company, extending the onboarding process into the pre-enrollment. For example, LifeVantage, which recently launched a new Gig Economy Group platform-based app for distributors, engages prospects through an app and, at enrollment, sponsors help download and install it on the new distributor’s phone.

LifeVantage is optimizing its sales interface through the app to address every prospect, customer, and distributor touch individually, based on its existing best practices. Incorporating distributor choices about which message to use with a customer at a specific part of the funnel provides the company with guidance about where to invest in new content, improve training programs, and increase revenue.

Start Before Day One

The most successful training programs begin before the employee’s first day and last months after many companies consider their hires fully onboard. At LifeVantage, the app allows training programs take over from the sales experience through the same tool the enrollee experienced as a prospect. Depending on their experience level, the new distributor can start with more or less brand and product training – it’s their option to skip ahead to the core work the app does, to manage the customer relationship. That feedback informs training program development.

On Day One, the LifeVantage enrollee enters and starts communicating with up to 10 prospects, substantially increasing the probability of a sales in the first few weeks. As those customer interactions become more specific, such as focused on a particular product, the LifeVantage app suggests additional product knowledge training to ensure distributor success.

Throughout the onboarding, the machine learning platform observes the distributor’s sales activity and compares it to the brand’s established processes. If the distributor ignored product training that, because of customer interest is becoming a gap in their sales ability, the platform suggests additional training.

The platform also helps to compose successful text and email messages based on phrases and words that convert well for other distributors in the network.

Sponsors and management can receive alerts about changes in one distributor’s progress, which they can address through one-to-one conversations, or to performance changes across the entire network. Working from a simple dashboard, marketing, and sales leaders can create new content and messaging suggestions, testing them in real-time and receiving feedback from the field within hours.

The outcome is a comprehensive, well-aligned worker-customer experience. The two roles, worker and customer, have tended to be treated as separate experiences, but in the era of personalization, when every participant can observe and comment on the values they expect to be realized by a company, worker and customer’s experience will shape the brand’s reputation.

See You In San Diego

Gig Economy Group and LifeVantage will be presenting at the upcoming Direct Selling Association 2018 Annual Meeting in San Diego, June 17 through 19. We look forward to meeting you at the event, where our team will be exploring critical questions about the future of direct selling. Schedule a demo or reach out to meet and talk at our suite during the event.

We would also appreciate your joining our blog team for a discussion at the event about the challenges facing the industry. We will be writing about direct-selling in the weeks before DSA 2018 and would like to include your thoughts in our reports. Send email to schedule an interview.

Personalization Advantage In On-Demand Markets: Direct Sales Or Retail?

The economy is going on-demand, following consumers’ desire for immediate delivery of whatever they want. The sales landscape is erupting with innovation like Kilauea volcano, wiping out businesses that fail to adapt. The way out of the swath of destruction is personalization based on consistent content marketing and sales messaging. Is your company in the path of creative destruction or leading the way with technology to rapidly personalize messaging, test results, and share best practices across the organization?

Consumers have embraced personalization of sales experience, as well as product and services delivery to the home. They are also seeking more home-based work opportunities. More than 44 percent of Americans are adding side-work, or “gigs,” to enhance their income. More consumers welcome local expertise when considering a purchase and more people will be seeking part-time work. On-demand markets create both growth and distributor-development opportunities for direct selling brands. The flexible and in-home business model is becoming the norm.

Retailers, including Amazon, Facebook, and Walmart, are moving rapidly to bring the customer journey into the home, too. Amazon has begun deploying the Alexa voice infrastructure to facilitate in-home ordering, digital locks to provide secure home delivery, and, even, offer medical services. Facebook partnered last week with on-demand home services companies Porch, HomeAdvisor, and Handy.com to offer in-home services tied to products sold and delivered to the consumer. WalMart this week introduced Jetblack, a text messaging order service that will bring products to the customer’s home in hours in hours.

Direct selling and retail brands both face the onslaught of e-commerce, which is eroding the advantage of physical retail as pre-sales customer interaction shifts to digital devices. Trade and business publications frequently announce the end of retail, a claim that should be seen in context: e-commerce accounts for only 10 percent of U.S. retail revenue in 2018, according to eMarketer.com.

