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History of Direct Selling

By Michael O. Tousey

First in a series of sales basics for beginners.

Early direct sellers were the peddlers, traders and merchants inside caravans that began man’s basic needs to exchange foods and communicate.  As the direct seller established consistent neighborhood ties, he traveled outside neighborhood geographies … hence the development of roads and waterways.

Pre-historic trade followed geographically convenient routes because of the ridges, rivers, mountains etc. that hindered easy travel. The early seller then exchanged pottery, stone weapons, tools and agricultural products with people of other lands.  Barter, the direct exchange of goods for goods, was the principal means of trade.

The early civilizations of Egypt, Syria and India were actively involved in trade.  In Greece, the caravan trade included domestic tools, metal kitchenware and clothing.  Local markets, on the other hand, were excellent meeting places for customers and direct sellers. The early direct seller seized all opportunities to trade his goods ...i.e. fairs connected with religious feasts, and troops stationed in the field.

In the 5th century AD, Athens was involved in a great deal of direct selling.  The direct seller sold his wares in the street or exhibited his products in stalls or shops.  Others traveled from place to place-visiting fairs and other large gatherings.

The 10th century marked the beginning of world wide economic expansion.  The direct seller played an important role in bringing about trade during the Commercial Revolution of the 10th and 13th Centuries during which many roads were built.  He brought novelties like woolens, silk belts, bonnets, brass rings and writing tablets from large cities to small towns and villages.

In early America, the Yankee Peddler either walked or rode horses to his customers.  The more prosperous sellers rode in wagons or carriages.  As the emigrants filtered into Early America, many became direct sellers of pins, needles, scissors, combs, small hardware and perfume.  Water routes expanded the peddler’s routes west and into the Canadian territories.

The selling tradition continued to thrive through the end of the 19th century and into the 1900’s.  The 1950’s home party added a new dimension to direct selling which included  direct selling job opportunities to those previously who hadn’t had the opportunity because of age, education or sex.

The direct sellers (Companies and Corporations) developed sales professionals who targeted specific industries with specific products. The Selling Process was defined while Distributor selling, Consignment selling and Manufacture’s Rep’s became tools for the direct sellers when the potential cost of a sales force was prohibitive.

Today, the customer still benefits from a personal and convenient way of purchasing products … over the Internet.  Each direct seller now has a worldwide customer base.  

For advice on leads and prospects.







Leads and Prospecting

By: Michael O. Tousey

Prospecting for leads dates back thousands of years to the caravan traders who traveled miles in search of business opportunities. The word prospecting conjures up the image of old miners prospecting for gold in California … so prospecting for potential customers leads to (Gold) sales dollars and enhances the survival of your company.

As sales professionals and small business entrepreneurs, it has become evident that “If you don’t sell, you don’t have a business” … and if you don’t have a qualified prospect in front of you, you don’t have the potential for a sale.  Many have heard the saying “Nothing happens until someone sells something” ... well, nothing happens to any segment of your business until someone sells something, therefore prospecting and developing leads is the key ingredient to sales dollar generation and your survival.

How many prospects should I call … take a look at the following, plug in your own numbers and the importance of prospecting for leads will be self-explanatory:

  • Call 10 prospects per day X 5 days/week  = 50 contacts per week
  • 50 contacts per week X 48 weeks/year      = 2400 contacts/year
  • You close 2% of the 2400 contacts             = 48 customers
  • Average Sale is $2,000 X 48 customers    = $120,000 in sales revenue

So, we might as well do it right … Steps to Successful Prospecting through Cold Calling are:

1.    Creating a List … You will want to call people on a list that is made up of those potential sources/contacts that might lead directly or indirectly to a sale … sources like business directories, current clients, past clients, people you’ve met, fellow club members, colleagues, vendors or even relatives.

2.    Setting Goals … what will be the goal of your call?  Set up a face-to-face meeting, send literature or get the name of the decision maker? If you want to increase/create sales dollars, then your goal is to get an appointment.

3.    Be Persistent … If you are faced with leaving a voice mail, understand the person with buying authority won’t quickly return any sales calls. But, when you leave a voice mail, make sure it is well-scripted, powerful enough to force the listener to think about what you’ve said and is brief, arouses curiosity and defines what is in it for them. See #4 below and use the example when leaving a voice mail.

4.    Script Every Call … If you can, have some form of reference … i.e. a friend recommended that I call or I understand that you have just landed a big contract with XYZ.  State the purpose of your call quickly within 15-20 seconds by:  Answering “a-d” in no more than one sentence: 

a.    Describing your business

b.    Describe How/Why your produce or service is unique to the market place.

c.    Why your product/service is better/different from competition.

d.    Discuss why the listener might want to buy your product or service. 

