John T. Fleming
Direct sellers must become a bigger part of the gig conversation
By John T. Fleming
John T. Fleming is a veteran direct selling industry leader, writer, executive and consultant. A member of the DSA Hall of Fame and DSEF Circle of Honor, he currently focuses on helping direct selling companies reposition their opportunity as a proven and attractive option in today’s gig economy. His first publication will be released in summer 2019, along with a book later this year.
We must also realize that our language, in many cases, may be coming across as dated, almost as if we were continuing to speak Latin in a world that no longer recognizes it.
This should be a boom time for companies in our channel.
The direct selling model has always provided flexibility, freedom and rewards for time invested. At the same time, the pool of those seeking “gig” work is growing by the day.
Estimates say that participation in gigs will reach 50 percent of the labor force within a few years, and approximately 80 percent of the current workforce is receptive to the idea of working a gig.
The phrase “side hustle” is even being accepted and respected. Gigs can serve as an effective accelerator to paying off debts, meeting the needs of a family, achieving goals faster, enjoying more of life’s pleasures, and increasing the contributions to savings.
Direct selling companies boast the most unique forms of compensation, recognition, rewards and opportunity. Shouldn’t they be perceived as the “ultimate” form of gig work?
Instead, we are part of a shrinking group that isn’t considered often enough by those looking for a gig. There are bright spots: Several companies stand out with exceptional success stories, whose growth is the result of innovation and a strategic focus on growing both enrollments and customers.
Yet, the fact remains that direct selling as a whole is struggling to increase its reach. Why, in a culture more interested than ever in gig work, is direct selling attracting fewer participants?
Most gig opportunities pay a reasonable commission, but not a stellar one. Many use a single-level plan that pays less than 10 percent commission. Yet people engage with these opportunities for the same types of reasons we promote: They enjoy what they are doing on their own terms, when and how they want to.
Popular gigs such as Uber may attract more people, possibly because their primary selling points are ease of engagement, flexibility and instant pay (even if that net pay rarely exceeds a few hundred dollars a month.)
Direct selling, on the other hand, boasts the best of both worlds and fits this description perfectly (or at least it has, and certainly can again.)
Yet, gig providers have created a believable and attainable earning opportunity based upon flexibility, freedom and rewards that are not always about the income. Sound familiar?
Additionally, earning potential with direct selling is higher than with most other gigs as we compensate participants both directly for their successful sales efforts as well as indirectly for the successful efforts of others.
We also offer a sense of community not found in many other gigs. When you engage with a direct selling company, you immediately become part of a group of like-minded people who also are striving to make their gig work a success and possibly make their gig a dream come true.
Recognition, flexibility and the freedom to earn in proportion to effort invested are all differentiators from standard gigs.
In fact, today’s new gig economy providers developed their game plans by borrowing pages from the original gig opportunity’s playbook, direct selling, but they have also improved on our model.
Many gig economy providers have focused on excellence in the tools they provide, making launching a business, acquiring customers, receiving payment and much more as simple as a few taps on a mobile phone.
In order to compete successfully, direct selling companies also will need to further embrace technology to provide a superior experience.
Renovation and innovation, not reinvention of the direct selling model, will ensure the future. We must redefine and reposition how we describe what we do to allow direct selling to enter the bigger conversation of the gig economy and its relevance in our current culture.
We must also realize that our language, in many cases, may be coming across as dated, almost as if we were continuing to speak Latin in a world that no longer recognizes it. We must change the language we use in the conversation, especially words that others have now defined as negative or questionable.
When comparing the opportunities of most gigs with any direct selling opportunity, direct selling wins and wins big. Direct selling is the ultimate form of gig work, and we must tell the story more effectively.