Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bombarded: Attack of the new breed of Willie Loman

Let's talk about sales. And no, I'm not selling anything. Not here anyway. But I think we need to talk about direct sales since it seems to have exploded recently. I'm a salesperson by nature. I've been selling since I was born, even if I wasn't making any money. In fact, that's how this blog came about- selling without selling. People have been coming to me since I can remember for recommendations. You need a doctor, a cupcake, Botox, kids party venue, camp, school, you name it. People come to me. I don't get kickbacks for recommending places I love either. I don't get paid and I don't get a pink Cadillac. Ok, Pam (a la cupcakes) used to give me free and discounted baked goods but I would've bought just as much anyway. But friends of mine convinced me to put all my opinions, rec's and otherwise all in one place and Know It All In NJ was born. For no pay. Just for the fun of putting all my stuff out there. Because it's in my nature to "sell". And people trust my recommendations.

Let me switch gears for a moment and say that I've also been a part of message boards and social media since I found the internet in 1994. I know what it is to be part of an online community. To REALLY take social media. From Friendster to MySpace to Facebook to Twitter. I'm still not into Instagram. I made an account for work but I've yet to immerse myself in it. Why? Because while I *could* just bombard people with photos of lighting, I don't think anyone cares that much and to me, the personality is missing from Instagram. I prefer the back and forth of Facebook but I'm not on social media just to push my product. I thoroughly ENJOY the camaraderie, the drama, the in-the-know, the sharing of information, and more. I'm pretty sure anyone that really knows me really believes that I'd be on social media whether I had a store or not. Business is not my drive to be such an integrated member of all the social media I can find a comfortable home in. It *is* also networking but that's more a bonus than a focus.

Everyone knows we own a custom lighting store. I do post about work we do here and there. But I guarantee that if you asked anyone who is friended to me about what I post, the first thing to come to mind is TV. TV shows. I love to talk about TV. Something I don't get paid to do. I also like to post random observations and things that I think other people will find funny. Sometimes I post stuff that's on the controversial side. There are debates and discussions on my page from any of the franchises of Real Housewives to marriage equality and women's health issues. The main focus of my postings on any social media or message board are NOT sales related. So when I *do* post about work, people aren't turned off by it. It's not even a conscious thing- it's a Tara thing. *I* am more than my work. I'm a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend & a lampshade designing superhero. I love message boards, Facebook, street fairs, one-of-a-kind anything, the sun, tanning, the beach, diet pills, my fitbit, and I watch a TON of television. I read a multitude of magazines and I can't get enough of celebrity and entertainment memoirs. I don't really read fiction. I LOVE shopping. I have a million opinions on a million things. I know I could probably get pretty far on Jeopardy.

Anyone who is friended to me on social media could tell you all those things. Because you are what you put out there. And sales and how successful you are at it is related to what you put out there. The jury is still out for me as to whether someone either just has sales in their blood or they could learn it. I'm not sure you can learn it. Because I know a lot of people who just simply can't do it, or do it well But what you CAN learn are tips to make you better at it and tips not to annoy the living hell out of people.

You can't be a hermit, just lurking on social media, then come crawling out of your hole to just bombard people with your pitches. You can't talk about Facebook with disdain from a high horse only to come out of nowhere hawking your wares. You have to dip your toe in, start becoming part of the social media community, and make it personal. You have to engage with people having NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT YOU'RE SELLING. Post pictures. Re-post interesting articles (but check Snopes first!). Join in discussions. Trust me, people totally know what you're doing when they've never seen you post much of anything and then all of a sudden you come on with how your life changed from whatever xyz you're peddling. They know what's up when you haven't ever made an effort to hang out and all of a sudden you're suggesting a play date "so the kids can play and we can talk about this new business I'm involved in! It'll be SO fun!". No, no it won't. And no, no, it's not going to happen. I'd rather shove hot pokers in my eyes than discuss mass produced jewelry.

Further, if you live a generally nice life in Bergen County, you didn't "change your life" by selling a product. Be RELATABLE. If you're now in the weight loss biz and you lost weight from a product, then talk about the real down and dirty. Not the weird TMI that someone posted recently in a FB group I'm in. As the queen of oversharing, if I think it was weird TMI, it WAS-- talking about being home with her kids, hitting rock bottom, not feeling well and being depressed, and nutritional cleansing changed her life. Unless maybe those shakes are laced with Prozac. Or amphetamines. Maybe it did change her life, I don't know. But to me, all it got was a ginormous eye roll.

When I say tell the down and dirty- I mean the TRUTH. Say you felt like a blob next to all the skinny bitches in the barre class you tried and you were just eating too many Dunkin' muffins. You needed a jumpstart. You needed a second income because one income just isn't cutting it. You were bored and wanted something else to do. You like hosting parties so selling gives you a reason to be the hostess with the mostess. Or you've been eyeing a Louis Vuitton bag for ten years and for your 35th, 40th, 50th birthday- you plan to own that bag. And selling skincare products is your ticket to that Louis. Just be normal and be honest! Most importantly, be YOU. Not the selling Stepford Wife version.

