Lather, Rinse, Repeat

It seems to me that the companies that have the most sustainable growth have a few things in common:
1. The products work and they focus on real customers.
2. The system for sharing (selling) the products is simple, trainable and duplicable by someone who isn’t an expert.
3. The messaging of the product is super-clear.

If your company is lacking in any of these areas, I strongly recommend taking the time to review your current methods. An honest audit of your systems and messaging will help to unveil areas for improvement.

Get outside help if you need it.

Here’s a clue: If one of the first things you tell new distributors to do in their first 48-72 hours is to log in to your back office and spend a few hours going through the “training,” I can almost guarantee that numbers 2 and 3 above are probably not getting check marks next to them. What you have likely done, instead, is caused a bit of analysis paralysis at EXACTLY the time when their excitement is highest.

One of my favorite challenges I offer to corporate executives is for them to try to make things as simple as possible for the field—and when you think you’ve done that—make it simpler.

It is, frankly, one of the most difficult things to do for a corporate team. In fact, I had an executive admit to me that she thought I was nuts for issuing the challenge to her a few weeks ago. In her mind, it was only going to take an hour or two to distill everything into its simplest form.

Nothing complicated about it at all.

Yet, she admitted three weeks after our initial discussion that she felt a little lost and needed help.

Simple is hard.

But making things simple is SO worth it.

We need our businesses to be as close to “lather, rinse, repeat” simple as we can possibly make them—at least for the newest, who are just joining the business.

Once they get a little experience, they will complicate things. Don’t you worry! Until then, simplify, simplify, simplify!

j j j

LIVE TO LEARN

I love to hear how other people think.

I love to ask questions.

I love to hear different perspectives. Even if I wildly disagree, I learn something.

I love to learn different ways of seeing the same problem and understanding that the solution I might have in mind is not always the best solution.

I read articles and books on really diverse topics.

I listen to a wide variety of podcasts.

Every day, I try to make myself a little better. I try to push myself.

Many of the corporate leaders I talk to and work with are a lot like me.

They learn and grow because they try. It takes effort and commitment.

And, many are trying their hardest to make sure their field salesforce learns and grows too.

 

Although 1,200 people did attend the April SUCCESS Live event here in Dallas, there were a lot who weren’t able to be there.

It was an amazing event with some of the best minds and presenters from the world of personal development and growth—providing inspiration, motivation and their thoughts on how to become the best “YOU” possible.

And the folks who were there? From what I’ve heard, they all loved it.

A few corporate leaders took advantage of the event and made sure their field leaders were either in attendance or had the opportunity to attend.

If you are a learner/grower and want to help your field learn and grow, DO NOT MISS the next one.

Our friends and family at SUCCESS magazine are putting together what will be an unforgettable event in Long Beach, California, on September 8-9, 2017.

If you struggle with “how” to provide great personal development opportunities, this event is perfect for you and your field.

I won’t go into all the details here but I will hit the high points.

Best-selling authors. Powerful speakers. Thriving business moguls. And, people with REALLY big ideas.

To name just a few:

Scooter Braun – Calling him a talent manager is kind of like saying Tom Brady plays football. He has worked with some of the top names in the music business (Usher, Ariana Grande, Kanye West, and many more) and is one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

Brendon Burchard – High-performance expert and best-selling author, Brendon has impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with his thought-provoking and action-oriented message.

Tom Bilyeu – Co-founder and host of Impact Theory, one of my favorite podcasts, and a true pioneer in the business world, Tom will truly make you think differently.

Mel Robbins – Of course, a SUCCESS event would not be complete without the amazing Mel Robbins. As the author of The 5 Second Rule and one of the world’s most booked female speakers, I can promise you that her message will impact everyone in the audience.

Chalene Johnson – Known as a business and lifestyle expert, but I can tell you that that description does not do justice to her presence and her message. She takes an all-encompassing approach to growth and development and helps her audience do that same.

Keith Ferrazzi – Author, speaker and an amazing businessman, Keith’s focus is on creating powerful teams that empower individuals to grow great organizations. Keith is a “can’t miss” message for anyone trying to take the next steps in leadership.

And, if you have never heard of Peter H. Diamandis, you are in for a treat. As the founder and chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation and co-founder of Singularity University, it is easy to say that Peter thinks different. He sees the world in a way that most people do not. His best-selling books have, no doubt, changed the way many people view the amazing possibilities for the future of the world and mankind in general.
So, why all of this NOW?

