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It can be tempting to turn to dirty tactics for quick sales, but practicing integrity will secure a more stable customer base and promote word of mouth growth.
By Cheryl Gochnauer

It's fundraising time at my 8th grader's school. Competition is fierce for buyers of magazine subscriptions, which translate into prizes for the kids. Heaven help any adult with a checkbook! Fortunately, the yearly promotion only lasts a couple of weeks, then it'll be safe to sit on our front porches again.

Just as teens are driven to achieve with their fundraising programs, parents with in-home businesses are motivated to succeed. Without that income, many at-home parents would have to go back to work.

It's no secret that the bulk of work-at-home opportunities involve selling. Cosmetics, children's toys, kitchen gadgets, household cleaners - the conscientious work-at-home parent has a wide variety of legitimate products to pitch. The wrinkle is in finding prospective customers in a legitimate way.

"One of the moms from my son's preschool called to set up a play date at her house," says Linda. "I've been struggling to make new friends, and was feeling so isolated. I was looking forward to visiting and talking with her.

"In between conversation about the kids, she began telling me about the business she and her husband started a couple of months ago - they offer financial services - it's a big company - etc., etc., etc.

"So the real reason for the visit wasn't the play date, I guess," Linda frowned. "I don't even have any money to invest!"

Linda ended up disappointed, and I suspect the other woman was, too.

Presentation is everything, and deceit will kill the deal every time. So what are some steps work-at-home salespeople can take to keep their potential customers happy?

1. Don't disguise a sales pitch as a social event.

2. Choose appropriate settings. For instance, most people attend church to worship, not shop.

3. Know your customer. Financially-challenged at-home moms should not be trying to sell expensive gadgets to other financially-challenged at-home moms.

4. Make your presentation as low-key as possible, allowing people to contact you if they're interested. No response means no. Following up is overrated, and often resented.

5. Support other work-at-home parents by occasionally purchasing their products or services.

6. Resist turning every conversation into a sales pitch. "Did Johnny leave his backpack at your house?" "Yes, he did, right here next to my catalogs. I'll just slip one into his backpack and drop it by personally. Is 3 p.m. good for you?"

7. Don't spam in cyberspace or in person. Today, I've received 15 emails, 2 phone calls, 6 pieces of mail and 1 knock at the door - all from people I don't know, pitching me products I never asked for. Can you guess how likely I am to buy their stuff?

8. Once a prospect agrees to hear your presentation, value their time. For example, Debi was too rushed to listen to a salesperson on the phone, so she asked him to email the info. He did, then called to make sure she had received the email and to explain it. Click!

9. Don't ask questions with an ulterior motive. Build relationships, not databases.

10. Only represent products you enjoy yourself. That way, you're sharing a blessing, not simply selling something. When you encounter customers who enjoy the product, too, it's a win-win situation.

Comments? Email or visit her website at, where you can read a sample chapter from her book, "So You Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom." Copyright 2001 Homebodies.Org, LLC.

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