Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Venture into Direct Selling

So, I've mentioned in a couple of posts how I decided to try a new activity that would hopefully add a tiny bit of income as well.

That's right, I became a direct seller.

Specifically, I became a consultant for ThirtyOne.

If you're not familiar with ThirtyOne, they sell purses, totes, & storage items via in-home parties. Their name comes from Proverb 31 , the description of the virtuous woman who not only takes care of her home, but also takes things to market & provides income for her family.

I've been buying their products for years, and loved them. Honestly, they cost a little more than I would normally pay, but besides being cute I found their quality to be outstanding, so didn't mind shelling out a few extra dollars for a good quality product.

After about three years as a customer, I decided to talk to my consultant about becoming a consultant myself.

The rest is history.

This is the first time I'd ever done any direct selling business. I never joined ranks with the likes of Pampered Chef, Tupperware, or Mary Kay like many of my friends & family did.

But this was different. It was a product I knew, a company I already believed in, and... well, the low startup cost didn't hurt either.

So... how's it going?

Not as well as I'd hoped.

First of all, like any of these types of endeavours, you get more out of it the more you put into it. And already having a full-time job & struggling to find balance in my personal life... didn't leave me much time.

But FireMan was really supportive, and I had a high-level of interest, so I went for it.

A little too strong maybe.

I offered some incentives out of my own pocket to entice my first few hostesses. And I did get some bookings from that, but barely made enough commission from the parties to cover the incentives I was giving the hostesses.

Overall, right now, I am finally making a profit. After five months. And it ain't much.

But that was my fault, not the company's. Let's be clear about that. A misjudgement on my part.

There's also the fact that in my area, there are sooooo many consultants right now.
I personally know of 12.
I've had quite a few people who I invited to parties or asked if they'd want to host one tell me things like: "I would, but I've already been to six parties in the past four months". And that's a direct quote.
I did a vendor booth at an outdoor event. Mine was one of three ThirtyOne booths.
I had a friend who tried to get me booked as a vendor at a MOPS event, but they already had five ThirtyOne booths booked.

The fact is when you have that many consultants in one area, you're creating an overlap in your potential customer base.

It does say something for how successful the company has been. They've grown by leaps & bounds over the past year or so.

And I hear that the farther out West you go, the fewer consultants there are available. For example, my sister in Iowa had never even heard of the company until I told her what I was doing.

But I digress...

For me, an introvert with a strong heart for customer service, direct selling is incredibly stressful.

Being an introvert means that just being around groups of people tends to wear on me. Yes, even when I'm having fun at a ThirtyOne party.

So now picture putting that person in front of a group of people. I actually enjoy doing the parties, but they do wear. me. out. I come home after a couple of hours at a party I enjoyed more exhausted than after 8+ hours at a job I could take or leave.

I've had two customers that had problems w/ their orders. Okay, one created her own problem, but... being the customer-service oriented person that I am, I stressed about making her happy.

Can I stress the word "stressed"?

I know this isn't gonna make much sense to some of you, but my point is that as much as I enjoy direct-selling, it also really stresses me out.

So now I'm at a crossroads. There's so much of it that I really enjoy, including the parties, and I even enjoyed sitting at a vendor booth for 10 hours in the heat. No lie, I really did. But there's also those parts that stress me out, like the whole interacting with people thing. So I'm at a point where I'm trying to decide if I enjoy it enough to make it worth the stress that I feel.

At this point, I think I really need to point out that my stress comes from my introvert nature, and my social anxiety. It's a me issue, not an issue with ThirtyOne as a company. Basically, introverts probably have no business selling anything, and people with social anxiety have no business presenting items to a group of strangers.

And how something I enjoy can stress me out so much, I have no idea. It's a paradox, I suppose.

I've already agreed to donate an item & a portion of profits to a non-profit fundraiser in February, and have a family member who wants to have a party in March, so I guess I don't need an answer before March.

We shall see...

What about you guys? Have you ever tried direct-selling? How'd it work out for you?

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