For example, Amazon reportedly “owns” 90 percent or more of online sales in home improvement tools, skin care, batteries, golf, and kitchen and dining accessories as of early 2018. However, as a share of the total market, Amazon converts only 10 percent of sales in these categories.

There is plenty of maneuvering room to counter e-commerce with personalized sales and service in the physical world. Resisting the change, though, will lead many companies into dead-ends. Sales experience is fragmenting due to the rise of technology, particularly mobile phones, and the consumer’s developing sophistication and dependence on social influence when buying.

Direct sellers and retailers alike will eventually follow food delivery, home services, and e-commerce into intimate relationships with the customer that start and end in the home. Direct sales companies cannot allow retail to get ahead in the race for individual customer experience. One-to-one selling remains a necessary part of the sales process.

The face-to-face advantage

Face-to-face selling is still alive and well, but it cannot ignore the digital personalization challenge. No longer will a single sales message work for every customer. Direct sellers, who enjoy the advantage of building on personal relationships, will need to craft their messages to deliver better customer experience than retail. Since retailers must first attract customers to their stories, direct-selling strategies are advantaged in the social marketplace. Distributors can develop friendships online to grow their business and forge strong local communities on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social networks with the same level of investment of time as a major brand.

Source: eMaketer.com

The online threat, nevertheless, is existential for consumer products and services companies that fail to recognize change and invest to build personalized and one-to-one customer experience. eCommerce will reach 15.1 percent market share by 2021, claiming an additional $365.68 billion in revenue, mostly from retail stories.

Recognizing that they could be consumed by the digital lava rolling through Main Street in cities and town around the world, retailers are not standing still or playing golf in the volcanic smog. Retailers are leading the charge into artificial intelligence to win a personalization advantage, spending the largest amount of any industry, $3.4 billion in 2018 on cognitive systems to augment their online and in-store marketing, according to market research firm IDC.

The Boston Consulting Group reports that retailer expectations for personalization are very high. In a survey conducted during 2017 by the firm, two-thirds of respondents said they will see a six percent increase in revenue from personalization spending. Half of the respondent retailers with more than 25 employees said they were putting at least $5 million into the machine learning technology last year.

Both direct selling and retail will depend more on personalization to convert sales as mobile-native generations age and become the largest group of workers.

“Over 70 percent of retailers are trying to personalize the store experience. That’s never been higher,” Forrester ebusiness and channel strategy analyst Brendan Witcher told AdWeek. “The reason is because so many customers respond to it. We see nearly three out of four consumers responding to personalized offers, recommendations or experiences.”

Success starts before the sale

Direct sales’ challenge is to stay in front of digital marketing efforts by retailers, which can be accomplished by building best practices within an organization and disseminating them using automation. Pre-sales communication, starting online or in-person, must become a focus of investment to ensure messaging is consistent and relevant. Using machine learning, an enterprise content platform can analyze messages and propagate successful content and sales steps to sales representatives using mobile devices.

Brand discovery also increasingly takes place online. Direct selling marketers must develop campaigns that drive and qualify leads. Content platforms then hand leads off to representatives using automated sales process coaching to deliver all the context to present a personalized experience to the prospect. From the first to the last, every touch must reinforce the brand message to successfully close a sale and establish a long-term customer relationship.

Consumers today do more research, check facts and customer reviews, as well as depend on conversational confirmation of their buying decisions than any previous generation. Often, engaging with a brand, retailer, or distributor is the last step in the process. Marketers can respond with better pre-sales content that develops trust with consistent messaging through the entire customer journey.

Machine learning-coached sales reps can step into the digital engagement at critical moments to add the human element that establishes trust, something retailers cannot do during their sales process today. Feedback captured by representatives sitting with the customer gives the smart platform hints about how to personalize the experience, refining the suggested content to share and messages the distributor can use to move the sale forward.

“The key to closing deals is presales’ ability to shape conversations with the client to position the company’s solution as the ideal ones,” wrote McKinsey’s Homayou Hatami, Candace Lun Plotkin, and Saurabh Mishra in the Harvard Business Review.  “This approach is not about developing a ‘smoke and mirrors’ pitch, but rather investing the time to have a deep understanding of the client’s needs (met and unmet) and then highlighting those elements of the solution that can address them.”

