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Professional Networking: Dealing With Multi-Level Marketers - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Dealing With Multi-Level Marketers

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Dealing With Multi-Level Marketers

Multi-level marketing has been around for decades, and if you’ve ever been approached by a friend who opened the conversation with “I’d like to share something with you,” you know that what follows is almost always related either to some MLM-related product or to someone’s personal faith. Today’s socially-oriented internet makes it almost too easy for MLMers to connect with acquaintances of every level and from every context, a blessing to the go-getter and (sometimes) a curse to his friends and relatives.

There’s a decent amount of advice online for dealing with MLMers in your network, but most of it is terrible. Approaches seem to slide between two extremes: challenge and avoidance. The challenge strategy focuses on confronting MLMers with questions about true profits, company reputations, and added value. Its aim is to provide reasons for the MLMer to leave you alone, since you clearly need more info than the friend is ready to provide.

The avoidance strategy is centered on being a polite friend but steering conversation away from whatever the MLMer wants to talk about. This is equivalent to turning out the lights and shutting the drapes so door-to-door evangelists will assume you’re not home. In its best light, the approach avoids bad feelings or words of rejection. In its worst light, it denies the strength of a relationship because it assumes the inability be truthful.

Networks are built on trust and goodwill, and this is why both approaches--and anything in between, to be honest--are terrible pieces of advice. They imply that you can’t trust your friends to listen to you or care about your friendship, and they assume ill will, the total antithesis to good networks and healthy relationships.

The weird thing about both strategies is that some of the specific advice, when taken in the spirit of friendship, can be pretty useful. For example, when an MLMer says she has an opportunity you should take advantage of, there’s nothing wrong with asking about the company’s history or for specifics about how the product makes people’s lives better. But asking in good faith means asking because you really want to know, as opposed to asking for the purpose of embarrassing or chasing away a valued connection. For another, steering the conversation away from topics related to the product is fine if you really want to discuss other things, but doing so as avoidance makes you instantly suspicious any time the friend talks about anything remotely connected to his or her product. That’s not friendship. That’s not even neighborly.

If you want your network to survive multi-level marketing, follow your instincts about good relationships, and stick to them!

Assume good faith. This cannot be emphasized enough. When friends approach you to talk about whatever, don’t suspect it’s a topic designed to lead you into a sales pitch, and when the sales pitch comes, don’t assume your friend only sees you as another feeder in his MLM levels scheme. If the friend’s approach is the business angle, assume he sincerely believes you could do well for yourself and wants you to prosper. If he comes at you from the product angle, assume he believes the product will make you healthier or happier. Assuming good faith is an expression of trust that good friends respond positively to, and they will be reluctant to test such a healthy relationship.

Be open-minded. When you assume good faith with an open mind, you never know when you’ll latch onto something truly great. If your MLMing friend seems genuinely happy or prosperous because of her experience in the MLM or with its product, there’s a chance you could reap similar benefits. In fact, you might be disappointed if she didn’t share with you at all. Doesn’t she want you to be as happy or successful as she is?

Be polite. This goes without saying for anyone in your network, but it’s worth a reminder. These are friends you’ve already established connections with, not strangers on your front porch. It isn’t true that nice people get walked on, especially if you’re being nice while keeping an open mind and assuming good faith.

Be honest. Honesty is a dangerous, two-edged knife, but you can’t make a beautiful meal without a knife and you can’t have a good friendship without honesty. Speaking with MLMers is similar to speaking with religious friends. This means communicating clearly and from the heart no matter where you’re coming from. “I will listen with an open mind, but chances are very slim I will find this useful or interesting.” “I may be interested in trying out your product later, but right now I’m just not going to give it a shot. Not even a free sample.” “I will hear you out, but I need you to take my response as final when you’re done.” “I’ve told you before that I’m not interested in what you’re selling, and now you’re making me uncomfortable.” “I believe you have my best interest at heart, but this is the third different company you’ve enlisted for. Is it possible that you see me more as a prospect than as a friend?” “Our friendship is important to me, but at this point I think it will be healthier if you don’t try to involve me in any more MLMs.”

None of these expressions comes even close to either confrontation or avoidance. Each response values the connection and relies on the strength of your connection to get through what may be a difficult conversation. Best of all, it exercises those qualities--assuming good faith, keeping an open mind, being polite, and being honest--that make you a better person as well as a better networker or friend. That’s a win for you and a win for your beloved MLM connections.

 

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Professional Networking: Dealing With Multi-Level Marketers - Executive Leadership Articles

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