Those of us who have been around for a while have seen direct sales shift time and time again, and 2024 has been an exceptionally big year for change. On the Modern Direct Seller Podcast, we’ve discussed strategies to refocus and stay relevant through these changes, but we also know that pivoting doesn’t always feel so simple. This week, Jenna Lang Warford joined us on the podcast to discuss how to avoid feeling stuck while things shift around us. Rather than bringing cookie-cutter advice, she’s here to tell you how to “plan, do, and review” to better make any suggested solution bring lasting success to you and your business!

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Time based notes:

  • 2:59 Jenna Lang Warford introduction
  • 7:11 Direct sales pivots in 2024
  • 12:05 Adapting to consumer behavior
  • 14:09 How to get unstuck during shifts
  • 21:44 Jenna’s favorite office supply


Don’t Get Stuck in Direct Sales Shifts with Jenna Lang Warford

Those of us who have been around for a while have seen direct sales shift time and time again, and 2024 has been an exceptionally big year for change. Recently on the Modern Direct Seller Podcast, Jenna Lang Warford joined us to discuss how to avoid feeling stuck while things shift around us. Rather than bringing cookie-cutter advice, she’s here to tell you how to “plan, do, and review” to better make any suggested solution bring lasting success to you and your business!


Before we talk about where you’re going and all the exciting things happening in the direct sales industry, I’d love to hear just a little of your story. How did you land in the world of direct sales? What roles have you had in the industry? Tell us a little bit about what you do.

When I was probably 22, a friend of mine introduced me to direct sales. And, I remember just being star struck. This was back in the day where they gave you cassette tapes so you could listen to people’s stories, and how they overcame whatever their obstacle was, and the things that they did to succeed. And then, later, in my 30s, I got back in direct selling, back into the field, and built a team with a company. And, local to where I was living was a consulting firm that at the time were the top consulting firm in the U.S. for direct selling companies. And, I joined them as a writer, because I was a radio writer/producer when they hired me. And so, I came on board, and I was writing for all of these direct selling companies, writing their training, writing their sponsoring videos, writing the marketing for the company. And, if it was possible I fell more in love with the industry, because now I had a broader view, and I got to see what it really, really meant to people.

Now, every direct selling company we know, every social selling company we know, has a yearly conference. It’s a big deal. It’s life-changing for so many people. And, this company sponsored conferences for all the direct selling corporate executives to come to. And so, I got to meet these executives, who were super passionate about taking direct selling and sharing it not just across the U.S., of course, but across the world. And, when you see people who are living their passion, and when you see people whose passion is taking other people’s passion and making it a reality, it does something to every part of you. It was an incredible opportunity. And, through that, I was able to meet some people in the industry, and that’s how my career was launched.

So, I’m writing all this training, I’m doing all this research, I’m finding and determining what the best practices are, and at one point, the company decides that they needed someone to become the holder of what best practices were for the party plan industry. And, I raised my hand and said, “That’s got to be me.” I am so convinced that party plan—which, for the most part, became social selling—is the top opportunity for people who are willing to learn and grow and put effort in that I raised my hand and said, “Pick me! Pick me!” And, they were like, “Okay, we’ll pick you.” And, that got me started on my journey of best practices. And, I have never looked back.


I love hearing those early days, because I know that this year in direct sales looks way different than last year, and different than the year before, and different than 10 years ago. We have pivoted, and pivoted again, and continue to pivot to be relevant and really support those leads coming into our business. So, what emerging trends or best practices are you seeing in the industry here in 2024?

You know, I was just talking to three specific executives a few months ago, and we were talking about the changes that no one could have predicted, that we never expected to see within the industry, and we’re seeing them. And, the results are amazing.

So, one of the things was direct selling and social selling companies allowing their field leaders to represent whatever products from whatever companies they want. Now, I remember a few years back, that was a big no-no. If you were representing skincare at ABC Company, you were not going to represent jewelry at XYZ Company. If you were a leader at a certain level, that was a “No, no, you aren’t going to do that.” But, we started seeing social media influencers who during, say, Fashion Week, would one day be representing Prada and giving it their all; and the next day, they’re representing Steve Madden and giving it their all; and then, the day after that, they’re representing House of Gucci and giving it their all. And, what that did is, it created a consumer mindset that our channel had to address. And, the consumer mindset was, “Why should you get to tell me that I cannot represent non-competing products?”

And, at first, I didn’t understand the shift. I was like a lot of different executives, and a lot of people that have been in the field for a long time, saying, ” You have to focus on one brand. You have to focus on building a team.” But, that is only true if your goal is to build an incredibly legacy-sized team. That’s not the goal for the majority of social sellers. In direct sales, jewelry really isn’t competing with skincare, or nutritional supplements really aren’t competing with whatever-else product. And so, as the consumer mindset shifted, consumers would find this skincare product and be in love with it, or this collagen product and be in love with it, and they were like, “Yes, I definitely want to be part of this company.” And then, they’d find another opportunity.

