Direct Selling – Social Networking Far Before Web 2.0

I admit it – I frequently attend direct selling parties and demonstrations. Sometimes I call it “market research,” but I really do enjoy the opportunity to browse for new and interesting products, as well as catch up with old friends and perhaps make a few new acquaintances in the process. I was a direct selling customer long before I started working at DSA, so this is one aspect of my work that isn’t like work at all!

 

While I’d certainly be a direct selling customer no matter what, my role with DSA has given me a different perspective on the many reasons why people are involved in direct selling. When we talk about the benefits of direct selling, we tend to focus on the fact that direct selling provides customers with a unique experience that includes the personal touch of a knowledgeable sales representative, or the opportunity for supplemental income that many find attractive. But whenever I attend a party or a personal demonstration I’m always reminded that for many people, the best thing about direct selling is that it builds a community. Admittedly, women will look for any excuse to do a little shopping – it’s a relaxing pastime that for many is a much-needed release from otherwise stressful lives. The chance to shop and socialize is, well, the best of both worlds.

 

Most of the women at a recent gathering I attended are long-time friends – and those who didn’t know each other quickly found conversation centered on the products for sale, which led to discovering other common interests. It was clear that they welcomed the opportunity to peruse the items offered for sale; and most went home with a new-found gem or two. However, what was most clear was that they came for the opportunity to sip wine, catch up with old friends and take a brief break from their responsibilities back home. The direct selling experience facilitated their community gathering, but by no means drove it – and while they still talked about their kids, their husbands and their jobs, it was a welcome respite from the outside world.

 

I also spent some time talking to the sales consultant, a single mother of two who started with the company to earn some extra money to make ends meet. She’s part of a community too, one that provides her with access to training from the company she represents and support from her fellow consultants across the country. It’s not uncommon for consultants to form life-long friendships and even business partnerships through their participation direct selling.

 

My experience at this event and others like it always reminds me that direct selling is more than a business. It’s a community that often extends far beyond any financial motivations. Today, many people make personal connections online through social networks, but direct selling companies used this concept far before the Internet even existed. Direct selling not only reflects current social trends – it even helps shape social trends. So, whether you’re chatting with your friends online, or sitting in your best friend’s living room browsing through product samples, think about the community you’re a part of and the important connections you are making.

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