The Unconventional RD Podcast Episode 30 - Direct Sales for Dietitians with Mandy Enright

More About Mandy Enright

Mandy Enright, MS, RDN, RYT, is a registered dietitian, yoga, and fitness instructor based at the Jersey Shore. She specializes in corporate wellness and nutrition communications. Mandy is known as the FOOD + MOVEMENT® Dietitian for her fun and flexible approach to maximize body and mind performance through lifestyle and mindset changes that integrate into rather than deviate from our busy daily lives. Mandy also runs a successful side business as Senior Director for Zyia Active, a boutique activewear company for women, men, and kids.

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Episode Show Notes

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Welcome to The Unconventional RD podcast, where we inspire dietitians to think outside of the traditional employment box and create their own unconventional income stream. We’ll talk all things online business to help you start, grow, and scale your own digital empire.

What to expect from this episode

Today, we’re talking about something a little controversial in the nutrition field, and that is direct sales. I’ve invited Mandy Enright onto the podcast today because she is a dietitian and fitness instructor who is really passionate about this subject. She has plenty of experience giving talks about this topic and discussing the pros and cons of multilevel marketing, the ethical considerations, and how to know whether it might be something that is a fit for you in your career. So we’re going to dive into that in today’s episode.

And of course, in all fairness, I am completely open. If you’re listening to this and you have the polar opposite viewpoint of what we’re talking about today, definitely shoot me an email. You can find my contact information under the “contact me” tab on my website at And you know, if you’d love to have you come on and be the opposing viewpoint in a future episode, I am all for it. I am here to discuss all sides of all issues.

So I’m excited to dive into this today. And without further ado, let’s get to know Mandy.

Erica: Hey Mandy, thanks for being on the podcast today.

Mandy: Thanks Erica. I’m super stoked to be here.

Erica: So today we are talking about a topic that I am excited to hear more about. It’s direct sales for dietitians. And personally, I don’t have a ton of experience in this realm and I know you do, so I’m excited to get your opinion and feedback and advice on this topic and how it applies to dietitians. So thank you again for being here.

Mandy: You’re welcome.

What is direct sales?

Erica: So to start out, can you just explain off the bat, like what is direct sales?

Mandy: Direct sales is it’s just a retail channel. So rather than going to Target or Walmart or wherever it is that you go to buy items, you’re going to a person. And the goal is really about getting a product into a consumer’s hands. So rather than when you go to a store, things have to be marketed, things have to be, um, you know, done in a certain way, all the investment that the company is making in their product is all going to the reps for them to sell it directly on their behalf.

So rather than paying high advertising fees and store employees, everything that’s involved with having a retail-based business, you’re taking a lot of that equation out. And then on your end, as an individual, as the rep, basically you’re an entrepreneur, you’re an independent entrepreneur, but you have all these resources of a large company. So your overhead is very low.

Most of it’s a home-based model, so you don’t actually have to go anywhere or have, you know, you don’t have to have your own retail space set up for it, and you can really earn as much as you want as a result. So it’s essentially like a company that you want to be a rep for has a product that you believe in and you would like to sell it to people and you sign up as a rep and then you make the sales directly to whoever’s in your personal sphere or your audience.

Erica: And then is it like you earn a commission or something like that?

Mandy: Yep. So you earn a commission and then the nice thing is you have all the resources of the company. So they do all the logistics, they handle all the fulfillment and your job is to just be a great representative and work with your customers and do what you can to make your customers happy and serve them.

Erica: Is it the same thing as an “MLM”? And what is an MLM? Can we define that? And is there a difference or is it really the same thing?

Mandy: Yeah. So direct sales is kind of like the PC term that that’s out there, but other kind of terms that you may have heard… you might’ve heard the terms relationship marketing, one-to-one sales, referral marketing, multilevel marketing. More or less, they’re kind of all the same. It really just depends on how the model is built out, I guess, for how people earn commissions.

But really the goal is that it’s team-based models where you have other reps coming on, but at the end of the day, and maybe we’ll talk about what’s the difference between like an MLM and the scary word, the pyramid scheme, cause people like to use those words interchangeably and that’s actually like, not a correct statement.

So a pyramid scheme basically means like you’re selling something, but there’s actually nothing being sold. And it’s just bringing people into this model where it’s like the person at the top makes all the money and nobody at the bottom does. That’s actually very different than what multilevel marketing is. Cause multilevel marketing is like, yeah, you have reps and team members, but I have team members under me that can sell more and they can earn more money than me and they can promote and they do all that stuff. Whereas in a pyramid model, you never get to the top. You never bypass anybody. You’re just always, you know, at whatever level you’re at.

But what’s interesting with like a multilevel marketing or relationship marketing model, is that like, yeah, even though I have people that work underneath me, like I said, they have the opportunity to earn as much as they want. They can earn more than me. Like there’s nothing stopping them from doing that.

Examples of MLM companies

Erica: Do you have some examples? Like brand names of direct sales companies to help flesh this out for people? I feel like they’ve probably heard of at least one brand, whether they realize it’s direct sales/MLM or not.

Mandy: Right. So I mean, common ones, most of you probably are familiar with things like Pampered Chef. Avon has probably shown up in someone’s house, and there cannot be one person on this call that has not had Tupperware in their house at some point. Those are all some of the big brands and there’s a lot more that are popping up.

Erica: I’m thinking like, I don’t know the names exactly, but I know there’s a bunch of essential oil ones that are really popular right now. Like I dunno, is young living one?

Mandy: Yeah. Young Living, there’s doTERRA.

Erica: Yeah. That’s what I’m thinking of.

Mandy: So this is where things get controversial. I think this is where a lot of the question and concern comes in with dietitians about it and where a lot of the misconceptions come in because of the brands we’re typically exposed to based on our expertise and who’s reaching out to us.

