MLMs and Untrained Reps

Is my mind starting to change about the veracity of MLM reps?

MLM (multi-level marketing or “direct marketing”) companies get a lot of flack.

You have the people who hate MLMs and all they stand for, the aggressive marketing tactics, preying on vulnerable people and circumstances, many people say the products are typically very overpriced for mediocre or no results, and MLM income disclosure statements show so few people make good money or a livable wage being an MLM rep.

Then you have the people who are in MLMs.

Some claim they are “running their own business,” some are just in it for the discounted products, some are genuinely in desperate circumstances and were taken advantage of, and some are truly excited about what they do and the products they sell.

I am not going to lie here, I am anti-MLM. It’s a personal thing. I have gotten a lot of random messages from complete strangers saying I’m fat or hideous and should use their products. I have seen friends and a couple family members go from normal human being to absolutely shrill product-shilling weirdo who ONLY talks about their “miracle product” which somehow can cure everything from depression to warts to cancer.

I think my biggest beef is with the oil MLMs. You know, doTerra and Young Living? A lot of people love essential oils and I am all for that — you do you.

But the fact that doTerra and YL sellers are actively encouraging people to INGEST these oils (put them in food! put a drop in your kid’s mouth!), encouraging them to put them on their infants and pets — that, to me, is damn near abuse. Doctors and vets agree you 100% should not do that. It can seriously harm you and kill kids and pets. NO DON’T DO THAT.

“But it’s natural!” they whine, showing me the “organic” labeling.

“So is cyanide, asbestos, and lead,” I sneer in response.

The oil MLMs are the worst offenders, to me. I’ve had negative times with aggressive salespeople who are unwilling to bend, show facts, or back down from their outrageous claims.

And enough of these experiences has shaped how I feel about MLMs and network marketing as a whole.

I admit I generalize the entire industry.

If you don’t think you know anyone in an MLM, wait for any woman in any Facebook group to post something like “Hey everyone! Looking for a new job/side hustle/work from home opportunity. Any ideas?” Then read the comments. Link after link to people’s MLM website. Or “Hey hun, I PM’ed you!” messages. It has to be overwhelming

On The Other Hand

I have started to see some MLM distributors in a new light recently.

Instead of overly-aggressive salespeople, I am starting to see untrained freelancers.

Instead of blatant lies or fact twisting, I am starting to see women who have aggressive, pushy, and demanding uplines. Those who feel forced to do things a certain way and are never taught a different way could be better.

Women who are taken advantage of by their own uplines.

Women who had high hopes of creating a sustainable career working from home, who got taken advantage of because they wanted to be there for their families.

The reality comes down to: the MLMs don’t train anyone in actual sales and effective marketing. The reps are given Facebook messages to copy and paste, instead of learning how to create effective social media ads and target new audience members and how to handle objections.

They are sent to “trainings” where they pay to sit in a room and listen to a higher-up MLM rep talk about how amazing their products are, listen to testimonials, and hear more about their amazing founder and worldwide success.

But they aren’t taught what good marketing is, how to find a new audience, how to look for signs of oversaturation, how to identify new potential markets, how cold calls and cold messages SHOULD go, or how to gracefully take a “no” from a prospect.

The reps are almost as much a victim as the rest of us. Perhaps more, because someone sold them on a dream and delivered an untrained nightmare.

And that makes me sad. It doesn’t make me hate MLMs any less, but it does change how I view their representatives and the often clumsy or even rude attempts at sales.

What are your thoughts on MLMs and their reps? Have you had an extremely good or bad experience you could share? Let’s chat in the comments!

Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.”

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