Mobile: The New Battleground for Sales Recruiting and Retention

Message alignment and agility will determine sales success in the 2020s as a tidal wave of customer feedback becomes available to marketers. The next era of direct selling will be built on content management systems, customer relationship management, and smart coaching delivered to distributors through a mobile app that feels natural to digital natives.

Garrett Hughes of payment platform Hyperwallet recently wrote as a tongue-in-cheek challenge to the industry: “Is direct selling only for old people?” His point is deadly serious: If young network marketers are not excited by the tools provided, they will rapidly move on to other opportunities.

A new distributor who does not feel supported and achieve first-month sales goals start looking for more engaging and profitable sales programs within the first 30 to 60 days. In the mobile era, brand and sales messaging must be tightly aligned, capable of changing quickly in response to feedback from the field and customers. Direct-selling companies that want to win and keep younger distributors will need to execute a consistent messaging motion every day, delivering Twitter-simple meaning, mission, and sales messages through mobile tools.

Millennials and Generation Z (born after 1993, when the Web was introduced), who make and keep friendships around the world through digital channels, demand tools that allow the same connections at work. The old manual approach to sales preparation is foreign to them, they do not want to spend more than half the day preparing when they could be selling. They demand immediate access to the information they need, and according to Gallup, demand that their work and values match if they are going to stay in a job.

“Millennials don’t just work for a paycheck — they want a purpose,” Gallup wrote in How Millennials Want To Work And Live, a 2017 white paper. “They are also the least engaged generation of workers, because “[m]any millennials likely don’t want to switch jobs, but their companies are not giving them compelling reasons to stay. When they see what appears to be a better opportunity, they have every incentive to take it.”

We don’t intend to paint a caricature of Millennials. They are a complex and collaborative generation, and Gen-Z appears to be even more oriented to the larger world. What they want, though, is very different than previous generations due to the digital technologies on which they were weaned from television, the mall, and traditional approaches to retail and direct-selling experience.

Context creates meaning

Marketers recognize that their first function, before revenue generation, is pre-sales engagement. The Harvard Business Review reports “companies with strong presales capabilities consistently achieve win rates of 40-50% in new business and 90% in renewal business.”

Sales content must be offered to the consumer at the right time, with authentic context. Direct sellers are in a unique position to leverage personal interaction and establish a meaningful context in sales relationships. But most selling content still mimics static collateral or TV commercials instead of entertainment or informational programming. There is no room in the content marketing world for the interruptive commercial.

Not surprisingly, the power of personalized communication is essential to retaining direct-selling distributors. From the moment a new distributor enrolls in a direct-selling network, they must feel engaged. Before they begin selling, young digital-native distributors have no time for hours of searching to find useful training and product knowledge, it must be served up in logical and actionable order to keep them moving toward their first sale.

Young sellers also want video and interactive tools that feel like the apps they use in their personal time. SnapChat, WhatsApp, and Tinder are the new model of interaction, until those popular examples give way to newer, simpler tools, too. Simplicity is eternally valuable in software. Young distributors want to sell using video, by sharing programs with prospects that can be consumed at the customer’s leisure. The Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America research shows that 76 percent of consumer marketers now invest in video programming.

The mantra “Every company is a media company” has become a commonplace, yet few companies succeed in communicating a consistent message internally through their sales channels and every customer engagement. VentureBeat reported that 60 percent to 70 percent of sales collateral produced by business-to-business companies goes unused. Companies must monitor media use and adjust their programming, not set out a year’s programming and hope for the best.

Marketing and sales teams working together based on media analytics can understand where gaps exist in the distributor’s journey to a sale as well as the customer’s decision-making process. Content stored away on a server is hard to find and companies are starting to view their collateral as steps in a process that can be recombined to address personalized seller and customer needs. Enterprise content management investments, which will rise by 16.8 percent to a total of $37 billion in 2018, are expected to rise to $67.1 billion by 2022, Markets And Markets reported.

Direct-sellers must rethink their sales process to integrate video and app-based sales management to remain competitive.

Crafting A Natural Rhythm

Mobile will redefine distributor and customer expectations. A new sales process based on deep understanding of the individual distributor’s strengths and product knowledge, as well as how they manage their business, from their contacts to their closing cadence, will redefine retention. Customers with buying options that span the world will demand intimate, confident engagement with each company they consider before buying.

Consider how much information is entered on a mobile phone each day — is your company tuning into the mobile distributor’s ability to capture the state of the customer? Millennials and Gen-Z workers interact with others through their phone more than they do in the physical world, a LivePerson poll found in September 2017. The transition to the next generation of direct sales will be built on the data collected on the phone.

The same survey found that 57 percent of young Americans would not leave the house without their phone while 72 percent of U.S. respondents over 35 years of age would choose their wallet over their mobile phone. That stark difference in priorities defines the generational change in direct selling. The phone, not the enterprise, is the organizing point. The inflection point is here.

What’s a direct-selling company do? It is not just a matter of hiring young people since a super-majority of direct-sellers are older. The Direct Selling Association reported that in 2016 that only 29.6 percent of distributors were under 35 years old. Network marketing organizations must support everyone while integrating advanced technology and elegant content management into the sales experience.

Providing each new distributor with a tool that starts on Day One to collect data, help organize and optimize the individual’s sales process, and accelerate the time to their first sale are the new table stakes in direct selling. Building on customer feedback, marketers must create flexible sales paths through content that the distributor can customize to the customer based on their emotional connection with the person sitting in front of them or someone across the world via Facebook or a Zoom conference.

