Network marketing continues to suffer a PR backlash. ‘Don’t go there’, say some. ‘Yes, we know all about it, it’s a pyramid scheme,’ say others. Few realize, however, that it’s considered a serious career path in many countries–from Germany to Japan, where the stigma simply doesn’t exist.
The problem is we’ve attracted the wrong people to network marketing for decades: the desperate, needy, bored and non-committal. What if tomorrow’s network marketing millionaires were the talented, motivated, entrepreneurial personalities stuck in management or director level jobs?
1 – Deconstructing the Pyramid
The first thing people do when they don’t understand network marketing is to write it off as a ‘pyramid scheme.’ Ask them what that actually means, and few can explain. The irony is that a corporate hierarchy is positioned more in the style of a pyramid. You have the MD or CEO at the top who earns the most, then the senior management team, then managers and then the support staff below them. With each level below, the salaries are on a downward spiral. And if you stop working, so does your income.
Network marketing on the other hand, is simply and purely a means of distribution. You’re using your existing and growing network to promote and distribute a company’s products. Network marketing companies spend no money on traditional advertising and distribution, and this is how they are able to share a greater portion of their sales revenues with their distributors. More importantly, once you have built a team, you have the potential to start earning a residual income should you choose to take a break.
Part of the taboo is that people treat network marketing products with skepticism, because they don’t have the exposure that advertised products do. However, have you ever bought a product because a friend or colleague recommended it? Sure you have. This is the entire premise of network marketing. Think of it as ‘direct to consumer’–a fresh approach in an age of ever-increasing online shopping and a shrinking high street.
2- What about franchising or starting your own business?
What are the alternative routes to entrepreneurship? Franchising is a tried and tested route, but what if you can’t pay the $15k – $2 million franchise fee? And would you earn money if you stopped actively selling? And for those who want to start a business, you need an idea, a business plan, funding, marketing–and it’s all in unchartered territory.
I encourage and applaud those who take the startup leap of faith, but there’s an important gap network marketing fills in entrepreneurship. More than three-quarters of people who start a career in network marketing begin part time. This gives them the confidence to eventually take the plunge and leave their full-time job. They can invest their time on improving their sales skills and building your network–everything else is taken care of.
The average cost to buy your first set of products typically starts at $200 to $2000. The investment is minimal, as is the risk. With revenues of $183 billion generated by direct selling companies across the globe in 2015, the smart thing to do is to research a company whose products and proposition appeal to you.
3- The only prerequisite: the right qualities
The first mistake many “new” network marketers make is thinking they should start selling to and recruiting friends and family, because they’re easy to talk to. This is a recipe for disaster. The only thing you need to look for in others is “Do they possess the right qualities?” Who do you know across your network of contacts that’s sales-driven, self-starting, excellent at networking, fearless, tenacious, and hard working?
In life, you can request things of people if you have a valid reason for asking. Trying to sell something to the wrong person shows limited consideration for their ‘fit’ to the situation. It will also leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Finding someone in your network whom you know well, or vaguely, but who has these qualities, is a relevant and valid reason to ask them about their career aspirations, and whether they might be interested in forming part of your network, while growing their own.
4- Untrapping the intrapreneur
It’s time we had an honest debate about network marketing. Sometimes the profession lets itself down with badly presented get-rich-quick propositions. Fortunately, there is a growing raft of dynamic companies selling high-quality products with expanding global networks that far overshadow these unsavory propositions. Over the past year, network marketing grew 10% in the U.K., though we’re still behind Germany where the market is three times bigger. There, it’s seen as a credible alternative route to entrepreneurship.
We have too many driven, talented, highly motivated individuals all over the country who are stuck in managerial or director jobs that want something more. Their salary potential is limited, office politics unceasing, and the idea of starting on their own without the right support puts a dampener on their dreams.
When the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) last surveyed 500 entrepreneurs who set up their own businesses, key concerns uncovered were the challenging economic climate (65%), long working hours (54%), managing financial issues (52%) and a general lack of funding (52%).
Network marketing offers a route to profitable entrepreneurship that bypasses all these limitations. We just need to attract the right people and change our perceptions about a profession geared to make millionaires. Having grown 10% in the past year, revenues from network marketing across the UK stand at nearly £2.5 billion. Time to give it another look.
Having risen to the top of four global network marketing companies, and currently a 7-figure income earner, Cliff Walker is an internationally renowned trainer, speaker, and author on all aspects of best practice in network marketing.