The direct sales industry has always been about relationships. It’s the power of a successful network. And that network is established by creating a connection with someone and building a relationship. The most successful distributors successfully enroll customers and team members after establishing a connection. The same is true for successful direct sales companies: their success is built on making strong connections and relationships with their distributors and their customers. At the end of the day, it boils down to creating a connection that builds a lasting relationship and then fostering that over the life-cycle of the journey. This episode of the Direct Sales Masterclass features a conversation with the CEO of Chalk Couture, Kristine Widtfeldt. We discuss the importance of connections and how you can provide the right tools to the field to help them create and maintain those connections.
To view the full video of our Masterclass click here.
It’s a Relationship Business—Connections Matter
One of my favorite things about the direct sales industry is that anyone can be successful. For a nominal investment, someone can get started and find success in direct sales. Success is different things for different people. For some, it is finding a product they love that makes a difference. Others find a tribe that becomes a community for them. And others make it a career. There is no glass ceiling and no limit to what you can achieve. People often seek it out for the connection they make with others. Those connections can come in the form of corporate leadership, an upline mentor, or a personally enrolled customer.
Having the right tools is a key part of making a connection and establishing a relationship. It is the company’s responsibility to provide the right tools to the field to help them succeed. Tools foster duplication and create the type of activity that drives the behaviors that lead to this success. New people have to look at how they were introduced to the company and believe that they can do that. They don’t have to be sales experts. They don’t have to be great on Facebook Live. At Chalk Couture, if you can send a text, you can be successful. Having the right digital tools can make an impact and help remove the friction involved in selling.
“What I love about the Couture Connect App is that I can send something just to you, and I can follow up with you individually and personally. It’s the past of direct selling, but also the future. People want relationships.” – Kristine Widtfeldt
Over 20 years ago (don’t tell Kristine I dated us like that), we worked with Kristine on a project that involved writing several booklets and tools to help the field tell the story about a specific product line. The goal was for the field to be able to be the messenger, and the booklets would deliver the message. It simplified the process by helping the field to tell the story without having to be the expert. But the follow-up still required work. There was friction. Fast forward 20 years and distributors can now share information with three taps on their phone, get notified when their contact engages with the content, and then follow up in the moment, while it is still on their mind. The technology helps connect people more easily than the tools of the past.
At the end of the day, it still comes down to the relationship. The technology in the app allows the individual to make the connection and helps in two important ways:
- Provides information: Again, be the messenger and let the tool be the message.
- Establishes credibility: The prospect knows the individual as their friend, neighbor, or classmate. The right tool can establish credibility from a third-party source (the company, a leader, an executive).
This important connection is made easier through the technology and helps the distributor to share confidently and effectively.
COVID Changed the Way We Connect
No one could have anticipated how the pandemic would change the way people connect. Social distancing, online learning, and even virtual events had a major impact on how we connect in direct sales. But it did not change the need for human connection. It actually did the opposite—it increased our desire to connect. Having the right digital tools helps the field to be able to leverage technology to connect.
In a time when we were forced to spend more time in our homes, Chalk Couture found ways to leverage tools to get closer together. Whether it was Facebook Live, Zoom, or a virtual event, Chalk Couture provided their Designers and customers with a way to connect. And their sales benefited. April 2020 was the highest recruiting month in company history. Some of that can be attributed to the power of their products based on home décor. People were spending more time in their homes and doing more projects and crafts. They were also open to looking at new opportunities and ways to supplement their income.
Chalk Couture found ways to give people high-end home décor projects that they could do on their own and makeover their space without ever having to leave it. They conducted virtual workshops via Facebook Live. People found ways to connect by doing tactile projects together. They provided settlement to an unsettled world.
Chalk Couture also made a brave decision to make it easier for people to try their products. In a move that could’ve been considered cannibalizing, they decided to offer one of their most popular products in a .2-ounce, single-serving try-me kit. They introduced this during the pandemic, and it quickly became a runaway bestseller. And the result of what could have cannibalized one of their top products did the opposite. It elevated the full-size product and helped them to sell even more.