How Mandy became a dietitian and got into direct sales

Erica: And we will get into that in a second, but first, I am just curious to hear a little bit more of your backstory. Maybe you can start us off with how you became a dietitian and how you got into direct sales as a dietitian.

Mandy: So sit back, grab a cup of coffee. We’ll be here for a little bit!

So I did not start my career as a dietitian. I was an advertising executive in Manhattan for about 10 years. And then I got really, really, just burnt out on what I was doing, but I loved health and wellness and fitness. And originally I was going to go to school, not school, but originally I was going to just be a personal trainer.

I was like, that looks amazing. I’ve worked with personal trainers and I’m paying them a lot of money. So I’m sure it’s a great gig. And then I looked into it and I was like, wow, terrible pay, terrible hours, and no benefits. Huh? Maybe we should rethink this model.

The reason I kind of got into it was because when I was in advertising, I accidentally got into teaching kickboxing. Long story short, the gym I trained at when I lived up in North Jersey opened up a location closer to where I had lived when I had moved a little closer to my parents and they were looking for people and they were like, “Oh, you should train.” I’m like, “No, I’m an executive. Like, fitness classes? That’s crazy!” And they’re like, “Oh, do it. You’ll get your membership for free.” All that stuff. I was like, all right, what’s the worst that could happen?

At the gym they were doing like nutrition programs, nothing like, definitely out of the scope. It was more just like looking at what people are eating and just giving some insights. Like now I know like, okay, maybe not qualified people, but, um, that was kind of what got my interest in the relationship of fitness and nutrition.

So then I kind of started doing a little research, figuring out what I want my next move in life to be. Like I said, I looked into the personal training route and that like, didn’t really seem like a good option to leave a six figure job for. So I was like, Hey, this nutrition thing looks kind of cool. And I could do a lot of stuff with it. Let’s do that!

So I went back to school and did the whole shenanigans and I just thought I wanted to have a private practice. I was like, I’m going to do a private practice and be my own boss. And life is going to be amazing. And then I started to do that.

And that was kind of how I actually got into direct sales. I was just looking for things, I was looking for options and solutions for my clients. And I originally wanted to do some kind of classes. I was looking to do something that involves like, meal prepping. So I originally found a company that was focused on meal prepping. Like their whole model was like, we do meal prep workshops and they had the whole model built out. And I was like, Oh my God, like, that’s what I want. That’s what I need.

And when I kind of found out it was a direct sales company, because again, like, even before that, I had people that I went to grad school with and all that, reaching out to me to sell some brands. Like I had a couple of people asking me about doing Isogenics. And I was like, ooh, pyramid scheme, red flag, red alert. Absolutely not. That’s disgusting. I will never do that. I will never be part of one of those businesses.

So then I found my way, my first company, and it was food. And I was like, okay, what’s wrong with this? Like, what’s the catch? And I’m looking at it. I’m like, okay, all the products are like made with great quality products and they’re, you know, low sodium and low carb and things I could actually feel good about offering to my clientele. And they had meal prep workshops and I’m like, okay, but still… Like, what’s the catch? Like, do I want to be one of those people?

And I remember I sat down with my husband and I was like, Hey, I’m thinking about joining a direct sales company. And he’s like, okay, like number one, why? And then we had gotten sent some samples of the product, so he’s like, okay, it tastes good. I could be on board with this.

He’s like, do you see how this could fit into what you do? And I was like, yeah, absolutely. Cause it’s food products. I could sell it to clients and I could offer workshops and all that stuff. He’s like, okay, cool. My only request is don’t be annoying on social media. And I said, fine. Like we could do that.

So I took a leap and I went for it and I was like, let’s get into it. And it’s funny. Cause like once you kind of get into that world and you kind of really start to see who’s all involved with it and like what they are able to do and what they’re able to accomplish, it’s like very motivating. It was very humbling too. When I first started, I did not come in like gangbusters into it. I like tripped and fell on my face many a time, which has led to some learnings.

But about a year ago, my person I had signed up under (usually we call it your upline, like the person that you sign up under), she was leaving our company and she’s like, Hey, I’m leaving the company. I’m going to a new company. I said, okay, cool. I’m going to miss you. Like, what are you doing? She’s like, well, I’m going to this active wear company.

And I was like, hold on. Because you know, since I went back to become a dietitian, I also teach yoga. I teach fitness, all these things. And I live in active wear! And I was like, okay, wait, wait, let’s, let’s roll it back. You’re going to be selling active wear?

And she’s like, yeah, it’s like really good quality. It’s very similar to like a Lululemon, Athleta. And I’m like, okay. So instead of me spending all my time posting pictures of me on Instagram posing in all these companies clothes, hoping that maybe I can become an influencer for them, I can just join a company and sell products? And still take pictures on Instagram and all this stuff, but like actually make an income as a result?

So I went to her house one day. I looked at it. She didn’t have anything in my size. I didn’t care. I was like, yep, this looks cute. I can do this. So I went over to our company called Zyia and that was a very different experience. I came in with so much experience from our last company and was able to like run with it. And it’s been awesome.

So again, it’s like as a dietitian, how do I fit this into the work that I do? With the last company with food, it was like, you know, trying to incorporate that into work I did with clients, other ways to expand my clientele by bringing new people in and doing events. And it worked very well. And I actually did wind up bringing a lot of people in as clients into my practice until I realized one very important thing, which is, I absolutely despise doing private practice.

So now, it’s actually been kind of cool, cause as I’ve transitioned as a dietitian into working more in like corporate wellness, I can kind of have my corporate wellness life and I keep my Zyia life a little bit separate, which I found works better for me personally, because it just kinda gives a little bit of a separation, but there’s a lot of companies out there where you can integrate very well. I know a lot of dietitians that do companies like Pampered Chef and do amazing and excellent at it.