I love what I do for work. It's my third "career". It's my most rewarding career. When I talk about what I do for work, and show photos, I talk about each piece like ME. It sounds like I wrote it. Because I DID. No inspirational quotes. No memes of sunsets with more quotes from other people. Just. Me.  I have been seeing an overload of these "robot" posts from people who I know don't talk like that in real life. Where they used to post photos of their kids and funny anecdotes, there are now only memes and sales pitches. Both thinly veiled and outright. All the time. There has to be a BALANCE.

Know your audience. I can promise your entire FB friends list isn't interested in your wares. I know they aren't interested in mine! I'm not trying to sell my best friends a new chandelier and they know it. If I ask you to dinner, you know it isn't because I want to pitch you to buy lampshades. You have to remember to know who you're talking to when you've decided to solely post about your new business venture. Sure, there will be some of your contacts who are interested, but you're losing the rest of your audience, who are presumably your friends and family. Your grandmother and seventy-five year old Aunt Betty want to see photos of your family trip to Disney. They aren't likely to buy your tummy slimming body wrap. Make a FB page just dedicated to your product and invite your friends and family to like it. Those who are interested will join it and those who aren't are spared being bombarded by sales pitches. We have a FB page for our store. Not all my personal FB friends have "liked" the FB page. I'm ok with that. Because I KNOW that not everyone is my audience. Same with the page for this blog. I don't want people connected to any of my pages that isn't truly interested in what I'm doing. We can still be friends whether you want lighting or my opinions or not.

Gauge Interest FIRST. Don't just think you can take your whole email contact list or someone else's, start sending a barrage of emails about your venture(s) and you'll get a favorable response. If you got my email address from a mutual friend for one thing and I start getting emails about product instead, I'm not going to be happy. You can't just take the school or newcomers directory and use it as your personal sales lead list. If you want to market via email, send your ONE email, not to your WHOLE list, but to those you really think might be interested, but find a way to give the option to unsubscribe or only re-email those who expressed interest after the first one. Don't just send constant emails out figuring "it's just an email" and people will think it's casual and innocuous. You don't know how many emails a DAY some people receive and no one wants more junk mail.

No one wants to do your work for you either. If you want people on your team, YOU have to put the networking time and effort in yourself. If someone puts someone who is interested in contact with you, awesome. But don't expect your friends to recruit a sales force FOR you.

DO NOT START FRIENDING PEOPLE YOU DON'T KNOW ON FACEBOOK for the purpose of selling them stuff. Especially friends of friends. AND- don't do it without some kind of message telling them who you are and WHY you think they should accept your social media friendship. I've now gotten numerous emails telling me XYZ friended them, they saw XYZ is friended to me, and they're wondering if they just forgot them somehow. No, no. I just know a lot of people. This person is selling stuff and apparently just on a friending rampage to try to further their business. Inappropriately, I might add.

Be clear- You can't be covert about what you're selling. Whatever it is, no one needs a long, confusing sob story with the happy ending being, "I changed my life- If you want to change your life, PM me!" without knowing first what you're talking about. Sure, a lot of people want to change their life, but your answer to what's life changing and mine could be vastly different. If you're inviting me to a sales party- I need to know what it's for! Everyone has limited free time. Work, spouses, kids, commitments, I want a detailed explanation of what you want me to attend if you want me to make time for it. It also seems shady if you don't want to reveal what it's about so people can make an informed choice as to whether that event is going to be worth their free time.

These MLM companies are giving awful, moronic advice to an inexperienced sales force. If they're telling you to put things out there on social media that don't sound like you (quotes, memes, emails)- It's BAD. If they're telling you to be cagey about what you're selling until you can reel people in- It's REALLY BAD. And if they're telling you it's easy, sales is easy, and it's basically like doing no work, it's THE WORST.

I'm all for people being entrepreneurs, making money, having something for themselves, and doing anything that makes them feel good. But there is a fine line between being excited about whatever you're doing and becoming one-dimensional with it. Do a quick once-over of your Facebook page. Go back about a year before you were selling something and see what you had to say, what you were putting out there, way back when. Then jump to when you first started selling something through to now. Compare. If you see that there is a major, noticeable slant to only posting about product and product related memes in the recent year, it's time to find your balance. Find the you that people liked before. And just make a conscious effort to add in more of the old with the new. I bet you'll find people much more receptive to listening about the new when they can remember why they fell in love with the old.

Lastly, if someone says they aren't interested, move on. Nothing is more awkward than friends avoiding you because they're afraid you're going to pitch them again.


  1. FYI I would buy anything you're selling!

    1. I'm super flattered! Thanks for taking the time to read. I'm known for being a know it all but not for being concise! I've got nothing to sell though but opinions and lighting. Well, the opinions are free. And no pyramid schemes here.

      Meant to post to you about RHOC & RHONY. I'm all caught up except for tonight.
      I swear I will be short.