The Rules Of Duplication Are Changing

How do you keep up with the most important driver of success in direct-selling organizations? Duplication, the recruitment of a new distributor by an existing distributor, is the basic building block for expansion of revenue and sales opportunities. Duplication is being transformed by great coaching built on personalized to the seller using emerging tools and mobile apps.

The reasons people embrace direct selling are changing with each generation and in different geographies. Success depends more than ever on adeptly targeted messaging and a deep understanding of the motivations of potential distributors. Matching the right message to the prospective distributor’s motivations can increase your duplication rate. Tracking distributor motivation is a process of:

  • Identifying messages that work, which requires experimentation with variations on language and values;
  • Recognizing when successful messages are beginning to fail, and adjusting appropriately, and;
  • Segmentation to refine similar messages for different personae.

Smart tools can track and coach distributors to succeed. Data analysis performed in the cloud and delivered by mobile app, which the distributors can use during a sales call to share content and product data, enables success. Like an athlete offered a sophisticated analysis of their performance can improve their existing skills, the salesperson in the 2020s will be the subject of ongoing personalized coaching by managers with access to insights pulled from the salesperson’s actual customer interactions. The template for success remains, but it can be customized to every type of distributor at scale with artificial intelligence.

Many aligned messages, not one

One message will not convert all of these interested salespeople. The direct-selling workforce has exploded globally since the turn of the century, growing from 116.7 million in 2017, according to the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations. For example, compensation may not be the primary criteria when selecting a job, according to a new Workplace Culture report. Nine of 10 members of Generation X surveyed for the report said they would take a lower salary to work for a company that pursues their values, far more than the 71 percent of all workers surveyed. Overseas direct sellers, in addition to earning money, are engaged in building their emerging economies for sustainable prosperity, seeking soft skills training that will make them more competitive in a day job.

Sales and marketing leadership teams need tools to test a variety of messages. In the United States, direct sales is moving into new ethnic and demographic categories that value diversity. Messaging to the 20 percent of U.S. direct sales representatives of Hispanic descent must be targeted and expressed appropriately, for example. The fact that 73.5 percent of distributors are women, according to the Direct Selling Association (DSA), demands that marketers think about female-motivating messaging for sellers, as well as how to help female representatives communicate with female and male customers successfully.

The good news is that a core set of well-defined personae provides a solid starting point for continuing experimentation and differentiation of messages. Small changes, such as using a different word to describe progress toward a weight-loss goal, for example, could transform male customer sales, while that same change will discourage female customers. Working from successful persona profiles, salespeople and marketers can develop better, targeted messages that reuse the same digital content, such a graphics or video, with subtle changes in language and imagery that improve conversion rates in specific customer segments.

Direct selling’s one-to-one engagement model offers many opportunities to try a variation on existing messages or to capture feedback from the prospective distributor. The tools also need to call out changes in response rates automatically. Daily tracking of sales-customer interaction through a What’s Next smart platform delivers data that would have been impossible to collect five years ago, but today’s machine learning technology can spot meaningful variance in conversion and identify the elements of the message that are failing.

Recruiting unicorn sellers

Smart platforms can be of the greatest help when recruiting high-performers. Less than one percent of U.S. distributors embraced full-time selling in 2017, the DSA reports. Consider adding questions to your sales process to identify these people, who are more likely to contribute the most revenue to your company. LifeVantage, a Gig Economy Group partner, found that distributors who make a sale during their first two weeks improved its distributor retention to 44 percent over their career with the company.

High-performers may be identified by asking during initial contacts about their experience with selling, preferences for training or simply the inclination to take action. Gig Economy Group’s Action Card-based interface can be customized in real-time to add these questions when a distributor is pitching a potential duplication and ignore the questions when supporting a consumer product conversion. Because every rep and contact, as well as every interaction between them, is tracked and customized by the GEG platform, it is able to gather intelligence about messaging and provide feedback to management for use when developing new content or sales steps.

Duplication is based on strong identification with the company, but also the human distributor who meets with and supports the new distributor. Fixed messaging was the best sales could do in the pre-AI era. Within the last few years, data analysis capacity leaped to a new level that allows millions of interactions to be understood and acted upon. After LifeVantage introduced GEG tools, distributors shared more content, began more customer relationships, and sent more registration forms. Now, LifeVantage is beginning to vary its messages by target audience. The early results, including growth in sales by new distributors during their first month, which grew 38 percent overall, suggest that better targeting will produce continuing improvements.