Do you have to pay money to join?

Erica: I have so many questions stemming from just that description! Okay, so my first question is, your story is super intriguing and I’m like, okay, I totally see how that made sense and how you got into it. And then I’m like, but how do you actually “get into it”? Like, what does that mean? Like you go to this person’s house, like you said, and you’re really checking out this stuff. And then what? How are you signing up? What do you have to do? Cause I feel like I’ve heard before, not in the context of this company, but in other companies, that you have to buy a certain amount to start out. Is that true? Is that for everything? Or like how does that work?

Mandy: Yeah. So every company is a little bit different with how you sign up as a rep and get started. For the most part, there’s either going to be some kind of like an enrollment kit, a starter kit. Um, and again, every company is going to be different with kind of what’s involved with it.

And I will say there are some horror stories out there that I have heard from people that have been involved in some of the larger direct sales clothing companies, where they have had to put out thousands of dollars to do the company. Cause they want you to buy all the inventory upfront and then you basically have to sell off all this inventory. That is a horrible, horrible business model. I know people have done it. They have gone bankrupt. They have had some pretty horrible experiences.

So one of the things about Zyia was they knew that that was a big complaint from other reps from other companies. And they did not want that happening cause they knew it would be a big barrier for bringing people on board. So they kept their enrollment crazy low.

And then with the enrollment, you get a couple of pieces of active wear that you can have to share and show to people with it and then kind of help to get you started from there. So like most times, there’s going to be some kind of starter kit or enrollment kit that’s going to have items. Usually it’s like best sellers and the best ways to share your product with people and then help you to get started from there.

Erica: So the intention is that you have actual product in hand to show off or use as demos or in your marketing? And then does the person you’re under get a cut?

Mandy: Actually a starter kit, no. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a company where I’ve ever gotten a cut from someone’s starter kit. No.

Erica: Okay. Cause that was my perception. I feel like that’s one of the things where people are like, Oh, it’s spammy. Cause you’re just trying to get your commissions from the people under you and you make more money from getting people under you than you do selling products.

Mandy: And again I think that’s kind of where the misconception is. Like I know with Zyia, number one, if I’m not working, I don’t make money. So I have to hit a certain number before I can even take a commission. And then, you know, I don’t make that much off of the people underneath me. But also you get put into this leadership opportunity where you can help people grow and succeed. And I don’t grow and succeed unless the people underneath me are growing and succeeding. And it’s not even from a financial standpoint, it’s even just from, you know, ranking and growing as a leader within the company.

How do people purchase from you?

Erica: And then, okay, so you’re signed up, you have your kit, and then how do people buy from you?

Mandy: So again, every company is gonna be a little bit different with what their model is or approach to it. Usually, the best way is you talk to your friends and family first.

Most of the companies I’ve worked with have usually encouraged you to do some kind of like a launch event. So whether it’s in person or online that you can share your product and just get the awareness out there of what you have, what you’re doing. Ideally, it would be in person to at least kind of see the items. Or like I said, I had a food company where people would want to try the food or like you can see and touch. But again, like Zyia, it’s really moved to such an online model, which has been great. So we do a lot of Facebook events and get people to just check out the website.

Erica: Do you have your own website page that’s unique to you that you send people to? Is that kind of how it works?

Mandy: Yeah. So every rep gets their own unique website that’s for them. So you have like unique links that you send out. And then if somebody is hosting an event, they get a link dedicated to their events. So that as a host, you can then earn host rewards for organizing that event.

Erica: It seems like a fancier version, almost, of being an affiliate. Because as an affiliate, you’re promoting someone else’s product and you’re getting a cut of the sales, but that’s it, you know? Whereas this feels like a little fancier more expanded version.

Mandy: Right? Like at the end of the day, if you tell somebody that you’re an affiliate for company X, you can’t bring them on as an affiliate underneath you and then get a percentage of whatever sales they’re getting.

Erica: Actually, you can. There are some affiliate programs that allow you to do that. But it’s not common. But it’s something you could build if you ran an affiliate program, for example.

Mandy: Okay. So, I mean, again, that’s kind of building off of this relationship marketing model where it’s the more people that you share and you tell, then you get the credit because you referred them to it. So yes it is. And honestly, I have people that I have as Zyia affiliates that don’t have any desire being a rep and they don’t want to host parties, but they want to shop and share the product. So we set up, basically like the equivalent of an affiliate link for them as their shopping link.

Erica: That was a very helpful overview of how everything works. I think the last missing thing… like trying to put it all together in my head… You sign up, you have your website that you can send people to to make purchases. And then how do you get paid? Is it direct deposit into your account every month? Or like, how does that work?

Mandy: Yup. Again, every company is gonna be a little different, but most of the companies I’ve worked with have just been a direct deposit into the account.

Is direct sales an ethical issue for dietitians?

Erica: I think some of the people who are against direct sales or MLM, part of it is they feel that (and it’s not even necessarily just against this business model), but they almost feel like selling anything to your clients where you might make a profit, whether it be supplements, anything you’re an affiliate for, or direct sales, they feel that there is an ethical issue with making a recommendation to someone one on one and profiting from it. Can you speak to that?

Mandy: You know, I think at the end of the day, when the question is from an ethical standpoint, like, is it okay to be offering these products to the clients, number one, it’s up to you as the practitioner to determine how this is going to fit into your business model. Do you feel comfortable adding it into your business model? And how is it that you feel that it could be beneficial?

I mean, people complain about direct sales, but then they’ll do things like have Fullscript links on their website, which is quite frankly the same thing. You’re a conduit for Fullscript and you’re getting a commission off of that.

