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Direct Sales: Products and services that are marketed to customers by independent salespeople (gasp! there’s that awful word, ’salespeople’) Yes, you are selling some type of product or service when you are in business.

Representatives might be called distributors, consultants or reps, it just depends on the company, but they mean the same thing. Products are sold primarily through in-home product demonstrations, parties, one-on-one selling or via the Internet.

Sounds simple enough, right? You’re eager to make some extra money, you love a certain product line and you sign up.

Then, what happens? Well, unless you’ve been in business before, your next question is going to be, “What do I do next?”

I don’t know how long you’ve been around, but I can remember a time when people thought “Direct Sales” was something people ‘did on the side’. My, how times have changed!

Today, direct sales is one of the fastest growing industries and with good reason. It is a great fit for military families who want to make extra money now and who also want to set themselves up for financial independence later.

While women still account for most direct-sales consultants, that is changing as more men join the scene. Typically, many product lines were geared toward a female audience, such as health and beauty products. This is changing as more men jump on board with companies that have neutral, non-gender specific product lines such as greeting cards or candles.

Can you be successful in direct sales ?

In all honesty, the answer to that question depends on you. You must do your research before joining any company.

Here is a list of questions that you should research:

    * Is the money you’re going to make come primarily from building a team, selling a product or both? Team-building is generally part of direct selling, as well are retail sales. There should be a good balance of both if you want financial success. If the company is only discussing recruiting – be suspicious.

    * Do you risk financial loss by being involved with the company? Remember, this is a business. All businesses have start-up costs, including direct sales. Most are under $500. Watch out for schemes where people make money solely from selling start-up kits without a real product line.

    * Does it sound too good to be true? Be wary of get-rich-quick schemes, such as making a million dollars in 6 months. It doesn’t happen that way. Again, this is a business. Be realistic about what it takes to have success. Think long-term success.

    * Don’t confuse “simple” with “easy.” Most direct sales companies have fairly simple training and business plans to follow, however, it is a business and you will have ups and downs just like any business.

How Do You Choose?

There are nearly 1200 direct sales companies to choose from today, so how do you choose?

    * Well, would you buy the product independent of become a representative? If you don’t see a compelling reason to be a customer, you probably don’t want to sell the product either.

    * If a company requires you to have a lot of inventory on hand for home parties, or requires a high monthly sales volume or high monthly personal volume, then it may not be the company for you.  Frequent moves as a military family is challenging enough without having to worry about moving an office full of business inventory, too.

    * Is there an audience and demand for the product and how is it different from similar products on the market? This about this. Why should I buy your product from your company if I can get it elsewhere?

    * Is the company backed with strong leadership and solid financials? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen ‘fly-by-night’ companies come and go in the last 8 years. I’ve seen many people sign up for the ‘latest and greatest’ product without doing solid research only to be disappointed when the company shuts its doors within a year or mysteriously disappears into the night.

Investigate company literature, reputation, consultants and customers before you get involved with any opportunity.

Lastly,  you may need to double check  the rules about home businesses on your base, especially if you are overseas with an APO or AE address.

These questions are a good start. Make sure to register for one of our free, weekly home business workshops to learn more and get your questions answered.

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About the authors:

Patty Gale is a proud Army mom who, in 2001, turned in her suits, heels and briefcase to work from home.  Lisa Fowler is a proud Army spouse who has been successfully working from home since 2006.  Together, their passion to make a difference can be found on www.ArmyCrossroads.com, where they provide free home business information and workshops for military families.  Register for one of their workshops at:  www.ArmyCrossroads.com/workshop-schedule 

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