The era of personalization is only starting. Eventually, every customer might receive a unique message. For now, the challenge for direct-selling leaders is simple: Experiment. The process requires tools that recombine existing messaging and content in testable variations, extract data to identify productive changes as well as failing messages, and surface the results to human managers. With those tools in hand, finding a duplication prospect, qualifying them, and providing appropriate sales messages to the salesperson seeking to build their downline, duplication rates and early sales success performance will deliver material improvements in your bottom line.

Salespeople: The Ultimate Magical Interface

Salespeople will become treasured assets as personalization sweeps the B2C world, from medical tools that can detect dementia from the changing tones of patient’s voice to banking services targetted to individual financial goals. Since we first wrote Gig Economy Group’s approach to personalization for direct selling, the announcement of big data-driven marketing tools to provide personalized experience has accelerated.

Companies are racing to collect and analyze as much information as possible using artificial intelligence. This transition is occurring along with, and enabled by, several other technical and cultural revolutions. The Internet-of-Things (IoT), which include wearables, embedded sensors at every step of the supply chain, next-generation 5G wireless connectivity that will deliver at least 100 Mbps data service that connects billions of devices simultaneously, along with the evolution of work known as the gig economy, place a new premium informed compassionate human interaction.

These massive, converging transformations of the infrastructure could be oppressive — many people worry about data analysis and surveillance stripping away our individuality and privacy — but by keeping people’s needs at the center of the equation the customer experience could also be liberating and far more sustainable, allowing more people to enjoy better lives. People, not machines, experience a sense of magic when the world changes.

Direct selling’s emphasis on the interpersonal connections that weave marketplaces into local communities is an important value to preserve. As brands struggle to move from attention-interrupting advertising and marketing strategies to one-to-one engagements with consumers, the preparation a human representative brings to the customer conversation will become more central to sales and support success. More data collected through web, IoT, and mobile devices, will amplify the role of the salesperson in conversion and retention. Equipped with more quantitative data, sales teams can focus on qualitative feedback from customers to deliver precisely personalized products and services. The advantage for company and customer will be dramatically improved efficiency in the economy, contributing to sustainability and customer satisfaction by using fewer resources to deliver more value.

The salesperson is the essential sensor for brand engagement, one with far more capability and empathy than an automated system. Let’s explore the four transformations, personalization, IoT, 5G wireless, and the gig economy to understand the brand opportunity.

No one enjoys being a target

Targeting of customers through traditional and digital advertising channels has led to a marketing environment built around the concept of personas. But personas are too general for personalized experience; they are a starting point when design products for large audiences. At the customer level, targeting feels like be shoe-horned into a relationship that is not entirely comfortable. Think of the use of retargeting in web advertising, which chases a user from one website to the next displaying the same ads, often for something they’ve already purchased.

Persona-based targeting is aging out as a strategy. Personalization breaks the persona model because real people experience amalgamations of preferences that do not tolerate ill-fitted offers. As the waves of change break over the persona seawall, individual preferences will erode monolithic marketing categories.

Satisfying personalization will collect features and value propositions from persona-based models, combining them in unique ways to satisfy customer requirements.  All Millennials are not the same, nor are all Boomers, women, and persons earning between $75,000 and $100,000 annually.

As new mores and modes of behavior evolve in response to ubiquitous connectivity and post-industrial manufacturing, and work becomes more local and gig-oriented, forcing workers to diversify their skills to remain competitive, every customer interaction will require a trusted human representative be available at critical decision points in the buying journey.

When everything is listening

IoT networks allow constant collection of feedback. In winery fields, grapes are watered and fertilized using IoT data to respond to environmental factors to produce the ideal juice for winemaking. Factories and supply chains are increasingly connected using IoT to bring in raw materials and finished components when they are needed and no sooner. In marketing, IoT will provide direct feedback about how products are used, including what customers try to do with a product that causes it to fail — personalization of products, post-sales support, and product development will be transformed by the tsumani of data.

The challenge for brands in this environment is novel: Human presence — online or in-person — at the appropriate moment in the customer journey becomes essential to building and maintaining trust. An IoT-enabled product in an IoT-enabled home could summon a sales rep when an upgrade is needed or a service representative to provide repairs or customer support. These representatives will be local and often won’t necessarily be an employee of the brand. They may be an independent skilled worker specializing in the required service.

