May 6, 2014 Leave a comment
by Barbara Seale
Take a cup of confidence, a big scoop of knowledge and a healthy dash of enthusiasm. Mix them together with care. That’s all part of the recipe for creating a consultant who gets off to a strong start and then sticks around, building an ever-expanding business over many years.
No matter what type of company you run or product or service you offer, that’s what you want for your consultants. One of the first key ingredients that delivers knowledge, helps create confidence and stokes that enthusiasm is a great starter kit.
In addition to what’s included, a starter kit serves several basic functions: It reinforces the rookie’s decision; it provides basic information on products or services; and it spells out the specific steps the new recruit must take to begin to make sales and build a team.
While a few companies are testing an exclusively online kit, most put a physical kit in their new recruit’s hands and then supplement it with online elements. It reinforces the company’s brand, and it also does something else important. It helps that newbie convince her spouse and family that her decision was smart and legitimate.
One of the industry’s top starter-kit experts is Paul Adams, Senior Vice President of Strategic Marketing for SUCCESS Partners. Adams has analyzed hundreds of kits in order to help clients develop the right one for their needs, and he has developed strong, clear opinions about them.
“My philosophy on this is pretty simple,” he says. “First, the kit has to resell and validate the person’s decision to join the company. Second, it has to allow the person to make the spouse or significant other feel good about it. And third, it has to create action and belief.”
Adams emphasizes that starter kits should not provide intense training that the new person won’t need for months into the business. He says, “Start with Day One. Help the new person get some ‘check marks’ to show that he or she can do the business. Then create repeatable behaviors.” Adams advises that a starter kit should be just that—a start—taking the new person into their business about 30 days. Additional training material can be added after that.
“First, the kit has to resell and validate the person’s decision to join the company. Second, it has to allow the person to make the spouse or significant other feel good about it. And third, it has to create action and belief.”
—Paul Adams, Senior Vice President of Strategic Marketing, SUCCESS Partners
From ‘I Don’t Know’ to ‘I Got This’
A starter kit is really a lifeline for the new consultant. It provides a glimpse into the culture of the company and makes the new recruit feel included in it. It also transforms the momentum and interest that caused the newbie to join the company in the first place into action that launches a successful business.
New recruits are often excited, but also scared when they begin their businesses, simply because owning a very real business is both exciting and scary. A good starter kit can extend the excitement while also reducing the fear, supplying the new recruit with more room to succeed at the beginning basics. A starter kit is also a company’s initial opportunity to create and control the messaging and systems that are provided to the new consultant, outlining and modeling their best practices.
Many companies also use this opportunity to include personal development ideas and materials in the kit that can help with the mental and psychological challenges a new person faces when launching a new business. Belief in oneself and one’s ability to actually succeed has proven to be as critical a factor as knowing what to do.
Companies that emphasize personal development as a part of their overall consultant training program report that it leads to increased motivation, decreased attrition and often higher profitability.
Many direct selling companies follow those general guidelines, customizing their kits to fit their culture and their needs. Four of them shared their starter kit experiences and philosophies with Direct Selling News for this feature.
There’s no substitute for experience, so when direct sellers want to upgrade their starter kit, they turn to the people who use it every day and know what works: consultants. At every company that spoke with Direct Selling News, initial development of new starter kits, plus any subsequent revisions, was done in collaboration with consultants.
Team National craftily used sales leader volunteers to help develop its new kit.
“If they volunteer, then they’re passionate about whatever committee we’re putting together,” explains Angela Loehr Chrysler, President and CEO of Team National. “We got a mix of leaders who were new to the highest level, but are still in the trenches and still helping their new team members when they get welcome kits. They are still hands-on. Then we also got a couple of seasoned leaders who wanted to be in on it. They answered the question, ‘What are the top five things I would want in a kit.’ ”
She added that the process wasn’t time-consuming. Five field leaders were involved, along with corporate staff. Most of the planning was accomplished in three conference calls.
While PartyLite has never completely overhauled its kit, it does update it twice a year when it introduces new products and catalogs. It routinely consults with a Field Advisory Team to make sure that the changes it makes to the kit over time are meeting their needs. PartyLite’s goal in the kit is to direct the new consultant toward the actions that will build a business—booking parties immediately, accumulating customers and growing a team.
“We are directing her to the fundamentals that are key, and if repeated, build a long-term sustainable business and income for the consultant,” says Karen Conkey, Vice President of Sales at PartyLite.
Univera also relied on its Field Advisory Board as it developed its highly successful new starter kit. Univera President and CEO Randy Bancino notes that because those board members work face to face with new recruits and customers daily, Univera relies on their feedback. It was key when the company revised its presentation brochure, for example.
