Advantages Earn some pocket-money, meet new people, discounted cosmetics
Disadvantages Oh dear : quite some
|Range of duties|
|Career prospects||It did not help my career prospects|
My story with Avon begins on a warm and sunny day in September 2005.
To be more precise, the 22.09.2005, which must have been a Wednesday as I had my younger daughter with me and Wednesday is her "day off" from the nursery which she attends 3 times a week on a 3 hour basis.
I grabbed the handles of the buggy, tried to wheel past them, flashing a rather gimmicky smile and uttered " Sorry ladies, I am on a rush and we are not very religious people !""Neither am I" Came the swift response of the taller one, followed by " We just passed by and thought you might be interested in earning some extra money"
Now she had my attention. Full stop. It's not that I am desperate, my husband earns quite good, but after several years at home looking after the kids and the household I had the feeling that it was time to have a bit more then the money my beloved husband dutifully deposited into my account at the beginning of each week.
Some money I had earned all alone which couldn't be accounted for and could be brought to good use in decorating the house we had just bought a few months earlier and in re-styling the mass of hair I was carrying with me on top of my head which could only be described as an utter mess.
The bubble filled with pound notes dancing in front of my eyes burst and I started to laugh.
An Avon Lady ?
No way ?
I hardly ever wore make-up, my clothes, at that moment, were full of grass-stains, there was probably even grass in my hair which hadn't seen a stylist in years, my feet were bare, except from my beloved Birkenstock sandals, my fingernails have never experienced a manicure nor have my toe-nails a pedicure, and my clothes consisted out of a faded jeans which had seen better days and a T-Shirt that could have done with some ironing.
My husband was briefed on the days events right after his arrival from work and his reaction to the idea of me being an Avon Lady was similar to mine, just more severe : he started to laugh, but that hard, that tears started to run down his cheeks. " You - an Avon Lady ? You don't know how to spell the word lip-stick, let alone how to use one..."
If I had toyed with the thought before, now I was convinced: I had to become an Avon Lady - just to prove him wrong ...
The Lady in the suit and the woman who accompanied her (it was a different one then on the day before, this one was about 20 years older then me and even plumber then the other one) , arrived about 20 minutes late which ended in the result that the cookies, which I had so lovingly arranged on the table had been eaten by the kids.
She wore the same outfit as before whereas I'd had the chance to put on something less casual then the day before and I even managed to keep it fairly safe from my girls chocolate-biscuit-stained hands.
There was no explanation regarding the delay, she just slammed her lap-top on my dining-room table, took a seat in the chair that is usually reserved for my usage only and waived the woman in her company to the least favourable place at the table, which is the chair where the sun usually shines right into your eyes.
She waved me to another chair, placed a booklet in front of me and I realized that I had lost the control over the situation and over my dining-room.Which doesn't happen very often.
She opened her lap-top and we went straight through the application process (without any further questions if I was willing to apply - she must have taken this as given) which contained questions about my address, marital status, date of birth, place of birth (Stuttgart, Germany), former names, which indicated that she would be running some kind of credit check on me.
This proofed to be true, I regularly check my credit reference. Avon Reps have their own account with the company and always get the delivery before the payment is due so I suppose this is necessary as some of them really order hugh amounts.
Then she started to go through the booklet with me. This explained in very simple steps about how Avon works for you, what you can expect out of it in terms of payment , training, options to climb the Avon-Career-Ladder and a step-to-step guide for processing orders. Especially the beginning of the booklet was a bit childish with multiple choice answers to fill in like:
Which of these would attract you to Avon ?
- flexible hours
- meeting new people
- exciting products
This was done in a very meticulous manner and I had to cut the whole process short after two pages as this was just too silly.
I have encountered a lot of similar warming-up games in meetings and seminaries I used to attend on a regular basis through my former employer, but never on such a non-challenging level. The makers truly must believe that the new Avon Representatives have an IQ that matches the one of an ant.
The Sales Manager, although surprised, seemed somehow relieved. Probably she was bored by the whole thing herself. I had regained the control over my dining-room and the further proceedings and only the Sales Leader seemed a bit annoyed.
The rest of the induction was much more professional, in the end you'll have to sign a kind of contract which you have to agree to all the companies rules regarding payment and delivery and that you'll give 4 weeks notice (1 campaign) if you should want to stop being a representative.
