When you talk about your Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) business, there’s often an elephant in the conversation. While your initial instinct might be to ignore it, that’s not the best strategy. The elephant is there. You know it. Your representatives know it. Your customers know it.
The elephant, of course, is the reputation that comes along with being a part of the MLM industry. Even when the negative connotations have absolutely nothing to do with your business, you must acknowledge them. And you must prepare your representatives so they’re able to effectively answer the questions they’ll get from their families, friends, and potential customers. By proactively addressing this stigma, you can better drive the narrative. And, that means you can showcase exactly what your MLM company is – and isn’t.
The MLM Reality
Today, being an MLM company comes with more than a little baggage. People hear the term and try to remember what an acquaintance told them about a pyramid scheme or a story on the news about a judgment against an MLM company. They may not say anything, but they’re likely to be thinking about it.
Whatever you do, don’t minimize it. Reputation matters. About 25 percent of a company’s market value is directly tied to its reputation. In fact, reputation and other intangible assets, such as brand value, online responsiveness, employee ratings, and corporate social responsibility, account for 84 percent of a company’s estimated value. That’s a major shift from 1985 when intangible assets represented only 32 percent of market value.
To combat the misperceptions in the marketplace, you have to tell the other side of the story. How the MLM model works when it’s done well. How it enables your company to better connect with customers and deliver your products and services. How it creates career opportunities for your hard-working representatives. There is a good story to tell, one that you can back up with outstanding products, personalized direct selling, and a solid company.
Plus, there’s a receptive market ready to listen. MLM is an ideal fit for today’s Millennial and Gen Z consumers who are fed up with traditional marketing. Instead, they rely on advice and connection when making buying decisions. Sixty-six percent of Millennials seek a friend’s input about a purchase, and 9 in 10 say they trust the recommendations of family and friends over a brand’s claims.
MLM works – and the opportunity to grow is significant. But the reality is the MLM industry has some work to do to overcome its reputation issues. Each company will play a part. More importantly, each company needs to empower its front-line representatives with the tools and resources they need to effectively address – and overcome – the image issues.
Here are three essential elements to successfully prep your representatives, so they’re able to successfully navigate customer concerns about the MLM industry and keep sales conversations on track.
1. Amplify authenticity.
For Direct Selling Organizations (DSOs), the differentiator is in the direct, personal relationships that representatives build with their customer base. In other words, how someone ultimately feels about your company relies on how they feel about their representative.
Aligning your reps around your company’s core purpose is the first step. But you also have to walk the talk. Every message and action you take needs to tie back to your core purpose and reinforce it. If your operational structure or incentives send mixed messages to your representatives, authenticity can suffer.
The objective is to narrow the gap between what your company is and how people perceive it. Start by taking a step back to analyze “why we do what we do in the way we do it.” If parts of how you fill in that statement are disconnected from your company’s core purpose, take a hard look at what you need to change in order to gain alignment.
When authenticity is consistently conveyed across what you say and what you do, you’re equipping your representatives to be true brand ambassadors in the market.
2. Train and retrain.
How can you ensure that your purpose gets conveyed to your customers? Don’t leave it to chance. Arm your representatives with tools and resources that help them communicate with their customers and do their jobs better. Many MLM companies make training optional or an incentive that’s earned. Others ask their representatives to pay for it. Repairing MLM’s reputation requires re-looking at why some in the industry treat employee training this way.
If you want representatives to tell your company’s story effectively and build a thriving business, give them the tools to succeed. From branding, e-commerce, and social selling tools to deep-dives into products and services, establish a training curriculum that’s comprehensive and mandatory. Include overviews of your company’s operational structure and give representatives straightforward ways to address concerns and misperceptions.
Sales training should be a central part of your ongoing training program. Teaching – and motivating – representatives on how to market themselves and find new customers are critical. This is where you need to take a close look at your messages to make sure you’re not reinforcing behaviors that can cross the line into disingenuous tactics or put an emphasis on recruiting vs. selling.
3. Enable sales.
The best way to keep your well-trained representatives on board and engaged is by making it easy for them to sell. Today’s customers have high expectations when it comes to online experiences and purchase options. When your reps have access to tools for replicated websites, live-selling online, and in-person events, you increase their ability to reach more customers and close more sales.
Explore options to ensure your MLM software offers the latest functionality and integrates seamlessly with your back-end platforms. That way, you’re able to bring all your data together to better oversee your entire operation, identify trends, and arm your representatives with insights to help them grow their business. Look for efficiencies that not only make payment processing easier for reps but also automate sales tax calculations and commission payments.
When your representatives have the tools they need to deliver customer-friendly buying experiences, without having to toggle between systems or do manual administration on the side, you’re reinforcing your commitment to them and helping them focus on selling. Recruiting happens organically because your representatives are true advocates for your company and the opportunity it offers.
Repairing MLM’s reputation won’t happen overnight. Instead, it will occur incrementally through each day-to-day interaction customers have with representatives. Make your representatives credible brand ambassadors through careful and consistent communications delivered alongside tools and training that empower them to proactively address the elephant in the conversation and keep the focus on the benefits your products deliver for the customer.