And, the other thing that we did not see coming was that the way people engage with social media could shift on a dime, and that it could change how people spent their time, but also change how they interacted with each other. And, when we see that people are willing to interact with their friends across the country, and they’re willing to have conversations with them, then we have to look at, “But, are they building community?” Because, community is key to our industry. It is key to social selling in many ways. And, platforms that some people declared, “Oh, that’s passe. That’s dead,” really aren;t, because some of those platforms are the best ones for building community.


I think you’re exactly right that consumer behavior has changed, and people are looking to influences or micro-influencers who are sharing their favorite this, and their favorite that, and consumers don’t care that you’re brand loyal. They want to see what is going to serve them. And, I feel like that’s kind of the way of the world. Like, that’s business. Things are constantly evolving, constantly changing, and we’re doing everything we can to stay relevant. And, in some ways, direct sales is working to keep up with consumer behavior and adapting to best serve those customers. And ultimately, they’re calling the shots.

And, there is no business out there where the consumer doesn’t call the shots! If the consumer all of a sudden stops consuming high-fructose corn syrup, the market is going to start finding other ways to sweeten food. And, they did that for many, many products. I know direct sales is unique, and sometimes we’re singled out, but it’s also true that we respond to market conditions like every other business.


So, as we’re thinking about the shifts that are happening with consumer behavior, the shifts that companies are making, the shifts of the economy, the shifts of marketing and social media, oftentimes I think direct sellers feel a bit stuck, right? You coach many social sellers, as do I, and a big theme of those conversations is, “There’s so many things shifting or changing, and I just figured out how to do this, and now I need to pivot and try to do something a different way.” So, I’d love to hear your approach to what it actually looks like for a social seller to get unstuck when things feel overwhelming.

You know, as I talk to social sellers, there are three main areas where I feel like they’re feeling stuck. And, the first area is how they see themselves. A social seller will either feel like they’re not getting off the ground, or they’ll hit a certain level and feel like there’s a ceiling, but they can’t get past it. And, I have discovered that, oftentimes, it is how they see themselves and how they see the level they’re trying to achieve that makes them feel stuck. And, I also see that how they find solutions can be the thing that gets them unstuck.

For example, if you are someone who has a direct selling boutique, and you are accustomed to watching your peers and replicating your peers, and you feel like you’re doing what they’re doing, but you can’t seem to hit the next level, I think one of the best things you can do is look outside of that. What are boutique owners who are not in your company doing? What types of training are they looking for? What solutions are they finding? What customer acquisition processes are they engaging in?

And, the third thing is how they’re applying that solution within their business. Because, how many times have we heard a solution and said, “Here’s why that won’t work for me,” rather than giving it a test run, or an A/B test? So, when we do the A/B test, we say “I’m going to do A and see the results; I’m going to do B and see the results. B had the best results. I’m going to tweak B.”

And so, I think those are the three things: How they see themselves and those who are at the level they want to be at; how they find solutions; and then how they apply the solutions within their own business. And, I think when we can address each of those three things—address the one that you feel like is your sticking point, and then address the other two things—it can help us get unstuck. I’ve seen great results from that.


I agree with all of that. Because, as we are talking to people, it is like, “Is it in your head? How do we get out of your head to think about things more broadly, and think about what those possibilities are for you?” And then, I think it’s common in social selling to get stuck just looking at your company training, or your uplines training, and the minute that you broaden your perspective and see how others are doing things outside of your company, all of a sudden, you have those lightbulb moments.

And then, the last piece of that is exactly what you said about how you’re applying that training. I can’t tell you how many times people are like, “I’m doing what you’re saying, but I’m just not getting where I need to be.” A lot of times, it is those slight tweaks or those small changes in the delivery that make a huge difference in their success. And, I can tell you: Jenna doesn’t have it all figured out. I don’t have it all figured out. Every day in my business, I’ll deliver some content and think, “Okay, that didn’t quite land the way that I thought it was going to. Let me tweak the way I say that next time.”

I completely agree with you. No one—no one—achieves lasting success without extraordinary effort and a cycle of “plan, do, review.” If you’re not tweaking what you’re doing, even if it’s enormously successful, eventually it’s not going to be so successful. You’ve got to “plan, do, review.” You’ve got to be making the tweaks as they come. I’m not talking about change for the sake of change, but change because our consumer is changing, and our consumer does not want to hear the same pitch three years in a row.

And, for that matter, oftentimes a social seller will get bored with a plan way before their customers do. They’ll get bored with the idea of, “Do I just keep posting, and making these TikToks, and contacting my customers?” And yes, you do. That’s your business cycle. That’s what you do. The tweak keeps it interesting for us, and it helps us see what’s working the best right now.

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