Well, I just learned that tickets for this event are HALF PRICE if you purchase them before July 22. That’s only a few days away and if you can take advantage of the discount, DO IT!

You will not regret it.

Get your key corporate team to the event.

Get your field leaders to the event.

Do what you can to make sure you are helping yourself and your teams grow.

Go to SUCCESSLiveEvent.com for more info and to purchase your tickets before the discount goes away.

j j j

Better, Faster, Cheaper—it’s not always best.

Company executives are always looking for better, faster and cheaper ways of doing things. For good reason. Their businesses depend on it.

However, I often see these execs overlooking things that work while trying to reinvent themselves with unproven strategies and technologies. Mostly, these strategies fall into a category that I will call “digital.” Those could take a lot of different forms: social media, apps, back-office tools, etc.

At our recent SUCCESS Partners University, it was refreshing to hear from executives that they are focusing on the fundamentals—the tried and proven ideas that help independent business owners grow. Interestingly, the fundamentals include both digital and physical solutions, because some forms of communications are better suited to one or the other.

For example, starter kits play a vital role in the onboarding process for most organizations. And a physical version is far more impactful than digital. More costly? Yes, but definitely more effective. The ROI is still worth it.

For prospecting and recruiting, magazines tell a company story in a way that no digital tool can. And the engagement of a magazine is far higher than digital. Granted, you can send out hundreds or thousands of digital messages with a click of a button, but nothing gets opened like a magazine does. My recommendation? Do both.

On the other hand, when it comes to training, digital is hard to beat. Immediate, measurable, trackable, and easy to update. It sure beats the days of sending out tons of CDs and workbooks. Combine the digital solution with events, webinars, conference calls, etc., and you can cover all the bases.

We could go through every type of communication that direct sellers deal with and identify a “best” solution. But we would be hard pressed to identify the “ONLY” solution.

The bottom line? There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution.

I’m definitely not burying my head in the sand and pretending that digital solutions are not getting better and better. They are!

I just strongly suggest that we should use the tools that are best suited to the task at hand, and don’t overlook the fact that your distributors are not all like you. They have preferences. They learn, absorb and digest information differently.

All I’m suggesting is to look at your options and don’t get locked into a single solution. The cost of providing multiple solutions is minimal and the ROI could be tremendous.

j j j

Build or Rebuild? — that’s the question

If you have ever decided to remodel your home, you know that it is always harder than expected.

It takes more time and costs more than you could have imagined.

It seems so much easier to build a new one than it does to remodel.

When unencumbered by existing walls and infrastructure, you can just design it and, within reason, make a few adjustments during construction and get it exactly the way you want it.

But when remodeling, you are forced into working around obstacles while maintaining the integrity of the support infrastructure.

Sometimes the supports and walls that are already there now seem to be “in the way.”

The plumbing isn’t where you want it so you have to disconnect and move it—perhaps dealing with the foundation and the obstacles that tons of concrete present.

It’s the same for our businesses.

I have run into countless situations over the years where companies have decided it’s time for some changes to their business. Sometimes that means a new product. Sometimes, a new brand. Sometimes, a new market to launch. Or a completely new business model.

In almost every one of those situations, it clearly would have been easier to start “from scratch.”

The existing business structure becomes a hindrance to the process.

The people running the business see things through a specific lens that could be slowing the process. If you have ever heard someone say, “Because we have always done it that way,” you know what I mean.

A few examples come to mind.

I’m currently working with an existing multinational company that is making some dramatic changes to their product strategy for one particular market. Now, after 16 months of work, their first new products are launched into the market. SIXTEEN MONTHS!!!

It seemed impossible that it could take 16 months when we started the process. But, with an existing team, existing processes and existing paradigms, the obstacles between concept and launch were immense. Not the least of which was making sure the existing business is being managed and supported properly.

Another legacy company decided to make some dramatic changes to their “lead product strategy.” On the outside, it didn’t look all that complicated. But, once on the inside, I understood the significance of the change to the existing team.

From initial discussion and decision to the official launch of the new product: 19 months.

Both companies had to change from the inside out. And that took time. Lots of time.

