MLM – Multi Level Marketing. It is a marketing strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they generate, but also for the sales of the other salespeople that they recruit. This recruited sales force is referred to as the participant’s “downline”, and can provide multiple levels of compensation.
Sounds like a great business model right? There are many of them out there that offer someone the opportunity to create a business and the sky is the limit to how much they can earn if they work hard enough. MLM’s are hard work. For a person to make it successful they have to be motivated themselves. Most MLM’s offer events to inspire and motivate its sales force to go out and convince others about how great the “opportunity” is. I have been in and out of a few MLM’s. One of them I have been a part of since the 80’s either from using the product or being a part of its sales force is Mary Kay Cosmetics, which has been in business since 1963.
So what is the problem with MLM’s if they offer such great opportunities to make money? Aside from those pyramid scheme type which are illegal (and not what is being addressed here), the problem isn’t the MLM, it’s how the sales force is trained to get prospects through manipulation and deception.
I remember way back in the early 90’s when people would call me and say “I’d like to talk to you about network marketing.” This was an Amway pitch that started the whole “network marketing” buzz word. It wasn’t a well-known term then but it was deceptive because they wouldn’t tell you it was about Amway on the phone, they wanted to meet and discuss it.
Mary Kay always taught us to offer a complimentary facial and to never lead with the business opportunity. The person needed to sample the products and like them before they would be interested in selling them.
These days my time is very precious and limited. If someone deceives me into getting on the phone with them or meeting them in person, I will never do business with them on what they are offering or anything else for that matter.
Here are a couple of recent examples of people who have been deceptive with me in order to share or pitch an MLM:
I could go on with the deceptive pitch practices from the past but the first two caught me off guard because they were friends who I had a level of trust with. Now that trust has been broken and I’m not likely to respond to any requests to meet or talk. My daughter now has to think twice about people’s intention’s when they mention a job to her.
I have had other people contact me about my interest in certain MLM’s. They were upfront which was appreciated. I don’t have any time or desire to devote to an MLM today. MLM’s are a great business model for people. It allows those who want to work hard an opportunity to be in business for a small investment. However, it takes a lot of energy and commitment to work an MLM. You have to focus a lot of time and constantly work on it to be successful. The fallacy that it’s easy to get 3 or 5 people to sign up so you don’t have to pay for your monthly fee is deceptive in itself. Easily convince 3 people? You have to speak to at least 10-20 to get 3 and don’t think your friends and family are the answer, most of the time they are not interested.
In negotiation I teach about getting to the point and integrity first. Being deceptive to trick people into talking to you so you can pitch them on something or deceive them into talking to you about something is not only a bad business practice, it’s a way to lose credibility and friends. If you are in an MLM and they are teaching you to be deceptive like this to get people, you may want to think about whether or not it’s a good MLM to be a part of if you have to start out by tricking people into talking to you. People don’t have time to waste. Don’t deceive them into meeting you only to waste your time and theirs in the long run. Being honest may get you more no’s vs. a yes but in the end you will feel better about how you manage your business and keep your valuable relationships.