So I think the dietitian has to be like, well, what value does that offer to my clientele? Or do I have a clientele that I see frequently that is constantly deficient in a particular nutrient that I feel would be beneficial from it? And this is kind of a bigger question, but it’s like, at the end of the day, it’s kind of like, yeah, there’s ethics. And then there’s also making a living at the same time.

So how can you do it? I know with the food company, I used to encourage girls on my team, why don’t you create packages in your practice where it’s like, when they sign up for whatever package, like automatically they’re getting a meal prep kit or something where it’s not, you’re not selling it to them. That’s just something that they’re getting more as an added value from working with you. But at the end of the day, it has to be products that you believe in and have a reason and it logically fits into your business.

It’s kind of really up to the practitioner how they want to fit it in or do they want to keep it a separation of church and state, where it’s, I do my dietitian business here and my direct sales business is something completely separate.

Erica: Obviously, disclosure anytime you’re profiting off of anything that you are promoting to anyone, whether they’re a one on one client or just some random person on the internet. Not everyone who’s familiar with selling online is aware that you have to disclose that you have a financial relationship, but you do. And that really helps clarify everything. And the goal is to be a hundred percent transparent if you have any sort of financial relationship, whether you’re writing a blog post, featuring a product that you got for free, whether you are getting paid to write a sponsored post, whether you are recommending a supplement through Fullscript and you could potentially get a cut of the sale if they order through your profile, all of that.

There’s actually, I can link to it in the show notes of this podcast, but there’s actual guidelines from the FTC on how to disclose properly. There’s even guidelines from AND on how to recommend supplements ethically. So, you know, it’s not like they’re saying that we can never recommend supplements. Like that’s definitely not the case, but you have to be clear and disclose.

I know other industries, like my husband’s in real estate and any time they’re making a recommendation, even when they’re not profiting from it, they are required to give more than one recommendation. So that’s another way. Like, these are the three options. I am not pushing you into any of them. They’re all great. You pick. You know what I mean?

I also think it’s different when you’re working with someone one-on-one as a healthcare provider and you’re taking insurance and all that. That’s a very different business model than being a blogger online and just having an audience that you’re never really meeting with or connecting with one-on-one. I think ethically and legally, even, those are very different things. And I do believe, I’ve only briefly looked into it, but some states have different laws around the legality of profiting off of recommendations within the healthcare system. And I mean, you probably know about that more than I would from your past history, but I know it’s a thing. So wherever you are, I’m sure you could read more for the guidelines for your specific state as well.

Mandy: And also too, like at least from a direct sales standpoint, number one, there’s the Direct Sales Association, which is just the larger kind of like governing body of the direct sales companies. So it kinda helps to also keep that in check with a lot of legalities. And then obviously the main company is going to have a lot of those legalities worked out as well.

Learning sales skills with direct sales

Mandy: One of the biggest things, when I went into direct sales that I didn’t know I was going to be really growing, was my sales skills. And I see from dietitians all the time, dietitians hate talking about sales. But guess what? A client calls you up and they were thinking about working with you? You’re having a sales call, whether or not you think about it, it’s a sales call. How are you going to present your work, your business that you’re doing, and then learn how to close it? But then it’s also all the skills that go along with the whole sales funnel of bringing people into your funnel, having those interactions, having those followups with them. And the followup thing is a big thing that we learn how to get very, very comfortable with.

And then, you know, how do you keep that relationship going so that you have them coming back to you? Whether it’s seeing you as a dietitian or shopping from you, whatever it is. So I think it’s learning how to be more comfortable with sales and being, quite frankly, comfortable around strangers too. I mean, I’ve picked up the phone, I’ve called people that I’ve randomly met at events or coffee shops or whatever that said they really liked something and I exchanged numbers and I’ll call them up or Facebook message them or something. You learn how to get really, really comfortable really quickly. Otherwise you’re not going to do well.

Erica: Yeah do you have any tips on selling in a way that isn’t spammy? Cause I do feel like that is the other thing that gets thrown around a lot. It’s like, Hey, message me for coffee. And then it’s secretly a sales pitch to join my company or whatever.

Mandy: Like, trust me, I’ve been there. I mean, like I can’t tell you how many times people who already know I’m with direct sales company and they’ll reach out to me. I’m like, I don’t want to join your company.

So I think number one, the first thing I want to just kind of circle back around to, and, um, maybe we brought this up a little bit, but why dietitians are so hesitant about direct sales. And the first thing we brought up was about the whole ethical thing. But I think the other thing is just the overall perception or misperception.

I think again, a lot of it is because we’re, as dietitians, approached by a lot of people who work in nutrition and wellness-based companies and you know, yeah, I don’t agree with a lot of the products out there. Trust me. I have dear, dear, dear friends who work for a lot of companies that I’m like, I’m sorry, I can’t buy your product. It is kind of crappy. And I have no problem telling someone too. Cause they always ask my opinion and I’m like, okay, let me look at this. Okay. Who’s spending $90 on this crappy protein powder? And I will tell them very straight up.

So yeah, not all the products out there are necessarily something that we, as healthcare practitioners, are going to recommend. So we are like, Oh, these products are crappy and they’re really dangerous and non-healthcare professionals are out there selling it, but non-healthcare professionals are selling it, but they’re making more money than me! Like how dare they? Like, where’s the disconnect there? So then it’s like, well, what qualifies somebody to sell your product when like your, the qualified healthcare professional? So then it comes down to, well, what’s the product that you find out there that you believe in that you can feel that you connect with and you feel comfortable putting it out there?