The Avon Year is divided in 18 campaigns, each campaign has its own brochure and lasts for about 21 days.
First thing, you'll have to make your brochures ready. On the back-cover of the brochure is a space in which you should insert your contact details. I usually write my first name and mobile number. The more brochures you need, the more often you'll have to repeat this, so from a certain point of success on it might be worth to have some personalized stickers or stamper made.
It's also advisable to check the brochure before handing it to the customers regarding the special offers. If you miss to do so you can be quite sure that Mrs. X will ask you if there's a deal on shampoos this month.
They are DIN A5 in format and have about 180 pages. On page 3 you'll always find the index which is divided into the following classifications:
- Fragrance: This is the part where you can find the perfumes and their matching shower gels, talcum powders, body lotions, etc. It's always Ladies first, then the Gents selection. Often the pages have a "Try it "-spot which you can rub to find out how it smells. The authenticity of the sample provided on the page and the original product is disputable. Mine smell most of the time like paper...
-Cosmetics: Contains all the make-up items like foundation, lip-sticks, nail-polish and nail-care, eye-shadows... At the moment the Avon Make-up range contains following Avon brands:
Avon colour, Arabian Glow, Perfect Wear, Beyond Colour and Color Trend.
-Colour chart: is always right after the make-up products, which makes some sense. The accuracy of the colours shown compared to the original item that will be delivered is rather poor in my opinion but I keep this very well to myself and the customer will find out soon enough.
-Style addict: Contains a small range of make-up products such as lip tint, eye glitter and sparkling nail tint and some accessories like keyring or notebooks. The whole range is aimed at very young girls and there is only one shade available which is, of course, baby-pink
-Skincare :this is where to look for the various skincare product which range from the teenage-anti blemish products until the ageing skin products. From my experience the products which promise the best result to reduce wrinkles, crow feet or sagging bottoms sell the most. Sometimes it can be quite hard to keep a straight face, especially if the customer is far beyond the point where anything else then a surgeons knife could help.
-Suncare :Which includes the various suncare products for adults and kids as well as a self-taning section.
- Haircare : Obviously hair-care products like shampoos and conditioners, but also brushes, dryers, straighteners,...
- Toiletries: Shower gels, bubble baths, soaps and a kids range.
- Fashions: Jewellery, handbags, belts, underwear (ladies only) and night-wear
- Sale : Articles that are to be discontinued and therefore reduced.
- Well-being : This used to be a separate brochure which has been included into the main brochure about one month ago. There are things like sleep-therapy items, the planet spa range , a fitness range that includes things like a step counter (very interesting for Avon Reps as they walk a lot), incense or magnetic bands.
The Customer Order-Form:This is the most important document for you as this is where the customers will write down which items they intend to buy from you. Don't be surprised to find it empty most of the times when you collect your brochures back...
After you've filled all the necessary fields on the order form you have to put one into each of the brochures. I usually just put them in between to pages as attaching them with a byro proofed to be not very recommendable as these first seemed to disappear all the time (had to buy new ones for each campaign) and second destroyed the front pages of the brochure which made them useless for multiple give-aways.
Every now and then Avon has a small sales brochure which should go in between the pages together with the order form.
Walking, part one.
You'll have to take all your brochures and put them through the mail-flaps in your territory. This can be tricky as some mail-flaps seem to have a mechanism that seems to bite you as soon as you try to put something through it. You could get the impression that they are hungry... I admire our postman who covers a much bigger area since years and still has all his knuckles intact.
If you have some apartment-buildings in your area that are always shut, then you'll have to look for the "trade" button. This usually only works before 12 am and is originally designed as a kind of buzzer to let the postman in. If the building doesn't have one or it is out of order you'll have no other chance then ringing a bell randomly and begging to be let in. Which is usually not successful.
If there is a receptionist you might charm him to let you gain access to the flats, but usually they will ask you to leave them on the reception for each inhabitant to pick up if they desire to do so.
If you can't gain entry to a block of flats you can always leave your brochures outside and hope, that the residents will pick them up on their way in. This might work in some cases but mostly you will find them untouched when you come back a few days later for collection and probably in a very sad state as they will have been exposed to the elements of nature for much to long to survive in a presentable state.
