Posted on: 03-30-2011 at 11:19am
By Ignite’s Field Communications Editor Jack Walker
It’s no secret that Stream Energy uses a field of Independent Associates via direct sales to market is energy services in Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Maryland through its subsidiary, Ignite. As someone who has worked in this industry for 15 years, I have a few observations about communicating to a direct sales field.
It’s a fundamental rule in communications to know one’s audience. And what kind of audience does Ignite have as a direct sales firm? First of all, it is important to understand that they are not employees. This is not an internal communications situation. They are independent businesspeople who work with our company, not for our company. Typically, they already have another job. Therefore, being entrepreneurial minded and already employed, the last thing they are looking for is another boss. In fact, they are usually trying to get away from their current one. Given that they are not our employees and probably not fond of being someone else’s employees, they don’t respond well to messages that sound too corporate.
Another thing to remember is that many of them market services on a part-time basis, and a lot of them have yet to reach their earning potential in the business. That makes many of them more or less volunteers, working the opportunity as long-term solution to better their lives. Given this situation and that they’ve probably been at a job all day, communication needs to be light, not heavy. Some humor and playful metaphors are in order. You are dealing with their goals and lifestyles, after all.
In dealing with people’s lifestyles, there are times to focus on the material gains that can be made in the business opportunity you are promoting. But what resonates most with people in this industry is the freedom that direct sales can provide in meeting their lifelong goals. The “expensive toys” that may attract people initially to direct selling are just things to share with their family and not ends in themselves. When people “arrive” they think far less about toys. Instead they focus more on how they can help others.
As a communicator in direct sales, it is important to use inspirational messages; messages that enable independent sales agents to focus on why they are doing this business. An employee does not have to focus that way, as he or she has an immediate paycheck to motivate them. In direct sales, the bigger payout might be further down the road, so keeping big goals in mind is much more important. In others words, communicators need to help them imagine and then weave their dreams.
Paraphrasing a famous philosopher, you can say that he who has a “why” can find a “how.” Thus, it is always important to keep these higher considerations in mind, amidst the day-to-day messaging that needs to take place.