I want to talk about a subject I feel very passionate about – the collective responsibility for protecting the reputation of the direct selling industry.
As we all know, direct selling can get a hard-time. Just as there are many people who are strong advocates for the industry, there are also those who openly express their mistrust and despise of direct selling. So, what would make someone view the industry in such a negative manner? Well, in the majority of cases, the answer is pretty common.
It is the actions of some individuals who work as direct sellers, that damage the reputation of the industry and contribute to the breeding of mistrust.
The actions of the few sadly have consequences for the many and it is common for those who do not support the industry to have a blanket negative view of all direct sellers and direct selling organisations.
So, does this mean that the responsibility lies solely with the independent direct sellers? The direct selling organisations that the sellers are associated with have a responsibility to ensure that their sellers are thoroughly trained from the outset, not only on the products and the business opportunity, but on the sales and marketing techniques used to promote them. There is also a need for robust processes to be in place that allow the organisation to deal with any cases where independent sellers deviate from the guidelines and do something they shouldn’t.
The Direct Selling Association also has a role to play in protecting the reputation of the industry.
The DSA was founded in the UK in 1965 and is the only recognised trade body for direct selling in the UK. It works to protect the interests of consumers, independent sellers and its Members, predominantly through its two codes of conduct.
Adherence to the consumer code of practice and the code of business conduct is a requirement of membership to the DSA, meaning that DSA Members and their sellers are required to uphold the highest standards, which go above and beyond UK law. This allows the DSA to investigate any instances where the codes may not have been followed and ensure appropriate actions are taken. If you’d like to learn more about the DSA codes, they are available on the DSA website here.
So, let’s talk about how you as an independent seller can help to protect the reputation of the direct selling industry. First off, I want to say that I honestly believe the vast majority of sellers do a fantastic job, day-in, day-out, conducting their businesses in an honest and ethical manner. That said, you should never under-estimate the potential each and every one of you has to impact the reputation of direct selling, positively or negatively, through your actions and this includes what you do on social media.
It should come as no surprise that the key here is honesty. There is an old cliché – “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is”.
When you promote your products or the business opportunity through your social media, you have got to avoid any temptation to stretch the truth, embellish things or say something that is untrue.
It is near impossible to completely remove something once it has been shared on social media. The ability to share, screenshot and report content is all too easy and if you say something in a social media post that you later choose to delete – that in no way guarantees it isn’t still out there somewhere.
Every seller wants to promote their products and shout about their benefits. One of the biggest mistakes I see some direct sellers making is giving exaggerated or false claims about the products they are selling. The worst part is that they absolutely don’t need to do it. In the vast majority of cases, the products have verified claims or clear benefits so let these speak for themselves. There’s no better way of alienating a potential customer than by lying to them (and let’s be honest that’s what it is).
Make sure that you are clear on the verified and approved claims for the products you sell. If you don’t know what these are, check with your direct selling company so that they can confirm them for you. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking just because you’ve seen another seller post a claim on social media, that it must be true and you are okay to share it.
Always, be 100% sure what you are claiming is true and approved by the company you’re associated with.
When it comes to business opportunity promotion, people may already be initially sceptical of a new opportunity to earn an income, so don’t make it worse by not sticking to the absolute truth. Failure to do this is highly likely to contravene your agreement with your Direct Selling company and this could potentially lead to your business being terminated, so is it really worth the risk?
Make sure that you take advantage of all the training and support your direct selling company offers. This is offered for a reason and will help you to ensure you are running your business in the most effective manner, often based on many years of experience.
Many companies will offer training on a wide variety of topics so make sure you keep up to date with what is available and take advantage of it.
One of the most damaging actions any direct seller can take, is to make false or exaggerated income claims. The DSA states that any earnings claims must relate to actual earnings from the opportunity by an identifiable person and be capable of verification. Even if you are personally earning a substantial figure from your business, you still need to be mindful of how you talk about this.
You need to balance showing the earnings potential with setting a realistic expectation as to what the majority of individuals are most-likely to earn.
It is always best to be cautious here – whilst showing a lavish lifestyle and talking about the high-earnings you have achieved might make you believe individuals will want to achieve what you have, I would imagine there are far more people who would be sceptical and cautious as it may sound too good to be true. Let’s put it another way – if you recruit a team member who genuinely believes they are going to be earning the same as you, potentially in a short period of time, what do you think will happen to their motivation and trust in you, when that doesn’t transpire? If they leave, believing they have been misled, it could have consequences for you personally and the company you are associated with. And, more broadly, you are damaging the wider reputation of direct selling.
When promoting the business opportunity you have to offer, you need to be open, honest and transparent. If your direct selling company provides a business opportunity presentation or guidelines on how you should present the opportunity, it is imperative that you stick to them. Making a small tweak here or there does matter and you need to be aware that you could be putting your own business at risk by deviating from the approved approach. Always make it clear that the amount an individual earns is based on the effort they put in and never state that someone will earn an income for solely recruiting as this is misleading when, ultimately, products need to be sold for an income to be generated.
When you join a direct selling company, make sure that they are a member of the DSA. You can easily check this by visiting dsa.org.uk and looking at the member directory.
If the company is listed, they are a member of the DSA and this will bring you the reassurance that they have been investigated by the DSA’s Independent Code Administrator and have agreed to adhere to the DSA codes of conduct. You can then share this reassurance when promoting your business.
Another benefit of working with a DSA member company, is that the member company will buy back any unused products from a seller at 90% of the cost the seller bought them at, should the seller decide to leave.
This, again, provides reassurance to people considering starting their own direct selling business and is a factual claim you could talk about when promoting your business. For full details of this, refer to the business code of conduct available at dsa.org.uk
Ultimately, independent sellers, direct selling organisations and the DSA all have a role to play in promoting the direct selling industry in an honest and transparent manner.
This honesty and transparency are what will lead to a good reputation for direct selling. So, in closing make sure that you are doing everything you can to contribute to the building of that good reputation for the industry. Be proud of your products and the opportunity you can offer to others and be proud of promoting these things in an honest and ethical way.