By Julie Provost
From LuLaRoe to Pampered Chef to 31 Bags, direct sales are all over the military world. If you haven’t been invited to a party at your new duty station, give it time–you will. After working in direct sales for six years myself, I know there are a lot of benefits to owning this type of business: The sense of community between the consultants, sharing a product you love with other people, and making some extra money and growing into a successful business. Along with the good, direct sales can rub people the wrong way. They’re direct sales faux pas and they’re part of the the reason this line of work can get a bad rap.
1. Being a little too friendly
Every week I get messages from direct sales consultants asking me to attend their online parties, join their group, or join their team. I appreciate that they are enthusiastic about their products, but the messaging is often aggressive and off-putting. If I want to sell one of their products, I can go to them and ask for more information. Even worse? When I don’t know the person messaging me.
2. Being the queen (or king) of spam
If you have an Instagram account, you have probably encountered direct sales spam on your feed. You get direct messages from people you have never met that think you would be a “perfect” addition to your team. They comment on your photos that have nothing to do with what they are trying to promote. This tactic gets old and isn’t doing anyone any favors.
3. Sounding like a copied and pasted message
I can’t count the number of times I have received a message from someone I don’t know that says something like, “You would be amazing at this and I would love it if you could join my team.” The problem with statements like this? Unless we are friends, this person doesn’t know if I would be good for their team. And since they are (obviously) saying this to everyone, it doesn’t come off as authentic and feels like spam. There are a lot of pre-written social media scripts from direct sales companies–I used them myself when I was selling–but they should be used with care.
4. Being a party pusher
Not everyone wants to host a party, even if they love the product. One of the hardest things when I was selling was that we had to push parties on everyone. Sometimes people just want to buy a few products and enjoy them rather than hosting a party.
5. Looking for friends in all the wrong places
You wake up one morning with a friend request from an old college buddy and you are happy to reconnect with them. You add them and the next thing you know, they are asking if you want to host a party for whatever they are selling. This tactic makes it all too obvious that they didn’t care too much about your relationship or reconnecting; they just saw you as someone else who could buy from them.
6. Accidentally insulting potential customers
One of the worst things a direct sales consultant can do–especially if they sell health or beauty products–s to tell someone that they look like someone who needs their products. The seller may think that it’s a harmless comment or inroad to talking about a particular product, but it can play on the customer’s insecurities. That isn’t a good way to start a relationship with a potential customer.
7. Being consumed by the business
While being inspirational and getting excited about a business is a good thing, never talking about anything else–especially on a personal social media account–gets old. If I am friends with you, I want to see photos of your kids, learn what you did last weekend, and what shows you might be into. If all of your posts are just about your business, I am probably going to unfollow you, especially if the product isn’t something I am too interested in.
8. Unsolicited adding
Facebook groups are an ideal place for direct sellers. But when people start adding everyone without their permission, the groups become a nuisance. This might not seem like a huge deal, but since so many direct sellers have groups, things start to get out of control for people who keep getting added. I don’t need to be added to so many groups with the same product and would prefer to decide on my own which groups I want to join.
9. False claims
Some products are promoted as being able to fix problems. Trusting all these claims is hard to do when it seems like they are only being said to sell to us. The better companies explain why they have these claims and then actually back them up.
Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.