Of course if you have lots of friends, relatives and people at work/college/uni to give your brochures to then you might not have to go through this and can forget about canvassing doors. I am not in that lucky position as nearly all our relatives live abroad and the few we have in England just live too far away. I am a stay-at-home mum, so no workmates either and at the time when I started to do Avon we had just moved to the town, so I literally knew no-one.
Walking, part two.
You'll have to go back to all the houses where you've left your brochures on exactly the time which you've ticked on your order form. So if you wrote Monday, 15.02.2005,AM this is when it has to happen. Otherwise you will most certainly encounter some people who will tell you that they have disposed your brochure even if it is only 1 PM.
If you find them in front of the houses I would advise to check immediately if they contain an order. I am not that greedy, but I picked up one once that contained an order and a name but neither address nor telephone number. Which left me to find out which of the 25 houses where I left my brochure might be the home to a certain Julie who desired to buy an anti-ageing-cream from me...
And you might be up for some surprises: Once I put my brochure through a mail-box behind which, clearly audible, a dog was waiting. When I came back to the house three days later to collect my brochure/order all I found was a little see-through bag filled with dog-poo and a note saying "My dog had your catalogue, that's all that is left". As I always carry some calling-cards with me I quickly wrote one saying "hope he enjoyed it!" ( on this occasion I preferred not to leave my contact number)
The most likely surprise you will encounter will be just how few of your brochures you will get back.
This can be done in three different ways:
- Through an order form that you will have to bring to your drop-off point. The drop-off point is the mailbox of another Representative who collects all the orders of the area and hands them in to a deliver driver who brings them straight to the Area Sales Manager. The drop-off point are usually not far and can be easy to reach by walk. The order form comes with a big brown envelope on which you have to note the total of your order (interesting for the person who has the drop-off address as they are always well informed how the others are doing), amount of returns from the last delivery and a message for the Area Sales Manager (which mostly states "ring me")
Since a few weeks I am the drop-off point for my area. There is no cash incentive for doing this, but you'll get to know some of the other Reps around.
I do not want to go to far into the detail with the order form as it is a massive paperwork and very complicated to fill in. I wouldn't say though that it is difficult, just unpractical in the way it is made up. I've used it only for my first three campaigns and it took me nearly 2 hours for the orders of 9 customers. I really can't recommend this form of ordering to any Avon Representative and I wonder what those guys at Avon who have developed this form have thought.
- By phone. Much more straightforward then the form but expect to be held in a queue for ages, as on the drop-off dates they are experiencing a huge amount of calls which they obviously can't cope with. It is an 0845 number so it can be a bit pricey on the top as the calls will last for quite a while. One of mine lasted for 48 minutes...
- Through their website. You have to get registered first which only takes maybe two minutes. You can access your account at any time by typing in your account-number and your password, which you create yourself. You can check your account, make payments (only Electron and Solo for a change), ask for a credit for returned items, they have a cafe, a page with useful sales tips and news, some special offers that they only do on the internet and order. This is very easy, you just type in the item number and quantity and in the end you can check per button if the product description is matching with the item you want to order. On the following page you'll be asked to order your new brochures for the following campaign or the one ahead, how many customers you have served in this campaign and if you are interested if they send you addresses of interested customers in your area. You would be mad to say no to this one, but I have so far never received any, even I always make sure I have the box ticked. This is by way the easiest and fastest way to order and the only one I can really recommend.
Your order will be brought by a courier. During your sign-up interview you will be asked if there is a safe spot for the courier to leave the order in case you are out. Mine is a shed in the garden. The courier also picks up your items that have to be returned. For this you'll only have to attach a bar code which will be send to you with each invoice to your item, you do not even have to pack it in a carton, and that's it. But you must inform Avon that you are intending to send the item back, otherwise it will stay on your account for ages ( it takes them weeks to until they debit the returned goods to the accounts) and you might not receive your next order in time as they want to see a proof of payment for the old one before they send out the next.
Your items will be send in brown carton boxes that have the Avon logo printed all over. It is written on each carton no 1 out of 4 and so on. Make sure that you receive the stated amount.
Now comes the point where you require some space as the more customers you have ,the more cartons you will receive.
