We recently caught up with Atlanta-based direct seller Ikelia Francis. She has been selling for her company since 2016 and using Sell with AMI since May 2018. Ikelia shares her story, how she became a leader, and her wisdom for anyone who’s starting out in direct sales.
Q: What’s your story of how & why you launched your direct sales business?
Back in 2013, I fell in love with the products that two friends (one of whom is my best friend and now sponsor, Katie) were selling.
Katie was growing her business and asked me to join her team. No joke, I told her no for almost 2 years! (laughs) I kept saying no because I thought I wasn’t a “salesperson,” that I wouldn’t be good at it, and that I didn’t know anyone in Atlanta since I had only just moved there.
But 2015 was a rough year. I had my gallbladder taken out. I got into a bad car accident. My personal funds were low. I felt like I was still piecing things together in early 2016 when Katie asked me one more time to join, and I finally thought, “What the heck. I’ll do it.” The extra income couldn’t hurt; I was struggling financially and had a passion for books that I wanted to continue exploring. (At the time, I was a book blogger who was obsessed with buying hardcovers and attending conventions!) I officially joined my company on February 29, 2016, so you could say I’m a leap-year consultant! I think that’s pretty cool :)
Q: When did you consider yourself a “business-builder?”
Being at my first conference in July 2016 was an incredible experience. I met so many consultants and saw leaders walk across the stage and talk about how they’ve worked their businesses for 5, 10, and many more years! They had so much passion for their businesses and for leadership.
Getting to conference wasn’t easy. A week after I joined my company I was laid off from my full-time job. By the time it was close to conference time, my unemployment had run out and I did not have another job lined up. I remember my dad, sister, and mom all helped me in different ways to make sure I could make the drive. I had to sacrifice a lot, but I had heard from so many people that this experience would change my outlook. And they were right. It was at conference that I realized I could do this as a career.
I’ve always had dreams of being my own boss. Attending conference made me realize that this dream was possible.
Q: What’s your perspective on virtual conferences this year?
Despite the fact that I will miss seeing everyone in person, having conferences virtual will be a game changer! Anyone who hasn’t been able to attend in the past because of the costs or not being able to find child care will be able to attend. I’m excited about more people on my team being able to attend our annual conference this year because I know first hand how it can change one’s business mindset and perspective.
Q: What inspired you to be a team leader?
I was really fortunate when I started out that a few people close to me joined my team. But I consciously started thinking of myself as a leader in August 2016. I remember coming home from conference and thinking, “I can do this.” That’s when I really started going full-steam ahead with it — recruiting and booking parties.
It really hit me after I promoted in August 2016 that I was a leader. I thought, “I’m here to serve and guide my team to greatness and to discover what success looks like for them.” That’s when I really started focusing on my team and helping them promote.
Q: What are your biggest lessons for those who are just starting out in direct sales?
Lesson 1: The fortune is in the follow-up
I used to wait for my customers to let me know they had received their orders. I wish I had known about the importance of follow-up from Day 1. I don’t think I would have had as many customers who only bought from me once and never again if I had AMI from the get-go.
Lesson 2: Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s
It’s hard not to compare myself to other consultants out there who are super successful. But everybody’s journey is different and moves at a different pace. I burned myself out in my first year by comparing myself to others. The only person I should be in competition with is myself. I started putting that idea into practice in Fall 2017 and that’s when my business really started flourishing.
Lesson 3: Building relationships will take you to the next level
In the beginning, I was just a hobbyist, working my business just a little bit and not focusing on building relationships before making a sales pitch. The results were mixed.
Now I focus on building relationships and providing great customer service. It’s what I teach my team. Building relationships is key. Consistency is key. I’m still chaotic and working on being more organized. But when I first started, relationships weren’t my focus, so it was even more chaotic.
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