MLM for men - how do you fare as a male in a woman driven industry. One guy shares his multi level marketing experience.
I am male and I have first hand experience in a multi-level marketing organization. About 15 years ago I got involved in ACN. At the time, this company had a two-fold “opportunity”. The first was a wholesale mobile phone service which would switch a customer’s cell service provider to ACN without changing their number, with the promise of savings.
I’m not entirely sure how it worked, but I think ACN was just a billing service for the major carriers, because the company itself had no towers or handsets. The other product was a video phone device that would allow users to make Skype/FaceTime type calls over regular phone lines. The product was marketed as being futuristic and revolutionary for the phone industry.
The only sales I ever made were a few mobile phone accounts. At the time, mobile phones were not as dominant as they are today. There was not as much competition in the market, so costs for cell phone plans were high (i.e. $0.25/ea for text messages outside of a plan was not uncommon).
The video phone product was a total flop. I tried one and it never worked as advertised. Ironically, right about the time I became involved, Donald Trump was supposed to become a spokesperson for ACN, which speaks to both the character of the company and of Donald Trump.
At the time, I had just become laid off from my work in the Boston area and I was looking for a new opportunity. A former co-worker introduced me to the company. I had no experience with multi-level marketing at that time.
At first it seemed fun, because they put on regular events where people would win awards and prizes, and the vibe was usually high-energy with lots of lights and fast music. At that time, I was still collecting a generous severance package from my former employer, so money was not a big deal. That changed when the severance pay ended and I needed to get back on my own feet financially.
It was incredibly hard to sell for this company. I was never able to add anyone to my network to make it “multi-level” for myself, and I only opened a few accounts. Thankfully, the buy-in was not large, and I was not required to buy and resell any product, so all I really lost was my time and a bit of my dignity.
Do you have any mlm regret? It was an interesting learning experience. I don’t regret it because I learned a lot about the world and about myself, but I would never do it again.
Is there anything you would have done differently? Yes, I would never have been roped into this in the first place.
Did you have a monthly autoship required, if so, how much? None/zero
Did you have to hand deliver product orders or did the customer order online? This was in the early days of the internet, so e-commerce was not yet a thing. I was never able to sell one, but I believe the video phones were mostly in pre-order and were supposed to be shipped to the customer once their production started.
How did you market your business and get your name out there? I joined a networking group (BNI) and tried to get the word out that way. I was able to open the cell phone service accounts that way, but prospective customers were freaked out by the video phone. People thought it was creepy.
How did you feel about the experience? Starting with ACN clued me in about the flexibility and freedom that comes with being an independent sales rep. I still do that kind of work, but I work with businesses in financial products which is much easier to sell and do not carry the stigma of multi-level marketing.
Granted, I inherited my house with no mortgage and live in an area with a low-cost of living, so my bills are not high. If I had to rely on income from the "opportunity" to live in an expensive city like Boston, I would never have made it. I don’t think anyone ever made the kind of money they advertised in their slick promotional videos, except maybe the owners of the company.
Is there anything you would have done differently if you had to try again today? I would never join another organization like that again.
How much money did you spend or make roughly? On net, I never made money because I never earned back my buy-in amount. I think the buy in was $100 or so but I think I only ever made like $10.
How long were you active? I was active for about a year.
Did your sponsor or upline you joined under help in any way? Not really. My sponsor bailed out just after I joined, and I never met the person who brought him in. He was completely unhelpful.
Was their any company training or resources in the back office? The training was delivered in the form of tapes and audio CDs that were provided at buy-in. After the first set, the reps had to buy any additional training tapes and they were expensive. I never needed to use the other back-office support services, but there was a toll free number to call.
Did you use the products personally? Do you still use them? I didn’t believe in the company enough to switch my own service to the cell phone service. My sponsor had one of the video phones and I used it (it was absolutely terrible). The demo unit didn’t even work - it was just a plastic shell that had a photograph of Donald Trump pasted inside where the screen was supposed to be.
How many hours a week did you work your business? I worked a lot of hours - 40-60/week.
Did your family support you? Did any of your family or friends buy from you? No. I wanted to see some success with outside customers before I got friends and family involved.
If you were not successful do you think that you wasted your money? It wasn’t a huge buy in, but yes I think it was a foolish use of money.
Did you stay with the business and seriously work it for more than a year? I stayed about a year.
Did you claim your business expenses on your following years' taxes? (examples include cell phone, laptop, starter kit, monthly autoship, stock or product purchased to resell, supplies, refreshments purchased for home parties, the section of your home used as a home office, mileage used when going to meetings and clients homes, money spent on Facebook Ads, etc.) by filing certain tax forms? Yes, I claimed deductions that year for my buy in, mileage and the membership cost of my networking group. I never bought any of their tapes.
Knowing the information you know now, would you have quit when you did? I think in a way I knew exactly what I was getting into when I joined. The economy was bad and there weren’t many options for people in my field, and perhaps I hoped that it would be relatively easy to sell. Turns out it was incredibly hard to sell. If I had the same awareness now as I did back then, I would never do it again.
Have you tried any other ways to make money since then? What was your alternative option? I still work as an independent sales rep but not in direct sales. I work as an independent broker for commercial lending and other forms of financial products tailored for businesses. I enjoy it because it brings real value to business people and working in financial services offers a degree of credibility/prestige.
I’m using the knowledge and experience I gained from working with ACN to my benefit now, especially the value of networking and also my soft-skills, like being more outgoing. If I lost $90 on the MLM buy in, I guess I paid for some valuable life skills.
If your best friend wanted to join that company today what would you tell them? I would tell them to run as far away as possible from ACN. I’m not sure they even exist anymore. If the mlm was selling wine club memberships would you try again? I’ve been in a business networking group for about 6 years now. Most of our members are people like me, either business owners or independent salespeople selling insurance, mortgages, and professional services like law and accounting. These are people with well-established businesses in the local community who have a solid reputation.
I have met a lot of MLM people through our group, selling all kinds of things - supplements, skin products, electricity service. I don’t want to say they are ostracized, but they are certainly derided. Network marketing sales people never stay in the group very long. They join for a couple of months and then they would move on after they chewed through all of the members. MLM memberships are a revolving door.
I was on the executive committee for my networking group for two years, and during that time we declined every application from an multi level marketing rep, because we had such bad luck, it was doubtful that they would add any value to our group. As for wine, I’m not exactly sure about the rules, but I’m not sure a alcohol-oriented MLM would even be legal in my state.