“We made changes in the presentation brochure due to Associate feedback,” he says. “It’s one of the most effective tools they use as they introduce others to Univera.”
Univera’s Field Advisory Board reviews its starter kit quarterly, and the company typically changes it around once a year to keep the contents current and reflect new products. New incentives are often reflected in the kit, too.
USANA routinely talks with key leaders in each market to find out whether improvements need to be made in the kits and to determine what is working well to help new distributors get off to a positive start. Doug Braun, Chief Marketing Officer at USANA, says that the company empowers sponsors to work closely with their new recruits as they learn and to communicate any needs that aren’t being adequately met. Changes to the kit typically are introduced yearly at the international convention.
Fuel for Growth
At wellness company Univera, executives developed a new starter kit about two years ago as part of an overall rebranding effort. President and CEO Randy Bancino is proud of the kit and its effectiveness. He says he hears lots of wows about the result.
“It’s impressive, simple, elegant, and it does a nice job of reflecting our theme of vitality and energy,” he says. “Univera grew double digits last year, and I attribute a lot of it to the starter kit.”
Univera intentionally keeps the kit simple, carefully providing enough information and tools to equip new consultants, which the company calls associates, but not overwhelm them. He describes the approach as “the beginning of the conversation—not the whole thing.” It walks new associates through their first 30 days with Univera, providing specific action steps they need to take to get off to a strong, successful start.
The $40 kit contains a welcome letter from Bancino; a Power Up Your Life brochure, which summarizes the Univera story; a getting-started guide that describes specific actions the new recruit should take during the first 48 hours and then the first 30 days; a product catalog; and five opportunity DVDs and brochures the new associate can use to prospect. Also included are forms, such as the associate agreement, price list and customer order forms. Many components are also available online, such as the videos and forms, but Bancino emphasizes the value of having a hard copy to make that all-important first impression. The kit doesn’t contain product samples, but about 80 percent of new associates purchase a starter pack of mini-products and samples. The starter packs are available in several sizes with varying combinations of products and quantities.
While Univera typically ships the kit to the new recruit when they sign up, Bancino notes that experienced associates often keep kits with them to immediately place in the hands of a new recruit, helping them to get started on their new business right away.
Don’t Mess with Success
While Univera launched an entirely new kit in conjunction with a company rebranding effort, PartyLite has used its basic kit since the company was born in 1973. Don’t think that the kit’s longevity ages it, though. The company reviews and revises the kit every six months as it produces new product catalogs and spotlights new products.
PartyLite’s $99 kit prepares the new consultant for her first 90 days in business, focusing even more tightly on the first 30. Leaders sometimes keep kits on hand to give to new recruits. If not, the kit arrives in four or five days. It includes the key categories of the product line of candles and accessories, as well as items such as hurricanes, flameless ScentGlow® warmers, candles and products that are exclusive to PartyLite. Along with the assortment of products, new consultants also get support tools—a guide that introduces them to the product line, a booklet on the key aspects of the business, order forms, catalogs, reminder cards and other literature. Items in the kit are all intended to be used as business tools, rather than products to sell.
“The kit contains enough materials for more than their first party,” explains PartyLite Vice President of Sales Karen Conkey. “They may need more catalogs and candles during the first 90 days, but we have incentives that feed them tools and products. As they do business during that first 90 days, they can re-stock for low or even no cost.”
While the kit contains ample materials to take the new consultant through her first 30 days—what PartyLite calls the Brite Start Period—online training and clear communication equip her with knowledge that builds confidence. Profit from the consultant’s first party typically pays for her first party, and PartyLite’s online learning system helps that party be successful. Conkey says she is proud that the company clearly communicates the three exact, simple steps that are essential for success. And they work hard on the KISS imperative—Keep It Simple, Sweetie.
“Consultants can connect to our online Learning Center easily to learn how to support those three steps,” Conkey says. “Simplicity isn’t an innovation, but when you force yourself to simplify the business, it’s easy for a consultant to understand. And the farther geographically a new consultant lives from their leader, the more important it is to be very simple. It’s an ongoing quest for our business—always simplifying things to make it easy to understand the business and earn income as early as possible.”
Consultants who need additional materials quickly will find them online, where they also can place orders and send email party invitations linked to their personal replicated website. Customers can also place orders through the consultant’s website.
At membership services company Team National, a new starter kit recently replaced one they had used for eight years. Team National had tweaked the welcome kit from time to time but had stuck with the basic kit. It was time for an overhaul.
“The update recognized that people are looking for information differently today than they were when the kit was initially developed,” notes President and CEO Angela Loehr Chrysler. “And the new design on the outside of the box makes it look fresh, more contemporary.”
