Monday, May 21

Big Money From Direct Selling? Its Not That Easy

By Zulkiple Ibrahim
May 21, 2007 10:02 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 (Bernama) -- "Be your own paymaster, decide how much is your salary, enjoy life and earn thousands...".

That is part of an advertisement, placed by a direct-selling company, in a local tabloid newspaper recently. The company is apparently looking for people to sell its merchandise.

Earn big money from direct selling? It is not that easy as 25-year-old Norimah Salim found out.

Early this year, the Perak-born university graduate went for a walk-in interview with a French-based direct-selling company located at Bangunan Pak Peng, Jalan Petaling here.

The firm sells children's hard-cover books based on Walt Disney cartoon characters.

After a brief but impressive talk with the firm's sales manager, Norimah's hopes of earning thousands of ringgit soared sky-high and she immediately accepted the offer of a marketing job with the firm.


After a week of training that gave her the impression of how easy to close a sale, Norimah hit the streets, making cold calls from door to door, either at office premises or residential units.

Norimah's first day of direct selling saw her hopes of earning a handsome paycheck plummeting by the hour. By end of the day, she failed to close any sale.

The rejections continued for the rest of the week, and her "big hope" finally sunk rock-bottom. Norimah did not turn up for work the next week and she did not even bother to resign from the job as there were no strings attached.

She went job seeking and fortunately, found employment as a clerk in another firm. The desk job only offered Norimah a three-figure salary but she was happy.


According to consumer activist Fatimah Mansor, a person must be thick-skinned if the individual wishes to do door-to-door direct selling.

The salesman should also be "mentally tough" when facing rejections.

"House-to-house direct selling is difficult. Most of the time, the owners are away at work and the occupants are only housemaids and their employers' children".

In Malaysia, canvassing at office premises are definite a 'no-no', unless the salesman has secured an appointment. But even this could also be cancelled at the last minute.

Many office premises here have a 'Salesmen Not Allowed' notice p rominently posted on the front door, she said.

Fatimah said Malaysians do not like to be disturbed, either at work or while relaxing at home. That is why sometimes they respond apprehesively if not negatively to some of the rather aggressive salesmen.

"Try selling them something while they are having meals or drinks at eateries or roadside stalls, the salesman will definitely be rejected outright," she said.


Fatimah said there are various types of rejections and excuses in direct selling.

If the individual who the salesman approached decided not to purchase the item offered, then it would be difficult to make this particular person change his or her mind.

"Unless the product is something unique and extraordinary, and cheap," said Fatimah.

Among the excuses given are -- "I have to ask my wife/husband first; I have a lot of items like that; I am not sure of the quality or just an outright Sorry, I do not have the time".

The ultimate excuse of which the salesman has no way to counteract would be "I do not have the money", said Fatimah.

She said Malaysians prefer to go to hypermarkets or the relevant shop or office in order to get what they need.

"If they wish to buy insurance, then they will go to or call up the respective insurance agency. For household goods, they can get the items at hypermarkets or department stores. If they want cars, they will go to showrooms".

The way some salesmen go about their work appears as if they are forcing the public to buy their wares or services. They are trained to be aggressive. Malaysians generally do not like this idea, said Fatimah.


Sabah-born David Chung, who is the sales manager of a company that produces exercise books and stationery, said direct-selling involves a lot sacrifices and hard work.

"The market here is saturated. You may have to travel out station in search of new clients and markets," he said.

Chung said when direct selling was still a novelty in the country,

it was very easy to sell toiletries, food supplements and detergents through direct selling.

"Malaysians also prefer to buy goods of known brands as they are not sure over the quality of new products," he said.

Chung said the business is getting tougher due to stiff competition nowdays, he is forced to rely on getting bulk orders instead of individual sales.

"Direct selling is also governed by the law. The numerous public complaints against unscrupulous direct sellers have compelled the authorities to come out with rules and regulations on this trade," he added.


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