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It seems that MLM, the abbreviation for mid-level marketing, has become a bad word. The term that folks in that industry prefer is now direct sales, even though it's about as indirect as you can get- with a pyramid scheme, I mean a team of leaders behind every product. I'm going to use MLM for brevity and clarity's sake.

Que someone crying and moaning that I'm bashing their livelihood, even though only 1% of people who get involved in an MLM succeed with it. That's not an exaggeration or joke, that's according to research done by the Federal Trade Commission. If you're going to starve because you might lose a sale over this article, you should look into another line of business.

And I'm not really bashing it. In fact, I greatly admire entrepreneurs like Mary Kay, a Texas woman who took adversity and turned it into an empire complete with a fleet of pink Cadillacs. And let's be honest, most people who participate in MLMs are women, and I am no gender traitor. For a brief time, I was signed up as an Avon seller, and like a whole lot of other people who sign up, I did it mostly for a personal discount.

Mary Kay marykay.com
Mary Kay marykay.com

Some people are amazing at sales, and it's a trait I respect. Personally, I don't think I could handle an onslaught of rejection. However, some people think perseverance and pestering are synonyms, which is why we need to talk MLM etiquette.

RULE 1: No Lying

This goes for the product AND your success selling it. If you don't believe in or use the products you are selling, you'll end up with some really unhappy customers. Also, most people can tell if you don't. You should also never exaggerate how much money you make or how "easy" it is to make- in an attempt to recruit other people underneath you. Set realistic expectations for your customer or recruit.

RULE 2: Keep Sacred Spaces Sacred

People go to church and join Mommy groups, etc., because they want and need a real connection with people who believe or live as they do. If you infect (and yes, that's the right word) these spaces with your commercial endeavors, you are the virus. Instead, be a real friend first, and then if your new friend asks you where you got that amazing lipstick, etc., then it's fine to let them know. But if you only went to sell something- you might be a sociopath.

RULE 3: Don't Yuck The Yum

Bashing other products or other sellers publically is a bad look. There are plenty of ways to prove the product or "opportunity" you're selling is better- if it s better. Demonstrate its strengths, and if you feel it's necessary to make a comparison, do so with hard facts and figures provided by a reputable source- that isn't just your opinion.

Rule 4: "No" Is a Complete Sentance

"Don't take no for an answer" is toxic and disgusting. If someone tells you no, that's a complete sentence. They don't have to give you a reason or explanation. It's not an opportunity to prove them wrong or pressure them. Again, if your product is that amazing, they'll see you use it and will come to you when they are ready.

Rule 5: No Spamming 

The internet is not one big opportunity for you to advertise. Just like sacred physical spaces, there are places on the internet you should allow to exist without attempting to sell something. And from a sheer marketing standpoint, you need to be a real person on your socials for people to continue to follow you, anyway. Limit emails and keep your posts more informal, it'll work better that way.

Rule 6: No Cold Calls 

If I get a text from you, but I've never met you, I guarantee I will never buy your product out of sheer spite. It's one thing to leave a catalog on a neighbor's porch, it's another to invade my space with unasked-for texts, door-knocking, calls, or emails. Also, if we haven't talked since high school, this is NOT a good icebreaker now.

Rule 7: No Crying In MLM

If you use a sob story or otherwise try to guilt or bully people into buying from you, know that it's a really bad look. You might get a small sell out of it, but that will likely be the end of it- and possibly that relationship as well.

If you decide to enter the exciting world of MLM, I truly hope you succeed. But there are plenty of other ways to be a "girl boss" too.

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