Reskill, Upskill, Grow: Driving Distributor Retention Organically

The COVID-19 pandemic – and present economic uncertainty more generally – have made upskilling and reskilling the targets of much organizational planning, and direct sales training is no exception. 

In traditional corporate structures, companies and HR departments have tried to develop rigorous, exhaustive programs to “upskill” workers within the organization, helping them achieve and earn more, and “reskill” those whose jobs have been made redundant. 

At a time when the labor market is tight and the pool of available workers small, creating such programs to hire and develop talent within the company itself can be a huge boost. As McKinsey’s analysts frame it, “Workers across industries must figure out how they can adapt to rapidly changing conditions, and companies have to learn how to match those workers to new roles and activities.”

The question for us is: how do upskilling and reskilling programs apply to the distributed workforce – for instance, in the case of direct sales training? How can such programs be utilized in distributed industries? We consider these questions below.

What Are Upskilling and Reskilling?

Briefly, upskilling refers to the process of adding new skills and boosting existing ones for internal workers. In effect, by upskilling, companies add new capabilities to their organization and reduce inefficiencies – without having to hire from the outside. (Of course, they have a different meaning in direct selling, which in the field doesn’t have “employees.”)

Reskilling refers to changing current workers’ skills to accommodate new realities – for instance, if either their own goals or the company’s road map changes. This can make direct sales training easier when distributors already have skills and familiarity. They already have a relationship with the company. In our case, direct sales training and motivation will thus move faster.

Upskilling and Reskilling for Direct Selling – a Primer

If upskilling and reskilling are very important for corporate structures going forward – which experts say they are – then how can we apply this lesson to the distributed workforce, and in particular to direct selling?

In a 2022 article, Harvard Business Review outlines three steps for corporate upskilling: empowerment, engagement, and planning. The HBR authors argue that future-proof companies will develop programs through which employees can articulate and realize their professional interests and goals; engage employees with company-wide surveys and communications about upskilling opportunities; and give employees the tools to measure their performance and progress against company expectations.

The relevant question is how this can be folded into direct selling and the distributed workforce, which does not consist of employees in the traditional sense. For context, direct sellers are individuals who directly sell a company’s products to consumers, but who themselves are not employees of this company. Yet upskilling and reskilling – particularly the former – are still relevant for such organizations. The development of skills increases the value produced by each distributor. Upskilled distributors can sell and accomplish more; the workforce grows more effective.

What Are Some of the Ways to Upskill in Direct Sales Training?

Upskilling in direct selling refers to the process of improving and expanding the skills and knowledge of sales representatives to help them become more effective in their roles. Here’s how upskilling can work in direct selling. Just a selection of ways.

  1. Product knowledge training: Direct selling companies often provide training to their sales representatives on their products, including features, benefits, and how they compare to similar products on the market. This helps sales representatives to better understand the products they are selling and to communicate their value to potential customers.
  2. Sales and marketing training: Direct selling companies also provide training on sales techniques and marketing strategies that can help sales representatives to better promote their products and close more sales. This includes training on how to approach potential customers, how to handle objections, and how to follow up with leads.
  3. Leadership training: Direct selling companies may also offer training on leadership skills for those who want to build a team of sales representatives. This includes training on how to recruit and train new team members, how to motivate and manage a team, and how to build a culture of success.

Overall, upskilling in direct selling is essential for sales representatives to stay competitive and succeed in their roles. By continuously improving their skills and knowledge, they can build stronger relationships with customers, close more sales, and ultimately grow their businesses.

Digital Transformation and Direct Selling Upskilling

Let’s say Shaina is a distributor selling beauty products. She works on her direct selling business about sixteen hours each week, because that’s all she has time for. How can her company fit upskilling into that time? The key lies in digital transformation. 

This article by analysts at PricewaterhouseCoopers, though not about direct sales training, lays out the role that digital transformation plays in upskilling. Digital technology provides a way of making workers more “agile and resilient” and preparing the workforce for the future. Certainly, if direct selling companies want to improve workforce retention – which this 2021 Direct Selling Association fact sheet shows remains a problem, with direct selling having lost 5.2% of their workforce that year – then they’ll emphasize upskilling.

Let’s say that Shaina has access to digital transformation tools in the palm of her hand – an app that is simple to use even when on the go. Tracking her learning & development (L&D) progress and sales activity, this app could notify her when it’s time for the exact learning module that’s most relevant to her goals at the moment when she’ll find it most useful. Then all she’ll have to do is open the notification on her phone and complete that module – say, while in line at the grocery store – and she’ll have gone part of the way toward upskilling.

Of course, there’s a lot going on in the background leading up to that crucial moment of opening a relevant notification and completing a relevant business task. Companies have to have developed the right learning content to suit their workforce – this goes along with what HBR called “planning.” But it’s also essential to have a platform that’s strong enough, fast enough, and smart enough to complete the empowerment and engagement parts of the equation. 

Which is exactly what Rallyware provides for direct selling; and although the technical specifies lie outside of the scope of this article, it’s important to note that Rallyware has the complete digital experience for the field workforce, including L&D and incentives & recognition (I&R) tools. These tools work together – and layer on top of other systems, such as back-office solutions – to drive empowerment and engagement for the distributed workforce. That’s what the analysts at HBR called for when it comes to upskilling.    

Direct Selling and Reskilling

Of lesser importance for direct selling is reskilling, which, in corporations, mostly affects those whose jobs might be automated through the digital transformation. 

Reskilling might apply to distributors who decide to change their goals. For instance, let’s say that Shaina begins to grow more and more absorbed in direct selling – partly because of how easy her app has made it to make money – and so she decides to make direct selling more of a focus for herself. 

Having an app like Rallyware, which allows distributors to define their goals and then bases their L&D and I&R programs on those goals, can help with such direct selling reskilling. A platform that lets distributors easily redefine their objectives can help them reskill toward those objectives – using automated technology to help them get there.  

Whereas in corporate structures, reskilling might become necessary because of automation, in direct selling it’s made possible through automation. Technology that automatically recognizes when it’s time for a new learning or business activity that will help Shaina achieve her new goals is helping her reskill – change the course of her entrepreneurial journey. It’ll also help the company for which she is an associate retain her as part of the distributed workforce, which as mentioned earlier, is one of the core pain points for direct selling.

Rallyware helps automate and simplify upskilling and reskilling for distributors. Don’t wait until it’s too late and you’re behind the competition – request your demonstration today.