If you’re a woman of a certain age, the odds are excellent that you’ve attended a home sales party of some kind. Probably more than one, in fact.
Think Tupperware, Silpada, Pampered Chef, Southern Living at Home, Discovery Toys, Mary Kay, and many more.
Depending on who you are, you may have seen that invitation in the mailbox and considered it a chance for a fun outing with friends, or a social obligation to be endured or get out of.
But either way, chances are you’ve wondered if the sales rep for the company was making good money. You may have even considered becoming one yourself, especially if you like the products.
My Home Party Plan Experience
I spent six years as a Creative Memories Consultant. Creative Memories is a home party plan company that teaches people to scrapbook and sells scrapbooking supplies.
My experience with Creative Memories was mostly a positive one.
Although I was a business major in college, I learned more about operating a business during my years as a CM Consultant than I did in four years of college. That’s not a knock on college; it’s a plug for the value of learning by doing.
During my years as a CM Consultant I taught classes, held workshops, managed inventory, created customer communications, recruited other consultants, and managed a team. I enjoyed my time as a consultant and considered my experience a valuable one.
I also spent a few months as a Southern Living at Home Consultant. My time with Southern Living at Home was significantly shorter than my CM stint, and my heart really wasn’t in it, but I’m basing some of my thoughts in this post on my experiences there as well.
Having (hopefully) established my credentials as someone who knows about home party plans, here is what I would want you to know:
Most Home Party Plan Companies Are Legit.
If you’ve heard of the company, it’s probably a reputable one. The companies listed at the top of this post are good examples.
If you’re in doubt at all – and especially if you are thinking about signing on as a rep for one of these companies – make sure they are a member of the Direct Selling Association.
The Money is in the Recruiting
Here’s the answer to the money question: If you love the products and like the party scene, you can expect to get your own products at a reduced cost and maybe earn a little fun money on the side.
If you have dreams of making a significant income with a home party plan company, you’ll need to recruit others to sell under you. The compensation plan is set up this way because it’s how the companies grow.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I genuinely enjoyed my relationships with my customers and eventually had a full team of consultants, many of whom became good friends.
Most Consultants Don’t Make Big Money
The percentage of consultants who advance to leadership levels and make full-time incomes is small. There are two main reasons for this:
1. It’s easy to become a consultant. The barriers to entry are low so you have a lot of people getting in that are either not very well suited to being a consultant or are not very committed to it.
2. It’s simple to move up the ranks, but it’s not easy. There’s a difference. The business model is simple, which is one of its strengths. But selling (both products and the consultant opportunity) is not easy. Many people get frustrated or lose interest.
Despite all that, there are people that do well with home party companies. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from giving it a try; just go in aware and keep your expectations realistic.
The Industry Has a Negative Reputation
Home party plans may suffer from this less than other network marketing companies, but the entire industry tends to be lumped together and its reputation isn’t good.
At best you won’t be taken very seriously by most people. That’s because most people have seen a variety of people they know come and go as consultants or reps.
At worst, you may be lumped in with every overly pushy salesperson that the people you know or are in front of have encountered.
Some Things to Think About If You’re Considering Becoming a Home Party Plan Rep
1. Choose a company with products you’re passionate about.
Or at least genuinely enjoy. You’re going to have to memorize the catalog and talk enthusiastically about the products in it, so make sure it’s a good fit.
2. Consider whether you’ll have to hold inventory.
Holding an inventory allows you to respond to customer’s needs quickly, but it’s going to require extra money and storage space on your part.
3. Look for a consumable product.
I didn’t know to consider this ahead of time, but I lucked out because many scrapbooking supplies are consumable. So are food and health products, makeup, and skincare items.
consumable product means you’ll have readymade repeat sales with those who like your product. It also allows you to develop a relationship with your good customers, which makes it easier to recruit consultants in a non-pushy way.
4. Choose your upline (the person you sign under) carefully.
You’ll be working with this person closely, so choose someone who you get along with and whose style is similar to your own.
Consider what you want to get out of your experience as a rep too. If you’d like to build a big business and make a career of it, don’t choose someone who treats the business as a hobby. You won’t get what you’ll need from her.
Similarly, if you just want to get your products at a discount and be left alone, don’t choose Susie Saleswoman. She’ll drive you crazy.
5. Watch your expenses.
It’s easy to get carried away “playing store.” With many companies you will have to pay at least some of the cost for shopping bags, catalogs, and sometimes even order forms. These things will add up quickly and eat into your profits, so be aware.
6. Move beyond your friends and family quickly.
Most people are advised to start by marketing to their friends and family and many never make it beyond that point. That’s why so many people inwardly groan when they learn that a friend or family member has signed on with a company.
It’s fine – and understandable – that you’ll start with friends and family because you need to start somewhere. But act professionally, don’t expect everyone to be interested, and move beyond them as quickly as you can. This is important for the health of your business as well as your relationships.
7. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
It’s fine to put your own spin on things, but most of these companies provide solid training materials, so take advantage of what works.
Why I Left Home Party Plan Sales
As I mentioned at the top, I was a CM Consultant for over six years. I left for two main reasons:
1. I was ready to try something new.
Part of it was just a growth process. Opposite of most people, I loved having a team and recruiting, but I had tired of the need to teach new classes and get new customers. It just felt like time to move on.
2. Network marketing’s negative reputation bothered me.
Maybe it shouldn’t have, but it did. Even though I tried to always conduct myself professionally, I didn’t like being part of an industry that people didn’t take seriously.
Still, I learned so much and have good memories of my time as a consultant. And because there were things that I missed about it, I even had two short-lived attempts to get back in (once with Southern Living at Home and another time back with Creative Memories).
But I should have followed my first instinct, because my decision to leave at that time was a good one for me.
What are your experiences with home party plans? Postive? Negative? Somewhere in between? I’d love to hear your comments.
Interested in reading more about home party plan sales?
Here is a book I found helpful when I was a consultant:
And this is the book I would buy if I were in the business today:
Both are referral links. See my disclosure policy for more details.Note: I'm no longer adding new posts to The Family CEO. I am, however, writing at Creating This Life, where we talk about home, books, travel, and other life stuff.
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