Sell Without Selling: How To Gain Interest Without A “Hard Sell”

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Daniel Chard
Courtesy of http://www.medifastcareers.com/leadership/

[The following is the full raw transcript of a LEADx Podcast interview, which has been lightly edited for space and clarity.]

Kevin Kruse: What if the best way to sell isn't actually to sell? On today's show, you're going to hear from a public company CEO and we're gonna talk about changing the name of a major brand and why you need to take it slow, advice for succeeding in direct sales, how our health or lack thereof influences those around us. But first, today's tip is done is better than perfect.  

I once had a business that I just knew was going to be a huge success. It was a suite of online healthcare websites, they had great animation, gamification, video, I just knew it was going to blow away WebMD. I spent about a year of my life, roped in a bunch of friends, and I spent over half a million dollars. And it launched and failed miserably. Everything was just a waste. Software developers have a saying, “Shipped is better than perfect.” That's because they know that version 1.0 won't be perfect, and they're okay with it because there's going to be a 1.1, a 1.2, software is actually never done, it's never perfect.

Entrepreneurs now build what they call an MVP. Very quickly, minimal viable product. And they use it to get immediate feedback from the market. Reed Hoffman, founder of Linkedin once said, “If you aren't embarrassed by your MVP, you waited too long to release it.” Well, he could have saved me a lot of money. Now, there are times when perfect matters. Whoever packs my parachute, I hope they pack it perfectly. But for most things, everyday, lives are not at stake and too often we use perfectionism as a form of procrastination. Remember, done is better than perfect.

Our guest today has 25 years of experience in the direct selling industry with top leadership positions at PartyLite and Nu Skin. Today, he's the CEO of publicly traded company, Medifast, the parent company of OPTAVIA, which up until recently used to be called Take Shape for Life. Our guest is Daniel Chard. Daniel, welcome to the LEADx show.

Daniel Chard: Thank you, it's great to be with you.

Kruse: Now, Daniel, I've got a tradition where I always ask our guests the same first question. I'm kind of greedy, because I want to learn from your failures. So pick one out, career failure, something that didn't go your way, and what did you learn from it?

Chard: Well, you know, I think early in my career I was in a large consumer products company and I was a product manager in charge of new product initiatives. The mandate was to increase penetration in the US market and our answer to doing that was to enter the multi-billion dollar children's segment. This was a cookie brand. And we did all the standard marketing things, did the research that showed strong intent around our concept, and developed the product around all these insights.

We launched, and we started achieving less than half of what we had projected, despite all our best intentions and a lot of money spent behind research. And ultimately we started losing distribution and we had to reposition the brand. From the standpoint of, did the initial concept succeed? No, it didn't. I think what we realized, or what I had specifically learned from that is that if the initial insight is wrong, then nothing else really goes right.

As we continued to learn and really understood what the real insight was, which was that this was not about, this was a cookie brand as I mentioned earlier, it actually wasn't about selling children's cookies, it was about creating an activity between children and their mothers. Once we understood that real insight, we changed the positioning of the brand, made some tweaks to the products, and the brand actually thrived and did very well and accomplished all its objectives. So, really a little bit of an example of failure turning into success, but the failure part was important because it allowed us to get to the key learning.

Kruse: Yeah, I was going to say, it's not win or lose but win or learn, and you were able to learn and then turn it into a success. It just took longer than you originally thought, right?

Chard: Exactly.

Kruse: Now, Daniel, we have listeners in 148 countries around the world, variety of industries, so for those of my listeners who aren't yet familiar with Medifast, Forbes named you as one of the 100 most trustworthy companies, tell us in your own words about Medifast.

Chard: Well, Medifast is a company that's been around for close to 40 years now. It started in the early '80s as trying to help physicians offer their patients something that they weren't able to get on the outside, which was a diet plan that would help them lose weight. We've evolved a lot since then, we no longer look at ourselves as a diet company, we look at ourselves as a health and wellness company. That provides not just products but an entire lifestyle approach to achieving optimal health and well being.

So over the last 37 years, we've had the massive endorsement from doctors around the country, over 20,000 doctors have recommended our approach to optimal health and well-being. We've also found some very unique ways to help our clients achieve what they're looking for. And we do that through a community, it spans the United States, of what we call OPTAVIA coaches, so people who can help individuals accomplish their goals by supporting them not just with products, but also a complete lifestyle change that helps them incorporate healthy habits into their lives. That's what allows us to achieve, or offer, our really big promise, which is lifelong transformation, one healthy habit at a time.

Kruse: That's a great promise, and you mentioned that this is really your biggest division is almost 14,000 health coaches. Is that about right?

Chard: Yeah, that's about right. The end of last quarter, 13,500.

Kruse: Thirteen thousand five hundred health coaches throughout, and now this is the division that used to be called Take Shape for Life and you've recently rebranded it to OPTAVIA. How do you keep almost 14,000 health coaches engaged and positive, 'cause I'm sure a lot of them are thinking, “Oh my gosh, all this time behind the one brand, now we've got a new name. No one's gonna have heard of us.” The normal challenges of rebranding an organization or a product. How did you manage through that?

Chard: It's been an interesting journey. Everybody loved the descriptive nature of Take Shape for Life because it talked about exactly what we did, but it's a little bit of a mouthful, four words, and it's not necessarily a brand that rolls off the end of your tongue. As we looked at our vision of not just doing this, meaning offering this to the United States, but recognize that for us to achieve our full vision of helping the world be more healthy, we had to create a brand that had relevance internationally.

