In 2015 we had over 80 sales staff between us, scattered across the country from Adelaide to Cairns and plans to expand into the last remaining states of Australia not far away. Then the roof fell in on our heads with one phone call at 4 p.m. on a Christmas Eve of all days…

The government had made a small change to legislation: no more direct (face to face) sales.

An entire industry changed overnight, companies scattered, and employees were left without a job to go back to after the holidays. We knew it was coming eventually, we just thought we had more time.

In six  months we had generated over 80million dollars of sales for one client, it was amazing, but the industry was rampant with sales-hungry marketing companies that only cared about making money and not the implications of how they sold their products and who they sold them to.

We knew our sales reps worked with integrity, we drilled it into their minds every single morning in our hours-long training sessions. We did that because we were trying our best to preserve such a lucrative industry, but that’s not what the competition was doing.

Immediately we put ourselves to work finding new clients, new contracts, but it didn’t come in time to save our staff. We had put endless hours into training and developing them and all of a sudden it was all gone and when the money dried up we had to let them go.

For our clients, though, it was a different story. Whilst they had benefitted greatly from the direct sales model we implemented, they simply switched to an online sales model and we were left behind.

Shifting models and perspectives

Direct sales is anything from door knocking to B2B to working shopping centre sites or out the front of the supermarket, even pitching on the street in the city to anyone who walked by.

Most people say they could never do it; they gasp at the mention and cringe at the idea of how they expect these sales people to get treated.

We actually loved doing direct sales. But the big lesson we learned is:

 

  • It is unsustainable for most people
  • The employee churn rate is huge
  • The operating expenses can be ungodly, and
  • It doesn’t matter how much time you put into developing your people: you are still at the whim of the market and markets can be destroyed by unethical sales tactics.

 

But what was the positive lesson in this whole story?

Online businesses and sales aren’t at the whim of the market in the same way.

As we mentioned, our businesses came crashing down while the clients just switched their sales model. One door closed and another one opened. We continued with the direct sales model, we knew we could attract opportunities, but were on the hunt for something that could be as lucrative as what we had before.

The one thing we knew is that we couldn’t have all of our eggs in one basket and take a hit like that again, so we would go to work, knock doors, walk into businesses, make calls, and worked hard to rebuild to where we were before. Then we would come home and spend the night learning how to build online businesses and do successful online marketing.

As we learned these methods we began to wonder why we had been doing sales the hard way for seven years. Sometimes we would knock 200 doors every day to generate leads and pick up some sales.

Do you know how much effort gets put into knocking on 200 doors in a day? That’s a lot of walking and a lot of conversations.

Meanwhile, our old client was getting just as many sales with highly targeted and effective online marketing and much lower overheads.

We started to see how the new clients we were working with could benefit from online sales or lead generation, and how elements of direct sales and online marketing could actually complement each other to create a better experience for the customer.

The flow of information to customers could be controlled so they got the truth, instead of what a desperate sales rep might say to get a deal over the line.

A much larger audience could be reached in a much shorter period of time and without the need for 80 reps across the country pounding hundreds of kilometres of pavement every day.

Products and services funnelled down so only the customers it was relevant to would see it. It’s just so much more effective!

We saw how the clients that were open to implementing online sales grew and the ones that didn’t struggled. We saw how customers we had built trust and relationships with when talking face to face lost all confidence when they found nothing about the company online.

We saw the future…

As we began to implement the high-tech methods we had been learning in the evenings into our clients’ businesses – from crafting their online identity to building a sales funnel to automated systems that could provide a much higher level of customer care – we saw their businesses transform and grow.

We went from spending 12-14 hours a day out on the streets doing direct face-to-face marketing for one client at a time, to being able to grow several clients’ businesses at the same time as well as our own.

It has been a long learning curve and a long transition from our own business falling apart in front of our eyes to saving other people’s businesses from experiencing the same thing. The end result is Collective Digital.

What we’re about today

Short for Collective Collaboration, our name embodies our experiences together and the services we can now provide to our clients. We have gone from being a direct sales company to building a digital marketing agency, but it doesn’t stop there.

There is a major aspect from our direct sales model that we all miss dearly, and that is the coaching and development of individuals and teams.

So our next step is to teach what we have learnt to others, so that they can start their own online business and experience the freedom we now experience in our lives. We can work from anywhere in the world and want to teach others how they can do the same.

Of course, there was that little lesson we learnt about not having all of our eggs in one basket.

This is why behind the scenes we are not just helping others develop their own businesses; we are also consistently working on our own projects, too.

We are currently building out two subscription model companies for physical products, our own online information and training products, as well as selling affiliate products or promoting other people’s products online based on a commission structure.

Not to mention a few exciting things in the pipeline we can’t talk about publicly just yet!

This is our story as Collective Digital. We’ve made a meaningful shift, and we are fortunate enough to be the types of people opportunities come to. But it’s not just about us – we’re in a good place to bring the same opportunities to our clients, our people, and others who are just trying to make the same discovery in their journey.