Team National doesn’t sell products. Instead, it sells memberships that let members save money on products and services from more than 20 industries. The key element of the kit, the Get Started flyer, spells out in four steps exactly what the new recruit must first do to save money. Then six additional bullets explain what they do to earn money. A 28-page Game Plan book provides more in-depth analysis for those who want more detail. The kit also includes audio training, recruiting CDs and DVDs to hand out or show, and a special insert on accessing and using Team National’s social media and apps. Chrysler points out that the special insert is a different size than other pieces so that it stands out and new recruits review it first, giving them quick access to online business tools.
Within 24 hours—often within an hour—of the time a new Independent Representative joins Team National, he or she receives an email welcome that includes an I.D. number that provides access to the content of some materials, such as the Get Started flyer. The email describes what will be in the physical welcome kit and how to get started even before it arrives, which is typically in three to 10 days, depending on where the consultant lives in the country.
Chrysler notes that the Get Started information had previously been only online. “The reality is, they wanted something in their hands, and we decided that the expense was worth it,” she concludes. “The irony of the new Get Started flyer that’s in there now is that our leaders suggested it four years ago, and we had never taken time to create it.”
Nutrition company USANA launched its current starter kit in August 2012 at its international convention. The kit was part of the company’s 20th anniversary corporate rebranding initiative. It was a giant leap, design-wise. The company transformed the kit from a plain, brown packing box to a highly designed, strongly branded box.
“We believe this change makes a strong impression with our new associates when they receive it,” explains USANA Chief Marketing Officer Doug Braun. “A goal of the starter kit was that it worked hard to connect the new associate with the brand.”
In addition to its five-step Getting Started checklist, product information, a welcome letter and several forms, USANA also includes personal development materials on audio and DVD, and a wealth of prospecting materials, including a sheet of business cards and a window decal that signal the new associate’s pride in being part of the company. While USANA’s kit details the important steps a newbie needs to take to get off to a successful start, the kit isn’t intended to be used during a specific timeframe. Instead, it provides the initial tools he or she will need, reinforces their decision, and sets the stage for retention.
“The starter kit is generally a company’s first physical contact with a new associate, so it was important to us that our starter kit was an accurate reflection of the brand the new associate just joined,” Braun notes. “From a content point of view, it was important that a new associate had tools and information to get started immediately. We wanted the kit to be welcoming and helpful and to provide guidance and tools to truly get their business started. By adding personal development pieces, we filled a gap from our previous kit. As we know, personal development is a key to understanding how to succeed in direct selling and to keep yourself, as a new distributor, motivated and focused on staying with it.”
The company doesn’t include any routine paperwork in the kit. Instead, it puts forms and easily printable materials at the Associate’s fingertips online.
Does it Work?
But no matter how beautifully a kit displays the brand and how many wows management hears about it, the key question is still this: How effective is the starter kit? How does a company know whether the kit is doing its job?
Most companies informally ask field leaders to appraise their starter kit’s effectiveness. Univera and PartyLite do that, too, but they also have more formal assessments.
Univera annually surveys its field on a variety of topics, including the effectiveness of its starter kit, and they do a quarterly qualitative analysis. They also track the sales of starter packs of products, which are heavily used by new recruits.
PartyLite collects qualitative comments from its Field Advisory Team, and it tracks the results of new consultants, too. They keep an eye on the number of parties new consultants have held, as well as the average sales at those parties. Then they follow up with surveys and focus groups.
“By talking to new consultants through surveys we gain information and data points that point us in the right direction,” Conkey says. “Then we hold focus groups with new consultants when we’re in the field to get feedback and more qualitative information.”
PartyLite’s philosophy about the cost of a starter kit—as well as the training a new consultant needs to get started—were representative of each company that spoke with Direct Selling News, no matter the company’s product line. In every case, they strive to provide the tools the new recruit needs to get started, but the fee for the kit covers its cost.
Conkey explains: “We have a target for our costs in terms of product, literature and tools, but we balance that with what the new consultant needs to do to earn income. It’s about what the products should be for them in order to have good parties and to be able to book future parties. We go through a very detailed process to get to the kit every time we create a new one. In the business we’re in, the visual appeal of products is extremely important—how they look together, how they photograph together, how a consultant shows them in the best light.”
The cost of a starter kit covers a wide range—beginning as low as $10 and climbing to a few hundred—though most seem to come in around $99. Regardless, the kit is a living, breathing piece of the business, a starting point that should change and be refreshed based on the reaction in the field. The best kits provide clarity, build action and provide materials that support that action.