The foundation for a consistent brand message begins with mapping every touchpoint in the sales journey, from pre-sales and discovery through content marketing and sales process steps. The “attribution modeling” process allows management to identify what it expects will happen at each step and, using a machine learning-content platform, rapidly test and revise messages. Instead of launching content one or twice a year, then waiting to see its impact on sales in quarterly or annual results, it can be adjusted as fast as software updates are today.

The speed of software is the new pace of sales in the era of personalization. Companies are beginning to adjust to this accelerated communications cadence, and the tools for in-home personalization are catching up to web-only interactions. The combination of digital and personal engagement is a breakthrough moment in sales.

Personalization is the path out danger for retailers and direct sellers that don’t want to wait for the lava of change to erupt under them. For now, the one-to-one selling community has a sustained advantage over retailers who must attract the customer to their stores. If retailers’ investment in machine learning and personalization goes unchecked, direct selling could fall behind despite their strong foothold in consumers’ homes.

Content In Context: Cultural and Generational Awareness

Five generations co-exist in the economy and they live in thousands of cultures. Digital technology has wiped out traditional boundaries while culture has become more influential than ever. If a company cannot overcome generational and cultural differences, it will be relegated to a short life with little revenue. Future business growth will bump into ceilings created by differences in values and communication styles more often than those resulting from limited access to markets.

One-to-one selling is uniquely placed to grow revenues by testing cultural differences using rich libraries of content remixed by salespeople using customer feedback and assisted by intelligent platforms. Personal interactions in direct selling are the richest source of feedback available in business, allowing direct sellers using the data to see through values barriers long before the competition. Retailers can survey consumers endlessly, but their insights cannot match the feedback captured by a salesperson sitting with a customer in their home or during an intimate online conversation – before, during, and after the sale.

Younger workers have established that they want a mission in their work, and frequently opt for less traditional rewards than their parents to achieve flexibility in their lifestyles. Just as when they make decisions as a consumer, Millennial and Gen-Z workers value experience above compensation in many cases. The first thing a direct sales company must do with the next generation of distributors is establish that the mission behind what they sell aligns with social and environmental goals of new enrollees.

The development of onboarding and training programming, as well as customer-facing content that will be presented by a salesperson physically or through virtual channels, are a minefield in which cultural and generational mistakes can drive down distributor retention as well as decrease lead generation and conversion rates. Unfortunately, many companies think of their communications strategy – their narrative – as a black-and-white problem when they live in an age of rainbow perspectives.

Well-articulated stories told by a company about who they are, what they do, and why they do it, are the foundation of a global multi-generational communications strategy. Success grows out of variations on core themes expressed in subtly different language that maintain authenticity. Think about the difference between Baby Boomers’ idea of “cool,” Millennial’s use of “savage” to mean the same thing as “cool,” and teens today who say “It’s lit” or “Gucci” to confer coolness.

Every cultural interface is a communications challenge, one that marketers and sales leaders can transcend with solid data about which messages perform their expected role in the sales journey.

Messages must be mixed by the sales representative, who uses corporate content like a disc jockey selects music, to deliver a personalized human experience to the customer in their home, a coffee shop, or a retail store. For the first time, they can do it efficiently using machine learning librarians that serve content in context during the training process, sales process, as well as pre- and post-sale to keep customers involved in the brand’s community.

Budgets don’t need to be broken trying to cover every possible angle on a story from the start. An intelligent content delivery platform using distributor and customer feedback allows management teams to make incremental investments to address new labor and customer opportunities.

Look beyond the format trap

Many organizations see the cultural challenge in the simplest terms, too simple for their own good. They believe one generation or geography favors a different form of communication than others. Often, managers will assert that only 30-second, 60-second, or two-minute videos are acceptable to audiences, when the average time spent watching video online totals 2.6 hours daily, just minutes below TV viewing time.

Beware certain conclusions. Test what distributors tolerate when training and examine customer fall-off within videos as well as whether they drop out of the sales process after viewing a content asset. Distributors in learning mode may spend hours with a company’s videos each day. Each audience has different expectations that can be mapped to understand what message and format to suggest.