Example … Good Morning Mr. Jones my name is Jim Smith and I’m with ABC Packaging, we manufacture and sell packaging equipment and materials to enhance the shelf life of perishable foods … I believe we can save you 10% on your packaging costs and wonder if I may have an appointment to discuss these potential savings. 

5.  Qualify . . . make sure you understand who the decision maker is by asking if there is anyone else, other than the person you are talking to, who will be involved in the decision. And make sure the decision maker is the one person who:

a.    Can use the types of products ands services in enough quantity to make it worth while to call on them.

b.    Has the authority to make decisions surrounding your product or service.

c.    Can commit the funds to purchase your product or service.

6.  Be Brief . . . Repeat why you think the listener might want to buy from you … i.e. repeat what you said above about saving them 10%.

7.  Learn to Deal with Rejection … understand that many people who say “no” are looking for a reason to say yes … and that might happen later.

So, now you have the appointment with this prospect, how do you gain their attention and interest?





Attention and Interest 

By: Michael O. Tousey

Now that you have your first appointment with a prospect, some prospects will think that you don’t have anything to offer them … they are suspicious, therefore you have only one chance to create the right first impression.

Greeting Your Prospect is important because during those first few moments he/she is “sizing you up” and gaining their first and possibly the last impression of you ... so smile, shake hands and thank them for the opportunity to talk with them.  Make sure you state your name and repeat your prospects name twice … i.e. My name is Bill Jones … it’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Smith.... may I call you Jim instead of Mr. Smith?

Capture Your Prospects Attention … without it you don’t have him/her listening to you.  If your prospect is consistently being interrupted by employees, phone calls etc., suggest you ask for time the next day, possibly at lunch so that you are away from the interruptions at the prospects facility.

Therefore, now you have the prospects attention, and it is time to launch the interview ... you do this by re-stating the reason for the appointment in the first place and continue discussing what you/your company are bringing to the table:

Empathic Benefit … this needs to be a strong statement i.e. “I’m here to show you how to save 10% in your packaging area.”... Do not say, “I’m here to save you money.”

Promise to Solve a Specific Problem … i.e. “we serve many in your industry and most are concerned about (this problem.)  However, be prepared to define what you’ve done in the industry in case you are asked.

Show Samples of the material or whatever has solved problems for others in the industry.

All of these options are intended to increase/build interest in the product/service you are selling. During your conversation, you need to know how much knowledge your prospect has ... because you want to know what you will have to tell them in order to sell them.  It is important because you want to make sure you are continuing to build interest by feeding him/her information they aren’t aware of.

VERY IMPORTANT … it is time to get your prospect involved in a Q&A session because the answers to these Open-Ended Questions will be the reasons you will be making the sale. The answers to these open ended questions tell you what the “Why Behind the Buy” will be. Therefore don’t ask any question that can be answered with a “Yes or No” … they must be open-ended to supply you with specific information that defines your prospects needs/wants … i.e.

  • What are you currently doing?
  • What are the best things about your systems and what are the worst?
  • If you could have a different system, what problems would it solve?
  • Who are your customers and what is the impact your current system has on them?

All of these questions are answered with details of their process, the best/worst things of their system, and potential problems to be solved and the customer impact.

The answers to the Open-ended Questions will tell you:

  • What your prospect wants.
  • What his/her needs are.
  • And the value of each.

This is critical because these answers will help you tie the features of your product or service to the benefits needed by your prospect. Why? Because customers buy benefits!  

Next:  Features and Benefits.







Features and Benefits 

By: Michael O. Tousey

So, you are at that point of presenting your product or service ... caveat:

  • If you assume you know what your prospect wants without asking, you will be wrong.
  • Don’t assume that because past customers saw value in your product or service, that your prospects will find the same things valuable.

Features and Benefits are all about Customer Focused Selling … tying the features of your product or service to the benefits needed by your prospect ... you’ve learned these “needs” from the answers to the Open Ended Questions and Answers.

Why Do Customer’s Buy … every buying decision ever made is an emotional decision (to make the buyer feel good) rationalize with facts (to solve a problem or a need).  Important:  no one really buys your product or service; they buy the product of your product or service.  Peter Drucker said it another way: "What the customer buys and considers value is never a product or service, but is always what the product or service does for him".

So … What are Features and Benefits?

Features: are what the product or service is: i.e. a product feature is a characteristic like size, horsepower, design etc. A service feature is a function the service performs. Note: neither the product or service feature will mean anything to the client because customers don’t buy features. The product feature of a coffee mug is its handle, while a service feature of a training program is its perceived value to the buyer. 

