To be a great student, we have to ask great questions

The famous philosopher, Bertrand Russell once said, “It’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”

I started asking questions during my first job in direct sales (in fact, if you asked my mentor, he’d probably say I asked too many questions). I was working for a large company that was growing fast. We began to hire people from outside of our industry – well known and highly respected names from the world of retail joined our ranks. Naturally, many didn’t have the same passion that I did for direct sales, and it was frustrating at times. So one day I sat down with my mentor who happened to be the COO at the time. I asked him why we were hiring so many outsiders. His response, changed my career.

“Darren, companies value other companies’ experience.”

In that moment I realized that in order to make my company great, I had to understand what made other companies great. There had to be principles behind their success. And I started a life-long mission to understand them. I became a student of network marketing.

As a fairly large direct sales company, we are often approached by leaders who want to join. These are accomplished men and women. They are well known and highly regarded. As CEO I like to sit down with them before they make a decision.

They want to meet me and ask about my vision for the company, and I want to ask them a single question: how did you become successful?

I want to understand if they understand what their success was based on. Did the lightning of good fortune strike them in the right place at the right time? Or was their success a product of a methodical plan and vision. If their answer is the former, I usually tell them to stay put where they are. It’s simply a better financial decision for them in the long run.

In our industry it’s easy to parrot catchphrases. We go to events, soak up motivation, and listen to others’ success stories. But do we really understand the principles underlying that success? Have we become students of network marketing? I would estimate that only 10 to 20 percent of network marketing leaders really have. Think of the last event you attended. We frequently hear stories from stage about why people do what they do, but rarely do we hear about why they are successful and the principles driving their success. We are given information but are seldom truly taught. We learn about past success, but present-day lessons that set other distributors on a brand-new trajectory are few and far between. If you can only talk about past success, you’re only a historian.

The Thing About Principles

Let’s talk about principles. They’re timeless. And they are applicable to everyone. Understanding and applying correct principles means that distributors can duplicate success no matter what day of the week it is, or which organization they work for.

But here’s the really important thing about great principles. They start with great questions. Is the earth really round? Why did that apple just fall from the tree? If we never question, we’re doomed to a life of blindly following what others have done. Success starts with questioning everything, even our questions. Because questions lead to principles. And principles create real, duplicatable success.

Over the last year, we’ve been asking a lot of questions at LifeVantage. And over the course of the past several months, I’ve begun sharing what we’ve learned with you in previous issues. We’ve asked and answered questions like, is it more important to have an engaged customer or a disengaged distributor. Or does attending events really matter? And one of my favorites: does it matter how quickly distributors make their first sale? These questions have challenged the industry status quo. They have turned some of our longest-held beliefs upside down. Most importantly, the answers to them – backed by data – have led to principles. I’ve shared six thus far (and there may be more to come). These principles, and others, have completely transformed the way we do business. I believe that understanding the forces that effect the long-term lifetime value and longevity of your customers makes decision making much easier.

Our goal is to help each one of our distributors build a business that’s based on correct principles. It might not be the industry norm. But we believe that it’s creating success that’s repeatable all the way down the ranks. Why? Because we’re seeing results.

More Engagement

We discovered that the amount of time it takes to find a customer or enroll another distributor is crucial. In 2017, we had about a 26 percent engagement rate, meaning just over a quarter of our distributors would make this critical first step within a week. It was a respectable number. In 2018, we’re up to 36 percent, and the compound effect it’s having across our organization is massive.

Higher Retention

It’s no secret that our industry has suffered from massive attrition rates – both from distributors, but perhaps more importantly, from customers. Continued, active participation and order placement over the long haul are critical metrics for us, as they are for any business. Applying our principles has also helped improve our retention numbers, which have jumped to what, I believe, are among the of the highest in the industry. I don’t believe I need to expound on what that means from a business perspective here. I’ll let your imaginations do the work.

Today, we’re living and working in a disruptive period of time. And that’s actually putting it mildly. AI, machine learning, the mobile revolution, and the gig economy are all impacting business on a scale we haven’t seen since the Industrial Revolution. It’s a massive opportunity for our distributors and their businesses.

But we can’t just wait for success to come to us or expect that it will be achieved through doing the same things we’ve always done. Even though technology and business models are constantly being disrupted and changing, principles rarely do. Tactics may change, principles hold firm.

The more we – as lifelong students – question and understand what truly impacts success, the better equipped we will be to make the most out of change.


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