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Multi-Level Marketing: An Honest Assessment

At one time or another, you may have been approached by a friend or family member about an "exciting business opportunity." They invite you to a meeting to hear more about it, and are somewhat vague about the details. You are about to be recruited into a multi-level marketing (MLM) business. If you're not familiar with this business model, it essentially involves selling products to your friends and family as well as recruiting others to join your business. More often than not, there is an initial cost to join the business. Compensation comes from not only the sales that you personally generate, but the sales that your recruits make as well. The more you recruit, the more money you make.

MLM businesses are somewhat controversial. The term "pyramid scheme" often comes up, and many feel that these businesses exploit people who are down on their luck. In the interest of full disclosure, I spent a year working in a MLM business before deciding that it wasn't for me. My goal with this article is to inform you. I am not here to condemn or endorse MLM companies. If you are considering joining such a business, I'm going to give you some guidelines to consider before determining if this is the right course of action for you.

1. Ask a lot of questions.

It sounds simple, but the more information you have the better equipped you will be to make the right decision. If you were invited to an informational meeting about a MLM business, think of as many important questions as you can going into the meeting. Make a list and get satisfactory answers to all of your questions. These businesses are often notoriously vague about certain aspects of how their model works in the early going.

2. Research the market.

There are a wide variety of MLM businesses in a wide variety of industries. Once you know what industry they are in or what their products are, do plenty of research. Find out what is going on in the market: what is working and what the various issues and challenges are. Think about the company's products and how their business strategy fits the realities of the market. As a representative of the company, you will likely attend regular meetings with your colleagues for training and information. Generally speaking, you will be not be getting a comprehensive education about the industry. You are being taught how to sell your company's product, and that is it. Gain some knowledge about what you are selling, and that leads into my next tip.

3. Believe in what you are selling.

Selling is tough. No matter how much your company tells you that you aren't a salesman, you are. If you are selling a good product that you believe in and have a sales acumen, there is a decent chance that you will be successful. If you do the research and discover that the company's products are lackluster and not the best quality for your customers, the business is not for you. It's hard enough when you're selling a product you really believe in, selling a product that you don't believe in or are lukewarm on will be a tough road.

4. Be prepared to sell to your friends and family.

This is an essential component for any MLM: recruit you and get access to everybody you know. Every company is different, but what will likely happen is they will have you write down a list of basically everybody you know and proceed to sell the product to them. If selling to your friends and family makes you uncomfortable, MLM businesses are likely not for you.

5. Be prepared to recruit.

As I said above, you can get paid by selling products yourself or a recruit of yours making a sale. Anybody who works for an MLM business will tell you that recruiting is where the real money is made. If recruiting your friends or family makes you uncomfortable, this is probably not the business model for you.

6. After doing all of your research, consider the likelihood of success for yourself.

They will tell you that anybody can be successful in their business if they can buy in and work hard. There is some truth to that. Your success is entirely dependent on your results, not inter-office politics or who the boss likes the most. Be that as it may, there are certain factors that allow people to be better positioned for success than others. People with sales backgrounds, for instance, will have a much better chance at being successful in an MLM. At the end of the day, it is a sales job. Also, people with sales backgrounds tend to have a lot of contacts, which leads to more opportunities to sell or recruit. This is important because a lot of these businesses will literally recruit anybody. They will pump you with enthusiasm and tell you that you can do it, but that doesn't mean it necessarily is the right fit for you.

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