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Navigating Change: Three Key Lessons Learned From the Field

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Lessons From the Field | Traveling to meet with clients and attending industry events is more than just one of my favorite parts of the job—it’s essential for ensuring our product roadmap is aligned with the direction the industry is heading. These trips and meetings are crucial for understanding the challenges and opportunities our clients are seeing. They allow me to collaborate and problem-solve alongside some of the brightest minds in the business and absorb invaluable industry insights along the way. From these interactions, I’ve gathered three key insights that are shaping our understanding of the industry’s direction and helping clients fine-tune their strategies.

bydesign navigating change lessons learned from the field

3 Key Lessons Learned From the Field

1.  Affiliate is not a “Silver Bullet” Solution

Finding a one-size-fits-all solution in direct selling seems to still be out of reach for most companies. The notion that affiliate programs could be the “silver bullet” has been tempting over the past few years as an opportunity to capitalize on the growth of influencers, while at the same time providing a low-friction way to introduce direct selling concepts to those unfamiliar with the industry. However, my discussions across the board suggest that true success lies in a balanced approach with affiliates playing a “front-end” or initial entry role – while also, acknowledging that affiliates aren’t going to drive long term success on their own without a more comprehensive sales and growth strategy.

I’m seeing successful companies focus on a blended strategy that is tailored to their specific product and selling approach. They are embracing the strengths of direct selling (sales leadership, incentives, promotions, culture, etc.), while at the same time – adapting to modern consumer expectations. For companies selling products that require consultative sales (e.g.: high-end bedding, custom clothing, fire safety, etc.), it’s critical to acknowledge the reality that true selling is going to be necessary and simply adding an affiliate program isn’t going to move the needle.

The key is finding the right balance by considering the entire journey for your particular product and sales approach – from initial customer interaction, to creating a product advocate and ultimately providing the opportunity for earning a side income.

2.  Focus on Fundamentals

As I’ve spoken with industry leaders, it’s becoming more and more clear that there’s value in focusing on the fundamentals of what makes direct selling unique: having a field of sellers, providing high quality products and ultimately the ability to provide a personalized sales approach. There is a clear difference between casually sharing links to a shopping cart, versus truly learning to sell a product.

One of the best distinctions I heard from a client (Stein Ove Fenne, CEO of J. Hilburn) is looking at companies in the market through the lens of either focusing on “sharing and saving” versus “selling and earning”.

The distinction between “share and save” and “selling and earning” reflects two fundamentally different engagement strategies that companies can adopt. The “share and save” model is increasingly popular among businesses with products that can be easily shared through casual social interactions and digital connectivity. For companies focusing heavily on this approach, we typically see the journey include the ability for customers to be rewarded for simply sharing products while providing a low friction path to earn income as an affiliate. The goal is to essentially turn every customer into a brand advocate without the pressure of formal sales roles. It’s an attractive model for individuals who prefer low-barrier, low-commitment ways to benefit from recommending products they love.

On the other hand, the “selling and earning” model represents the traditional core of direct selling. It’s built on a more structured approach where individuals are incentivized through a clear compensation plan that rewards personal sales results and team development. This model appeals to those who are looking for an entrepreneurial business opportunity rather than just a casual side gig. It requires more commitment but offers substantial growth potential and more significant earnings opportunity through active selling and team leadership.

It’s clear that while the “share and save” model can provide a simple entry point to foster initial engagement, the “selling and earning” model drives both scalability and sustainable business growth. Companies that successfully integrate both models are able to cater to a diverse range of participants—from those looking for simple, social media-friendly engagements to those committed to building a substantial business.

3.  Collaboration & Speed to Adapt is Critical to the Future

The direct selling industry is undergoing significant shifts in the way the business works – from compensation, to customer experience, and every element in between. As I’ve spoken with company executives and thought leaders in the space, it’s clear that no one has a “silver bullet” and the future is going to be built by those who can collaborate between field leadership, company executives and technology partners.

“Collaboration between field leadership, corporate, and technology partners is crucial to the future of our industry; we need to leverage the lessons of the past to create our future,” said Garrett McGrath, President of the Association of Network Marketing Professionals.

One of the key aspects of effective collaboration is the ability to implement and adapt to the strategies identified; as those who lead are often the ones who can quickly respond to market changes.

Direct selling companies that leverage solutions requiring significant custom development in order to test new strategies are at a disadvantage and need to evaluate investments in technology that enable more rapid testing of new strategies and concepts. Beyond enabling more rapid testing of new strategies, it’s crucial to establish measures of success to enable adaptations and evolutions based on results. Focusing on technological agility and continuous innovation keeps you competitive and relevant, regardless of market turbulence.

Moving Forward

Success in the industry today means combining tried and true sales techniques, while at the same time – adopting new strategies that appeal to modern consumers and entrepreneurs. As the industry and broader marketplace continue to evolve at a rapid pace, it’s critical that we have active collaboration between field leaders, executives and strategic partners to build the bridge to the future. I’m personally excited about the opportunity we have to collaborate and empower our clients and partners to capitalize on the shifts we’re seeing.

How are you creating collaboration and alignment within your organizations?

Author: Daryl Wurzbacher – CEO, ByDesign Technologies a Retail Success Company

Originally Published In: The World of Direct Selling –

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