Direct Selling: In Search of the Perfect Customer Journey
Wasn’t selling much easier in the past than it is today? Marketing, communications, product offerings, sales and logistics were almost exclusively set and controlled by the company itself. The same applied to direct sales: most businesses had successful, often exclusive products in their portfolio and were able to successfully shape their dealings with their distribution channels, from sales parties to individual advice and door-to-door business.
But this (sales) behaviour, „learned“ over many years, changed abruptly with the spread of the Internet in the 90s and the associated creation of new distribution and logistics options. This development was further accelerated with the invention of the Web 2.0 in the early 2000s and the advent of social media. For companies in all sectors, including direct sales, this has not only meant a revolution in communication, but also a fundamental shift in their marketing and sales efforts: from product-centric to customer-centric solutions.
It has since become absolutely essential to keep this, along with the buyer’s wishes and needs, in mind when planning marketing and sales: „What channels do they want and will use to buy my products? How and by what means do they expect to be informed or advised? What expectations do they have regarding the purchase and delivery of the goods? Do they want to be able to buy products online?“. An entire catalog of questions which needs to be answered honestly and without bias – by companies as well as consultants.
To this day, many direct selling companies still have not found answers to these questions and positioned themselves accordingly. With often very noticeable effects on sales and profit.
Only a consistent transformation of all marketing and sales efforts, including the sales force, to be solely oriented on the needs and expectations of today’s customer, can help. This is evidently an exhausting and demanding process, in particular for direct sales companies which have already spent decades thinking about their products, product innovations and the needs of their distribution channels.
It goes without saying that direct selling still has exclusive, unique advantages. Such as the personal contact with customers and the opportunity to fulfill one of their central requirements: having products presented and explained to them in a social selling situation by an experienced consultant. But a „classic“ sales event in direct sales – e.g. a party – needs to add real, understandable value for the guest. If it does that, people will be happy to come and perhaps become customers. If it does not, the consumer will skip the event and use faster, easier, cheaper ways to buy. Or simply decide for a different product …
Selling in general has not become more difficult, just different. One has to consistently focus on the new main priority, the customer, and take note of their expectations from the „customer journey“; with open eyes, whilst being honest and self-critical. An enlightening process where surprises are guaranteed!
Until next time!
Björn Tiebing, Die Direktvertriebsberater