4 Insider MLM {Multi-Level Marketing} Secrets No One Will Tell You

4 Insider MLM {Multi-Level Marketing} Secrets No One Will Tell You

"Hey, Girl...". That's typically how it starts. You know the social media message, or email, you may get from someone you knew once upon a time but haven't heard from in 15 years. Or perhaps a distant cousin, writing to tell you about the amazing opportunity or best-kept secret in a bottle they have access to. We've all been on the receiving end, although, admittedly I get far less of these messages than current pop culture makes the prevalency of the dreaded "MLM (find out what multi-level marketing is here) Message" out to be - that or I am not cool enough to make the "100 lists" of old acquaintances. Either way, I have seen some articles and blog posts floating around as of late, about what a social atrocity it is to join and pursue business using the direct marketing model, and I gotta tell you, I am starting to get a little annoyed, Karen. You see, I, a college educated, small business owning, professional, joined a direct marketing company a year ago, and sorry not sorry, I have no regrets. Zero. It's now one of the core focuses of my current business model. I'm also a Certified Lactation Counselor, in case your feathers aren't ruffled enough already, but I digress. Keep reading, and I'll give you four insider secrets about being in an MLM.


1. It's not that different from your average corporate job.

I am what some would call driven. I enjoy challenges and making money. I started applying to jobs at 15 (to my parent's dismay) so that as soon as I could legally operate a vehicle, I would be employed and ready to roll. Considering I have worked since I was 16, I have worked in my fair share of environments, from small business to corporate - with the majority of my professional experience coming from the corporate realm. I have worked both entry-level and management, as well as sales and operations, in the corporate environment, so I know a thing or two about the structure and compensation packages.

Brace yourself for truth bomb number one: my direct marketing job, is no different than your corporate 9-5, monetarily speaking. I know it seems unreal, but hear me out. A big gripe of the network marketing model is that to be successful one must recruit a team and then they make money off of their team. Their team then ideally does the same thing, and in turn, everyone makes money - and on up the chain. Do you know how I got every single job I have ever had? I'll tell you. I knew someone, who recruited me. They thought I would be a good fit for the position, and the rest is history. This is how the world works. It's why people join sororities, networking organizations, professional groups, and LinkedIn - so that when opportunities arise people will reach out to them and recruit them.

Let's talk money, shall we? One of my corporate positions specifically, was in management. Let's start this example by looking at my department (one of about eight storewide). Our department hierarchy looked like this, our department manager, an assistant manager (me), and 40 sales team members. For the sake of your eyes not glazing over, this will be the cliff notes version. Our department manager (my boss), received additional bonuses on top of her salary (which we'll equate to her personal sales in the MLM world) based on my performance, as well as the performance of our team members for sales quotas. I also received bonuses based on the performance of our team (most of whom were, gasp, recruited by us). Furthermore, many of our team members were subgrouped by product genre and had their mini teams within our team - they also received bonuses based on the sales performance of those "below" them. Side note: many of our sales team members performed so well within their subteams that they out-earned both the department manager and me after all bonuses were calculated (also seen in the MLM world). True. Story.

Stick with me. Now let's look at this replicated throughout our entire store. Department by department, on up to the Store Manager. Then store by store and throughout the whole company - on up to the CEO sitting at the top collecting her paycheck plus bonuses (substantial bonuses) based on everyone's performance of selling products to a consuming public. What you have here, folks is multi-level marketing. Welcome to America. You might argue it's just specific to retail and wholesale (which is the above example). Nope. I also have five years of banking experience, and it's the same, as I presume it is in any sales based industry.

But Meagan, I need job security, you say! Karen, take a deep breath, there is no real job security. I was in the corporate world in 2008. I have lived round after round of layoffs. I have watched the old (think employees with tenure approaching retirement), the ill, and the mediocre performer let go first. True that the corporate world may offer you a severance package. But I promise you, the 60 days pay isn't getting you too far. And when that happens, you're going be to sending up prayers that someone comes to recruit you.

2. Top performers are making bank.

If you don't think that people who are actively pursuing business using the network marketing model aren't making real money, you are ignorant. Respectfully speaking of course, but I, too, was very misunderstood about the type of income that someone can make within this type of business model. Because there are varying levels of income, based on performance (just like corporate sales positions), there are laws that prohibit MLM companies from stating guaranteed income stats. I was incredibly ignorant about direct marketing and between my corporate background, and my current entrepreneurial path, I just assumed people were doing this as a side gig.

