11/07/11

By Paul Southworth, Director General of the Direct Selling Association

Selling is a key part of business. Being able to make a sale can be the difference between business success and failure for the thousands of small and medium business in the UK. Often however, businesses in the current climate feel they can’t do any more to sell, and maximise their business success.

In fact, selling in the UK is alive and well. Direct selling, where goods are sold directly to customers, is one of the largest industries in the UK, contributing £2 billion a year to the country’s economy and offering flexible employment to over 400,000 people.

How then, can other businesses learn from the dynamic sales expertise at work in the direct selling industry? Here are some ideas from direct selling which might help you improve your sales technique, no matter what kind of business you are in.

Persistence pays off

This is true of any walk of life, but never more so than when you are in a sales role. In direct selling, consultants often need to make several calls to the same house to catch someone at home, in business it might require several calls or emails to engage with the right person, but stay positive, and don’t give up!

Network

Direct sellers are always on the lookout for potential customers - whether in the playground or in the pub, they could always be in the company of potential customers. They need to use this to their advantage and have a think about all the chances to network. In business too, there may be more opportunities to network that you originally think — look at all you potential customers, and try to extend your networks, through social media, networking events and the contacts you already have.

Recommendation

Direct sellers keep in touch with regular customers and seek personal comments or testimonials, to validate their work and reputation. Likewise, small businesses should reach out to happy customers and ask for a recommendation for your website or marketing materials. A recommendation on the quality of your work or products from someone else is much more powerful that saying it yourself.

Show and tell

Direct selling often works on a tried and tested method — show people what’s being sold, and letting them try it for themselves. This can be a very effective way of selling across the board, if your customer is unconvinced on the phone, offer to go and see them personally and demonstrate the effectiveness of the product or service. Face to face works in the direct selling industry and could be a hugely valuable method of selling in your business too.

Be professional

Direct sellers are often incredibly proficient at getting orders processed and demonstrating an extremely high level of customer service because they are very keen be seen as professional. There’s no reason then, why other business shouldn’t demonstrate the same commitment to their client base, delivering goods on time and with high levels of customer care. A professional approach will help you develop your reputation and maintain repeat customers.

Share knowledge

Much of the direct selling industry offers an amazing amount of support and training to its sales force. Likewise, in your business, try to take advantage of any training on offer, or ask for help and support when you need it. Make sure you have all the information you need to sell — whether that’s asking your suppliers or production department for complete product information, or brainstorming the unique selling points of your services with the rest of your team. You’ll find that many people within the business are normally very happy to share ideas, best practice and trouble-shooting suggestions.

For more information, please visit: www.dsa.org.uk