Written by PinkPeace
When disclosing the thousands of dollars in inventory that I maintained as a Mary Kay sales director, the most frequent question I get is… Why?
- Why did I have so much product?
- Why did I think I was going to sell all of that?
- Why did I keep ordering, even when I clearly had plenty of product on my shelf?
Reason #1 – I thought Mary Kay was a real business.
Everyone had heard of Mary Kay Cosmetics and that sweet old lady, Mary Kay herself. She was like your grandma – if your grandma had big hair and had built a cosmetics empire. We knew about the pink Cadillacs and fur coats, and if we hadn’t already been to one, we’d at least have heard of Mary Kay parties. It seemed so innocent and kind of fun. Go to a makeup party to “try before you buy” and shop from the convenience of home. Who would have suspected that there was a dark underbelly to the whole pink enterprise? Not me.
I began my Mary Kay business in the mid-90s when there was hardly an Internet, much less anti-MLM websites or blogs. The only information available to me was the various company-provided brochures, videotapes, cassettes and Applause Magazine. In the magazine, I marveled at the monthly checks the women were apparently making, and the feature stories assured me that anyone could be a success in Mary Kay, if she only worked hard. I was a very hard worker, so there was no reason that I couldn’t climb to the top, too.
I had no idea that hard work had very little to do with success in Mary Kay. I assumed that, as in the corporate world, my efforts would take me steadily to the top. Not so in Mary Kay. You can “do it the right way,” follow all directions, and still you will not be successful. Look at the thousands of sales directors who fail to turn a profit or make minimum wage.
Reason #2 – I was told I had to have inventory to be successful.
My director, who I trusted as my business leader, told me I should have as much inventory on hand as possible, because I would always have product for quick delivery, resulting in more customer satisfaction. I would be motivated to get out and sell, because I would see all that product and want to move it off the shelf. I would get prizes and rewards from her and from Mary Kay for making the smart decision to “stock my store.”
I was given the analogy to opening up a grocery store that only stocked applesauce and paper towels. If a customer came in wanting milk and hamburger, she was out of luck and would go elsewhere. Did I want to be that business owner? Or did I want to invest in my own success and have the products that people wanted?
There was no reason for me not to trust my sales director. She was a good Christian woman who drove a pink Cadillac and had diamonds on her fingers from Mary Kay. It was in her best interests to make sure I was the best-equipped consultant possible, because the more successful her unit was, the more successful she was. She obviously knew what she was doing, so why wouldn’t I follow her advice?
Having inventory on hand did increase my sales from time to time. Some women were impulse buyers who wanted their products immediately. But more often, I simply had excess products on my shelf that I knew I’d never sell. This is mainly because a strong retail business is nearly impossible to develop and maintain.
Reason #3 – I had a lot of customers.
When I began my stint in Mary Kay, there were very few women in my area who sold the product. I was able to take advantage of that and accumulate quite a few customers over the years. Yes, these customers ordered products from me, and I wanted to have their products on hand.
Mary Kay was constantly adding new product lines, debuting limited-edition products, and switching out colors and shades. These changes would be highlighted in the Look Books that I sent out to my customers, so they were aware of everything that was new. And in case they wanted the new products, I had to make sure that I was fully stocked. It was a point of pride for me that no matter what someone would call and order, I would have it on hand for them. It never occurred to me that they could wait for their products. I wanted to provide that instant gratification.
Reason #4 – I had a unit to train.
I became a sales director quickly, and I took very seriously the mission of training my unit how to sell. When new products were released, Mary Kay never provided directors with these new products to display and demo. The cost for these products always came out of our pockets. With new product changes happening at least quarterly (and usually more often), I had to spend hundreds of dollars for each new product line to show at my unit meetings. I couldn’t expect my consultants to sell – and order – products they’d never seen or experienced. I felt it was my duty to display full product lines for my consultants and for the guests they would bring to our meetings.
Reason #5 – The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang.
I believed 100% in leading by example. I never asked my consultants to do something I wouldn’t do, and I made sure that if I threw out a challenge to them, I did it as well.
Did I want them to hold skin care classes? Then I’d better fill up my date book. Did I want them to recruit? Then I’d better bring in a couple of new women each month. Did I want them all to be star consultants? Then I’d darn well better have at least a new sapphire star to add to my ladder each quarter. I was afraid my consultants would think, “If a sales director can’t even be a star consultant, how can I?” I didn’t want to give them any excuse not to meet that star consultant goal.
If that meant topping off a little production at the end of the quarter, I looked on it as the cost of doing business in being a leader for my unit.
Reason #6 – I had a unit and a car to maintain.
We all know that Mary Kay sales directors have strict ordering quotas for their units so that they can remain being sales directors and keep their career cars. What happens if your unit doesn’t order much in a given month? Or what if there are no new consultants to place big initial orders that month? “If it’s to be, it’s up to me . . .” The director coughs up the missing production to make those quotas. No director wants to lose her unit and go through DIQ again, and no one wants to lose her Mary Kay car. This is especially true for those who have quit their normal jobs and only have a “trophy on wheels” left to drive.
Before topping off production for my unit, I rationalized that it would cost me more in the long run to miss production, in losing my unit and/or my car. I was a good seller, and even if I sold that extra product at a big discount, I would still break even. But if it weren’t for having to meet my quotas, there was no rational reason for me to stock all the inventory that I had on my shelves.
Reason #7 – I had to maintain my image.
Never underestimate the pressure put on directors to keep their positions and project a facade of success. It is absolutely crucial that no one know of low production or a director’s money troubles. Otherwise, why would anyone sign up for Mary Kay? If a consultant questioned my Star Consultant status quarter after quarter, I just told her that the product was just flying off my shelves and it was impossible for me not to be a Star Consultant.
I had to drive that Mary Kay car, which was such a symbol of success in the business. I had to be able to talk about it and create a desire in my consultants to want one for their own. Consultants all knew that if a director wasn’t driving a car, she wasn’t setting the pace for her unit. I had to maintain that car so that my unit thought I was being a Mary Kay leader. It all took production, which I had to supply if my unit wasn’t going to.
That’s what I was thinking.