Chana Boucher speaks to Patty Brisben, founder of Pure Romance about the ins and outs of direct selling.
Q: What exactly does direct selling entail?
Direct selling is a very personal approach to sales. Rather than displaying products in a fixed retail space like a shop, direct sellers take their products directly to people in their own homes. This model has many advantages, particularly for a woman-to-woman sales company like Pure Romance. It offers women a comfortable and safe environment in which to purchase products as well as receive information and education relating to a very personal and private matter.
Q: Who do you think the direct selling model is best suited to and why?
Women have been dominating the direct selling space since the early 1950s when housewives realised it was an excellent way to make an income in their spare time. Years later, women run close to 90% of direct sales companies across the globe. This model works so well for women because it empowers them financially, allowing them to be their own bosses and work to their own schedule. It’s suited to women and especially those who wear many hats in their lives – because of the flexibility and the potential for immediate income.
Q: What skills would you say a person needs to be successful with this type of business opportunity?
Ambition! And that ambition should be supported by great people skills and the ability to be excellent communicators. At Pure Romance we believe in training our consultants thoroughly in every aspect of running a small business, from stock taking to marketing, so all they need to bring to the table is their own motivation and a willingness to learn – we teach them everything else they need to know. We often say you are in business for yourself but not by yourself.
Q: What are some of the ‘red flags’ that should turn someone off a direct selling opportunity?
Anything that sounds too good to be true probably is. If a company makes exaggerated claims about what consultants earn, beware. A reputable direct sales company will be willing to give you the exact details of its compensation plan as well as something tangible in return for your initial investment, whether it be training, product samples or marketing material.
Q: What kind of training is usually offered by direct selling companies?
The amount of training consultants receive varies from company to company. Most direct selling companies offer both online and face-to-face training but it isn’t necessarily ongoing. Pure Romance has been built upon the strength of our training programmes and ongoing support as well as the access to many resources.
Q: Why should someone buy into a business opportunity like this rather than a franchise?
I can speak for us – Pure Romance has a very low barrier to entry. Meaning the biggest advantage we (direct sales) have over franchising is that it’s accessible to just about anyone. When you are starting a business, high start-up costs may make it difficult for potential entrepreneurs to buy into franchises but direct sales is affordable. Direct sellers aren’t limited to ‘territories’ like franchisees are. We also have the potential for more immediate profit, not to mention that you set your own hours.
Q: Would you say direct selling is best as a part-time way to make additional money as opposed to a full time commitment?
Women get involved with Pure Romance and companies like ours for various reasons. Some do it to supplement their current income, while others see it as a full-time career opportunity. As with many businesses, we created a standard business module, which we update and improve regularly. When you work in direct selling, it really is all about you being able to work for yourself.
Q: How much time and effort should someone be expected to put into direct selling to be successful?
As with most things in life, the more you put in the more you will get out – and the more you put into your business the more you get out of it. Many Pure Romance consultants put in just four hours a week but still manage to supplement their monthly income. Our average consultant makes R230 000 a year.
Q: What criteria should one use to evaluate a direct selling company before buying into it?
Research, research, research. Research is vital when it comes to making any business decision, and the same applies to buying into a direct sales company. There are a number of factors to consider before signing on the dotted line. Firstly, be sure the company is reputable – in most cases a quick web search for customer complaints will tell you all you need to know.
You also need to understand exactly how the company’s payment plan works. Make sure your expectations tie in with what the company offers when it comes to commission, return on investment and when your first payment will be made. Finally, avoid companies that sell products you don’t like. No matter how good an opportunity seems, if you don’t believe in the product your clients won’t believe in you.
Q: Are direct selling opportunities expensive to get started?
Most companies offer a range of options when it comes to initial investment to suit a variety of budgets. Pure Romance has a very minimal start-up cost and new consultants can start their business for as little as R799. Once the start-up fee has been paid, all the new consultant needs is access to a phone and to the web.
Q: How much support (initially and ongoing) can someone expect?
With the initial investment, Pure Romance consultants receive monthly ongoing training, through our webinars, our online portal and in-person training to keep them up to date on products and trends and to ensure that they have access to the most relevant women’s sexual health issues and information.
Training is part of the support Pure Romance provides its consultants to ensure they have the tools to run their business. These skills will also be useful if they decide to do something other than Pure Romance.