Then I was approached for recruitment, and as anyone who has been offered a job I did some research into the company, and I learned that if I wanted to, I could make what I made at my top paying corporate job - and then some (and then some more, and more...). If you think that someone who is apart of an MLM is just buying an extra pair of shoes or a cute handbag at the end of the month, think again. And when they tell you there is the opportunity to make money, I promise you; they're not just blowing smoke up your ass. You see, they only make bonuses (we're still always personally selling, no matter the size of the team) if you make money, so it makes no sense for them to lie to you. None at all.

Many people will argue the fact that only the top 1-2% performers of these companies make a sizable income, to which I would agree with you. It's true that the top 1-2% of people sell enough on their own, in addition to having built a team that affords them bonuses, to account for amazing incomes. Now let's compare this to our overall workforce and see how many people go on to become CEO's (which is what we will consider the top 1-2% of MLM earners to be). In 2013 there were just over 143 million people employed in our workforce. And of this number only 243, 760 of them were CEOs. SO. Only .17% of the total workforce were people in the position of CEO which is, drum roll, less than 1%.

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3. Not all MLM's are created equal.

You might want to take notes on this one, it's essential. Another major point of contention with MLMs is that their overall sales and profits depend on their consultants and members, therefore discrediting it from being a viable business. To this point, I say, heck yeah. That is not how real business is done, and you'll say, see MLMs are pyramid schemes (which are illegal, BTW). And then I'll say, but Karen, not all direct sales companies are structured this way. For example, the company I am a part makes profits with over 80% external (non-consultant) sales. Not all direct sales companies make you become a member to shop either. Let's use my company as an example again. You have the option to buy online or at one of our physical pop-up boutiques, sans #bossbabe, if you are hell-bent on not supporting someone in your network.

My last point is where it gets tricky. Most people have had a handful of uncomfortable experiences with direct sales representatives and assume all network marketers (and companies) are the same. And since perception is the reality, it creates a hostile environment for those of us just trying to do our thang as professionally as possible. I can't speak for all peer to peer selling businesses, but many of the things that are complained about in some of the anti-MLM articles floating around are things that our company culture frowns upon. The takeaway - just because someone is a crappy salesperson or got some poor sales coaching doesn't reflect upon an entire industry.

The truth is, this type of work isn't for everyone. Not everyone has a natural talent for sales, nor does everyone take the time and personal responsibility to learn professional sales skills (which is where many of the problems lie), but that's not synonymous with the network marketing business model. Unfortunately, like any industry (think used car sales), there will always be some bad apples.

4. We don't really care what you think.

In the least snarky way possible, it doesn't keep me up at night that you think I am a social pariah for being apart of an MLM. It also doesn't bother the gals on my team. Again, this is not for everyone. You may even be reading this, and be someone in my network, and wonder why I haven't reached out to you to sell my products or recruit you. The reason is simple. It's not for everyone, just as what I am selling may not be for everyone. If I think it will be of value to you (or that you'd be great for the job), I'll reach out. And if you say no, my feelings aren't hurt - it's just business baby.

See, we know that sales is sales, is sales. It doesn't matter the model, the platform, or the product/service - it's sales. The person who sold you insurance? Sales. That cute Girl Scout? Sales (direct sales in its glory!). The woman who opened your bank account? Sales. Your favorite Instagram influencer/blogger? Sales (#ad #sponsored #paidpartnership #ambassador all day everyday). The point I am making is we insatiably consume, day in and day out, products/services/ideas by people who are selling them. Those of us who are actively building network marketing businesses know, and understand this. While we may not fully understand why you layer on the hate so much for someone who is putting themselves out there, just trying to make some money, we don't waste a lot of time crying about it.

Real talk? The entrepreneurial path is hard, scary, and lonely - no matter which way you slice it. If not, more people would do it, but they don't; just like most people don't go on to become CEOs (or even executives for that matter). When I was recruited to be a part of beautycounter, the one thing (outside of the company's values) that I kept coming back to at the top of my list of pros, was the community. I already had a business, but the appeal of adding value to my current business while also becoming apart of a team again made it almost a no brainer. If you have ever taken a psychology class, you'll remember that two of the most important things for our psychological well being are the human connection and the ability to have our basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, etc) met. For a lot of men and women who join MLMs they are seeking the ability to fill these needs. While many direct salespeople may be rough around the edges (or even pretty terrible at it), when they reach out to you, listen. You don't have to buy, join, or sacrifice your first born; you need to be a decent human. A simple no thank you, or internal "bless your heart" will suffice.

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