Direct Sales Business Owners Guide
For A Happy New Year?
Getting a jump on the coming year!

The Sheffield Report

by Michael L. Sheffield
CEO The Sheffield Group

While the rest of the world is out goofing off with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, most MLM, Party Plan and Direct Sales business owners and executives are working harder than ever. They’re racking their brains because they know when their distributors come out of their holidaze on January 2, they’re going to have one question on their minds — What’s my company doing to help me ramp up my business so I can pay off these credit card bills and get back in the black fast?! With that premise, I thought the best holiday gift we could give you is an overview that would help you start your new year off in the right direction. So, here’s our...

Look Back And Plan Ahead. Do an honest review of what you did right and wrong in the preceding year. Then create a list of things you can do differently or better in the coming year. If there are a few people whose opinions you trust to be honest, but positive - and won’t use this just as an opportunity to whine or expect extra privileges - get their opinions too.

Set Your Goals. Use the “slow time” to set your company’s goals for the coming year. As always, goals should be set high, but be attainable, and have a roadmap and timetable. If you don’t have a background in goal setting, there are tremendous resources available to you in your local bookstore and library. And if “setting goals” is a goal you never quite get to, there are terrific seminars by industry experts that will walk you through it in a matter of hours.

Get Back To Basics. As cliché as it might seem, nothing works like a team that goes back to the basics of success. It works for business owners as well as it does professional sports teams. So, your job is to determine what those are and reintroduce them to your staff and field with enthusiasm. And lest you “guess” that everyone is still doing the fundamentals, here is a simple test. Ask your top leaders how many referrals their team gets on average for each missed sale. If you get blank stares, they either didn’t know to do that or they forgot to teach and reinforce it. Either way, it’s a reason to get back to basics.

Put The “New” In New Year. Plan any new products or existing product enhancements that you’ll roll out in the New Year. It should be something exciting that will reignite the field and is a natural product line extension. If your company sells a service, look for ways you can embellish or add to your “product” using the same approach. And remember, virtually everything new requires marketing collateral and education to properly launch it.

Get Technical. This is a great time to introduce or integrate new technology that will improve the field’s advantages. For example, you might have improved back office functions or better genealogy reports. You might offer new downloadable training, flash presentations on the product or opportunity, new auto responders, etc. Again, remember that this too needs training if it’s going to be utilized correctly.

Improve Your Recruiting Tools. This industry reinvents itself almost daily. As an owner, you need to constantly look out for new tools and techniques that will help your distributors recruit. It might be a new CD or DVD to hand out, new online recruiting systems, third party literature, pre-made banners and signage for expos, live or prerecorded calls for prospects to call, etc. But what ever you pick – and this is so important – do a beta test or focus group to make sure the system actually works before telling your leaders and distributors how great it is. Because if it costs them money and it doesn’t work, you’ll lose them to another company.

Enhance Your Comp Plan. If you are going to give the distributors something new and better, this is the time to do it. It might be a new fast start bonus or leadership bonus pool that you are adding or offering for a limited time. Just be cautious that any changes you make for the better are perceived that way by the field. And if you aren’t 100% sure of how well it will work to spike and maintain growth, role it out as a contest for a limited period first. If it’s a hit, make it permanent. If it tanks, drop it faster than a third hour French class.

Start Spreading The News. If you don’t have a company newsletter or magazine, create one. Fast. It’s the best way to announce all the changes, improvements, company strategies, and recognize achievement possible. The fastest way to do it is to produce an electronic newsletter, which is relatively inexpensive compared to print, and will allow you to update and edit your content and photos right up until the minutes before you send it out. However, print – AKA “walkable media” – also has an important place in your business because distributors will sell off of it, especially if they or their Upline is in it. So, start thinking in terms of a proper media mix for your field communications tools.

Do A Web Makeover. If you haven’t changed the look and feel of your website since before Al Gore invented the Internet, now would be a good time to do so. The content and images should be updated regularly, and there should be something new and user-friendly to drive people to it. If your name doesn’t show up on the first two pages of Google or Yahoo, find someone skilled in search engine optimization that can help you with that as you are reviewing and redoing your sites.

Check Out The Competition. The miracle of the Internet is that you can see just about everything your competitors are doing. So visit their sites. Look at how they draw prospects in and sign them up. Look at how they explain their products and business opportunity. If it’s short and sweet – like it should be for the web – it’s usually perfect for “elevator” pitches. Look at anything else they are doing well, and figure out how you might adapt it into something you can use for your company.

Prepare New Material. Prepare any new brochures, web downloads, and other marketing collateral and training material that will accompany the new products or services. As always, remember to point out as many “benefits” as possible for every new “feature”, because features intrigue, but benefits sell. And as you prepare to rally your creative team and other resources, take into effect that many of your staff and lots of service businesses, like printers and designers, take some of the holidays off. So, get your orders in early and avoid the holiday crush.

