Of the hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who join direct selling each year, a large percentage come into the industry with little or no sales experience or knowledge of how to run a business. While direct selling companies are widely known for the extensive business and personal development training they offer newcomers, third-party experts can deliver unparalleled teaching experiences to companies’ new or existing salesforces. DSEF Fellows bring a new level of expertise and a unique perspective to this important work.
One of the benefits of being a DSA member is the ability to connect with academics through the Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF), which currently works with nearly 250 university professors in such areas as business, management, marketing, entrepreneurship, ethics, and consumer studies. DSEF Fellows not only have decades of research and study in their respective fields, but also have a deep understanding of the direct selling business model. A number of individual direct selling companies have partnered with Fellows on internal research projects, participated in case studies that appear in leading marketing and entrepreneurship textbooks, and utilized independent Fellows’ research in communications with investors, boards, and key external audiences including media, policymakers, and other influencers.
“When company executives get to know our Fellows at DSA events or through board meeting presentations, webinars, or workshops, they immediately recognize the value these academic experts bring to the table,” says DSEF Executive Director Gary Huggins.
Huggins points to USANA Health Science’s collaboration with Dr. Stephanie Boyer, Professor of Marketing at Bryant University, as an example of how DSEF Fellows work with direct selling companies to help them meet their business objectives.
Finding an Academic Fellow
Lori Truman, Vice President of US Sales at USANA, was searching for a solution beyond her company’s internal training to help educate new distributors on the fundamentals of sales. Upon meeting Dr. Boyer at DSA’s Sales & Marketing Conference, she considered the idea of bringing Dr. Boyer in to speak to the field.
“I was really intrigued by the topics she was speaking to and teaching as a professor, and how she had expanded into the social realm of the fundamentals of selling and how people buy,” says Truman. “That was what we were looking for: to educate our associates on how people buy, how to sell, and how to do it in today’s world, because it’s a little different and the world is becoming more digital and social. Stefanie had done so much work in this area, and we found a lot of benefit in that.”
Difference from Internal Training
USANA has an internal training program, covering sales, marketing, and social media, but with Dr. Boyer the company had an academic specializing in the field of marketing and someone who wrote a book on social media strategies. She coauthored The Little Black Book of Social Media, Strategies to Ignite Your Business, Influencer, and Professional Brand with Bryan University colleague and DSEF Fellow Dr. Sharmin Attaran. An award-winning sales educator, Dr. Boyer is also a Co-founder of RNMKRS, a virtual platform used by universities across the country for training and assessing sales talent of students, and Executive Director of the Northeast Intercollegiate Sales Competition, linking organizations with top talent.
Training Process and Assessment
Truman and her team devoted much time to assessing the needs of the salesforce, identifying areas where more training was essential for the success of the field, particularly topics relevant to newcomers with little sales experience and social selling strategies that were not as familiar to less tech-savvy associates. The USANA team and Dr. Boyer discussed the intended outcome of the partnership and then reviewed Dr. Boyer’s areas of expertise, landing on three specific topics that formed the basis of her training.
Benefit of Partnership
In addition to her academic expertise on the subjects of sales and social selling, Dr. Boyer’s experience as a DSEF Fellow helped her understand the unique needs of USANA and its salesforce. Through her Fellowship, Boyer has had the opportunity to attend DSA conferences, get to know direct selling executives, and gain an understanding of the issues facing companies and the industry. She has moderated CEO panels and has led workshops and webinars for industry executives. She brought all of that knowledge to bear in her partnership with USANA.
Dr. Boyer delivered her training through three webinar events. USANA opened up the program to its US salesforce as well as its markets in Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand. In addition, the webinars were open to associates at all levels, not just sales leaders. Truman estimates that Dr. Boyer was able to reach more than 3,000 USANA associates.
Truman could not be more complimentary of Dr. Boyer and her assistance in educating the sales field. “The team loved working with her—the details, the professionalism, her experience, and her expertise. Stefanie is very passionate about what she does on a day-to-day basis,” Truman says. “Bringing that passion, experience, and expertise to our industry and helping our associates apply it to what they’re doing is invaluable.”
According to Huggins, DSEF is eager to facilitate these connections between companies and the Foundation’s academic partners. “Tapping into the deep expertise of our Fellows positively impacts companies’ bottom lines, the direct selling channel, and industry reputation,” he says.
For more information on partnering with DSEF Fellows, contact Gary Huggins at firstname.lastname@example.org.