Direct selling: how to make it work

Direct selling gives you the chance to run a small business that is set up for you with low start up costs. Antonia Chitty of Family Friendly Working offers some advice on how to make your direct selling business a success:


1.       Talk to your manager about ways to sell your products. This will vary for each company. Think about who will use your products and where you might find them. According to the Direct Selling Association, about 85 per cent of sales are made in people’s homes.


2.       Does the company encourage you to sell door-to-door and drop off catalogues? It can take time to build a round like this. Some people are always keen to buy, while others are never in. You need to slog round in all weather, and make repeat visits to collect catalogues, return to people who are out the first time you call, and finally to deliver the orders. Many companies require you to pay for catalogues, which gives you an extra incentive to get them back from people who are uninterested.


3.       You can also sell by visiting businesses, social clubs or anywhere people gather. Consider returning on a regular basis, so people know you will be there and remember to bring money to buy.   You can also make the most of the opportunity when visiting a group by recruiting people to host parties. Work out the practical details: will you take orders, how will you get people to pay up, and how will you get their products to them? Keep accurate records and always have a couple of ways to contact customers who have ordered in case they are not at the group when you return.


4.       Selling at parties can give you the opportunity to promote your range to a captive audience, made up of people who have come prepared to buy. Typically, around seven to eight people attend a party, and more than nine out of ten will order. Write a list of friends and family who might host a party. Most companies offer a gift or incentive for the party host. Aim to recruit another couple of hosts from amongst the guests. Only six in ten parties booked end up going ahead, according to DSA research, so you need to find more potential hosts than you might think.


5.       How much will you make? With this sort of opportunity, earnings are variable. Some reps find it hard to cover the cost of their kit. Others make enough money for a few treats each month. Some invest lots of time and effort to make their sales provide several thousand pounds each year towards the family’s income. In a survey the Direct Selling Association found that the average annual sales per seller, across hundreds of direct selling businesses, was £4094. Note that this is sales, not the amount you make for yourself.  With commission ranging from 15 to 40 per cent, average reps are making from £600 a year to just over £1600.


For more advice on running your own successful business, visit and sign up for the free e-course.

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