Meet With Your Distributor Council. You need to pull your key leaders into some of these decision-making processes for three reasons. First, to mine their ideas and experience. Secondly, to let them know their opinion matters. Thirdly, to get their buy-in when you take it out in the field. I suggest you meet with them early in November and if at all possible, host a party or dinner in their honor. Photos from that occasion will go a long way in your publications and in their memories.

Meet With Your Key Staff. In addition to the normal holiday stuff like staff parties, gift exchanges and charitable involvements, you need to share your vision with your staff for the coming year. Be sure to get their ideas on what they think they can do to make it even better. And once you’ve made final decisions on everything, use them as a test market to work through your presentation and offerings. You’ll work the bugs out and ensure that they are absolutely certain about where the company is going in the months ahead.

Create A Sales Contest. Few things will launch a happy new year like a contest that gets distributors excited about getting back in the game. Sales contests are best when they have short term goals (30-60 days) almost anyone can hit. You can have cash awards, destination travel rewards, or something as simple as a great dinner out with you. But whatever you pick as a prize, make sure it is exciting to them – not you – and tie up all the contest rules and how you will manage it internally before you go public.

Get Some AIR. We call Awards, Incentives and Recognition “AIR” because for the life of your business, it’s as important as the air you breathe. Distributors are attracted to your company for the opportunity or product you offer. However, they will stay loyal to you for the Awards, Incentive and Recognition you give them. So, this is time for everyone in your staff and inner circle of leaders to plan or revise your programs that will literally take your distributors to the next level. And if you don’t know what those are, get an industry expert to help you determine the right AIR to keep your company breathing easy.

Do Some Networking. If you want to know what other business owners think, spend a few days with them and pick their brains. You can probably find at least one Direct Sales, MLM and Party Plan business owner’ conference in the last quarter that packs the room with entrepreneurs and the experts who are teaching them how to improve. Example: The Sheffield Group has co-sponsored the Starting and Running The Successful MLM Company conference with Babener & Associates in Las Vegas for nearly 20 years and it has always been highly attended. Most who’ve participated have told us the benefit of being in the company of like-minded entrepreneurs was an added bonus to all the material shared over the two-day event.

Plan Your Leader’s Conference. After you’ve formulated your plan for the New Year, you need to communicate that mission clearly and effectively with your top levels of distributors. This is best done in a Leaders’ conference setting typically held around mid-January. You can either host it in one area (preferably someplace warm) or you can travel to several select cities for Regional Leadership conferences. It is very important that you listen to your leaders tips and strategies during this event(s), as their buy-in and execution of the plan is absolutely critical.

Plan Your Main Event. All of this work and preparation should build momentum and attendance for your open distributor convention sometime in the spring. This will be your chance to present your vision directly to the rank and file, so use the other events and meetings that precede it to hone it down to perfection. And if you haven’t done a convention yet, or the ones you have had didn’t illicit the turbo boost you wanted, by all means, start working with an industry proven event planner in November to make sure you know what to do. Because a poorly attended or received company sponsored convention might just become your going out of business party.

No Train, No Gain. I’ve mentioned training several times, but feel it’s so critical to your success, I want to do it one more time for emphasis. Because the perfect plan can become the perfect failure if everyone from top to bottom isn’t in sync. Once you finalize where you are going, plan regular briefings with your staff, leaders and distributors to participate in. Once you think they totally understand, test them. Then once you get over the shock of how much they misunderstood, go back and fill the holes they have in their understanding. Since you will be the source of information to many, the chances of your message staying accurate are much greater if it comes directly from you. So, if at all possible, record training calls that are downloadable on your website so everyone is drinking from the same well of information.

Hire A Great MLM Consulting Firm. Hey, I’d be crazy if I didn’t at least mention it, wouldn’t I? But seriously, if the tasks at hand seem a little intimidating, there are people out there that have the experience to help you avoid the pitfalls and find the shortcuts to your company’s success.

Say “Thank You”. Last but not least, send a Holiday greeting to all of your leaders, distributors and customers. Let them know how much you appreciate them and their support during the previous year, and how excited you are about the things you are working on that will make their lives even better in the coming year.

We hope this gives you a jump on the coming year (and the competition that didn’t read it). Let us know how it helps your company become a little more successful and profitable. And from of all us at The Sheffield Group, have a safe and healthy holiday and happy new year.

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About the Author:

Michael L. Sheffield is the CEO of The Sheffield Group, a full-service direct sales and multi level marketing (MLM) consulting firm. He is a Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Multi Level Marketing International Association and in 2001 he was inducted into the MLMIA Hall of Fame. He and the Sheffield team have assisted in hundreds of national and international MLM corporate start-ups as well as offered a full line of services for established direct sales companies including consultation on MLM Website development. As the most noted expert on compensation plans, he has been a guest lecturer on the subject for the DSA, University of Illinois, University of Texas, Berkeley and Harvard Alumni Association. He has helped launch over 200 new products marketed by direct selling companies around the globe. He can be contacted at 480-968-6199, The Sheffield Group, 2239 N. Hayden Road, Suite 103, Scottsdale, AZ. 85257, website address: www.sheffieldnet.com.

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