How to Become an Independent Sales Rep

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If you're a talented salesperson, like people, and enjoy the flexibility of working your own hours, direct selling as an independent sales rep may be right for you. Independent sales reps are independent contractors who must take care of their own taxes without an employer withholding a part of their paycheck. According to the Direct Selling Association, the national trade association for direct sellers, more than 15 million people participated in direct selling in 2007 in the United States alone. Here's how you can join that number.

Explore the possibilities. There are hundreds of direct selling opportunities out there, some of them better than others. In order to ensure you're working with a legitimate company, search the member directory at the Direct Selling Association website. All member companies must follow a strict code of ethics in order to remain in the association.

Consider the costs. When looking at opportunities, consider the start-up costs involved. Typically you'll be asked to pay for a sales kit to get you started. The sales kit will contain samples to share, catalogs, order forms, and training materials. Start-up costs range from approximately $20 to several thousand dollars.

Consider the competition in your area. If the opportunity you're considering doesn't have sales territories that's both a good thing and a bad thing. Although with no territories you can sell to anyone you want, so can everyone else. Don't choose a company that already has too many distributors in your area. Customers are rarely faithful to independent sales reps and are, instead, brand loyal.

Narrow your choices down to three possibilities and speak with sales representatives already working with these companies. Ask what they like and don't like about the company and ask about the products they sell.

Pick the company you want to work with and follow their sign-up procedure, pay for your start-up kit, and start selling.

Tips & Warnings

  • Look past the hype of any company to assess whether or not you can reasonably make money. Is the commission percentage good? Is money dependent on recruiting or home parties? You'll do better with a company whose pay structure isn't dependent upon recruiting other sales reps or the home party model. Is the product or service of good quality and something your community needs?
  • Look for unbiased sources of information. When interviewing sales reps about a company, be aware that they may try to recruit you into their down line (the people selling under them) so they can make money from your sales. If possible, interview someone who isn't interested in recruiting or isn't eligible to recruit you. You want to hear the negatives as well as the positives.

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