“As leaders, you have to be courageous. If you aren’t willing to cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” – Kristine Widtfeldt
Being willing to take a risk and find a new tool (the .2-ounce single size) opened a new way to connect with a new demographic. This opened the door to additional customers and helped introduce Chalk Couture to a different group of people.
Connecting Through a Subscription Box
One of the successful offerings in the Chalk Couture product line is their Club Couture. This offering provides a subscription box that is only available for customers. The number of subscribers in this exclusive subscription program recently surpassed the number of Chalk Couture designers (business builders). Some successful takeaways from the Club Couture program:
- The “Wow Factor”: People love getting something unexpected in the mail. They look forward to it, they anticipate it, and it provides the company the opportunity to provide an experience and a “wow” moment to their customers.
- The Community: Several Designers have closed Facebook Groups just for their subscribers that help them to connect with others.
- Exclusive Perks: In the era of Amazon Prime, customers love to have exclusive access to something from the company. Chalk Couture gives their subscribers sneak peeks at new products, access to exclusive discounts, low flat rate shipping on all orders, and products exclusive to the program.
- Connection to the Company: With a how-to video and all the perks, it creates a stickiness factor. It creates community and a unique customer journey.
Something unique to Chalk Couture is what Kristine refers to extending the journey and enhancing the journey. The company created a way to graduate from a customer to a Designer, which isn’t all that unique. But they also created a way to move from D to C (Designer to Customer). To avoid losing their Designers, the company makes the transition easy. Often, designers want to stay a part of the community but want to change the relationship. By doing this, Chalk Couture has created loyalty and stickiness to the company that is to be admired.
“We want anyone who has an interaction with Chalk Couture to say that we are a great company and that they enjoyed their relationship. No matter how brief or long that relationship was, we want them to have a killer experience.” – Kristine Widtfeldt
Connecting Through Events
Events have always been a key way that people connect with the company, with their teams, and with other distributors. With the onset of COVID, Chalk Couture had to decide how best to move forward. They had to be flexible, resilient, and optimistic. They realized they had to do things differently. That people needed to connect now more than ever. So, what did they do?
They have held a quarterly event called Launch, Love, Live that allows their field to connect with the company and other Designers. These events are done through their private Facebook Group and using Zoom. They showcase new products, give away prizes, interact with the field, and allow the company to connect with the audience. It provides a virtual event experience in the absence of tour-based events that have been done historically.
While these virtual events have been a success, they do not replace a live event experience. Chalk Couture plans to hold a “mask-on,” safe, in-person event this summer. But the virtual aspect of the event will not go away. This will likely be a takeaway for the industry as a whole. Watching an event virtually can be likened to watching a roller coaster ride on YouTube. You get to see the experience and hear the attendees, but you don’t feel the tickle in your tummy or the wind in your hair. It has become a needed creature that will likely lead to more people attending events in the future after participating virtually. Again, the principle of being willing to cannibalize yourself can lead to more success. You have to be courageous and willing to take the risk. But in the end, it’s about connecting, and these types of events can provide that experience.
The Power of Connecting with the Field by Saying “Yes”
One of the things I learned from Kristine in our conversation was how she challenges herself as a leader to find ways to say “yes” to the field. She challenges her corporate team to do the same. Realizing that direct sellers are a volunteer army helps to keep in mind that the bonds can be easily broken. It is helpful to remember that they aren’t employees and you need to create a connection that is as frictionless as possible. This can be difficult when wearing a compliance or legal hat.
“It is my job and my team’s job to ask: ‘How do I say yes?’” – Kristine Widtfeldt
One of the ways to do that is to provide the right tools. The Verb app and verbLIVE have provided a way to say yes. They provide a compliant and frictionless tool that can enable the field to be innovators in the way they introduce Chalk Couture to their contacts. Relying on Facebook can be a risk, as a simple change to the algorithm can have a major impact on their business. Providing these tools was a simple way to say yes and connect with the field in a way that showed them that they were going to link arms and partner with them by providing a technology-based tool to help them be successful.
Through it all, the key is to create that relationship. With your field, with your customers, and with your team. And having the right tools to do that can greatly impact the level of your success.