Yes—count me in! Many network marketers have asked my opinion about having home parties to gain customers and increase retail sales. My answer is always the same: yes, home parties are an excellent way to jump-start your retail business. If done correctly, a home party may be all you need to set up a steady stream of monthly income—and create so many customers you’ll never have to go out and look for customers again.

Here are some do’s and don’t’s of home parties.

DO send out invitations.
Invitations work best if they are sent out two weeks before the party. Invitations should be simple and clear to understand. Make sure to include: who’s giving the party; date (usually a weekday); time (most successful if it begins between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m.); location (including directions); how to RSVP; what kind of party (e.g., beauty night, scrap book night, basket party, health party); and whether they should bring anything (pictures, old T-shirts, nutritionals, etc.). We try to have a minimum of eight guests. As a rule of thumb, about 30 percent of those invited will show up, so you’ll need to invite around 30 to get 10.

DON’T wait till the night of the party to see who shows up.
Follow up on all invitations. Even when you put RSVP on the invitation, chances are most people will not take time to call. Smart hosts call 48 hours before the party to confirm attendance. Most people are looking forward to your party and getting out of the house. They are usually happy that you reminded them.

DO prepare the home for guests.
Cleaning is a must, but many successful hosts take preparing the home one step further. My friend Margaret Kaltefleiter is sensitive to people’s hectic schedules. At her home parties, she creates what she calls “a spa-like environment.” She has soft lighting, soothing music and candles burning. She finds people are usually in “high gear” and this type of atmosphere is conducive for having fun, relaxing and spending money!

DON’T have too many appetizers and/or too much to drink.
Light snacks are appropriate. Unless your company specializes in a food or drink product, lemonade and cake or donuts and coffee should be enough. To successfully book other parties, you can’t make your party look too difficult. The simpler the better.

DO be friendly!
Missy Hart says, “Being friendly is the secret to having a successful home party.” Missy says that she has a way of setting people at ease and making them feel comfortable. She does this by using her enthusiasm and belief to share personal stories about her product line. In Missy’s personal stories she makes the point that her product is easy to use, simple, and ultimately very rewarding. In short, she gives her prospects the feeling that they, too, can be successful.

DON’T pass out material too early.
Wait to hand out brochures, price lists or special deals until you’ve completed your presentation. The idea is to keep the full attention of your audience until you’re ready to call them to action. For example, your call to action could be to book a party, buy products, sample products, switch from your old product, refer people to you, use a 10-day trial. Whatever your call of action is, wait to give them more information until you’re ready to ask for it. Know exactly what your call of action is; keep referring back to it during the presentation. If it’s to book more parties, refer to “booking your own party” at least three times during your presentation. If it’s to recruit, mention that you’re recruiting in this area at least three times. Your presentation should not be any longer than 40 minutes. Exit surveys show that audience attention begins to decline after 40 minutes, no matter how good the presenter is.

DO have giveaways.
Giving the host a wonderful gift for having the party works every time! Even if you have small samples of your products or simple, inexpensive gifts for door prizes. Everyone loves a free gift!

DON’T pressure people.
That is, if you want repeat business and referrals. One of the best ways to sell is through customer testimonials at your party. Your guests expect you to say nice things about your product, but hearing it from your customers will have a much greater impact. Never try to talk someone into purchasing product they don’t need right now. Sell them items to get started, and after you’ve established a relationship and they know, like and trust you, begin to offer them more of your product line.

DO ask for an order or invitation…
…even if the person can’t attend the party. If someone calls you and says she can’t make it, ask her if there’s something you can order for her. Let her know what’s on sale, and get her order on the phone. When someone places an order, don’t forget to ask if she’d be interested in having her own party.

DON’T forget to follow up with every new customer.
This is critical. Just a quick call thanking them can make all of the difference in the world…especially when you go to sell more next month. Party on!

Dawn Siebold is co-founder of the Gove-Siebold Group (www.gove-siebold.com), a training organization that helps networkers develop world-class communication skills.