After opening and re-checking with the invoice if everything that has been charged is really there, it will be your job to sort them all out. You'll need your order-forms again to put each customers order together. This might take some time, especially if you have small children who want to "help" and mix them all up again. A Disney movie might come in handy in this case.
Avon provides paper and plastic bags that you can order and it certainly looks much more professional then using some old Tesco carrier bags. But these bags are not free ( more about that later).
After sorting out the orders I usually put the new brochure and some samples into each customers bag.
Walking, part three.
You are on the road again, this time with lots of white bags that bear the Avon logo very visibly, and who hasn't found out yet that you are an Avon Representative will do so now.
If you know at which time you can reach your customer for sure you are lucky. Very often it takes several attempts until you reach them and very often they will tell you "But I don't have the money now. Can't you come back tomorrow ?" - More walking...
Never ever leave an order without getting paid. This is something you will be clearly advised on during your interview. If you should do so and the customer never pays then Avon doesn't care. You are the one with the invoice, you are their customer and that's all they know. Don't expect any help from them if you can't get your payment. It's better to keep the order and if it should be the case that the customer really can't pay you can always send the things back without having to pay for them out of your pocket. Don't accept any suggestions "to pay it bit by bit" as you will have to pay for it immediately and Avon doesn't have much patience when it comes to waiting for your payments.
This can be especially tricky when the customer is a friend or relative. But this is business and you are in there to earn money, not to pay for someone else's new foundation. It might require some amount of diplomacy here but don't forget : If they care for you they won't put you in such a position.
I had so far only one case where the customer effectively couldn't afford what she had ordered in a spur of the moment. We had a little talk, she picked out the items she was able to pay for at that moment, I returned the rest and she re-ordered them bit by bit. This was a very uncomfortable situation for both of us, as I could clearly see how embarrassed she was, but she stayed a customer and I never had a problem with her again.
From this point on it starts again and again - every campaign.
HOW MUCH CAN YOU EARN ?Well, this depends clearly on how much you sell. There is a minimum amount you have to order for to get a commission. This is £ 68. If you order for less then that you won't get any commission at all and have done all the work for nothing.
ARE THERE ANY COSTS INVOLVED ?Oh yes, plenty !
All this together can easily mount up to £ 10 .WHAT DOES AVON DO TO HELP YOU ?
-They give you 2 additional brochures per campaign which are solemnly aimed for the Representatives use.
The first one is Clearance, which continues items that are about to be discontinued. Here you can buy items which could come from the whole Avon range at really cheap prices. They are supposed to be for your own use and you might not be able to get them , as they are sold while stock lasts. I found some very nice bargains there but bear in mind that you shouldn't become too attached to the product as it has been discontinued. A bit of a nuisance as i have found a real nice shower-gel which I would have loved to buy regularly.
The second one is called Link. Here you will be introduced to new articles that will be published in the brochure one campaign ahead. You can order each item only once and only for demonstration purposes. Of course you can always keep it until they appear in the brochure and then sell it to the customer for the brochure price .No one would ever be able to check that and it's quite common practices by all the Representatives I have met so far.
-The Presidents Club. To qualify for this you'll have to generate an amount of £ 6300 a year. If you manage to do so you will be rewarded with discounts on demonstration products and brochures.A dedicated free phone-line for customer service and orders. The invitation to a Gala Diner and the chance to win a holiday.
- Special offers on new products that are to be introduced in the bochure in about 2 campaigns ahead. Every now and then you'll get a phone-call in which they will offer you to buy a minimum of 3 of an item that is totally new. At the moment they do this with a new Eye cream that is called " ANEW Eye lift". This item will be £ 15 in the brochure but they gave the Representatives the opportunity to buy some up-front for £ 6. You could get them in quantities of 3,6,9,12,... If you manage to sell them you can therefore earn £ 9 per pot. They will not be billed for 2 months and if you should not be able to sell them you can send them back. So if you've ordered 12 pots and manage to sell only 5 you can give the remaining 7 pots back. They seem to do this about every 3 month. The last time I've got an offer like this was before Christmas and it was for a perfume that come with a picture frame. I declined this one but will try my luck with the non-surgical alternative to eye lift surgery. As I said before, in my territory perfumes don't go that well, but anything that promises instant re-juvenation seems to be a hit. Wish me luck !!!