Features only tell!

Benefits … are what the product or service feature does for the customer ... and mean everything to your client, because customers buy benefits and benefits will answer the question in the buyer’s mind “What's in it for me?"  The benefit of the handle on the coffee mug (feature above) is that we enjoy a hot drink without burning our hands.  

Therefore Benefits Sell!

MOST IMPORTANT … many mistake or confuse the product or service features as a benefit, not so, remember features mean nothing to your client.

Benefits are the reason your customer will buy and mean everything to him/her. This makes it critical you know what the benefits to your customer will be … Remember; you learned them through the answers to your Open Ended Questions and Answers.


There is a Great Truth in Selling … if the prospect can’t tell the difference between your product or service and the competitions product or service, the prospect or customer will make the buying decision based on price every time.  Therefore, it is imperative you sell the benefits your customer will receive so price won’t get in the way of making your sale.

Alternatives to presenting/selling your features and benefits are:

  • Formal Presentation … Tell your prospect all of your features and benefits up front ... be careful here; you may not be selling from your customer’s point of view … unless you tie them to the answers to our Open Ended Questions and Answers.
  • Informal Presentation … can be done inside the discussions or conversations you are having with the prospect ... i.e. in response to the questions/comments made by your prospect/customer.
  • Or, present your benefits as a result of observing your prospects process or interviewing the employees.

What we are saying is: the buyer won’t ask you for the benefits, you have to tell them what you have and what your product or service will do for them.

REMEMBER … you must talk about your solutions to your customer’s problems by highlighting the features of your product or service as “what it is” and then confirming your benefits to be delivered with each feature mentioned … i.e. “what it does for the customer.”

At this point in the process you can expect some objections … But remember, you’ve isolated your benefits for your customer and defined them according to their needs (Answers to the Open ended Questions and Answers.), therefore your benefits become the justification of any further discussion surrounding any objections raised ...

we will deal with Objections and Responses next.






Objections and Responses

By: Michael O. Tousey

When a buyer is considering any purchase, they will want to fully understand what they are buying and be comfortable that this will be a good decision.  When prospects raise an objection, they are saying: “Your product/service sounds good, but I’m not yet comfortable spending money on it until it makes sense to me.”

The perfect presentation answers this objection and always results in an order … but in real life “Objections Happen” and your reaction to them is key to your ultimate selling success at this point in the selling process, because your buyer is looking for reasons to buy (your benefits) and want their concerns/objections taken care of … They want their objections out of the way so they can say “yes.”

Many people, selling their products/services, believe that the best response to an objection is to re-tell the prospect all of the advantages (benefits) to justify the objection … while reviewing the benefits is always a good option, the real concern raised might not be addressed.

So, Welcome the Objections … this involves your prospect in the selling process and helps create agreement and conviction about your product or service.

Identify the issue behind the objection … Make sure you can respond to the objection: “I don’t think it will work here,” by knowing exactly why the prospect feels that way. You can say … “So you are concerned about “X”, and when you get the prospect’s confirmation, you can start asking questions (similar to the open ended Q & A) so that both understand the true objection allowing you to deliver more benefits of your product or service. As you do this you are finding out the reason for the objection and it may be as simple as a request for more information.  

Anticipate Them … and then stop them before they are raised.... i.e. you could say: “Some object to “x” about our product/service, until they learn “y” … and the objections disappear. 

Attitude is Key … avoid any clash with the prospect, control your temper and listen carefully ... you aren’t there to overcome the objection and prove the prospect wrong; you’ll want to work with the prospect to understand and solve the issue and then make the sale.

Responses to Objections …

There are General Techniques …

  • Re-phrase the objection with a question … i.e. “Are you saying that” … “Am I understanding that you are concerned with … ?”
  • Use Diplomacy : i.e. “that’s a good question” or I’m glad you brought that up …”
  • Give your answer to the objection immediately : i.e.  “Can I cover that later?” but  come back to it; your prospect brought it up for a reason and will remember it.

And Specific Techniques …

  • If your prospects objection is a matter of personal opinion … you are not going to change his/her mind … therefore agree, even if you don’t, because most often than not his/her opinion won’t be a deal breaker.
  • If the objection is one of uncertainty, then reply with more facts/examples and review your points (benefits) again.
  • If the objection is frivolous ... then treat it with humor and laugh with the prospect ... but make sure the prospect is being humorous by acting surprised … then the prospect will clarify if it is frivolous.
  • If it is a real objection … then:  -- Review your benefits again, or Create a small demo, if you can, or ask for the source of the objection and make sure the source is factual and not “hear-say”

Common Objections … Count on ‘em!

