Dear Direct Sales, You Annoy(ed) Me

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We all have those friends that we avoid like the plague. The ones who peddle products from the comfort of their own homes and stalk us nightly to see if we want to buy their life-changing products. Or worse. Far worse. They tell us how amazing their company is and ask if we want to sell products with them (gasp)! The Audacity. The nerve of some people. But, they don’t use words like sell. No, no, they are far more clever. They use words like ‘refer’ and ‘share.’ They use creative lingo and give things a good marketing spin. They say things like ‘join my team’ or ‘take advantage of this opportunity’ or ‘become business partners.’ So what do we do? AVOID AVOID AVOID. And how do we feel? ANNOYED ANNOYED ANNOYED. But why?

Why is it that we are annoyed by our friends who strive to succeed in certain professions, like direct sales?

We don't get annoyed that our banker friends tell us to come bank with them so that they can count us as a referral, or that our realtor friends want to help us sell and buy our next home so that they can cash in on the commission. We don't get annoyed that our bartending friends want us to come drink at their establishment so that we can leave them an awesome tip, or that our car salesman friends want to sell us our next Honda so that they can meet their sales quota for the month. So why then, are we annoyed by direct sales?

Are we annoyed because we don’t like the products our friends sell? Or is it because we feel obligated to buy these products? Or is it because they continue to tell us they are in business?... (in sometimes overly spammy ways...) Perhaps what we really need to do is to check ourselves, because these grievances can oftentimes be self-centered and actually have everything to do with us and our own likes/dislikes and nothing to do with the person in question. If you don’t like yellow polka dots, don’t wear yellow polka dots, don't buy yellow polka dots, don't refer yellow polka dots to those around you. But that doesn’t mean your friend can’t wear yellow polka dots and can’t encourage other friends to wear them. And if your friend wants to make money by recruiting yellow polka-dotted peeps, why the heck shouldn’t she? An entire yellow polka dot army literally has zero effect on your life, and if you’re annoyed by it, well, then that’s your problem. Do you see my point? If you friend is selling itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie-yellow-polka-dot-bikinis and you're like ew, I want no part in that, then take no part. But when she asks you if you're interested, don't be appalled (unless you've explicitly told her before about your distaste for all things yellow... or itsy bitsy). Just politely decline and move on. 

You see, I used to be an annoyed friend of my direct sales peers.

I would see their posts and scoff. I would look at their products and tell myself how sub-par they must be, since they were sold direct rather than in a retail store (a common misconception). I would assume the business opportunity of actually selling the products was a complete scam that wouldn’t actually yield any monetary results. That was, however, until one day I actually caved in and bought something via direct sales because I had heard a lot about it, I was curious, and mostly, because it was convenient (I am a super busy mom and do 90% of my shopping online; convenience is key). I bought an entire skincare line...and loved it! But then a funny thing happened. I started trying other products sold via direct sales and started loving them too. I now own towels, detergents, lotions, vitamins, and haircare products all bought from a direct sales network. I RARELY make purchases anymore without recommendations from my friends (sometimes I consider Amazon reviewers and bloggers I don't know my friends too)... but regardless, the days of just buying because some fancy marketing promo or celebrity endorser said so, are over! 

So what is the point I'm trying to make?

Is it to convince you that direct sales products are superior to retail goods? No, not necessarily. Is it to convince you that the direct sales model is superior to Corporate America? No, not necessarily true either. It's merely to challenge your way of thinking. I am hoping to provide a second opinion that you may have  overlooked, or never even thought of at all. You see, I made a lot of assumptions while I watched friends of mine dramatically change their lives through direct sales. I made excuses for why their profession wasn't a "real job" and said ‘I told you so’ for those who walked away empty handed when their business failed. I almost liked seeing failure because it made me feel like I had won. I was right! Direct sales don’t work! Now, I could go back to my 9:5 job and continue working until it was time to go home, and not give a second thought to the fact that maybe…just maybe… there was something better out there. I didn’t have to worry about opportunities or about business partners. I could just clock in, work, clock out, repeat. Sometimes dreaming is almost scarier than settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living (thank you Nelson Mandela).

That being said, something continued to nag me day in and day out.

If these people annoyed me so much, and if I hated their business model so much, then why was I paying attention to what they were doing and saying so much? I chalked it up to being like a train wreck... you know, those instances where we shouldn't slow down and stare, yet we can't seem to look away. Why was I reading their social posts everyday about fat loss wraps, glossy gloss lip color, children’s books parties, and cookware? The information invaded my newsfeed constantly, yet I had trouble looking away. Why was I investing my time into reading my friends’ direct sales posts? Was I watching for signs of failure and distress (I mean, I hope not – these are my close friends we’re talking about)! Was I secretly envious of the fact that they threw caution to the wind and just went for it (something I was too scared to do)? After a lot of pondering on this subject, I realized it was simply because they were doing something they were passionate about. And mostly, they were doing something to move them one step closer to their dreams. And here I was, standing still, yet still judging. I was mad at myself for doing nothing and for watching them do something. 

If you can totally relate (or even partially) to what I'm saying and feeling, then you can begin to recognize that the annoyance factor is more in how you are perceiving their messages than how they are putting them out there. Stop letting something bother you that has no bearing on the outcome of your life. And if it does continue to nag at you, perhaps consider why that really is.

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My challenge to you:

The next time a friend approaches you about her business, whether it be a brick and mortar cleaning corporation, an insurance agency, a photographer, a realtor, a hairdresser, or skincare aficionado, take a second to appreciate the fact that your friends are good, hardworking people, who are trying their best to chase their dreams, whatever they may be, and are pushing you products that they truly think would benefit you. Consider supporting them in any capacity IF IT IS RIGHT FOR YOU. 

And the next time a business opportunity comes bulldozing your way, rather than immediately scoffing, just give it 5 minutes of your time to consider why this person has approached you in the first place, and if this opportunity has the capacity to move your life in the direction you would like. Perhaps your friend loves the idea of working hand in hand with you every day (doesn’t everyone need a partner in crime for midday mimosas)? Perhaps your friend believes in you and your abilities more than you believe in yourself! Perhaps your friend wants to help you dream bigger dreams! Perhaps your friend just really loves the business she is a part of and thinks you will love it too! It doesn’t have to be complex. On the contrary, it’s likely very simple.   

I'm with you when you say that direct sales can be annoying. I thought/think so too sometimes. Shouldn't our friends just be our friends because they want to be? Totally! Do they need to sell us things? Not at all! But do I believe that most of our friends have good intentions? Yes I do. Consider this: friends generally share the things they are interested in: movies, restaurants, vacation destinations, fitness studios, make-up, and every day home goods. So why is it so wrong of them to share something that they can also earn a small referral profit off of? When referral sales are made in Corporate America we have no problem with the CEO raking in extra money, so perhaps we just need to change our way of thinking and accept a new way of doing business. 

Love and support your family and friends when you can and when it fits your life. Assume positive intent whenever possible. And assume that your friends truly do care about your well-being first and foremost... because chances are, they actually do! 

Direct sales doesn't have to be annoying. And products sold by your friends can actually be really legit. Do yourself a favor and give them both a fair try before writing them off.