I think the way that you asked about how do you put it out there without feeling spammy… be authentic and be you. Like, no one was surprised when I was like, Hey, I’m repping an athletic wear company. They’re like, yeah, that makes perfect sense. Of course you would be repping an athletic wear company. Whereas I’ve had friends who have terrible skincare routines and all of a sudden they’re selling a skincare brand. I’m like, wait, I’m sorry. You’re doing what? That doesn’t even make sense. So again, it has to be something that is going to be authentic. Otherwise you just look like a salesperson.

Does being an RD help you in any way?

Erica: In terms of being an RD, do you think there are, I know we talked about how maybe we’re lacking sales skills, but is there anything that we bring to the table as an RD that could help us in this industry?

Mandy: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. You bring credibility, which actually does give you a little bit of a leg up in that standpoint, and it can increase your trust factor a little bit. So again, like when I sold with a food company, everyone’s like, Ooh, like I’m listening to the dietitian because she must know what she’s talking about if she’s promoting this product. So there are definitely opportunities where the credential can work in your favor.

Also, quite frankly, I brought a lot of clientele in that I never would have met otherwise if I hadn’t been just out there in a completely different kind of field and industry to meet other people that eventually would come on to be clients.

Erica: And that’s a really good lead-in, again, back to what you were saying about being authentic. Because you have your credential to give you more credibility, but then it’s so, so, so, so important to not take advantage of that and promote things that you don’t really believe in. But thankfully, as the RD, like you were mentioning, we have the critical thinking skills to critically evaluate a product and decide whether we want to put our name and our brand on the line behind it.

Mandy: And like, again, that’s where it all stems down to it has to be a product that you can feel good about promoting and supporting. And it’s something that you feel has a benefit in some way to people.

Anything you put out there, whether it’s as a dietitian, whatever service that you put out there, it’s all about problem-solving. It’s all about helping somebody solve a problem, whether it’s digestive health issues, weight loss, um, whatever it is. It’s like, okay, there’s a problem out there. I have a solution for it. If you want to take it cool. If not, like I’m not offended, I’m just letting you know your options.

Erica: Attractive marketing, versus like forcing yourself onto other people. The difference would be creating content or putting yourself out there in an authentic way, showcasing what you have to offer, whether it’s your own product, something you’re an affiliate for, something you’re in direct sales for, but being authentic and showing the value and providing value to your followers and then some percentage of them will naturally buy. But the contrast would be kind of keeping to yourself a little bit and venturing out only to direct message, someone who you saw post a question in a Facebook group. And like, that feels uncomfortable.

Mandy: Yeah. Yeah. And there’s a fine line between being a creeper and being someone who’s like, hey, I actually have something that maybe you want to think about doing. Versus like, Hey, I saw you’re a dietitian. Do you wanna sell leggings?

Erica: Even in my own group, it doesn’t happen super often, but I’ve gotten messages from people being like so-and-so has been spamming me. This is an issue, it’s happened multiple times, and they won’t stop, and I’ve had to kick people out of the group. Healthcare professionals! So it happens. And I understand… I mean, I’ve made my own marketing mistakes in the past that I’m sure felt extremely gross and disgusting to people at the time, because sometimes when you’re not experienced, you are selling from more of a place of desperation instead of, Oh my gosh, I have so much value to provide. It’s insane. And like, you can’t stop talking about it cause you’re so excited. And then people naturally come to you and ask you about it. And that’s the ideal.

Mandy: Yeah, exactly. And again, it’s like, what is it that you’re putting out there that you have for somebody that that’s going to be beneficial for them? Or like, I always used to say, I teach people this still, but when we were in advertising, we talked about the WIIFM – the “what’s in it for me”. And it’s not, what’s in it for me, Mandy, it’s what’s in it for me as the potential client.

And like, same thing. I have people in the area who just go online, simply Google “dietitian” and I get phone calls like, Hey, do you want to sell blah, blah, product? I’m like, no. I already know about your product. No.

Erica: Do they tell you to do that? I mean, I’m sure again, it varies from company to company, but why is that a thing? Like, why do people think that’s how you sell?

Mandy: Actually at Zyia we are highly discouraged from just cold calling people because they know it’s gross. And people don’t like it and they’re automatically going to put their defense system up and want to hear nothing about it, which is why it is something that when it grows organically from starting off by telling your friends and your family about something, and then they get the chance to try it. And then they tell their friends and other people about it. And again, it’s like going down that whole trust line. I keep bringing back the word authenticity to it, but that really is the important thing. That people are being authentic and sincere sharing something that they like.

For me, I’ve taken more approaches where it’s like, I’ve reached out to like yoga studios and been like, Hey, can I come and do a little pop up event on a Saturday afternoon after whatever your busiest class is? So again, it’s like, I’m not asking you to do anything. I’m just out there sharing for them. And if they decide that it’s something that they want to become a part of, cool. If not, then at least like it gave me an opportunity to get in front of them and I wasn’t creepy or weird in any way. You know? Again, it’s just putting yourself out there in a smart, authentic way, rather than just being like, hey you want to buy my product?

Erica: That’s what my personal opinion is on this whole entire topic. When people are like, Oh, it’s a scam, it’s super spammy or blah, blah, blah. Like, anything can be like that. Even any regular thing that you’re selling can take on that type of vibe. So I don’t think it’s anything specific to selling a direct sales product.

Mandy: Right.

Erica: Okay. So specific strategies that we’ve covered so far for being successful in the industry, obviously being authentic is a big one. Probably the biggest one, which to be quite honest is probably the biggest thing in all sales of any kind. Um, and then the second one was when you’re first getting started, maybe host something in person with people. How do you even do that without being spammy though? Like how do you invite people to basically a sales meeting without them feeling pressured?

