In a normal sales business, you are hired and promoted based on a holistic assessment of a variety of factors: one's character, temperament, and contribution to the company and its profitability. In an MLM, there are no qualifications to join and you advance based on one factor alone: recruitment. The problem is that as the market saturates at an exponential rate, the pool of potential new recruits rapidly dries up, and new distributors must sink lower and lower and engage in steadily shadier and more desperate practices to build their downline. Far from being the behavior of "just a few bad apples," as the MLM industry would have you believe, this practice is encouraged and rewarded by a system that prioritizes raw recruitment numbers above all else. This virtually guarantees that the ones who make the most money in MLM are the ones with the fewest scruples - which is unsurprising, given point #6...
In 1959, two employees of Nutrilite, Rick de Vos and Jan van Andel, founded their own company: Amway. Amway was created using the MLM organizational structure and paved the way for MLM companies to be established in other countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and France. Amway allowed for companies like Panasonic, Palmolive, and MasterCard to include network marketing in their omnichannel marketing strategies. Amway's success has even led them sponsor an NBA arena, the Orlando Magic's Amway Center (and the older Amway Arena), since 1989.
Think back to when you were recruited and consider if it was primarily as a customer, with just a mention of "income opportunity," or if the primary pitch was for the business opportunity. The ethical way to build a downline is to sign up people as customers first, and then if they like the product, they'll be drawn to becoming a rep. A hard sell on signing up as a rep right at the outset should send up a red flag for you.
This fact is rarely mentioned in the sales pitches. Instead, they typically promote the merchandise (referred to as "lotions & potions" by MLM critics) as wonderous super products that will be in high demand. But, you should always beware of success stories coming from MLM distributors. Most MLM companies pay shills who lie about having had multimillion dollar success with the scheme. These are typically the ones who travel around giving seminars, pitching motivational materials, and putting on recruiting extravaganzas that have been criticized by the Federal Trade Commission for promoting an almost cult-like religious mania as a substitute for sound business practices.
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You’ve probably encountered a situation like this. Or at least know someone who has. If you haven’t experienced this kind of in-person pitch, you’ve likely seen old high school friends or an aunt on Facebook or Instagram posting about an amazing business opportunity that involves selling eyelashes or health supplements or essential oils for something that can be described as a “multi-level marketing company.”
“Joining an MLM is appealing to women who find hope in their promises of a better life: freedom, economic independence, and an endless supply of cheery trinkets. Despite professing quick-income prospects though, it’s difficult for MLM consultants to earn more than pocket change. When glitzy recruitment videos yield to the reality of suburban cul-de-sacs, people selling for MLMs can be plunged into debt and psychological crisis.” (Quartz)
Investigate the company. Once you set your goals, investigate the company that interests you. Find out if it’s a member of an industry association, such as the Direct Selling Association or the Multi-Level Marketing International Association. Also, contact the National Fraud Information Center. Nonmembership doesn’t mean your company of choice is a pyramid. Keep in mind, however, that organizations like these hold their members to a strong code of ethics and not only prohibit illegal scams but also provide tips and advice on how to spot and avoid them.
Hyperbole is not limited merely to product claims, however. When MLMers turn to their competitors it can get ugly indeed. Some of the most outlandish rumors of modern history can be traced to MLMs. In recent years, for example, the international rumor that the president of a major real-world corporation was a Satanist, and that the logo of his company contained occult symbols, turned out to have a commercial motive and was traced to specific Amway distributors. These were successfully sued in 1991, but the rumor persists. And how much else of the MLM negative "sales pitch" is fabrication or outright lie? Not all the negative selling claims are as scandalous or widespread as the previous example, but the MLM culture produces so much of this stuff it would be hard to prosecute it all.
A tutorial on market saturation hardly seems necessary in most business discussions, but with MLM, unfortunately, it is. Common sense seems to get suspended when considering if MLMs are viable, even theoretically, as a profitable means of distribution for all parties involved. This suspension is created by a heightened expectation of "easy money," but more on that later.
Interestingly, the issue of supply and demand is what brought the USSR to its knees. By design, the Soviet government tried to macro-manage supply, where bureaucrats would decide how many potatoes were needed, how much toilet paper, etc. Assuming these bureaucrats did the best they could, unfortunately their efforts to deliberately manipulate the control "knob" of supply and demand was not good enough. Notwithstanding their good intentions, they were usually wrong, which created huge shortages and surpluses, and led to a massive economic collapse.
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They will claim to have made "new friends," most of which are MLMers or new acquaintances who could be considered "future prospects." The shallowness of these "new friends," the stilted conversations among the "old friends," and the embarrassment, in general, for what seems clear to everyone but the MLMer go unnoticed. Callousness sets in; standards are lowered.
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