However, I’m also working with a few companies that have gone from concept to launch in under 9 months. These are people who didn’t have a company. Didn’t have a product. Didn’t have people. Didn’t have a comp plan or a computer system. Didn’t have ANYTHING other than an idea. Yet, within 9 months, they were launched and moving forward.

They had a LOT more to do and accomplish and, yet, they did it in half the time.

I am not suggesting that every new initiative in an existing company is going to take a year and half—or even needs to. In fact, I know it can be done faster and more efficiently.

Be realistic from the beginning and understand the obstacles and challenges between concept and launch. Communication is key. Planning is paramount. Leadership is crucial. Complete “buy-in” is imperative.

A really good idea is always worth pursuing.

 

 

 

j j j

I could have been a brand ambassador.

I just went through a retail customer experience that reminded me of two clear lessons that, as corporate leaders, we can learn from.

Let me explain.
For Christmas, my wife decided to give me a new set of golf clubs. Woohoo!
Hoping to have a lot more time to play this year. We’ll see!

I knew I didn’t want to just go get a new set “off the shelf.” If I was going to do it right, I wanted to get clubs that I had the best chance to succeed with. After all, it doesn’t have to cost more to get the right thing for me. It just takes a little time and someone to help.

So, I went to a large golf retailer and had a professional tell me what I needed to buy that would fit MY swing best.

In about 30-40 minutes of testing clubs, he diagnosed that I needed clubs that were ½ inch longer and a little more upright than “standard.” In the end, it was a seemingly minor adjustment to the clubs I have been using for nearly 25 years.

Then, because of the height that I tend to hit the ball, he recommended a different shaft for the clubs so I would have more control.

After testing different shafts and watching the ball in the air and where it landed, he found the right shaft for me.

Think about it—three little tweaks are all he suggested.
So, I said yes, and he ordered them for me.

I’m happy to say that, eight days later, I picked up the clubs and took them to the practice range near my home.

And, the results so far are unbelievable. I have never, ever hit golf balls like that before. Higher, longer, straighter. I still have a long way to go to be a good golfer BUT, my chance of success feels higher because I made three very tiny adjustments to the tools I am using. I still have to work on the fundamentals required to be good but I feel like I’m positioned to do so.

In our businesses, often, two or three tiny adjustments can mean the difference between success and failure.

And, we need someone (often from the outside) to help us understand what those tweaks are and why we need to make them.
Having a coach or an outsider look at our businesses is one way to do it. If you don’t have one, or don’t have someone who can share ideas and honest feedback with you, I strongly suggest you find one.

It’s amazing what a ½ inch and 2 degrees of adjustments might do for your business.
That’s lesson 1.

Now, lesson 2.
When I picked up the clubs, I had a decent experience with the retailer, nothing super special. Friendly, courteous and seemed a little happy I had purchased from them. They stopped just short of where they could have gone with me to guarantee I would come back. With a little extra effort or attention, I could have been a raving fan, but for now, I’m a customer. And, in terms of lifetime value, those are two different things.

But, the experience from the club manufacturer was very different—in fact—nonexistent.

When I picked up the new clubs I had ordered, I was handed a brown box with the name of the manufacturer on the side of it. A simple, cardboard box. Inside the box were my clubs, with a brown cardboard divider that kept them from bumping into each other. And, each club had a piece of plastic shrink-wrap around the club head and then a piece of bubble wrap over that.
That’s it!

No “Welcome to the XYZ family.” No brochure to suggest other stuff. No 10% off a new hat with their logo on it. (I would have bought it that day!) No “follow us on Facebook or Instagram” note. Heck, why wouldn’t you beg me to post a picture of me using your clubs?

No list or photos of all the golfers who use their equipment. And, frankly, they are paying a ton of money to have some of the top players in the world use their equipment. Why not make me part of the family that follows them and cheers for “my guys.” I want them to be “MY guys.”
But no…they just came in a plain brown box.

Could they have made little more effort? Made a better impression by using some other material or color so that, at the very least, when I walked out of the retailer, every single person knew I was carrying their clubs? Would that have cost an extra quarter per box? Maybe.
I just don’t get it!

I want to be a part of their little world. I want to see someone else using the same brand and give them the “knowing nod” that we have something in common. Like we know something special that the other guys don’t.

Why do we, yes WE, NOT make a giant experience for our customers?
Why don’t we make our customers feel super welcome and part of a unique family?
Why don’t we build an amazing community of people who give each other “the knowing nod” of being part of something special?