Mandy: And again, it’s kinda like, Hey, you know that I love athletic wear. I have a bunch of Yogi friends and other teachers I work with. I’m like, do you guys want to come over? Like, y’all like Lulu lemon, you like Athleta. Why don’t you come over and check out this new brand I’m repping? It would just be fun. It’s a fun way to get together. If you buy anything, cool. I’m not going to be offended.

So being upfront and basically, you know, like you were saying, being honest. Just come over and like, honestly, it’s just an excuse to get people over sometimes. It’s not even about the sales, but it’s like, I just want to have people over. And if you want to come shop some clothes cool, like, you know, it is what it is. Putting it out there.

What to not do in direct sales

Mandy: I can also tell you some ways that you can not do well in this business. And I will share that from personal experience as well.

Erica: Yeah. Dive right in right now.

Mandy: I got a lot of learnings from my very first direct sales company. Number one – I will be very upfront. I was very embarrassed when I started with my first direct sales company because I knew the perception that colleagues had. So, you know what, I didn’t go out there and was like, Hey, guess what I’m doing, blah, blah, blah. I was like, Hey… I’m doing this thing… Don’t come check it out. It was super DL, weird, like DMing people. Cause I was really, really embarrassed about it and I was like, are people going to not have respect for me because I’m doing one of “those” companies and I’ve gone to the dark side?

Erica: Did you experience any of that?

Mandy: No. No. Again, these are stories that we tell ourselves in our head because we know the perception. We know the perception we had. Like again, I was definitely one of those people. I was like, that’s fucking stupid. I’m not doing one of those companies. So yeah, I mean, we all have the perception of it. And then it’s like, am I hypocritical? Cause now I’m doing it and I’m trying it.

So I was like, I’m going to do things my own way. And then I’ll tell you this upfront, the best way to fail in a direct sales company is to not take the system, the tried and true approaches that have worked for the very successful people in the company. If you fight the system and do everything exactly opposite, you will fail. Maybe you’re the unicorn out there that can find a way to take a different approach to it. And if you do it in a good way, in a smart way, more power to you, but for the most part, you will fail because you’re making the job harder on yourself.

The system and team that you’re in, it’s not just about cool, you’re on my team, good luck, make some money. I want to make money off you. It’s growing and developing your team. It’s having systems in place and making it easy and simple and clickable. So you can take the system and share it, just like scaling a business. Where you have your systems in place and as new people come on board, it’s just making it simple so that they can jump into it and they can be successful. And you have all the systems in place for them to come into it and do it. If you come in with the attitude of, I’m not doing that, I’m going to figure out my way, my approach, it’s basically like coming to your own business and figuring out how many times you have to trip and fall until you have to change the way that you’re walking so that you can stop tripping and falling.

Transferrable skills from direct sales

Erica: Did you learn skills that would apply to other avenues of your life?

Mandy: Oh yeah, absolutely. Definitely. I mean the sales and the followup, approaches for all of that. Learning how to collect customer information, feeling comfortable, reaching out to strangers that you met at events. It’s great to have this contact list, but what do I do with them? And there’s definitely a difference versus putting them out in the generic email versus putting out a personal phone call or a personal text and be like, hey, it was great meeting with you at this event. Any questions, let me know what I can do to help you with it. So yeah, definitely the sales, the followup, being comfortable with reaching out to strangers are probably some of the bigger things.

I think the whole concept of how to get systems in place. I mean, I’ve even learned all these other scheduling programs and systems that are, that are out there that I’m like, Oh, I like that. I’m going to apply that to what I’m doing in my other work.

How much money do people make in direct sales?

Erica: How much do people usually earn? When they’re starting out, what could they earn? And bigger picture, everything goes amazingly, can you give us some examples?

Mandy: I will definitely say, I mean, number one, that’s going to depend on the product that you’re selling and what’s the volume, what’s the turnover for it? Like my first company, it was a food company. So you’re selling like eight to $10 products at a time. So, you know, the average sale for that was like 50 bucks. Now I sell a higher price point item. Like now average sales are like $125. So like number one, percentage wise, you’re going to make more doing the exact same amount of work.

I’m not doing any more work than I was doing previously. I’m doing less work than I think I was doing before. But you know, having that price point, and also too, and this is something interesting. When you think about what you want to be selling, I was like, Oh, consumable products, only consumable products. And then I was like, no, I guess people consume athletic wear pretty quickly.

Again, at the end of the day, we always say you have unlimited earning potential. It’s basically, if you’re going to do the work, you’re going to earn something. If you’re not going to do anything and you think that you’re just going to rely on your team, that is a sure fire approach to failure because not everyone on your team is going to do the work. And if you’re not modeling how to do the work and making it look easy and not overly complicated, they’re not going to want to do it. At the end of the day, you are the only thing that’s going to hold you back from making whatever it is that you want to.

And that’s, that’s the net net. I mean, yes, you’ll see the people on the brochures and the website, that’s like six figures. And like, yeah, those people are out there. Trust me. And we heard stories at the last conferences I was at in March, right before the world changed and I mean, you know, the numbers that people shared, like what people were were making was like pretty, pretty ridiculous. And like, as you start to get into it, you can see the potential. You’re like, okay, I can see how that could happen.

Erica: And what’s “good” for one person is totally different from what’s good or worth it to the other person. Some people are like a hundred bucks a month extra??? That’s amazing! You know?

Mandy: Yeah. It’s like, well, what does “some money” mean? Do you want to make an extra 50 to a hundred bucks a month?Sure. Do you want to make a couple extra thousand bucks a month? That is probably a little bit enticing to people. And I think again, if you can authentically be like, yeah, I’ve made anywhere from a couple extra hundred bucks a month, a couple extra thousand bucks a month and putting it out there. But again, I don’t necessarily try to make it about the money because I don’t want to over promise that. Like all your financial troubles will be wiped away if you just do this. Because I mean, it’s still work at the end of the day. Like you don’t just sit back and collect a paycheck.

