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Direct Selling 2.0 And The Future Of Leadership

Along with hybrid and remote work, “Uncertainty” seems to be the “New Normal” for most organizations beyond the typical MLM companies and start-ups that we work with in the Direct Selling industry. Finally, coming off the pandemic and heading into a potential recession, a lot has changed - but there is also a lot of opportunity for the industry. As recruitment experts in Direct Selling, we’ve seen these shifts happen and these changes require a new type of leadership.


Direct Selling 2.0 - What Is It?

We’ve moved past the days of basic e-commerce platforms, direct to consumer pathways and simple social media selling. Today, anything and everything is only a tap or click away for your customers’ for virtually any product, device or service at any time of day. So where does Direct Selling fit in this world? Direct Selling still has the same goals and outcomes as before, but today it has become a highly customizable experience for both sellers and customers. From entry level conversations to in-person events, Direct Selling 2.0 is more than selling - it's a curated journey that engages people on a deeper level. Even your business model has changed to distinguish preferred customers from business builders and keep these two groups distinctly separate. Through data, apps, software, content, behavior analytics, preferences and more we’re able to easily bring this personalization and customization to consumers - but the real challenge is how does this get driven by senior leadership at the organizational level?


Future Leaders In Direct Selling

In the Direct Selling industry, the pandemic showed legacy leaders that the future of Direct Selling will be driven by continued growth and investment in social, streaming, channel marketing, affiliates and more. The new challenge though is that while some legacy leaders see the value, they are unequipped to drive the strategy forward and accurately forecast the impact of new media and selling. However, the challenge is that many MLM and Direct Selling organizations still operate under legacy structures, models, practices and cultures. To move the organization forward into Direct Selling 2.0, these companies will need a healthy mix of both newly emerging leaders as well as legacy champions. These emerging leaders must not only have field experience, but possess the skills to strategically transition to Direct Selling 2.0 including:

  • Persuasive skills to gain stakeholder and leadership support and consensus

  • Adapting to legacy leadership’s mentality and ideas while moving the organization forward

  • Being a strategic partner in not only building a strategy but including legacy leaders in that vision

  • Transforming legacy leaders’ input and translate how it applies to Direct Selling 2.0

  • Coaching and educating legacy leaders in industry shifts and how these dynamics will impact the organization.

We advise a lot of our clients to bring these two leadership types together by leaving legacy leaders in place to maintain stability, direction and oversight and bringing new emerging leaders in at the Vice President or Senior Vice President level. The VP layer of management and leadership is key for implementing organizational transformation. At this level, a VP has access and respect from C-Suite leaders for their input, and are key influencers and change makers that will drive impact across junior level reports and field teams. Building a strong VP level bench is critical to moving a company forward into Direct Selling 2.0, but more importantly where do you find this type of talent?


As recruiting experts in Direct Selling, we know and have placed a lot of these leaders in the last few years. It’s common sense that the best leaders will have all the right skill sets, but we’ve noticed a much deeper pattern when it comes to experience for Direct Selling 2.0 leaders. At the more senior levels of management, high-performers and change-oriented leaders we have placed have:

  1. Experience working in Direct Selling, but not spent their entire career in it and spent time working with companies outside the channel or that are Omni channel, giving them a different perspective.

  2. Diversity in thought that adds value from managing different business models.

  3. The knowledge and a firm grasp on new ways of selling.

  4. The insight and expertise to create different impacts through very strategic hiring and reporting structures.

  5. The confidence and influence to bridge the gap between legacy mindsets and Direct Selling 2.0.

  6. Experience with shifting business models in uncertain times while remaining agile.

Some hiring managers have a better track record than others. When you leverage internal hiring teams, more often than not you will find the same legacy executives that have been removed from other Direct Selling organizations that are applying for the positions within your organization. While they understand the industry well, they are not the mavericks that are going to bring change


Additionally, hiring managers are often tasked with a difficult challenge when it comes to thinking outside the box to find and attract Direct Selling 2.0 Leaders. Finding the most qualified and best fit talent for your organization requires a proactive approach to recruiting as these executives are more than likely gainfully employed and usually will not surface by applying for your roles. To proactively recruit for this group it takes time, confidential reference checks, and daily efforts to build a pipeline of potential talent.


As experts, it’s our responsibility to be a strategic partner for the Direct Selling industry, as it continues to grow and touch so many lives. Having the right executive hiring strategy and partner in place is essential to moving your organization forward into Direct Selling 2.0 As always, we welcome your thoughts and please get in touch with us with any questions or comments.


About The Author


As CEO, Sean leads the organization to build lasting relationships with company leaders within the direct selling industry and provide quality service to meet the needs of clients. Sean also likes to spend time outdoors and traveling with his family.

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