Why don’t we….
I could go on and on.

When you have someone, who says “yes” and purchases your product, for crying out loud, make them feel like you care!

Make them LOVE the experience.
Make them raving fans!
It won’t take much, I promise.
And the stories they will tell. WOW!
What would the stories do for your business?

j j j

Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD

When we run our businesses, it is very easy to see things that other people are doing and think, “we can do that too—probably better than they can”.

It’s natural.
I love the confidence that it takes to think and say those things.
But, what I love even more is the confidence it takes to say no to ideas that can cause distraction.
To commit to a plan and stick with it.
To identify who you are, as a company, and to stand your ground when opportunities pop up.

Unfortunately, from many experiences I have had, not enough leadership teams have taken the time to be strategic with their planning.
They have yet to truly define their brand. Oh sure, they all have pretty logos. That’s not what I’m talking about.
Many have not spent the difficult time needed to put a stake in the ground that clearly states who they are, why they matter and how they plan on defending their ground.

Identifying where to play and how to win is crucial.
It provides the direction for the company.
It allows decisions to be made that will keep the organization on track.

As my friend Wayne says—it’s important to create “the guardrails” that keep a business from running off the road and into a ditch.

I’ve watched companies that have built their business on being a weight loss provider get tempted and launch a beauty product because some company comes out of nowhere and is, apparently, growing fast by selling beauty products.

So, they try to “be like Mike” and get into that same game—with no clear direction and reasoning other than, possibly, fear of loss.

We’ve seen companies that have built a business by catering to a specific demographic decide that they are missing out on the “Millennials” or “Hispanics” or the “soccer moms” or whatever… and, determine that launching a completely separate product within the company to attract that market will be the ticket to success. This can often create the opposite impact.

Lack of clarity and distraction is REALLY difficult to overcome.

By clearly identifying all the traits that make your company really special, you can craft a clear direction for the future.

I am not for a second suggesting that it’s easy. In fact, it is really difficult. And takes time.
But it’s worth it.

It takes courage to admit the strengths and weaknesses of an organization.
It takes a willingness on the part of the executive team to be open and honest with each other.
It requires a team to view things with clear eyes rather than through the lens of “because we’ve always done it that way.”
And, without question, it takes discipline to say NO when something doesn’t fit within the guardrails.

If you haven’t taken the time already, my wish for you in 2017 is to dedicate the time it takes to define your direction so that each and every year afterward builds on the success of the previous one.

j j j

Some Things Change, Some Don’t

I’ve been involved in the direct selling channel for nearly 30 years.

A lot has changed over that time.

In the early days, we were pushing the envelope of “high tech” by supplying VHS tapes and audio cassettes as a way to share product and opportunity messages. OK, honestly, we were sharing recruiting messages with a bit of product mixed in. That was the trend then.

Things change.

The running time for a typical video in those days was about 21-25 minutes.

Can you imagine?

And we had good reasons why. We could explain the science behind the length of the messaging.

Over time, videos got shorter. We originally decreased the run times to 7 minutes because that was the length of time between commercials when watching a typical TV show. In other words, TV determined someone’s attention span. Although that is still somewhat formulaic for TV programming, the clear determining factor for the length of a video now is based on how long someone will watch a video on their phone. And that is MUCH shorter than 7 minutes. Probably between 1½ and 5 minutes TOPS! But, as a marketer, you still have to get the message delivered effectively. Although shorter, it still has to be complete and compelling.

And the technologies changed.

In 1999, we created our very first DVD ever. That was only 17 years ago, and although we still replicate and provide quite a large volume of CDs and DVDs, the demand is much lower. A LOT lower. As long as cars on the road have CD players in them, and homes (and older PCs) still have DVD players, people will still want them. By “older” I am probably talking about just a few years. Not decades.

Digital delivery has clearly taken over the way we consume information.

Yet companies are still trying to figure out how to deliver certain types of content. And the technology folks are all telling you they have THE answer.

Some things don’t change.

I feel like most companies are looking for the solution to bank on for the foreseeable future.

What does “foreseeable” mean anyway? One year? Two? Five?

