Janelle Holden is the Director of Business Development at Modern Direct Seller, and today she joined us on the podcast for an episode that’s all about sales. With her background in the direct selling business and fundraising for nonprofits, Janelle knows that successful sales start from a place of caring more about the relationships you’re building than the transactions themselves. From there, you can reframe the conversations you’re creating, offer your service in place of feeling pushy, and meet people where they really are. Listen in as Janelle tells us how!

Connect with Janelle on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, and follow her on Substack to watch her solopreneur journey!


Time based notes:

  • 1:45 Janelle Holden introduction
  • 4:28 Reframe how “sales” look
  • 6:33 What’s exciting about direct sales
  • 9:32 Tips for sales conversations
  • 12:51 Overcome feeling “pushy”
  • 19:40 Selling trends in 2023
  • 24:44 Janelle’s reading recommendations
Don’t forget to check out Janelle’s book recommendations:


Avoid the “Used Car Salesman” Mindset with Advice from Janelle Holden

This week, we were joined on the Modern Direct Seller Podcast by Janelle Holden, our Director of Business Development, to chat all about sales! Read on for her recommendations about reframing your sales conversations, offering your services in place of feeling pushy, and meeting your clients where they really are.  


Okay, so tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us your background, what you love to do, and then we can also fill everyone in on your role here at Modern Direct Seller.

Well, let’s start actually with that. I am the Director of Business Development at Modern Direct Seller. I’ve been here since last March, and my role coming in was to help us develop some relationships and programs with corporate, with direct selling companies, so that we can help provide training directly through direct selling companies for direct sellers. So, we have really changed quite a bit since I first started. Things have grown so much. It’s been super rewarding.

And, that’s what I love about sales—which is my background—is really persuasion and relationships more than anything. I have a background in the nonprofit world. I used to be the executive director in a small nonprofit, so I did a ton of fundraising and brought in a lot of funds for the work that we did. That’s a form of selling. Then, I moved into having my own business and learned, really, how to bring in one-on-one clients from that, and then just decided I really love sales. I love the relationships that you build. And, I’ve loved bringing it to Modern Direct Seller and getting to know so many people so well. That’s really what we do as direct sellers. We get to know people. We build relationships. Those relationships build. Those people trust us to give them great recommendations. And, if we’re thinking about sales as a service and really being in relationship with people, it just fully pays off for us and for them.


We will dive into this a little bit more, but I think so many reading this are thinking, “We love sharing our products. We love telling people about our products. We telling people the things that we like in our business, but we don’t want to feel salesy.” There’s something about that word “sales” in direct sales that people get really hung up on. So, I love your approach and how to reframe thinking about what sales actually looks like on a day-to-day basis.

So, if you think about this, people do not like being sold to, right? They don’t like that process of feeling pressured or obligated or guilted into parting ways with their money. What they do love is shopping; they love buying. We’re great at deciding, “Ooh, I really want that.” So, if you think about helping people get what it is that they truly want, and being there as a trusted advisor for them, you don’t have to be the person that you think of as “a salesperson” in the back of your mind. And usually, that is—unfortunately for them—used car salesmen.  There’s always that guy that you’re thinking about who’s pressured you into buying something you didn’t really want to buy. So, people are like, “I don’t want to be that guy.” Well, then don’t be that guy. Be the person who cares more about the relationship than you do about the sale itself.


So, you’ve been in the industry. You’ve been around the industry. Obviously, now working with us, we’re all about direct sales. What interests you or excites you about the direct selling industry?

Yeah, direct selling fascinates me for a lot of different reasons. You can build a business in a lot of different ways in direct sales. You can do it straight commission. You can build a team. You can lean on your leadership skills. You could lean on your marketing skills. You could lean on your in-person skills and party skills. You could lean on your extraversion. There are so many ways to build a successful direct selling business. I’m always just so fascinated by what people do with it, because there’s no one track. It just depends on the gifts and strengths that people bring to the industry.