Differentiate your organization from most companies that invest heavily in just one communication strategy, albeit delivered in many channels. Plan a content strategy that spans cultural differences. Leaders who think their people can consume information in just one way can fail to engage new workers and customers, particularly when values-based products and services are discussed.

“By making the same message available in multiple formats (thus increasing the number of times you communicate a message), you’ll ensure that you reach all workers,” The American Management Association wrote, for example, when explaining communication preferences. “Silents [born 1925 – 1946] and Baby Boomers [born 1946 – 1964] may appreciate verbal communication about changes in policy or procedures, while Generation Xers [born 1965 – 1980] and Millennials [born between 1980 and 1996] may prefer the use of e-mail, instant messages, or corporate broadcasts.”

Content libraries have swollen with documents, video and audio programming, interactive training, and myriad other formats because of globalization. Marketers struggle to keep up with the demands of a multi-national presence, but that investment is the only path to ongoing growth. New markets are established using content programming that defines value propositions and introduces direct sales reps and customers to new products or services.

Think of the emerging cultural challenge as being like localization of content, the practice of translating text, video, and application software into many languages. Having five, 10, or 15 versions of the same message in different digital and physical formats does not necessarily help a company communicate effectively across borders. The English versions of a message must be translated without offending important cultural sensibilities into 80 or more languages to address the major linguistic markets around the world. The translated messages say virtually the same thing, but with unique tone and style that fits a target market.

Content targeting is not just a matter of agreeing with the language and values of the distributor and of the customer, it must also facilitate their continuing conversations. Their personal relationship may be built on cultural or generational bridges. A smart content platform can assess the identity of the distributor and their prospect based on distributor-entered data and sculpt a set of messages that genuinely connect these people during a sale.

We’re different, and not

The reality managers face as personalization comes of age reaches beyond acknowledging differences in values, they must also recognize and build on cross-generational and cultural similarities.

For example, different cultures emphasize the importance of leadership as an achievement in work. According to a survey by Universum in 2017, Millennial professionals in Nordic countries are far less likely to want to become leaders in their organizations than their U.S. and Mexican counterparts. Work-life balance is a driving concern for younger professionals everywhere and so many say they avoid leadership roles, but older people see stress as a natural component of their day. Across generations, however, the desire to be part of leadership varies by only four percent, from 61 percent of Millennials, 61 percent of Gen-Z, and 57 percent of Gen-X.

Content assets designed to emphasize different aspects of the company’s values or product attributes can plug critical gaps between cultures and generations. These gaps must be identified through real interaction with employees and customers, in effect probing the sensitivities of target groups. Distributors using a mobile app can relay back to management qualitative data that augments quantitative feedback to help them judge where to invest in new content or adjust the sales processes.

Intelligent content platforms are ideal for this kind of data-driven content and sales management experimentation. New programming can be rolled out to a narrow target audience, tested and, if the content leads to better engagement or increased conversion, deployed more widely.

The cost of poor cultural fit within an organization amounts to between 50 percent and 60 percent of an employee’s salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Poorly engaged distributors sell less and move on faster, both of which drag down profits.

Without a clearly articulated company mission, values, and policies, organizations have no basis for achieving a fit. They can’t explain themselves and there is no benchmark from which to measure cultural alignment with distributors and customers. We suggest the attribution modeling strategy, which maps the sales process step-by-step. That effort is the basis for beginning to engage distributors during onboarding and throughout their career with the selling network. It provides logical paths to content reuse in support of customer communication.

Having built the distributor and customer relationships on smart content management services, direct sales leaders can use the inherently social nature of the business model to go “viral” with market-defining messages. New geographies can be accessed through distributors who, for example, emigrated from a country that the network would like to test. Targeting messaging to these bridge distributors allows management to explore the limits of their content investment and build new programs confidently.

See You In San Diego

Gig Economy Group and LifeVantage will be presenting at the upcoming Direct Selling Association 2018 Annual Meeting in San Diego, June 17 through 19. We look forward to meeting you at the event, where our team will be exploring critical questions about the future of direct selling. Schedule a demo or reach out to meet and talk at our suite during the event.

We would also appreciate your joining our blog team for a discussion at the event about the challenges facing the industry. We will be writing about direct-selling in the weeks before DSA 2018 and would like to include your thoughts in our reports. Send email to schedule an interview.