So today we're only in the United States, we have aspirations of being international. All of our coaches recognize that as part of their mission. As we started talking about the things we could do to make that vision a reality, one of the first things we talked about was how do we create a brand that has relevance internationally? That can be tied to a product that ties into some of the most important things to potential clients, like clean label, being free of artificial flavors, colors, and part of our line is non-GMO.

It became very clear what we needed to do from a brand standpoint, and we've given it, really on this journey officially, there were about two and a half years that went into planning the transition. Now, about a full year has gone into introducing different parts of the product line. This past July at our convention in Dallas, Texas, we introduced the full line. We gave them a little bit of time to adjust to the new brand.

Kruse: Yeah, that makes sense and that's exciting, the global opportunity, because of course, unfortunately, the obesity epidemic is becoming a worldwide epidemic and direct sales model is very popular in different countries as well, so your investors have to be pretty excited about the years ahead.

Chard: Yep, I think they are.

Kruse: So when it comes to direct selling, tremendous opportunity for people. Often a lot of people will get involved and then maybe don't make the commitment, so what would be your advice to a say a new health coach that's getting involved, she really wants to perform well and get ahead. What's the secret to getting off to a strong start and then building that business up?

Chard: Well, you know, the way we really start out is with individuals as clients. So, a coach is approached by a client, typically because they know that person or they have some kind of association. What we say is start by having your own experience. If you have a passion for being healthy, if you want to do something in your life that will allow you to live a more healthy, active life, and typically there's a deeper reason for doing that. People want to be better husbands, or a better wife, or a better mother or a better father because and they know they can do that by being a more healthy individual.

So we say, take the journey of being a client. Get healthy. As you do that, you'll be an inspiration to other people. And if you have the passion to be a coach, as people come to you and talk about what your transformation looked like, then be a coach. If you don't have the passion to be a coach and pay it forward, then go ahead and refer those individuals who ask you about your transformation to the coach that helped you. So it's really, what we really focus on is creating a community of like-minded, like-hearted individuals that help clients or people who want to make this change in their lives, be successful.

Then a portion of those will go on to want to start their own business and be a coach, so the business of coaching to be an OPTAVIA coach, and for those individuals we say, just share what you went through. People who are interested in changing are interested in changing with somebody who's been through it, who's been in their own shoes, who's walked through this journey previously. And has a specific connection with the individual who's coming to, in this case, the OPTAVIA brand.

Kruse: Daniel, I'm really glad the way that you shared that because over my 30 years, I've, well from the outside someone would say, “Oh, Kevin sold that $1 million project. Kevin sold that $18 million company he started.” And yet I say, I've never sold anything. All I've done is shared my experiences and tried to teach along the way and then if that's changed other people's behaviors, if people then want to do more things with me, that's great. But, the best selling to me isn't the “old school” selling at all.

Chard: No, and that's exactly right, Kevin. We don't talk about our coaches as salespeople and we don't talk about them as selling products. We talk about them first and foremost as guiding a new client through what we talk about as the habits of health, which is a system that was developed by the co-founder of OPTAVIA and this habits of health journey helps them incorporate these new healthy habits into their lives, which results in their lifelong transformation. Products are simply one of the tools to help them create these healthy habits in their lives. But there's not any kind of high-pressure salesmanship. It's just helping people achieve their goals with a proven approach to lifelong change.

Kruse: And Lead X listeners out there, you know I always challenge you to get 1% better every single day, how do we take action and get a little bit better, and so the challenge today, based on my conversation with Daniel, I want you to pause and think about your own health and its impact on others. I start every morning and I reflect on my intentions around health, wealth and relationships. When it comes to health, I remind myself about eating clean or hitting my workouts for the day, or whatever that might be.

Daniel, you talked about just being an inspiration to others, and for my next leadership book, I was just doing this research on social contagion, how we are influencing others whether we want to be or not. If we are not taking care of ourselves and not exhibiting healthy habits, our kids, our spouse, our friends, they're likely to get less healthy themselves. And yet, if we get healthy ourselves and exhibit those positive health habits, all of a sudden everybody else starts getting a little bit healthier around us. So even just by modeling it, we are leaders in our community. I thought that was an important point to highlight.

Daniel, how can our listeners find out more about Medifast and OPTAVIA?

Chard: Well we, like every other company in the world, have a website. You can go to OPTAVIA.com and learn more about what our offer is to achieve this lifelong transformation and that's where you can find out about being connected with a coach who can help your listeners become acquainted with how you take on the first healthy habit, which is proper nutrition. And use that to achieve your healthy weight, which typically is the most important thing. Doctors agree that that's the most important thing.

But to use that first step as a catalyst for greater change. That's what we talk about when we think about optimal health and well being, is learning, living and sharing this set of healthy habits that literally changes people's lives. It goes on and on because when your life is changed, when you've done something that's had a positive effect in your life, the first thing you want to do, as you pointed out Kevin, is share with someone else. That's what we're passionate about is helping people change and facilitating that sharing.

Kruse: Love it. Catalyst for transformation. OPTAVIA.com, we'll make sure we put that in the show notes, as well. Daniel, thanks for coming on the LEADx show.

Chard: Thank you Kevin, it's been great being with you.

Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of LEADx.org, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.