ARE THERE POSSIBILITIES OF DEVELOPMENT FOR AVON REPRESENTATIVES ?Yes :
You can become an Avon-Sales-Leader. This works by building up your own network of representatives. You have to inform the Company that you plan to do this, this can be done through the Area Manager, a contact phone number they will advertise regularly within the news-letter you'll receive with your invoice or through the website.
It works in several steps :
If you've managed to achieve that you'll be able to move on from being a Trainee Sales Leader to be a Sales Leader. Only now you'll be able to earn commission on your Team's Sales. I have no clue what happens if you fail to do so, but I fear that in this case you have just managed to bring them some more Reps while you are still in the same position as before. Maybe I am wrong here but in the adverts for Sales Leadership they don't mention failures.The next step ahead would be to become and Advanced Sales Leader.
You can get there by encouraging your team members, or others who are willing to do so, to become Trainee Sales Leaders. If you manage to get 5 people to qualify for Sales Leadership within 6 campaigns you'll get another Extra Bonus of £ 200 and also start to earn on their commissions.
You can build up a nice little network by doing so, but again they do not mention what happens if your prospering Trainees fail to hit the target and I couldn't find out how high the percentage is that you'd be able to get if you are successful.
Every now and then they are looking for them through newspaper adverts. They do earn a basic income from Avon and get a company car. If interested and you can't find a job-offer in the newspaper then it should be possible to find out if there are positions available through their web-site via e-mail or by calling them.HOW IS THE UPLINE SUPPORT FOR REPRESENTATIVES ?
After reading the section before you would probably guess it is fairly good, but in reality it is a far cry from being so. If I am generous I might say it is poor. Alas, I am not in a generous mood tonight so I'll have to say it is non-existend.
I know that all these of you who have ever done Avon, either as Reps or Sales Leader will slaughter me for this, but this is my experience. It might be different for someone in another area/team as this logically depends on who you are dealing with. The people I have front in line are highly unprofessional.
The Area Sales Manager :
After arriving late for the interview she managed to miss two further appointments totally ( 1 without even apologizing, let alone re-scheduling) which ended in my first order being a total chaos. She didn't leave an order form at the day of the interview as she is supposed to came to the new Rep to fill it in together for the first time and then showing the new Rep the way to the drop-off point. As she never showed up I was forced to give my order by phone to my Sales Leader who was supposed to call the customer services with it to activate my account. This must have gone wrong as the whole staff ended up in her own house. She then had to drive from her village to me to deliver the things personally and wanted the money cash on delivery, which showed that she is much better trained as a Representative then as a Sales Team Leader. I had therefore to pay for my order up-front without knowing if the people still wanted their items as the arranged delivery date was gone by several days. It is probably not necessary to mention that I wasn't a very happy bunny...
The Sales Manager arranged another meeting to which she came 1 hour early which resulted in me being not at home. And I was sure to have mentioned that before 10 am wasn't possible due to the school run...
She did show up for the next appointment, again late but therefore in company of her husband. I never found out in which relation he stands to Avon, apart from being married to one of their employees and this quite irritating. In this meeting she mentioned that she needed a new drop-off point in my area after falling out with the Lady who had it so far and I agreed to do it. We arranged another meeting in which she would explain what would be expected for this, especially in times where I wouldn't be available (like holidays, etc)
Now have a guess who didn't show up !!! I tried to ring her, ended up on the mail-box, left message. Again the next day, this time an automated text telling me that the number wasn't existing any more.
So I called the customer service. They informed me that my Area Manager wasn't with Avon any more. I wasn't too surprised to hear that. It took them a while to find out who was responsible for my Area now, although they promised me to arrange a call back. This was in the middle of December. I called them a few more times and the promised call finally came in January. Up until today I have never met the new Manager in person.
The very friendly delivery Lady who picks up the orders on drop-off day explained the procedures to me in the end. I doubt that this is part of her job.
WOULD I RECOMMEND IT ?That depends on the circumstances. As a full time job that is supposed to earn a living : Never, no way, forget it.
ABOUT THE COMPANY :Founded in 1886 by Mr David H Mc Conell under its original name California Perfume Company.
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