Remember, in just 17 years, we’ve gone from VHS / audio cassettes to DVD / CD and now to digital in all its varieties. We skipped right over Blu-ray. We dabbled in CD-ROM. Some people tried the cute little “sexy” mini or shaped CDs, although nobody did it for long because they just didn’t hold much content and they didn’t work in all the players.

Clearly, companies still need starter kits. But even kits have changed. Smaller. More focused. More precise in terms of the messaging. We have seen some clients jump into and quickly get out of the kit boxes that have a built-in video player or “video card.” Technology is tempting.

Every step along the way and every new technology that was tried was someone’s attempt to stand out in the crowd. To look better and faster. To be more relevant or “ahead of the curve.” To matter.

And… the search continues.

When you look around, the companies that continue to drive sales on a nice steady path are looking at all the technologies as well.

And using some.

Mostly, they are doing the right things right. They are focused on “mattering” to their distributors, customers and prospects.

They are focused on a message that resonates. A message that someone wants and cares about.

They are focused on solutions and products and potential that are meaningful and reachable.

Over time—actually, daily—technologies will change. The appeal of some “new” way to deliver a message will be apparent.

And, as quick as it appears, another “sexy” technology will replace it.

But, in the end, the message is what matters most.

As a company, if you are more focused on the technology than the message, you are chasing a fleeting object. But if you are focused on your message and can adapt it to whatever the “technology du jour” is, you have a chance to truly matter.

If I were a betting man, I would take the company that knows who they are, how they make a difference and why it matters over the one that “all of a sudden” looks sexy because of some delivery mechanism.

We always encourage our clients to get their message right FIRST. Period!

Then, choose the systems and tools to deliver it.

If you don’t, all you are doing is finding a way to deliver a bad or ineffective message faster to more people.

j j j

What’s Your Competitive Advantage?

“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”

—Jack Welch

Some products are run-away hits in the direct selling arena. Others may start out with a bang and end up with a whimper. So what are the keys to product success in this channel?

I had a question / response posted to a blog several months ago that made me think.

The multi-part question centered on the idea that, no matter how loudly the leadership screams it, no products “sell themselves,” and it’s crucial to understand that direct selling companies often compete against supermarket chains and mass retailers. There was a sense of despair in the question. As in “how can I compete” with all those other factors making it so difficult?

First, let me make my position completely clear:

Direct selling is not easy.

I’ve never seen a product sell itself.

Products sold via direct selling need to be special and unique.

The products that WIN in direct selling, generally speaking, require someone to demonstrate or share stories and experiences about those products, so that prospects (family and friends) see and understand the real benefits that the products deliver.

I simply don’t get that at my local mass retailer. I am driven to mass retailers to purchase stuff I want in a convenient manner. It’s on the way home.

In some cases, I choose the product based on an advertisement I saw. Mostly, I get to “guess” which product to try because nobody has told me their real experience with it. I read all the labels as if I have the secret decoder ring to make it all make sense. Sometimes I guess right. Sometimes I don’t. Frustrating.

Worse yet, I may go look at websites to read reviews of products from people I don’t know. Sounds desperate, almost, when you think about it.

Direct selling is unique—in theory, someone I trust, who has had an experience with a product, tells me about it. Based on that endorsement, if the price is something I am willing to pay, I try it.

If I like it, I may continue to purchase it.

And, if I REALLY like it and want to tell others about it, I may sign up as a distributor and tell my friends.

And so it begins…

Notice a key piece here.

The product has to satisfy a need / desire I have at a price I’m willing to pay.

My soapbox: If a product sells at 2x-3x-4x what I would pay at a mass retailer, it dang sure better deliver on that value proposition. Or, Houston, we have a problem. The cycle of “I got scammed” reviews begins again. And none of us need that.

You would be amazed at how many products we hear about that are going to “change the face of direct selling.” But in reality, nobody wants it. Or they are already getting it somewhere else (mass retailer or online marketplace), at a price they are happy with. There is no real value proposition.

It’s very true that people don’t always want to buy what we sell. But you don’t need everyone to love the product. You need enough to.

Direct Sales is NOT for everyone.

It is NOT a great way to distribute many types of products or services. (I’m going to hear from someone on that comment, for sure.)

But if your product delivers real value, satisfies a need / desire and has a uniqueness that would benefit by someone sharing real experiences / real stories, it may be right for you.

If your product meets those basic criteria, then, and only then, are we ready to talk about making it a business opportunity.

j j j