Party Plan and Direct Selling: YUMMY!

Party Plan business is a bit like a secret society where inner knowledge and tricks of the trade are passed on under a veil of secrecy. Newcomers are left to wander along the “path of trial and error” and with little guidance. No wonder most quit before they get any real insight into how direct selling works.

Of course, I don’t claim to be an expert in this field either. My knowledge is based on ‘indirect’ rather than first-hand experience and is largely thanks to input received from the independent party plan consultants we deal with. Although my assessment of the trade is clearly biased, it is reinforced by experience I’ve gained over 12 years in both retail and wholesale, working as a self-employed business owner.

Let’s start with some basics.

First of all, no matter how you describe your business or which form of interaction with a customer it takes- a party plan, retail, direct selling, online selling, markets, etc – you are engaged in one very ancient trade: you are a seller of a product.

The first key word here is seller.

Say it loudly to yourself: a seller. If you don’t like the sound of it or if you see yourself in some role other than seller please read no more: this article is not for you. You might be a great designer, importer, fashion guru, or simply a business mum, but if there are goods on the table to exchange for money, then you are quite simply a seller. Why am I pounding this word into your head so much? Because there is nothing more important to the success of your business than your ability to sell. The sooner you recognize this, the sooner you will be in position to build a profitable retail business. Some people are born ‘natural’ sellers and they can close a deal in no time. They enjoy selling and they act on instinct, but they are also constantly making a conscious effort to improver their selling technique.

Now the good news for the rest of us: you can learn how to sell and there is an abundance of great resources and tools available to anyone who wishes to become a successful seller.

The second key word is product.

If you offer a product that is great, represents excellent value for money and satisfies the needs of your customers, then you will have absolutely no problem selling it. Actually, you will have a problem getting enough of it! The second good news: the world is full of excellent products, they are all around us and an experienced seller will spot one in no time. A good seller is constantly searching for a new product that is in high demand, so he can add it to his stock. More about this later.

The third key word is not as obvious as the previous two. Can you guess it? Let’s say that you are the best seller in the world and you have the most beautiful necklace ever handcrafted (and it’s only $39.95) . Unfortunately, you’ll never make a cent unless you have a captive audience to whom you can present your product!

You need a buyer.

This third ingredient – the quest for a ‘fresh’ captive audience which will fall in love with your product and part with hard earned cash to buy it – presents a challenge to any seller, regardless of their size, reputation or global importance. This is why McDonalds and Coca Cola spend billions of dollars advertising each year. In other words, you have to either bring customers to your shop or take your goods to their homes.
To summarize, the holly trinity of doing business is a fine-tuned relationship between Seller, Product and Buyer. Let me be more specific and apply some of the above to the party plan business.

SELLER

If you have not previously been into direct selling, before you make any financial commitment you must get some first-hand experience of the party plan business. Attend a house presentation or, even better, be a host for a night. Find a product range, contact a company or independent consultant in your area, and let them know you wish to host a party.

Observe carefully what is going on and how the consultant is conducting his/her presentation. Pay attention to details – the range and presentation of products, pricing, selling technique. Watch the crowd, write down your questions and your impressions about everything you feel is important. Ask yourself: can I do it? Or most importantly, can you do it better? Would you enjoy doing it? Would you enjoy doing it 3 times per week, month after month? Are you able to control the audience, would you be able to command their unreserved attention? How do you feel about the products? Do they represent value for money, are they trendy, fashionable and do they satisfy customers needs?

PRODUCT

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that it is much easier to sell jewellery, clothing or make up, than cleaning detergent. I guess you have figured this out already – that’s why you are reading our fashion jewellery newsletter. But make no mistake: in order to run a successful party plan business you need more than one product, and more precisely, more than one supplier. Market forces and fashion trends take no prisoners. Proactive, innovative selling, with modern sensibly priced products, will more likely satisfy buyers’ needs. Pricing is a very important and complex subject, and it deserves an entire chapter, so I will talk about it later. For now, it is important to remember that you should not deal with any wholesaler, or supplier, who do not stand behind their products, claims or promises they make, either in writing or verbal form. Be prepared to be educated and guided. One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome for a start-up business is lack of trust in both products and supplier. You have to give it a fair go and take some calculated risk. If I have sold hundreds of necklace A and only a dozen of necklace B, then I would tell you there is more chance that you will have a similar experience.

Love your jewellery – and wear it all the time! Make sure to learn as much as possible about your product so you can sound confident. Be knowledgeable, be an expert. Again, I will tell you more about this in the next newsletter. Create a “WOW magic” atmosphere – I devoted a few pages to this subject last month. More to come.

GETTING THE ATTENTION OF POTENTIAL BUYERS

This is another difficult area of the business operation. In essence, selling is a numbers game. If you show your product to enough people some of them will buy it: the more you show, the more you sell. It is also a game of being at the right place at the right time. Bricks and mortar retailers aim to set up their business in the busiest location they can afford – shopping centre, retail street, near railway station or similar location, where the goods will have maximum exposure to the passing flow of potential buyers. Still, a large percentage of turnover will be generated from repeat buyers (existing satisfied customers) or from referrals (happy customers referring you to their friends).

This should be your business model too. More than any other form of selling, party plan is people business. If you have a pleasant personality, manners, if you look presentable and conduct your business as a professional, you will receive more party invitations than you can handle. You can spend all your capital on advertising – but unless you have a ‘people-magnet personality’ your business will struggle. Successful party plan consultants are enthusiastic, charismatic, optimistic people who glow, smile, have a firm handshake, keep their promises and can create a fun atmosphere in a stranger’s home.

YUMMY !

Picture your business as Mozart Kugel (Mozart Kugel is composed of pistachio marzipan, with a hazelnut nougat centre, double dipped in light then dark chocolate):

  • hazelnut: the core of your business is your product
  • pistachio marzipan: your ability to sell and the relationship with your buyer
  • chocolate: your personality that will generate repeats and referrals, and make your business grow
  • colourful wrapping paper: advertising
  • CONCLUSION

    In order to do it the ‘right way’ start from the inside out. Get familiar with your products, have a decent stock, work hard to improve your selling technique and your public personality, and be careful how you spend your advertising dollar. The best way to get new business is through referrals from satisfied customers. Be persistent – it takes time to get there, but once you’ve made it you’ll LOVE it!

    Tanya Hacko

    Sydney, Australia