The demand for meaning that characterizes Millennial and Gen-Z work aspirations provides a clear map for direct-selling organizations which have traditionally offered flexible work-life relationships. As Gallup wrote of these young workers: “More so than ever in the history of corporate culture, employees are asking, ‘Does this organization value my strengths and my contribution? Does the organization give me a chance to do what I do best every day?’ Because for millennials, a job is no longer just a job – it’s their life as well.”

Will your company reorganize its sales process, optimizing it constantly to achieve a natural rhythm delivered through a mobile app that fits the life and expectations of young distributors?

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 & Mission: Direct-Selling’s Next Act

Direct-selling organizations built successful networks one person at a time, applying personalization through two-way dialogue out of business necessity long before targeting became viable at scale for retail and online sellers. Now brands and retailers are spending heavily – as much as $19.1 billion in 2018, according to market research firm IDC – to deploy personalization in online and app-based selling environments. How will the direct-selling industry respond?

All forms of sales are changing, driven by network technology.

  • Precise use of content, sales insight, and personalization are the catalysts of customer experience and revenue. Marketing and Sales teams are collaborating to refine the customer journey in every industry, practicing micro-targeting using standardized libraries of content delivered at the right moment.
  • Sales training is happening faster across distributed networks instead of in isolated training rooms and technology has turned call preparation from a dull slow manual process into lightning-fast app-based choices that happen in real-time.
  • Sharing best practices across the entire organization, even as it rapidly evolves, is a survival imperative. Combining content management platforms with machine learning allows brands to address individual consumers with customized messages.

Direct-selling companies must counter heavy brand and retail investment in personalization with their own content-centric, mobile customer experience or face losing their historic face-to-face advantage in sales on both sides of the table. Consumers expect more attentive pre-sales engagement and young distributors gravitate to technology-enabled platforms that help them manage a business from the palm of their hands.

From onboarding to the first sale, as distributors gain more product knowledge, and direct-selling networks diversify, mastery of content delivery in support of the salesperson in the field defines success and moves revenue. The Boston Computing Group reports that companies that invest in personalized experience and “get it right” see between six percent and 10 percent revenue growth. But only 15 percent do get it right.

Personalization at scale: Every customer interaction

Consider recent investments by 49-year-old retailer Cracker Barrel, which is fighting for survival as its traditional venue, the shopping mall, fades. Cracker Barrel is losing its face-to-face engagement opportunities faster each year. Yet the retailer saw revenue climb by 9.3 percent since 2014 based on improved targeting online and in stores despite declining sales in its mall-based stores.

“We serve over a quarter of a billion people a year and the needs and interests of our vast guest base vary,” Don Hoffman, senior vice president of marketing at Cracker Barrell told AdAge in January. “Accordingly, our messaging strategies need to be highly targeted and employ greater precision. This includes our creative messaging as well as the media platforms we employ.”

Direct-sellers should heed Cracker Barrel’s experience. Personalization is an opportunity that is amplified by the one-to-one human experience distributors deliver. Thinking beyond the local meeting to connect direct-sellers to customers and potential distributor partners can blow up limitations on growth. Technology or, rather, the human augmented by technology, can support many more, geographically distributed customer relationships.

In a recent survey, Accenture found that 91 percent of consumers are “more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations.” Although 83 percent of consumers will share data to get better information when making buying decisions, 35 percent complain that poorly composed automated messages can be “creepy.”

Direct-selling distributors who bring the right information and acute emotional selling skills to the consumer remove the creepy factor of automation.

A smiling human face augmented by smart tools can serve exactly the right information to the customer and close with a comfortable appropriate style that no software-only platform can match. However, without investments in content delivery and process optimization that can be shared across an entire network, direct-sellers face an existential challenge in the 2020s.

Driving retention with consistent sales activity

The direct-selling imperative to move new distributors to their first sale and accelerate the pace business growth for each independent business owner is the model’s most distinctive feature. In a technology-powered market, sales process optimization must be combined with stellar seller experience to keep a network growing.

Without rapid onboarding and early sales successes, distributors begin looking for another opportunity within six months. Younger salespeople who fail to engage with a company’s mission or feel that the organization does not respect and invest in their goals will move on even faster. The immediate gratification consumers demand is pouring into the work relationship, as well.

With as many as 34 percent of Americans now “gigging” to build additional revenue streams, direct-selling organizations that employ cloud platforms to connect with distributors and customers are poised to be the new opportunity of choice for self-starters. The critical success factor with these opportunistic workers will be educating and enabling their participation in clear, compelling selling messages based on on a strong brand. Using content served by the platform, a distributor can prepare faster for each meeting and tune messaging for each customer.

Platform tools can also help manage the sales pace and relationship capacity of each distributor, helping to maintain their optimum performance. As the economy becomes more efficient and productivity picks up even more, human experience will become the fulcrum of both the customer and the employee relationship. Young workers, who seek meaning and mission in everything they do, from work to recreation and consumer spending, will require perfect experiences at the office, in the field, and always in the palm of their hands.

Taking the direct-selling lead using automation

At LifeVantage, a GEG partner, CEO Darren Jensen has ignited distributor enthusiasm with technology investments that culminated last week with the release of the LifeVantage app. Applying a process-based What’s Next approach to each step in the sales process, the app has earned plaudits from the LifeVantage network.

“Revolutionary is what this company is about,” said one distributor days after the launch of the LifeVantage app. Another reported that on the first day they used the app, it reminded them to follow-up with a lead that they had forgotten. The platform’s ability to scan sales activity, raise calls to action for the distributor to consider, and provide meticulous computational attention to the state of sales relationships can propel a salesforce to scale new heights.

Distributor excitement will engage new LifeVantage participants and the What’s Next process will get them to their first sale faster, increasing distributor retention rates and revenue for the company.

See you at DSA 2018

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.

See you in San Diego.