Close encounters of the herd kind
BEING someone who takes immense pleasure in gastronomical pursuits, I couldn't turn down the free meal. The business lunch turned out to be the most memorable of all business lunches -- in the shadiest part of Detroit and at a McDonalds where I had to pay for my own (un)happy meal. Triple whammy!
"Naveed, would you like to work from home?" No, I don't even want to work from work!
"Our products are so great that they will simply sell themselves." Sure. Leave the product on the sidewalk of a big city, it will surely walk away.
Three's a charm. "You can make a lot of money with this and you don't have to do anything." So I get up to leave. I wonder when I'll get my check.
He may have had another desperate line: "If it was between my wife and this business, I'd choose this business."
But I was already in my car.
Welcome to MLM, aka, multi level marketing -- a magnet for a herd of lazy people who are looking for a way to sell without selling. Here is a cheap sales labour force for billion dollar MLM companies. Sure these people are in their own businesses, but the terms of their compensation are dictated by pay plans which pay them pennies for selling the companies' lotions, potions and antidotes for loose motions that are going to give you back your youth. Or, less than pennies after making lots of phone calls.
If you have something good to sell, sell it! Don't sell somebody else on the idea of selling somebody else to sell somebody else to sell somebody else… Besides, if all this were true, you certainly wouldn't have to peddle this little miracle through MLM. All you'd need is a press conference…
Talk some sense into him? Forget it. Ever try to talk rationally to a guy who is madly infatuated? The object of his affection could be an axe murderess and he'd still see nothing but good in her. That's the MLM fellow. Get him on the subject of MLM and you'll see his eyes glaze over and his brain begin to melt. He will become unreachable and unteachable. Burn him once and he'll come back for more. Because, "it's not the concept that is bad, it is the people."
So, he corners you, trying to make his first sale of the jumbo sized product. Ward him off: "I haven't finished the last one I bought 20 years ago."
Nevertheless, the optimism is commendable. Even if a hijacker holds him up at gunpoint, he smiles: "Why rob me? What if 5 robbers were robbing for you and they each recruited 5 more robbers to rob for you?" That's called a direct line.
So, how did MLM start? Perhaps with the devil himself -- the first MLM distributor: "You sell me your soul. Then you get another 5 to sell their souls. Each of them gets another 5 to sell their souls…"
All said and done, MLM is not a joke. But if it weren't so sad, it would be funny.
The writer is an engineer & CEO turned comedian (by choice) and the host of NTV's Grameenphone Presents The Naveed Mahbub Show.
E-mail: [email protected]