Is there a certain type of person who does best in direct sales?

Erica: You think there’s a certain type of person that this is best suited for? Like maybe an extrovert versus an introvert? People with lots of friends? Is there some sort of way to tell whether it might be a good fit for you?

Mandy: I’ve met so many people. Incredibly outgoing people, I have met incredibly introverted people that do it. And it’s just, they all find ways that work best for them. Like, you know, we have a couple of girls who are super introverted, but they do really well. They figured out how to have great online and Facebook based events where they don’t necessarily have to be out there and be in front of people all the time.

And it works well for them and they like it. I don’t think you have to be successful to have a lot of friends. And I always, you know, we often joke too, that I always felt I was at a disadvantage because there’s a lot of moms in this business. A lot of moms go into direct sales, mostly because they want more time to be home with their families. That’s one of the biggest reasons that you tend to hear why people kind of get into direct sales. I don’t have kids. So I was like, well, great. Like that sets me at such, such a disadvantage. Cause I don’t have all these moms and classrooms and birthday parties and sporting events where I could be out talking to people, talking to moms, all these events.

Um, and sometimes I used to be like, Oh, I feel like I’m at a disadvantage because of that. But again, it’s like, all right, well what’s my advantage? Okay, I have networks of dietitians, I’ve networked with fitness professionals. So it’s kind of figuring out how to tap into what resources you do have.

And the other thing too, when I joined my very first direct sales company, that’s actually when I realized how much I needed to expand my network. And that’s how I got into like doing all this networking because it was like, Oh, I’ve got to find more people out there. So it actually pushed me out of my comfort zone to have to get out and meet new people and network with them. And I couldn’t just keep relying on my own network of people.

Erica: Do you think in some sort of weird roundabout way, it’s almost like a baby step into sales? Because I think some people, when it’s their own thing, they get really in their head about it and it’s harder to sell because it’s something you made and you don’t have anyone vouching for it, whereas if it’s a product that other people use and love and it’s not technically yours, is it maybe a little easier to get into selling something else?

Mandy: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because again, it’s like you have all these resources at hand that you didn’t have to waste time making. I didn’t have to build a whole eCommerce website to be able to sell products on it.

And I didn’t have to develop email marketing lists and newsletters and all that stuff. Like the company already does that for me. I don’t have to worry about that. They make the products. I don’t have to sit there and go through like books and pick out like what items I specifically want to be selling for people like that’s someone else do that, that work for me. So, yeah, it’s definitely, I think, a great, great footstep into entrepreneurship.

And this is why so many people go into direct sales, because it has a low overhead cost to entrepreneurship. My first starter kit I ever bought for a company was 50 bucks. So you’re starting anywhere from, let’s say 50 bucks to maybe a couple hundred bucks. If it’s a couple of thousand dollars, I will say that’s probably a red flag that it needs to be something that you really really believe in. But again, you don’t have to have a storefront. You don’t have to figure out a lot of these things that as a new business owner, you have to figure out, right?

Think about you’re a dietitian, you’re starting a new practice, right? If you want to do in person, you’re looking for space or online, you’re figuring out what’s the best EMR that’s out there. And all these upfront investments that you’re putting into it that you don’t have to worry about in direct sales. And that’s awesome.

Erica: One of the criticisms that this business model sometimes gets is the fact that you have to “buy in” from the beginning financially. And I’ve heard people say it can feel predatory sometimes when people promise these big things, but you know, maybe the incentive behind it is to get money from the person buying in under them.

However, any type of business that you want to start, it costs money. There’s no free lunch. You know what I mean? So it’s up to you to decide what’s best for you.

Mandy: Exactly. At the end of the day too. I mean, direct sales, quite frankly, is a very low-risk model. If you buy in, you buy your one starter kit and you buy it and you decide that you hate it. You don’t want to do it. Okay. Like you’re out a couple hundred bucks. Okay. Maybe that sucks, but it is what it is.

Erica: Even if you want to freaking start a website, it’s going to be, like over the year, it’s going to be a couple hundred bucks. I know when you’re really, really hard up for cash, that can feel like a lot. And it may be, depending on what financial situation you’re in, but all businesses require an investment. They just do.

Why do people get into direct sales?

Mandy: Exactly. And then if you really look at the three biggest reasons people come into direct sales. Number one, the majority of people come into it because they just want a discount on the product.

That is the number one reason that they join onto it. They’re like, Oh, I can sign on. I can get a discount, no brainer.

And then yeah, sometimes some people want to make an income and other people want some form of flexibility. So, you know, again, none of those are necessarily like, Hey, I’m going to be making millions of dollars.

It usually starts out because I want 25% off on my facial wash. The other very interesting thing about direct sales too, is that, millennials are actually the largest age group that do direct sales. And I think a lot of is because social media has become so popular and they found ways to tap into their large social media networks, the more desire to have non traditional jobs, definitely a very millennial thing. And I think that they have a tendency to be a lot more open to it, partially because more millennials have been part of like an eCommerce type of an environment.

Whereas like, you know, I’m dealing with people I know where it’s like, we grew up going to malls, going to stores. You bought things from a credible retailer. Whereas now, like again, most millennials are used to buying things online and buying things from strangers, apparently. Um, so there’s less hesitation there.

Erica: And income diversity I think is another good point. It’s never a bad idea to add another income stream if you can manage it.

Mandy: And that’s the other thing too. From a generational standpoint where, let’s say up to like baby boomers, where it’s like, okay, you went to X job out of high school, maybe college. And you did that up until retirement end of story.

