COVID-19 and the Transformation of Direct Selling

While COVID-19 has impacted everybody around the world, direct selling with its historically distributed workforce has proven to be incredibly robust during this unprecedented period. With some industries having ground to a halt, direct selling companies have gone from strength to strength as consumers look for online solutions to their purchasing needs and homeworkers seek new ways to bolster their incomes by working as distributors. 

However, whilst the industry has demonstrated an impressive ability to thrive in such difficult conditions, that success does bring new challenges. Steady growth means finding new distributors, but for that to be effective those new distributors need to be fully up to speed with business building processes and their expectations. With a distributed workforce, where in-person meetings are usually rare and during the pandemic almost impossible, the onboarding process becomes more important than ever in ensuring operational effectiveness is maintained as the business grows. 

The question is, what should that onboarding look like during a pandemic, and how will it change as we come out the other side of COVID-19 life?

Distributed workforce onboarding during a pandemic

In the recent past, uplines would onboard their downline recruits through a combination of online materials and direct in person communications, however, with that in-person element removed from the process, a new onboarding solution is necessary for direct selling companies to fully take advantage of what is an incredible opportunity for the industry. 

Without the ability to rely 24/7 on uplines to provide the onboarding experience recruits need to achieve success, a rethink of the entire process has been needed. Instead of that in-person model, a more centralized option has been successfully adopted by companies within the industry, with the best providing an online platform for new downline recruits that offers relevant information about the company itself, the products and the strategies and processes in place to help grow the distributor’s business. It also enhances uplines’ capability to better support, mentor and track progress of their downlines at scale. 

In addition to the best business building tools and practices, relevant information about compliance and additional marketing and sales training is often offered through this platform too. In this way, it becomes not just an onboarding solution, but an ongoing training hub that helps maintain motivation for distributors, a key to maintaining their performance growth

A key to the success is in how this information is delivered, with the best results coming from a tailored solution that delivers a personalized experience for each new distributor based on their unique goals. This gives a sense of belonging that inspires new recruits and helps them adjust to the new role they are taking on. In practice, this can be as simple as inserting the distributor’s name into the welcoming material rather than a generic placeholder. It really does make a difference to the experience for those just starting out on their journey with the direct selling company. 

A digital solution for the digital world of direct selling

Today, the digital environment is where we spend much of our time, and thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, that includes work time. Digital content delivered on demand is an excellent way to provide the onboarding materials required, and can use a number of formats, from text-based documentation to video-based instructions and audio files for additional content. All are broken in to smaller modules and easily digested by distributors when they need, creating a solid base for the onboarding process and further success.

That digital content does lack something though, by necessity such information about the company, products and processes is formal in nature. It also lacks the ability to answer questions with any kind of immediacy and for some recruits, may be a little overwhelming. The answer is to supplement that material with additional human support and assistance if possible. Video conferencing can allow a managed introduction of new recruits, with company leaders or recruitment experts leading groups through initial onboarding this way. As a vehicle for Q and A sessions, as well as giving a human face to the data and processes remote onboarding presents, it can be highly effective in aiding a seamless transition into the new role for these recruits.

How a post-COVID-19 world will look like for direct sellers  

Of course, the pandemic is not a permanent situation, and eventually, via vaccine or other measures, the ideas of lockdowns and other restrictions will gradually disappear. However, while the legal restrictions may go, what does that mean for the direct selling industry? In practice, the idea that things will return to ‘normal’, as if nothing happened are unrealistic. 

The distributed workforce has not only proved highly effective during the pandemic, but also highly popular. The idea that you can have a better work-life balance, eliminate tedious, expensive and environmentally unfriendly commutes and work in ways that fit your life has taken hold. It is a genie that will not go back into the bottle any time soon.

So, it is clear that post-COVID-19, direct selling will remain the thriving industry it is right now, but with a return to in-person meetings, will that be the route to onboarding too? Like any business, direct selling companies need to maintain profitability, and the reality is that digital transformation of onboarding, including on-demand materials and some form of direct online interactions, is a very cost-effective approach for bringing new recruits up to speed and delivering ongoing training to all distributed workforce. 

If it continues to be a successful approach to onboarding as it has proven to be so far, there is little business sense in making changes for the sake of it. Instead, the most likely outcome is a continuation of the most cost-effective model, allowing companies to rapidly grow their distributor networks. Additionally, with a uniform, centralized and personalized onboarding process, uplines can focus on growing the business and providing additional support, and no matter who the upline is, new distributors will always receive the same quality onboarding experience as others.

The pandemic has very effectively illustrated the benefits of home working and direct selling, and with a great digital onboarding using the latest tech, distributors can learn, ask questions and seamlessly transition to their new roles. By maintaining a digital onboarding experience accessible to all, direct selling companies can unify the new distributor experience in way that works not just during a global pandemic but can redefine the direct selling experience for new recruits for the foreseeable future even post COVID-19.

Rallyware Performance Enablement Platform delivers digital learning and business-building activities that power many leading direct selling companies, enabling not just fast onboarding but ongoing, effective training and engagement to enable any business goal to be met. Simply request a free demo to learn how Rallyware can transform your onboarding within this challenging environment (and after).