3 key steps to training an effective direct sales force

Mentoring a huge, diffuse network of independent sales agents is a daunting task. Here are three must-have strategies

Traci Costa, right, founder of Peekaboo Beans, in the company’s Vancouver office

Traci Costa, right, founder of Peekaboo Beans, in the company’s Vancouver office. (Amanda Skuse)

Switching from retail to direct sales came with a steep learning curve for Peekaboo Beans’ Traci Costa. “You have to learn the industry—how the financial model, logistics, selling, recognition and reward systems work,” she says. She emphasizes the importance of having strong mentors and coaches to guide her along the way. Now the biggest part of her job as an owner, Costa says, is training her sales agents. Here are three ways to empower your direct sales force.

1. Be resource rich

“Because the owner does not see the consultants on a daily basis, it’s critical to get the right product, the right message and the right support for the sales force to jell together,” says Barb Girson, CEO and president of My Sales Tactics, and a direct sales expert. Girson suggests offering a combination of print and online resources, as well as opportunities for in-person instruction.

2. Make space for mentors

Direct sellers need personal development coaching in order to grow their businesses, says Girson, who previously led her own multimillion-dollar Tupperware business to the top 10% of North American franchises by developing other managers. Girson attributes her success to working with and shadowing multiple mentors within the Tupperware organization.

3. Teach discipline

Janice Gerol, vice-president of international business operations at Pampered Chef, says the key challenge among consultants will always be self-discipline. “They have to really know themselves well and be able to motivate themselves, because they don’t have bosses to do that for them,” she explains. While initial startup costs are low for consultants, you should be clear that the money won’t come easy. Self-control and long hours are required to become a truly successful direct seller.


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