The Importance of the Consultant’s Expertise within Direct Selling

Swarovski understands that recognizing achievement is crucial to motivating sales teams, and that gifts can express appreciation and reward loyalty in so many ways—as sales incentives or long service awards, or at company events and special occasions. Personalization adds to perceived value, which is useful when acknowledging high-achieving staff or VIPs.

A stylish business gift motivates sales teams and deepens their relationship with the brand.

The consultant’s expertise is crucial and deserves to be acknowledged—a stylish business gift is a thoughtful way of expressing appreciation and nurturing relationships.

What Is Direct Selling?
As the name implies, it is a method of marketing and selling products and services directly to consumers outside traditional retail premises—usually at home or at work. With an estimated 177 million people involved around the world, direct selling is a growing sector. Global brands and niche businesses use direct selling to engage personally with their customers across many different sectors, including cosmetics, personal care and wellbeing products, household goods, clothing and accessories.

As direct selling often involves demonstration or explanation, the consultant’s role is an important one. The relationship they build with their customers is underpinned by their product knowledge and expertise, which means that they are able to offer highly targeted information and advice. The consultant’s expertise is crucial and deserves to be acknowledged—a stylish business gift is a thoughtful way of expressing appreciation and nurturing relationships.

Acknowledge commitment and success with a sincere gesture of appreciation. ©GETTY IMAGES

Seldia is an interest group that promotes the industry’s benefits and advantages within the European Union. Consisting of corporate members and national associations, as well as service providers such as Swarovski, the organization celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and will mark this event with celebrations at its annual conference in October, where Swarovski will present its services. Swarovski took the opportunity to interview Katarina Molin, Executive Director Seldia:

1. As a European organization Seldia represents the interest of the direct selling industry in Brussels. Where do you see the biggest opportunities for direct selling in Europe? And how do you support these with your work in Brussels?

Molin: Direct selling is a retail sector that has shown healthy growth in Europe over the last decade, and continues to grow. Direct selling companies are therefore successfully tapping into the needs of European consumers with their products and sales approach. In fact, sales in Europe were up 3.5% between 2016 and 2017. Germany, France, and UK are still among the top 10 global markets, and the 2017 Euromonitor report predicts that growth in the region will continue through to 2020.

In Brussels, there are great opportunities for the sector to continue to work on getting better recognition from policymakers. Fifteen million people are involved in direct selling in Europe, and we need to ensure that the voices of these independent, small business owners are better heard. This will help us get the support we need when it comes to various EU legislative policies, which have a direct effect on the daily work of these people. So I’m very pleased that Seldia will be presenting the results of the largest independent direct seller survey ever carried out across 11 European markets at our annual conference in Brussels on October 17.

Seldia is currently very actively involved in targeted advocacy actions related to the new policy proposal from the European Commission, entitled: A New Deal for Consumers, and will continue our work to ensure that these new rules will be supportive for the direct selling sector in Europe.

2. And what are your biggest challenges?

Molin: The fact that the industry is not well known beyond the people involved in the sector is a challenge. Having spent more than 15 years in Brussels before joining Seldia, and having had contact with the European retail sector, I had never heard the term “direct selling” before starting this job.

Historically, the industry has—for all the right reasons—focused its marketing and promotion resources on the direct selling sales force, rather than going for standard PR campaigns that reach a wider public. Therefore many direct selling companies are unknown to the wider public, but also to policymakers both at a national and European level. We need to work much more actively on external communications so that we are better understood as Seldia (which has recently engaged in a targeted social media campaign for that very reason), and also by companies and direct selling associations that will need to support these efforts at a national level.

3. Direct selling has a long history—what are the major changes since its establishment?

Molin: The internet, new technologies, and the emergence of digital tools have opened doors to a new era of opportunity for direct sellers, but also for their customers. Direct selling activities can now be carried out anywhere and without boundaries, reaching out to many more people than a decade ago.

The development of the collaborative economy has also had an effect on the direct selling sector, as it has raised interest in entrepreneurial work and a different work attitude than we used to see in traditional fulltime 9 till 5 jobs. Our sector is truly a social selling arena that relies on direct contact between the seller and the buyer, and which gives a lot of people a very easy way to start their own small businesses.

4. Seldia celebrates its 50th anniversary this year—what do you consider your organization’s biggest achievement so far?

Molin: That direct selling is these days seen as a legitimate part of the wider retail sector. While we all still need to work on getting broader external recognition, Seldia has built up strong relationships within both the European retail sector and among EU policymakers, and are seen as a constructive industry partner with a sincere interest and engagement in EU consumer protection policies. The customer is at the heart of the direct selling business, and to be recognized as a constructive and relevant industry partner in such discussions is very important to us.

However, we do see that direct selling is still very much regarded as, and appreciated for, being a personal way of shopping, which means that face-to-face meetings and home parties are still by far the most popular shopping channels for customer orders.

"Our sector is truly a social selling arena that relies on direct contact between the seller and the buyer, and which gives a lot of people a very easy way to start their own small businesses."

5. More and more consumers make their purchases online. Does this have any effect on direct selling?

Molin: It is certainly true that more consumers are shopping online, but I believe that’s not the only change that is important. We must recognize that in the digital world in which we live, consumers are also getting smarter. They tend to be very knowledgeable and well informed; they are getting more and more demanding in the sense that shopping should be easy and access to products and services swift.

All direct selling companies have to adjust to these changes in consumer behavior and expectations, and there need to be easy ways for the consumer to place orders and get timely deliveries of products. Equipping the direct selling sales force with the right online tools, and training them to connect well with their customers (these tools will differ depending on the culture and the generation targeted) is also important.


6. What kind of impact has social media had? And how has the work of influencers changed the direct selling industry?

Molin: Direct sellers can themselves be seen as influencers for their community and have, in fact, worked as influencers long before digitalization. Direct sellers build up personal relationships with their customers, and they are passionate and have good knowledge of the products they are selling. They are therefore very skilled and well placed to continue working with targeted personal advice and recommendations, which is something today’s consumer is increasingly looking for, regardless of the sales channel.

We do also see some developments in using influencers as part of company brand strategy to increase external recognition and interest in its brand and products. 

7. Looking at Swarovski Corporate Gifts, please complete the following sentences:

—What comes to mind when I think of Swarovski Corporate Gifts is… 
   Molin: sparkly, classy, modern

—My favorite products from the assortment are…

   Molin: from the jewelry section. One of my favorite necklaces, given to me by my husband a few years ago, is a Swarovski necklace with a large crystal pendant. From the current collection I like the look and feel of the Swarovski vintage and lavender designs. However, I have also had much use of a Swarovski crystal ballpoint pen, which I always keep in my handbag.

Thierry Dauwe

Katarina Molin, Executive Director, Seldia

“Fifteen million people are involved in direct selling in Europe, and we need to ensure that the voices of these independent, small business owners are better heard.”