What Can We Expect for the Future of Direct Selling?

Nov 11, 2021
By Ibi Montesino, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Herbalife Nutrition, North America*

Direct selling is an excellent business opportunity for anyone—regardless of background, education, or nationality—to start their own business. Direct selling allows the flexibility to set one’s own hours and make supplemental or, in some cases, a full-time income. Many direct selling companies have phenomenal products and services, but the distributor makes the difference.

These benefits have been consistently proven over decades, going back to the early colonial days of our country when salesmen in wagons drawn by animals of burden would provide goods and news to remote homesteads.

Today, the world of direct selling has evolved, but the entrepreneurial spirit remains the same. The excitement about the future of direct selling involves the continual innovation of products that are being developed and the ever-growing opportunities they continue to provide.

This unique business model is attractive because it allows independent salesforce members to lead and mentor a team of others who also want to sell products, providing leaders the opportunity to make supplemental income or more from the sales made by their teams.

We need to strike the proper balance of allowing independent salesforce members to tell their stories confidently while doing so in a compliant manner and setting the right expectations with their audiences.

We all face a challenge: finding ways to grow our respective businesses and inspire others. There is a tendency to want to focus on the top success stories. However, as we know and make clear to potential direct sellers, the top successes are not typical results. 

We need to strike the proper balance of allowing independent salesforce members to tell their stories confidently while doing so in a compliant manner and setting the right expectations with their audiences. This means accurately representing the business and the potential opportunities—whether it be potential earnings, lifestyle, or product results—so that potential new independent salesforce members and customers have clear expectations of what they can generally expect to achieve.

By crafting general representations about what prospective salesforce members can earn, this is easy. Companies can gather and track data about generally expected earnings and represent them within an income disclosure statement. But what about highlighting success stories? Highlighting them is not always easy.

Direct selling companies provide an opportunity to earn supplemental income—some more than others. But there are quite a few independent salesforce members whose results go beyond what is typical, and they want to be able to share their success stories.

The sharing of success stories should be welcomed, provided the results are not extreme or excessive. It’s essential that we allow them to share, as long as we train them how to do this compliantly—that is, by setting realistic expectations and ensuring compliance with the DSA Code of Ethics, Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC) claims guidance, and general consumer protection statutes. 

Of course, maintaining a robust monitoring program and adequate enforcement standards are equally essential to ensure compliance.

We’ve made great strides over the past few decades, the highlight being the creation of DSSRC. The Council has done a tremendous job of providing critical guidance to the industry, such as through its “Guidance on Earnings Claims for the Direct Selling Industry.” In addition, it has been extremely thorough and active in its monitoring and enforcement efforts, which, in effect, raise the standards that all direct selling companies must meet. I am thrilled with their progress and applaud their efforts.

Regarding compliance, the key for all of us is not to be reactive but to be proactive. With many independent salesforce members at Herbalife Nutrition and the millions within the industry, this takes a concerted, dedicated, and committed effort. Therefore, compliance has to be at the forefront of what we do.

We each need to remain vigilant in our training, monitoring, and enforcement efforts. Doing so will help us maintain a solid and positive reputation for the industry, with the added benefit of seeing higher retention rates for those looking to engage in the business opportunities or become repeat customers when their results are in line with their original expectations. I see proactive compliance as critical to the industry’s reputation and as a key driver of the future of this amazing industry. 

*Contributor-submitted article. Articles submitted by contributors and published in Direct Selling Journal do not necessarily represent a DSA endorsement nor do opinions expressed therein necessarily represent those of DSA.

  • Executive Perspective
  • October 2021