A couple of years ago, a friend of mine recommended that I read the book: Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. Immediately it became one of my favorite books. I have since read it a few times and recommended it to several clients. The principles it teaches have great application for direct sales companies. The subtitle of the book states: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen. With the recent shifts in direct sales focusing on the customer journey, this messaging is more important than ever. In my experience, the companies that implement this concept effectively are the ones who are experiencing dramatic growth. This episode of the Direct Sales Masterclass focuses on Building a Story Brand and implementing key growth accelerators to help them achieve massive success. The guests on this episode are Terrel Transtrum, the CEO of ServiceQuest and Alex Schauer, Partner at ServiceQuest.
Building a Story Brand in Direct Sales
The direct sales industry is built on the effectiveness of independent distributors telling a simple and concise story. The ability of a company to simplify something that tends to be very complicated can often mean the difference between success and failure. Many companies struggle with this. The fact that our industry relies on a volunteer salesforce for growth makes it extremely important to provide a concise, clear, and consistent story for them to tell. Simplifying and clarifying the message and providing simple tools can bridge the gap of complexity.
One of the key messages of the book is that successful companies make their customers the hero. It can’t be about an executive or the company. Most companies tend to make their company the hero—it's about themselves and what they have to offer. The truth is that the key to success is making your customers the hero. Successful companies take their customers on a journey of transformation. If you tell your customer that the journey is about the company, you are essentially telling them that it is not about them—it's about you. The key is to invite them into the story, rather than pushing the story on them. By inviting the customers to join you for a journey of transformation where you will solve a problem for them, you are creating a loyal customer. These customers in turn can be nurtured until they become raving fans. The raving fans will start telling others about the company and the journey it provides. In turn, they can be compensated for doing this and become the best salesforce a company can have.
So how does a company effectively do this? It’s actually really simple. When Terrel Transtrum was first hired at Melaleuca, he was told by the CEO: “Your job is to keep the distributors and customers happy.” That’s it. It really can be that simple. Making your customers and distributors happy essentially makes them the hero of the story. Happy distributors talk about the company and enroll customers. Happy customers stay long-term with the company. In turn, the company succeeds and grows. Whether you are a new company just opening its doors, or a legacy company looking to hit its next momentum phase, these principles apply.
3 Key Milestones for Start-Ups
ServiceQuest works with a large number of direct sales start-ups. They typically focus on three key milestones to help a company succeed.
- Cash Flow Positive: The first goal is to get cash flow positive. This means you no longer need to use investors or other methods to pay for the business. The goal to shoot for is to achieve 300-500 paying accounts (350 customers/150 business builders).
- Break-Even: The second step is to get to a break-even point where you have paid back investors. This is usually accomplished once you achieve 1000-1500 accounts.
- Developing Early Leaders: Taking the 80/20 rule one step further, most companies will realize there is a 64/4 principle. 4% of business builders will be responsible for 64% of the growth. Finding and developing leaders can help you achieve these milestones.
Verb has a turnkey system that it can provide to start-up companies to help provide a customer acquisition system. Using the Verb Sales Enablement Platform can help your company quickly succeed in hitting the milestones mentioned above.
Verb’s Turnkey Platform for Start-Ups
- Affordable App: simple on-boarding and educational tool
- Samples: the ability for your field to send samples from the app can help to quickly introduce your products to the masses
- Promotions: enable your field with Verb’s simple promotional tools and social selling systems
- LEARN: Verb’s Mobile LMS (LEARN) is a simple tool to educate and develop leaders and their teams
Once your company has emerged from the start-up phase, what’s next? Often in direct sales, you will hear companies talk about the road to a billion dollars.
This growth comparison shows that most of these companies hit an inflection point toward momentum growth right around $100 million in annual revenue. This turned into a hockey stick type growth for these companies.
The Road to a Billion
So, what is it that these companies do to take that jump from $100 million to a billion in annual revenue? Having selling systems in place to help your field mature and grow is the foundation that was consistent with these companies.
7 Selling Systems
- Customer Acquisition
- Distributor Conversion Acquisition
- New Distributor Training System
- Distributor Advancement System
- Convention Attendance System
- Communications System
- Leadership Development and Training
In addition to having these selling systems in place, Terrel has a concept that he uses with his clients that he calls: Unleash.
Often, it is something simple that they do internally to hit that next growth point. In looking at Melaleuca, there are a few things they did along the way following this concept of Unleash to help them hit different phases of growth. It ranged from creating a program of rank advancement and leadership bonuses to hiring a VP of Sales and focusing on International Expansion.
Panic, Head in the Sand, or Revitalize
Every company goes through growth cycles. There will always be bumps in the road, whether you are a start-up striving to break even, or a $100 million company entering the road to a billion dollars in annual revenue. How you respond to those bumps in the road will determine your success—not only if you succeed, but how quickly you get to success. There are three possible responses:
- Panic—the sky is falling and everything is broken
- Head in the sand—ignore the problems and warning signs
- Revitalize—find solutions to the problem to achieve the next growth phase
- Terrel talks about early warning systems that can alert a company that a downturn is coming.
Early Warning System KPIs
- Net Active Distributors: The number of distributors who have personally produced volume or recruited new customer/distributors in the last month
- Number of Rank Advancements: Total number of distributors who advanced to a new rank in the last month
- Net Promoter Score: A simple one-question survey administered consistently that gives directional data on the field’s enthusiasm for sharing your products
Melaleuca solved an internal problem that helped them grow from $100 million to $250 million. Focusing on the business builder pathway and rewarding their distributors helped them overcome a downturn and hit the next phase of growth. Their new distributors were feeling overwhelmed with the difficulty to qualify for the compensation plan. The requirement to build a network of 8 active customers and help five of those eight do the same was overwhelming. They felt like they were trying to eat the proverbial elephant. Melaleuca solved this by helping them to eat that elephant one bite at a time. They incentivized them for getting the first one. This unplugged the logjam and opened up a system that has helped them to grow to nearly $3 billion in annual revenue.
Having a systems mindset can help to overcome hurdles and revitalize your company. Verb is proud to partner with ServiceQuest in providing unique sales solutions to our shared clients. Having the right systems in place and providing the right tools to drive those systematic behaviors is critical. Once you start to check some of these boxes, you can hit the growth accelerators needed to achieve your goals to profitability and on to a billion dollars in revenue.