Sunday, May 2, 2010

On Direct Sales or MLM - Network Marketing

I confess: I used to avoid direct sellers and MLM (multi-level marketing, also known as network marketing) like the plague. I did not have any experience with it, but I had heard it was shady business at best. Also, I also heard echoes of it being a Pyramid scheme, (where you make money by signing people up, but there is no real product or service involved). Well, waddya know! I became one of those “born again MLM people”, who – once I bit the bait – was a zealot in the field. I went from being an MLM skeptic to a network marketing convert, and then friends and family shunned ME like I had the plague!
The reality of what network marketing CAN be (a source of residual income and/or a flexible way to supplement or make your income), clicked when I listened to a presentation of beauty products – I signed up on the spot after having refused to go to my friends´ direct sales parties in the past! I did not particularly believe in the overpriced brand, but I spent money I didn´t have on buying a kit and samples. In less than three months I crashed and burned, and my sister, my friends and even my landlady had allergic reactions to the products! Setting out to recruit others to "get rich" by selling with me was like sticking pins into my eyes, only worse! Acquaintances stopped taking my calls and other moms at school looked the other way when they saw me coming.
I didn´t completely give up, however, because I did understand the potential of the model. I read a lot about direct selling and MLM and I knew there had to be something else I could enjoy selling. I then met a very nice woman who was wearing beautiful jewelry and it turned out to be designed by a direct selling company. Now, that was something that I could do! After all, I love silver jewelry, and surely people would compliment me on it if I wore it and want it for themselves!
So, I found out this company gave a lot more marketing material than the beauty one when you signed up, and required no minimum quotas or recruiting. I would make a commission on sales, and was not forced to purchase anything, but of course, I could.
Recruiting does add to your income, but this is a performance based sales model, so if you don´t sell, even if you have a dream team under you, you won´t get a dime from their sales.
With the jewelry, during the first two years, my average sales paid my rent, and I made my investment back and then some, plus I earned a lot of free jewelry. I had a lot of fun at the parties and made friends. I didn´t pressure people, heck, they almost had to BEG me to show them a catalog.
When my writing work picked up again, though, I found myself slacking on the jewelry business, and I asked myself why. I am still first and foremost a writer looking to make ends meet in other ways. I want to succeed in my career – the jewelry is a way to help me pay the bills, have fun and enjoy wearing the stuff. I do know other women who sell for a living and they are doing great, and I also know others who won´t make a call even if their lives depended on it, so they quit. It can go either way, but that depends on you.

Would I do direct sales again? In a heartbeat! For me, it sure beats the heck out of having a low-paying job that I don´t like, or cleaning toilets for a living, which I am not very good at anyway.

My humble recommendations for those thinking of joining a direct sales or MLM company –

- Pick a product or company that you really enjoy, like and trust. It is tough to sell something you don´t use yourself. I KNOW!

- Do not spend money you don´t have on inventory, and especially be wary of BEING FORCED to buy inventory. MLM sounds great in theory, but you don´t know if you like the IDEA of doing this or the ACTUAL doing it until you try! It may or may not be for you. Not all companies make you buy a kit - do your research.

- Give yourself time – don´t expect to be a millionaire overnight.

- Set goals – plan to make a certain number of calls or contacts a week, a certain number of parties. No goals mean that you will most likely take no action.

- Don´t be a zealot! Especially if, like me, you did not support other direct sellers before! There is nothing more annoying than someone who did not want to help you out in your biz and now is trying to convert you to theirs!

- Get ready to get a lot of NOs, but don´t take them personally.

- Know when to back off. If I risk losing a friend coz she won´t have a party, I cross her off my “to call” list.

- Know that there may be peaks and valleys, if you have other things going on in your life. Look at the big picture.

- Know that direct selling and MLM works if you work it, which is, incidentally, 12-step group talk. MLM companies seem to have a lot in common with religion and 12-step fellowships.

- Don´t “company-hop” indiscriminately. Do your research first, THEN join, so you know exactly what you are getting into and what else is out there.

- If you find the right product or company for you, join when it is not too young (it may go under) or too old (there may be more reps than customers!), you really dig their product, and you work it like any other job, direct selling and MLM do work.

Any thoughts?

No comments:

Post a Comment