  • Price … “Your price is too high!” … Your answer is: “in comparison to what?  Somewhere during this time frame, your prospect will allow you to review the benefits that you’re delivering and this will be the justification of your price.
  • Delivery: “I need it sooner!”... Your answer is “How soon do you need it?”
  • Service: “XYZ company has immediate service” Your say: “What do you mean immediate?”
  • “I think I will go with your competitor … your answer is: “What is it about my competition that appeals to you?” As soon as you hear the prospect’s response to this question, you will be in a better position to frame your response, deliver your benefits or deliver a benefit that you hadn’t mentioned in the past.

As you answer each of these objections, you are moving closer to getting the sale and you will begin to hear Buying Signals ...

we will cover Buying Signals and the Close next.







Buying Signals and the Close

By: Michael Tousey

We have already talked about “Why Do Customer’s Buy” and the answer bears repeating: “Every buying decision ever made is an emotional decision (to make the buyer feel good) rationalized with facts (to solve a problem or need).

Why Are Buyers Motivated to Buy?  In conjunction with the above, they first ask their own internal question …”What’s in it for me?”  You answer this question by reminding them of what your benefits do for the customer … keeping in mind they will be motivated by the following behaviors.

Security ... benefits affecting the buyer’s physical and fiscal security 

                  … i.e. what the product does for the buyer’s security

Money    … benefits that impact the buyer financially 

                  ... i.e. making more or less money

Acclaim … Benefits that enhance the buyer’s perception of prestige  and self esteem  

                 … i.e. will the item being bought be the first in the industry?

Time … Benefits that impact time as measured by saving time or wasting time

           ... i.e. value in terms of increasing the units/minute produced.


So … which of the four motivators is driving your potential customer?

Your transition to the sale being closed is in your understanding of the motivators (1-4 above) as it relates to how your benefits deliver to your buyer’s needs.

As the process of selling features and benefits goes on, you might hear sample buying signals from the buyer … like:

  • When would you be able to deliver?
  • What other colors do you have?
  • A warranty/guarantee questions is asked?
  • Price is beginning to be negotiated.
  • And it they want someone else to see what you are selling.

These buying signals are a “minor close to the sale” when asked.

You have now come to the conclusion of your prepared comments about your product or service …you want the close to be as smooth as possible, but what if you haven’t heard any of the sample buying signals (above)? 

Closing can be done with the following steps, but don’t have to be done sequentially … and most important, if you recognize the sale can be made without going through these steps, then ask for the order!

Step One … Ask a Feedback Question … i.e. "how does this look so far?"  If the answer is “everything looks fine” then ask for the order!

Step Two … Summarize Your Presentation ... i.e. if we go forward, here are the benefits you’ll be receiving … etc.  If the answer here is “yes”, ask for the order!

Step Three … Test Closing Question … i.e. "if my product/service delivers what I’ve promised, do you see how it will go along way to solve the problems we’ve talked about?"  If the answer here is “yes”, ask for the order!

Step Four … The Review … i.e. "you recall we discussed how my benefits will solve your problem" … etc. If the buyer agrees, then ask for the order!

Step Five... Ask for questions … if none, ask for the order!

What is a Close? … It is that point where you and the buyers are aware of and are satisfied that an agreement is seemingly being reached.  The Close, then, is the end to your discussions about your Product/Services benefits … and the Close the Sale Techniques can be direct ...i.e.

  • Can I take the Order Now?
  • Can we begin service implementation by the 12th?


What if the buyer says: … “I don’t know, I’ll have to think it over!  … What do you do?  Remember… People/Buyers sometimes don’t like making decisions or they don’t like the pressure of making decisions … so, what is happening here?  Something is standing in the way of the buyers saying yes and it could be:

  • Missing information … You then review what you’ve presented as solutions to their problems (Your Benefits) ... the review might be all that’s necessary for the buyer to say “yes”.
  • Buyers sometimes are afraid of making a mistake ...some feel that making no decision is easier than making a mistake. … You ease the buyers mind by offering a trial or reviewing the details of your warranty.
  • There is no incentive to act now … everything is in place for the buyer to say “Yes”, but there is still a hesitation … you …

​Ask the buyer to tell you why/how this product or service meets his/her needs … they end up reminding themselves why your product/service is a good fit convincing them to say “yes”.