And then, the other thing that fascinates me about it is how great the products are. I have a house full of direct selling products. I shampoo my hair with direct selling products. I use makeup that comes from direct selling companies. I wear clothing from direct selling companies. And, I do that for a couple different reasons. One is, I love knowing that I know someone that I’m supporting directly with my dollars. Two, I think the quality of direct selling goods is far and above what I can get somewhere else. And people will say that these products are more expensive than what you would find at Walmart or your average store. However, what you get for that money is greater quality and better service. So, I never get upset if somebody sends me a message and says, “Hey, I’m with this new company. Do you want to take a look at our products?” Because, usually there’s something that would interest me about them.


You are really working relationships. You’re talking to people. You’re out there every day selling. So, what are your best tips when it comes to selling having sales conversations? And, of course, following up, because we know that that’s also a big part of selling and connecting with people to build those relationships.

One thing is to be consistent. Decide, “What can I do regularly that I will keep doing?” So, let’s say you have parties, and you decide, “I am going to host my own party at my house once a month, and people can come and look at my products and shop with me directly.” Let’s say that’s something that excites you. That becomes your focal point for your marketing. So, if that’s where you are truly selling, then keep doing that consistently, and keep inviting people to come and take a look. There might be an online version of that. There could be a party in a post, for instance. As long as it’s something that you’ve decided will be a consistent way of building relationships and offering people the opportunity to buy from you.


Okay, so people that are reading now might be thinking, “Okay, I like what I do. I like connecting with people. I love marketing. I love spending time in Canva creating graphics. But selling feels scary. I never want to come across pushy, or salesy, or as that ‘used car salesman’ mentality.” So, do you have any recommendations on how to overcome that?

Great question. So, I would say having the right language tools—and I know you have a lot of tools within the Academy and on your website and other things that you share about exactly what to say. And, there’s a difference between what you say in a DM and what you say in a text versus what you say at a party and what you say on the phone. So, if you’re Live on a party, what I’ve noticed that people don’t do often enough is they don’t ask for the sale. So, they might do a great job of presenting their products and their beautiful things that people can buy, and then there’s this this, like, let down at the end where there’s no, “Here’s how to take the next step.”

So, if you think of yourself as a shopping guide, then what you would do at the end of a party is to say, ” I’ve given you everything that you probably need to know about all these products. If you want to purchase the starter pack, which is what I recommend, here’s how you do it.” And so, I would teach them how to purchase. Don’t say, “Go purchase right now,” but give them all of the steps that they need, so you’re teaching them actually how to do it. People will follow your example. And then, you can stop by and say, “Was there anything that you liked? Do you have any questions about it? How can I support you in making a decision about whether to purchase or not?” That question, “How can I support you in making the decision about whether to purchase or not,” is not salesy. It’s not pushy. It’s just, “How can I be of service here? Do you have any questions that you’re mulling over that I can answer that would help you make a really good decision?” So, those are some of the ways, just for in-person parties.

And then, I tell people this all the time: Think about the golden rule when you’re in sales,” which is, “How would I like to be treated?” and then do the thing the way that you would like to be treated. So, let’s take clothing. I like to buy from direct selling companies, and I used to sell clothing myself. So, if you know you have customers from your last season, you can easily text them and say, “Hey, we’ve got some great new things in the new line, but I wanted to check in with you. What are you feeling like are the gaps in your closet right now?” And then, when I was selling, I could send you some items that might fit those gaps. So, you know that some people are looking for a pair of jeans, and some people want a blazer, but you can’t guess at those things; you have to ask. That’s the part that I think a lot of people miss, and it’s another one of my favorite questions. “What is it that you’re looking for when it comes to your kitchen? What is it that you’re looking for when it comes to your closet right now?” Those are very gentle, easy selling questions to ask so that you can get an idea of what to show your clients.

