We sat down with Jay Leisner, the president of Sylvina Consulting to discuss the future of network marketing and how he thinks the industry will change moving forward.
After studying economics at the University of California at Santa Barbara and business at the University of Oregon, Jay went on to spend 13 years working with a major direct selling software provider, allowing him to work with companies such as NuSkin, Shaklee, Creative Memories and Nutrition for Life to name a few. Jay is now applying his experience and knowledge of the direct selling industry to help companies large and small answer questions and solve problems about the role software and technology plays in their success. Jay has over 25 years of experience in direct selling business strategy and technology consulting. He offers incredible insight on the inner workings and backstage process that every direct selling sales force needs to succeed.
Jay Leisner on Choosing the Right Software Solutions
I’m here with Jay Leisner from Sylvina Consulting, Jay has an extensive background in software and direct selling, Jay if you could give a quick introduction about your background and how you came to where you are at right now with Slyvina?
I have been involved with direct selling, network marketing and party plan selling for almost 25 years. Back in 1986 I took a position as a software developer for a network marketing software company. Through the course of the following 13 years in various positions as a programmer analyst, a systems analyst, a project leader, business analyst and a manager of development staff and a trainer, all different types of positions, and during that time period I had an opportunity to visit with over a hundred different direct selling companies during that 13 year period of time.
In 1999 I made a decision to leave that company and a few months later I started Sylvina Consulting, which is a consulting company focused in two areas, both business consulting and technology consulting for direct selling companies. We work with start ups in both areas as well as established of all different sizes, network marketing and party plan companies here in the US and abroad. Our mission is to do all we can to help improve the financial stability and the growth of network marketing and party plan companies.
I know you work with a lot of start up companies and give them the right direction to get off on the right foot. When they are in pre-launch and launch phase, when they are selecting software and web marketing tools what are some general guidelines you like to give to folks to make sure they are taking it in the right direction and not just purchasing software and looking at different solutions just for the sake of doing it, is there any kind of guidance you give for that?
Yes. I look at choosing a software provider is like choosing a spouse. You don’t want to choose the first one that is willing to marry you. It’s one of the questions I ask companies that we work with, which is “are you married?”, if they say yes, I say “well did you marry the first girl you ever met?”. Most of the time the answer is no. I have had a couple people say “I met her a long time ago”, the point is, choosing a direct selling software company is a very important decision with respect to your business because the software is really like the circulatory system of your business, and we want to make sure you choose the right one that allows your business to perform well and for the relationship between you and your software company to be positive.
Looking ahead, I’m sure you are always trying to stay, for the sake of your clients, stay ahead of the curve on whats to come, are there any other trends you see changing in the landscape of technology tools for direct selling companies, or new opportunities that are emerging, any future forecasts you see changing to come?
OK, I think that is a three part question, let me see if I can answer that in pieces. In terms of the trends today, today companies are struggling with retention, which is basically keeping people engaged in the income opportunity. The way I describe that is you sign people up to be independent reps of your company, and your goal is to keep them as long as possible, knowing that over time, most if not all of them are going to leave. So anything you can do right now to keep them and to keep them longer, I think companies today are concerned about that, and they recognize that if they can minimize the turnover they have, that will allow their company to grow significantly as well.
So I think there is a big focus on that. In order to focus on that you need to focus on your key operating indicators, which are the measurements of the company, how your are progressing and the companies performance. I think that, one of the things that we a doing, is helping companies to set up a good set of key operating indicators and to monitor them over time so you can actually measure what is going on with the business. So I would say there is more focus today retention and more focus on measuring business’s.
As far as trends, technology trends and so on, mobile is an area that I believe we are just at the forefront of. The mobile applications that I have seen, direct selling companies produce, generally speaking are limited in their capacities. I don’t see mobile you being used as a training tool as much as I would like to see it. I think that is where the great opportunity is. Today the idea of sitting down with a book or manual and reading through it, most people don’t want to spend the time, it’s very much a “hey can you give it to me in ten sentences?” type of culture. I think in some respects I can blame that, or indicate what twitter has done as far as communication is concerned in trying to make things simpler and shorter.As far as what the future will be, it will be interesting to see, my prediction if you ask me, you haven’t asked this question but I will throw it to myself anyway because I think its a good one, “what is the landscape going to look like five to ten years from now?, how will direct selling, party planning and network marketing be different five years from now than it is today?”. And that question really ties into the legal landscapes, what the economy is like and whether or not we see additional large existing companies precede into this channel. My hope is that they continue to pursue it. I think that there are great opportunities for men in the party plan segment, which has not been explored fully, and I think that perhaps in the future one or more companies may figure out to to explore that differently.
So I guess I wont make a big prediction for five to ten years from now, but if I were to make a small one, I believe that direct selling will be larger. It is a very small percentage of the economy, it’s less than one percent of GDP is produced through network marketing or direct selling and certainly think there are opportunities to expand that, there is plenty of room to grow.
Through Slyvina you offer a lot of great services to help start ups and different companies in direct selling. Do you do any work with compensation plan management, what do you do in that space?
Yes we do. We provide both compensation plan design consulting services and compensation plan evaluation. Sometimes companies come to us with a compensation plan that they have put together themselves, or perhaps they have had someone else do, and they would like to get some feedback on whether or not the plan is solid and whether or not there are challenges, either legal or logistical or payment oriented challenges with the way the plans are designed. We both evaluate the plans that have been written by others as well as design compensation plans.
It’s very important that a network marketing or party plan rewards and motivates specific types of behavior, and typically what we do when we evaluate a plan, is we look at those core behaviors and evaluate them against the plan and then identify those areas in which adjustments may be needed. We also do provide compensation plan analysis for existing direct selling, network marketing and party plan companies if the believe or have concerns about how their sales force is being payed, whether or not the plan is working for them, we have a process we use where we analyse the result of the plan by looking at data that comes from the companies and provide recommendations based on our analysis. Compensation plan is actually one of the core services we offer, we offer many others, but its very often requested of us.