Brands must be prepared to speak through these IoT-enabled support people using consistent language based on established policies.

The What’s Next approach to one-to-one engagement the Gig Economy Group delivers allows rapid training during initial sales rep or service rep onboarding. Data generated by an IoT-enabled product or sensor can be combined on-the-fly by a machine learning system to present the brand rep exactly the right content to share with a customer or the instructions to deliver the needed support. Roaming workers carrying mobile devices will tap into multiple brands’ content resources during their day, moving from one brand’s customer to the next brand’s customers. Easy-to-understand sales and support steps and rich media resources served with the appropriate contextual guidance to make it relevant to the customer will make workers into brand experts who confidently deliver on product or service promises.

Wirelessly connected collaboration

Work is poised for historic changes. Today’s organization has become permeable. Companies now bring in expertise, soft skills, and labor as needed to fulfill brand promises. Workers, however, have more options to use their labor in different ways because of the growing mesh of data connectivity that connects them to many more opportunities to work. In a 5G world, high-speed data services can move vast amounts of data back and forth between the customer and the company with which they are doing business. When a human representative is dispatched, they will have extensive information about the customer’s problem and their preferences in the palm of their hand.

Smart tools scale intimacy, driving far more valuable human interactions when necessary to brand success.

A CEO today may jump on a plane to fly halfway around the world to save a multi-million-dollar deal, but a $500 customer may get very little attention. Wireless, data-enabled platforms will let the brand deploy a human locally when that $500 sale is on the line. Where today’s marketing and sales funnel have conversion events, the 5G IoT sales and service experience will include pre- and post-sales in-person engagements at moments when a customer may abandon the brand because of a problem, when they are most ready to buy again, or when a competitor has presented a compelling alternative.

Where will the funding for all this human contact come from? Today’s marketing systems are so wasteful that savings created by moving away from traffic-centric interruptive advertising and carpet-bombing marketing strategies will free up resources for efficient intimate engagement.

Everyone is flexible, because people crave variety

The gig economy is a transitional description of the future of work. As the labor contract is renegotiated over the next decade, work will be supported by social safety net systems that ensure flexible work arrangements do not lead to poverty. After all, if workers are not earning enough to be middle-class consumers, there will be no market for business to sell into.

Direct Selling News this week reported that women who choose “side hustles” like direct selling do so because they value work flexibility, higher incomes, and the entrepreneurial control owning a small business provides. Millennials and Gen Z value flexibility and want work that matters, imbuing everything they do with a sense of mission. The difference between this lifestyle and the old nine-to-five approach means more than giving up full-time employment for a “gig,” it’s a decision to work when it fits with the workers’ life responsibilities.

A gig salesperson may represent multiple brands, moving from one to the next with each meeting and using the brand’s digital tools to become intimately aware of the customer’s needs. Service people and other labor will certainly work for several different companies. In addition to changing their clothing to wear a branded shirt when entering the customer’s home or business, they will seamlessly move from one set of service guidelines to another, coached by mobile apps that deliver content and training on-site. Autonomous vehicles will give the mobile worker plenty of time between calls to change and prepare because they will not be stuck driving.

To excel in this environment, workers will bring skills that can be combined with brand practices to deliver the most intimate customer engagement in business history. Mobile tools and brand values learned through apps that train and even coach salespeople when selling must be combined with hands-on skills and empathy to establish a human connection. The gig economy gives companies the ability to put a skilled person in front of the customer with the right information at exactly the right moment.

Design for magical experience

Every engagement should feel to the customer as significant as meeting the CEO when a $50 million deal is on the line. That’s the experience content-plus-human-representative will deliver at scale. Each customer will feel the importance of their spending to their own success and that of the values the product/service they purchase represent.

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, wrote that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” As brands and direct selling companies adopt personalization, ubiquitous data and sensor connectivity, and the mix-and-match gig economy model that connects customers to exactly what they need when they need it, business has the opportunity to craft magical customer experience. The human face and the sensitivity a sales rep has to the feelings and needs of the customer is the essential bridge from anonymous sales experiences to committed long-term customer engagement based on empathy and the clever use of technology to create human connections.