And then, you can say, “Well, this may or may not be for you.” That’s another very nice, gentle sales phrase, “This may or may not be for you, but what we have right now is this, this, and this that would fit those things that you were sharing with me. Do you want some more information about those?” Right? It’s very permission-based selling, and it’s very easy when we ask permission before we start making recommendations or giving people advice. You know, if someone says to me, “I really want to lose weight,” I don’t necessarily jump right into, “Here’s why you should buy these products.” I might stop and say instead, “Have you heard of X? It’s really helped me.”


I love that, because I think what happens sometimes is that we love our product so, so much that we can’t help but launch into, “Why I have the solution.” But, it’s a great lesson to hold that back a little bit and ask some key questions, because, if you start blabbing on and on and on about how great your stuff is, that’s when people get a bit like, “Oh… It’s getting a little weird here.”

I mean, just think about if someone walked up to you randomly on the street and said, “You know, I’m just loving my haircare products.” How weird that would be? You’d say, like, “Good for you. I’m glad.”


So true! I mean, just try to be human, right? I always say that. I know this isn’t concrete training, but just be human. Don’t be weird.

So, what kind of trends are you seeing in the direct sales world this year? What should we be on the lookout for?

Interestingly, there have been a lot of trends in people wanting to go back in time—not that far back in time. But, people are looking for nonalgorithmic ways of connecting with other people. So, they want to go back to the phone and the camera versus the camera in the phone. They are interested in continuing to find things through word of mouth. So, one thing to consider is, “Where can I be found besides social media? And, can I meet people where they are?” The trend that we’re seeing right now is that everyone is everywhere, meaning it’s really hard to pinpoint where the majority of your shoppers are, which means that you’re probably going to have to expand your social media reach, and also go back to what’s tried and true, which is email, texting, people’s phone, and in-person. So, I would say the biggest tip that I have for people is to get a strategy for how you’re going to get into someone’s email inbox on a regular basis, and get a strategy for how you’re going to actually call them.

I have so many products in my house, and no one calls me. They’re so afraid that I’ll consider them a spammer or not pick up or whatever, but I’m thinking, “You’re missing the boat.” It would deepen the relationship if you actually called and checked in and said, “How are you doing? Do you still love those jeans that you got from last season?” I would likely buy a lot more, and you wouldn’t waste so much time trying to figure out what to post on social media.


I was just going to say the same thing, that it really accelerates the sales process when you can get voice-to-voice with somebody and check in on them. They hear that you’re genuine, that you’re not coming across as spammy, so I think that’s a great tip.

Overall, in direct selling, the thing that I would suggest that people do is zig when you’re seeing all the other people zag. So, if everyone else is in somebody’s Facebook Messenger, why don’t you be on the phone? Why don’t you be the one who stands out as someone who really cares? There’s a lot of different ways to reach people, and everyone is getting busier and busier, and it’s hard to break through the noise. But, when you do something unexpected, you break through the noise.


That’s such good advice. And, going back to one point that you made that I think is important is: Everyone is everywhere. I mean, one of the silver linings during COVID was that people were only online, in-person was not an option, and we pivoted to meet that. But now, some people are online. Some people are in-person. Some people are in their email inboxes. Some people are checking text, right? There are so many different ways to connect with people that it does really require a lot more skills in your toolkit and a lot of new, different ways to connect and build those meaningful relationships.

I think what it also means is there’s not just one way to do things. And, I’ve always struggled with that when I’ve done training myself, because I never want to say, “Oh, in-home parties don’t work,” because they definitely work for a lot of people. It’s the same with an online party, or the same as texting, or using a system; there isn’t one way. You have to find what your niche is, and what you like to do, and how you can best serve your customers. Looking to see where they are is a good place to start—even if they’re everywhere.

That’s one of the best tips for any type of business owner, is asking yourself that question. “Where are my people? Where are they hanging out? Who do they trust?” That question, “Where are my people?” will guide you in so much of what you do.


Join the Modern Direct Seller Academy and bring your business to the next level at ModernDirectSellerAcademy.com.

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