Before our social media accounts were filling up with post-election reactions, I think there was another trend brewing. Have you noticed an increase in posts from your friends advertising products for sale? With the holidays fast approaching (yeah, I said it), I’ve certainly noticed more invites to follow a friend’s sales page and to attend parties (in person and on-line). Seeing this increase made me wonder what my network of friends thought about direct sales. So, I posted a quick survey to gauge opinions. I thought I’d be lucky if I heard from about 10 friends, but I got 54 responses and in this post I'm going to share some of that feedback.
Of the 54 people that completed my survey, 9 were currently working as a consultant or sales representative for a direct sales company. Within the group of 45 respondents that were not currently working in direct sales, 9 had participated in such a venture before. I proceeded to ask people what companies they had worked for and/or bought products from as well as asked them to share their experiences with direct sales. Of the 54 people who took the survey, 37 provided their opinions on the topic.
In order to ask people about the companies they worked for and/or bought products from, I researched the Direct Selling Association (DSA) and their membership directory. There are currently 158 companies that are DSA members; it's important to keep in mind that not every direct sales company is a member of the DSA. It wasn’t feasible to ask if people were familiar with all these companies, so I filtered the membership directory to focus on products in the categories of health/beauty, jewelry, clothes, and items for the home. Since that only narrowed the list down to roughly 100 companies, I decided to focus on 20 companies that I had heard of, seen on Facebook, Instagram, etc. and then gave respondents an opportunity to add in others. Approximately 20 more companies were listed by the respondents.
Before I discuss what experiences were shared on the survey, I want to disclose that I tried being a direct sales consultant once. I realized that with my health issues, I didn’t have the stamina for it nor did I have a social network with enough discretionary income to keep purchasing the products I was selling. I don’t know if I would ever try being a consultant again, however, I do have a few companies that I like to purchase from once in awhile.
Of the 37 respondents who provided comments about the direct sales industry, 9 responses were positive, 13 were a mix of positive and negative, and 15 were negative.
The positive comments highlighted the convenience of shopping different products, having social time with friends at parties, and supporting friends with their business ventures. Additionally, people reported that the job as a consultant offers flexibility with work hours, various incentives in addition to the income earned and an opportunity to meet new people who are also consultants.
“It's a legitimate business model. It's a great way to make money, once you've recruited a downline. Getting from here to there is one of the most tedious periods for your friends to endure.”
I was fascinated by the last part of this comment because just about all the negative comments about direct sales revolved around the awkward nature of being asked by a friend to buy something and/or host a party (and it’s not for a fundraising/charity purpose). And in case you didn’t know, the definition of downline according to wordwebonline.com is “In multi-level marketing, refers to the members you have recruited or who have joined the program after you did and whose sales or referrals also generate income for you.” This concept of downline clearly made respondents nervous - the term pyramid scheme was mentioned a few times as well. The following quote is a good summation of the negative comments regarding friendship and direct sales:
"I always feel like "friends" that are direct sales consultants only want to see you so they can sell you a product or make you partner."
Individuals reported having hard time being bombarded on social media and worried that unneccesary purchases are made out of guilt (I know I can attest to this). Furthermore, there was a genuine concern for the consultants themselves in that they have to meet minimum requirements and that pressure carries over to friendship and the wallet. Some previous consultants discussed having accrued debt (one disclosed they ended up in thousands of dollars in debt). Lastly, a couple of respondents asked, "How much of this stuff can I keep buying?"
This was a tiny little quest on my part to learn more about direct sales - I'm really glad I asked the questions because I learned quite a bit. I would recommend doing your own research before buying or becoming a direct sales consultant. Earlier this summer, a rather detailed article was written about Rodan & Fields - I don't share this as a means to advertise the company, but I offer it as a thorough view that can provide some food for thought prior to going into direct sales, for any company.
Regardless of how you do your holiday shopping this year, I wish you a stress-free experience!