Direct Selling Explained

Direct selling is booming! Yes, while numerous other sectors have endured slowdowns, direct selling companies are continuing to chart exponential growth while serving as a lifeline to both national economies and individuals.

This should come as no surprise. It is, after all, one of the oldest distribution channels in the world, having consistently proven its resilience and worth.

Regardless, many still need to understand the true nature and potential of direct selling. This could be partly because direct selling has been unfairly maligned and falsely associated with illegal practices.

So, allow us to break down direct selling, and debunk some myths while we’re at it.

It’s customer-focused

At the crux of it, direct selling is a retail business in that products and services are sold for profit. Yet, there are differences.

First and foremost, one of the primary purposes of direct selling is to get quality products and services directly into customers’ hands while eliminating intermediaries in the supply chain.

This results in a more efficient income stream and higher profitability per sale of products. By selling directly to customers, companies and independent distributors can capture a significant portion of the revenue that would otherwise be distributed among multiple parties. Showcasing products and services directly to potential customers further strengthens relationships and brand loyalty.

It also means that, unlike traditional businesses, there are almost no storefronts. Instead, it relies on a network of distributors to market and sell products. For many direct selling companies, this involves a comprehensive catalogue of quality products that features skin care, home care appliances, health and wellness products, jewellery and luxury items, and even educational courses.

One important fact to note: Distributors are not employed by direct selling companies. Instead, think of them as independent contractors. They do have signed agreements with the companies they work with and are bound by strict policies and procedures put in place that protects their business, the company they represent, and the customers they sell their products to but the effort they put into building their sales business is entirely up to them.

Anyone can do it

So, who can be a distributor? Anyone and everyone, really! And that’s because direct selling’s other function is to serve as an equal opportunity avenue for entrepreneurial-minded individuals to retail products and services, make commissions from so doing, and simultaneously build a business with minimal start-up costs and zero overheads.

Running a traditional business is challenging due to capital outlay and restrictive commencement costs. Indeed, capital financing is one of the main reasons businesses fail. However, it’s relatively easy to become a distributor because of direct selling’s nature — which eschews the need for offices, brick-and-mortar stores and investing in inventory or handling stock.

One of the advantages of direct selling is that it doesn’t require prior experience, business know-how, or formal education. Distributors are free to decide when and how they work, making it a flexible option for those who want to start their own businesses. Additionally, many direct selling companies provide comprehensive training programs that help entrepreneurs build sustainable and professional businesses. These training programs often cover sales techniques, product knowledge, business management, and marketing strategies. By providing these resources, direct selling companies can help their distributors succeed and thrive in their businesses.

You’re the boss

Want to work part-time, like millions of direct sellers worldwide have chosen to do? Want to make direct selling your full-time profession and keep regular work hours? The choice is entirely in the hands of the individual, who is also empowered to determine their own sales and profit targets and how much to grow.  

If this makes direct selling sound like gig work, it’s because it is. Direct selling predates the gig economy, and the flexibility and freedom offered by the latter are just as present in the former. Yet there are notable extra benefits to direct selling, specifically in the form of better earnings and income and community support.

For example, while gig workers typically work alone, direct sellers tend to work in teams and lean on each other for professional support in the form of mentoring and training.

Unfortunately, despite all this going for it, some still view direct selling cynically due to the perpetuation of myths about the industry.

It’s not a pyramid scheme

One of the biggest myths about direct selling is that only those at the very top become successful and make money. This understanding is patently false, and blame for this untruth lies in direct selling being equated to and associated with pyramid schemes.

Pyramid schemes are fraudulent and illegal. The goal is simply to make money through recruitment – the more participants are recruited, the more money is made. These schemes are unsustainable, designed to enrich people at the top of the “pyramid”, and don’t involve retail. Where products are featured, they are frequently gimmicks or duds and have little to no value.

In legitimate direct selling, income is generated solely from the sales of carefully developed and tested products. This ensures that the focus remains on selling quality products that provide value to customers rather than building a downline, thus promoting an ethical and sustainable business model for distributors. By allowing income only through product sales, legitimate direct selling companies avoid the unsustainable nature of pyramid schemes that rely on the endless recruitment of new members.

It’s not a quick ticket to becoming rich

Direct selling is also neither a scam nor a get-rich-quick scheme.

Yes, the record shows that many people have turned direct selling into a sustainable source of income and become very successful. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that not everyone who tries direct selling will be successful, and there is no guaranteed path to making money in it.

Therefore, a reality check is crucial when considering direct selling as an option for income, be it part-time or full-time. It is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and like every other sales-based business, the key to making it is to work hard, be smart, be patient and committed, and stay the course. It’s also important to note that not all direct selling companies are created equal, and some have better training, support, and product lines than others. Doing thorough research and due diligence before joining a direct selling company is crucial to ensure that it is legitimate and aligned with your goals.

It places immense value on being ethical

It can’t be denied that unscrupulous persons exist in direct selling, as they do in every other business. Nevertheless, legitimate direct selling companies are committed to the highest ethical standards and abide by stringent codes of practice.

Direct selling companies also have their own detailed policy and procedural guidelines as well as ethical regulations that all affiliated persons must adhere to. Violations are never tolerated, and disciplinary action includes the termination of service of guilty parties.

Furthermore, direct selling companies commonly comprise national or regional trade and industry bodies that insist on full compliance with the law and adherence to ethical policies, such as those under the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations in Singapore (DSAS), Malaysia (DSAM), the Philippines (DSAP), Spain (AVD), and France (FVD).

It’s a continuously evolving industry

Due to direct selling’s long history, it’s commonly assumed that sales involve cold calling, home-based social events and product demonstrations. This has not been the case for a long time.

You will find that the industry has evolved and advanced tremendously over the decades, keeping up with the technology and innovation of the times.

QNET, for example, an early adopter of tech trends, has made inroads into many new and emerging markets by leveraging e-commerce and disruptive marketing. It has also managed to tap into the thriving field of micro-entrepreneurship.

It’s focused on quality and innovation

With consumers having become more discerning and demanding, direct selling companies have concentrated resources on staying ahead of the curve with their products.

Indeed, in stark contrast to the myth that direct selling companies hawk useless products and services, today’s leading establishments have been recognized for consistently pushing the envelope.

Here are some examples of innovative products and services offered by direct selling companies:

  1. Nutritional supplements: Herbalife, Amway’s Nutrilite and QNET’s LifeQode offer a range of scientifically formulated nutritional supplements that cater to the specific health needs of their customers.
  • Personalized skincare: Mary Kay, Avon and QNET offer skincare products that are customized to the individual skin type and concerns of the customer.
  • Smart home technology: Tupperware and HomePure have expanded their product offerings to include smart home technology products, such as connected kitchen appliances and home security systems.
  • Eco-friendly products: Amway has introduced eco-friendly products, including biodegradable cleaning products and reusable containers, to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers. QNET’s water filtration system functions without electricity.
  • E-learning: During the COVID-19 pandemic, e-learning played a crucial role in providing continuity of education as many schools and universities transitioned to remote learning. qLearn is an example of an e-learning platform that provides affordable and convenient access to education to people worldwide, offering a variety of courses to enhance knowledge and skills. E-learning allows individuals to learn at their own pace and convenience, making education accessible to everyone.

It’s safe and secure

The bottom line is that direct selling is a safe and secure industry. It grants anyone willing to go the distance a chance to run their own business and reap the rewards from it. You just have to take that chance.

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