Once upon a time, I was a home party jewelry lady. I was patently wrong for the role given my abysmal fashion sense and lack of appreciable sales skills. Plus, I didn’t wear jewelry. But for ten years I schlepped a maroon bag of sparkle around from home party to home party to earn extra cash.
My little home business allowed me to stay home with my kids, afford little extras like gymnastics and zoo passes and even funded two graduate degrees. I passed through hundreds of homes, met thousands of women and experienced some unexpected personal growth in the process.
I won’t say I loved every minute of it. Honestly, there were many aspects of the job that were frustrating, maddening and sometimes downright humiliating. But I don’t regret any of it.
I look back at the whole experience with a grateful heart for the friendships I developed, the skills and confidence I gained and the income I earned.
With a sales force of 20 million people and growing, it’s likely you have a friend, neighbor or family member who sells products through a home party or online business. And along with the growth, I’ve noticed an uptick of snarky blog posts and memes poking fun at women involved in this industry.
The posts harp on women who promote their wares on social media and lament anyone who has the audacity to ask a friend to host a home party or hear about a business opportunity. The comments tend to double down on the sentiment that home party plans are ridiculous and so are the women involved.
It all makes me a little crabby.
Because I always wonder if the person liking or sharing a post about how annoying people in direct sales are would read the article aloud to a friend in the industry.
I doubt it.
Before you roll your eyes at your friend’s umpteenth product promotion on social media, or worse, before you like and share a rude article about direct sales, I’d like to gently point out something you might not realize:
Your friend’s business-related social media posts have nothing to do with you.
Odds are, the friend showcasing her wares on Facebook genuinely believes in her product. Plus, her customers and hostesses love seeing new items or specials she’s running and want her to keep posting them. And she probably gets excited about the hostess benefits because it is really fun to give free stuff away.
This is her business. She should be excited about it. And she should use best business practices and social media to promote it.
Consider that Target, Amazon, Zappos, Best Buy, Nordstrom and hundreds of other companies collectively spend billions upon billions on advertising. They access your online searches so they can flood you newsfeed with targeted ads. They troll your shopping habits and credit card spending to dangle the new pair of shoes you looked at in front of you online. Some anecdotal evidence exists that Facebook even listens to your phone conversations and targets ads based on what you say. (Which they deny, but I’ve had it happen so I am suspicious.)
The bottom line is that major advertisers literally get in your head and wear you down to the point where you purchase specific products.
Your stay-at-home mom friend peddling jewelry isn’t targeting you. She’s just legit excited about her product and sharing it on social media. That’s it. And she cares about you far more than Target ever will.
One of the most fascinating aspects of direct sales is that it dominated by women. In this 36 billion dollar industry, 77% of the business owners are women. Some are exiting corporate America. Some want to try owning their own business. And many are stay-at-home moms scrambling to make ends meet.
These women are not trying to get rich quick, annoy or swindle their friends. They are just trying to stay above water financially or provide some extras for the kids.
In the ten years that I was involved with direct sales, I saw very few people get filthy rich. However, I saw hundreds of moms able to realize a dream of staying home with children. I saw the extra income see women through divorce, job loss, pay for adoptions, fund advancement in education and provide financial wiggle room to single moms.
And beyond the income benefits, I saw women crippled by fear grow in confidence. I saw lonely women make friends. And I saw women learn business and marketing skills that served them in multiple other areas of their lives whether they continued in direct sales or not.
Don’t we want to see women succeed? Particularly our friends?
If a friend opened up her own storefront or got a new corporate job, you would pump her for all the details. You’d shop with her for a new wardrobe. You’d check in on how her first day went. You’d cheer her on every step of the way.
Your friend running a home business needs encouragement, too.
But we are quick to call a woman pushy if she is good at sales. And we get up in arms when she merely asks her friends for support. This posture seems catty at best and cold-hearted at worst. Shouldn’t we wish a friend well when she tries her hand at a home business? And shouldn’t we stand up and cheer if she is successful?
I realize some women go a little overboard and hound friends and family in their enthusiasm. I agree that anyone involved direct sales should respect rather than abuse friendships. But remember, there is a big difference between pestering you and just being excited about her business.
And if you have a friend who is legitimately crossing the line, tell her!
She will appreciate your honesty. And being upfront will do much more to save a friendship than passive aggressively blowing her off or sharing a snarky article you hope she reads.
Remember, whether you like the product or not, it’s possible to show support and be a good friend without ever spending a penny. It costs you nothing to let a friend practice her sales pitch with you and learn from your feedback. It costs you nothing let her bounce marketing ideas off of you.
And it costs you nothing to tell her you wish her every success.