Sometimes … the buyer’s response can be:  I need to run this by my boss/buying committee …you then:

  • Ask the buyer how he/she is going to sell the boss/buying committee ... Your buyer will review the benefits allowing you to fill in the blanks if needed … and then maybe it will be a “yes” without going to the Boss.
  • You can offer to go to the buying committee with the buyer to help them sell it.
  • If none of the above solutions are making head way and the buyer is still balking, you will need to confirm an appointment within 10-14 days with the buyer to review and help them confirm the need for yoiur product or service. ... Because you want to help them say, “yes” without any reservations.

You’ve now made the sale and we will cover the Importance of Followup next.









Follow Up After the Sales Or Fall Flat on Your Face

By: Michael O. Tousey

When you’ve made the sale and you don’t make follow up contact with your customer ... the only person you are helping is your competition because 68% of all business lost is lost due to apathy after the sale.

So, don’t think about the number of calls you have to make, consider the sales you’ll be giving your competition if you don’t. If something as simple as following up provides you with a competitive edge, then your next sale is a follow up phone call away.

A good follow up plan will separate your company from the competition, because the only thing that differentiates your business from competition is service. Following up and keeping close to your customers builds strong customer relationships because your customers remember how they have been treated. Having your customer’s feel good about you is the key to repeat business, when they feel good about you, they are more comfortable spending money with you again. Hence, driving Repeat Sales Dollars through Follow Up Calls not only enhances your sales dollars, but is critical to your business future.     

A good follow up plan will have three attributes … they should

  • Be systematic: the follow up process is done the same way every time.
  • Generate consistent, predictable results
  • Take minimal effort … almost on autopilot.

Therefore a potential plan outline could look like:

1.  Establish Your Goals for Success ...

      a.  Budget Your Time and Money for customer follow up.

      b.  Identify your ROI … It should be obvious ... the dollars returned from your follow up with your customers.

2.  Set Up a Tracking System

      a.  Prepare a contact file for each target inside the follow up process and record all of your efforts, results and conversations.

      b.  Monitor referrals; interest expressed, proposals sought, problems to be solved, appointments made and sales closed.

3.  Send An Informational Message or Call Your Message to the Right People … i.e. The Right People could be:

     a.  Previous Buyers … your customers … your message here needs be one to convince them to come back and do business again. Ask if what you sold them is doing what you said it would do and execute on the answers you get.  

     b.  Potential Buyers … could be: Suspects … those who haven’t heard from you … but you want to do business with them. Or Prospects ... those who have heard from you and haven’t purchased anything, but you want them to make the first purchase with you.

     c.  Referral Clients … these are your current customer’s recommendations for you … You could be calling for referrals when you make your first follow up call.  But you have to make the follow up call with something of value, deliver something for your customer before you ask for a referral … if you are just calling for the referral, then your customers will just feel you are using them.

     d.  What “to say” and “not say” on the follow up call...

            i. What Not To Say

                     1.  “Well I was just checking to see how its going …”

                     2.  “Wanted to touch base with you today…”

                     3.  “Thought I’d give you a courtesy call …”

                     4.  “Wondering if you needed anything …”

                     5.  “Calling to see if there’s anything I can bid on.”

All of the “What NOT to Say” approaches are reactive and provide “nothing of value” to your customer and will be viewed by the listener as nuisance calls …

               ii.  What TO Say … these calls should always contain something of value because your regular customers are potentially someone else’s prospects … therefore by calling with something of value; this compliments your relationship with them. You have to begin with the word “you” … like:

                  1.  I was thinking of you …

                  2   I have some interesting information and thought you’d be interested …

                  3.  You might be interested in this new piece of technology or …

                  4.  The main reason I’m calling is ______________”

The key then is to fill in the blank with something that would be viewed as valuable to the listener.

4. A Suggested Client Follow Up Plan Could Be: 

          a. Within 48 hours of the sale, send a thank you note … some have created an Email template to make it easier. 

          b. Within 30 days, call the customer … is everything is going all right with the purchase … is the value of the benefit being realized?  

          c. Within 90 days call the customer informing them of a new or related product or service … i.e. a new product/service that compliments the original purchase. 

          d. After 6 months call with a preview announcement of a new upcoming product or service. 

          e. After One Year, you send them anniversary card celebrating the one-year anniversary of the first sale with a coupon for a discount in the envelope. 

          f. After 15 months, you send a survey designed to give you insights into the customer’s current state of business … asking for the customer’s feedback … how is your business relationship going?

I have mentioned the word “value” at least six times … the importance here is key … the definition is based on the value you’ve sold them or could sell them … this value:

     •  Compliments what you’ve sold them and adds to the original benefit

     •  Potentially adds a successful application you haven’t sold them.

     •  Or enhances their original purchase by making what you’ve sold them even better … 

So follow up on your sale or your repeat sale or your business survival will be in serious jeopardy.







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