And that’s all you did. Where now it’s like there’s no such thing as job security. It’s definitely good to diversify your portfolio. And again, even as dietitians, we talk all the time about having different income streams. Because you can’t just be relying on just your private practice or just your clinical income that you’re making. So finding different ways that you can earn income.

Erica: And just for people listening out there… other ways you can make money – Ads on your website. You can make money in a very similar fashion through affiliate links, where you recommend someone else’s product and you can get a commission. You can sell digital goods, you can sell courses, you can sell services, you can do consulting. You could do speaking. You could do writing. And a lot of dietitians today do a handful of those things. And they like that because God forbid a Google algorithm update comes out and all your organic search traffic is gone and your ad revenue income stream goes down, but you still have all your public speaking over here that wasn’t impacted at all. So, different sources of revenue may be impacted differently. So it’s always a good idea to not put all your eggs in one basket, in my opinion.

Mandy: I a hundred percent agree. And especially now. We’re recording this during like the whole COVID-19 pandemic. God bless my Zyia business. I mean, my regular dietitian work did not actually, it didn’t even get impacted. We actually, our business has boomed as a result of it, but I’m also glad I have my business too, because number one, it gave me something else to put some focus on so I didn’t go insane while I’m quarantine, but it was like, oh, everyone’s home. And everyone’s wearing comfortable clothes right now. So, you know, we’ve had an opportunity for business to grow there as well. So I’m very, very fortunate that my direct sales business was something I could have as just supplemental income.

Erica: And people want to support the people they love. So if someone in your personal sphere knows that you sell a product that they were gonna buy anyway… I know this is true with affiliate income – People actually actively reach out to me and they say, Hey, I’m about to buy this thing. Can you send me your affiliate link? Because I want to make sure you get a commission.

Like, I’m not even asking. And they’re actively searching for me. So I feel like it’s probably similar where someone’s like, Oh shoot, I need new leggings, I’m going to call Mandy. You know what I mean?

Mandy: Yeah. Yeah. And I will say affiliates and direct sales are very, very, very similar in that respect. It’s just, you’re putting something out there that you’ve used and you’ve tried and you feel comfortable putting your name behind recommending it. That’s all the same thing.

Mandy’s final advice

Erica: Now that we’re kind of heading to the end of this interview. Are there any last pieces of wisdom or advice that you’d like to pass on to anyone who might be thinking they’re interested in direct sales?

Mandy: Again, you’ve heard us talk a lot today about the word authenticity. What is something that you generally get excited about? Whether it’s something that you just want to get a discount on, or it’s something that you want to share with other people. What’s involved with getting started and what is the upfront investment for it? I mean, if you have to put out thousands of dollars, I would really just assess and find out really what’s the potential for it. What is your income and growth potential? So really learning about the compensation plan that’s involved with it, what’s involved with getting promoted, what’s involved with getting to the next level. Like, is it impossible? Like what’s the rate that people get promoted? Do a lot of people promote very quickly? So that’s a lot of what you want to look into and what’s involved with not just me making money, but what’s the percentage then that you make off of other people? What’s the training that’s involved? Like, do they have training in place or are you just figuring all out for yourself?

And the reputation of the company comes into it. The efficacy and safety of the product. So determining is this a product that you feel comfortable recommending to people? Are you required to carry any type of inventory? If you have a requirement to have inventory on hand again, it depends on how you think that you’re going to be able to best unload it.

Like Zyia, where everything’s online, our inventory changes over too quickly. So it was just like, everything’s just has to be online and you direct people to the website. A lot of the companies that have these “you have to buy like the spring pod fashion line” and now it’s up to you to have to sell that off, you don’t want to be doing that.

Erica Well, thank you. Oh my gosh. That was so much helpful information. I definitely learned a lot. And thank you for being so open and allowing me to ask those questions about the misconceptions and the things that people always say that are against direct marketing and stuff like that.

Mandy: I get where everyone’s coming from. I get, I understand both sides of the spectrum.

Erica: So where should people go if they want to connect more with you and maybe even learn more about Zyia?

Mandy: Instagram is probably one of the best places to find me. I have a special Instagram just for my Zyia business, which is, um, Zyia_Jersey_Girl. So I can even send that to you cause there’s like underscores involved.

Erica: I will add that in the show notes for everyone listening.

Mandy: So you can find me at Zyia_Jersey_Girl. You can find me on Facebook. I have a private VIP group where I share every Wednesday, I release new products, which is a very exciting part of our business. So I share our new releases every week in the VIP group, I run special promotions, discounts. So you can find it there.

And actually if you go to my Instagram, you can get the link to my Facebook VIP, but you can always look for “Zyia Active with Mandy Enright”.

You can also find me in my professional dietitian world just at Mandy Enright RD, just across the board. Nice and easy. Um, and if you do want to check out what Zyia has to offer, you can head to our website.

Erica: All right, cool. And I know you said that you have an opportunity for anyone listening, if they want to shop through your store, we have a special link. I’ll put the link in the show notes. And if you head to that store, you can shop on Mandy’s page to look at all the products they have, and I think anyone who shops through that link is going to be entered to get a giveaway of some more swag. Also, I’m not affiliated with this. This is a hundred percent something that Mandy is doing for you guys. Well, have a great rest of your night.

Mandy: Thank you Erica.

Erica: That’s it for today’s episode. If you want to check the show notes and get links to anything we mentioned, just go to the unconventional zero three zero. And if this is your first time checking out this podcast, or if you have been listening, but you haven’t yet joined our free Facebook community. Definitely check it out. That’s where I hang out the most. It’s the unconventional RD community on Facebook. It’s a free Facebook group with nearly 9,000 people in it right now.

So that’s amazing. Can’t wait to connect with you there. Otherwise I’ll see you guys next week.

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Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.