I’ve been trying to grow my business through fairly aggressive networking, primarily through LinkedIn, for about a year and a quarter now.
And through that time I’ve received many pitches for various tools and services that will supposedly help me grow my business, which makes sense.
But I’ve also been asked to join 4 different MLMs.
Three of them were last year. The most recent one was this week.
Earlier in 2021 I was invited to join Lunchclub, which I have been thoroughly enjoying. Most conversations have been really good, though I’ve had a few no-shows.
Last week, I had a chat with a nice young woman in California. We had some things in common as we are both writers.
Near the end of our chat, she asked me if I would be interested in meeting her “mentors” (who sounded quite young) and developing an “asset” to support my writing.
Now, I have struggled with shyness my whole life.
I know, you find that surprising. But it’s true.
I’ve gotten a lot better at handing it and, through consciously doing things to push my boundaries, I have become less shy over time.
But starting a new business was a new challenge in this regard because it forces me to reach out to strangers all the time. (This is something I couldn’t imagine when I was a teenager.)
So one of the things I’ve tried to do since I’ve been in business is “say yes.”
Don’t come up with excuses, don’t come up with reasons why not. Just say yes.
And so, even when I’m suspicious of something, I try to say yes.
So even though I heard “asset,” an MLM buzzword, I said something like ‘sure, I’d like to meet your mentors.’
And she said something about how she was vouching for me and they’d have to say yes. And I said that’s fine and waited to hear from her.
The real first sign it was an MLM was when she strongly suggested my girlfriend should participate.
I said that wasn’t possible.
Then, another sign: she asked me to dress up. For a Zoom call. With 30-somethings.
Remember, I don’t even know what this meeting is about. But already there are attempts to establishing a power relationship between me and these people I’ve never met.
Needless to say, I didn’t dress up and my girlfriend didn’t even know about the call.
So, about a week after meeting her, I prepare to join this call with these “mentors” and her.
They are late. They are apologetic but they are late. (They may have had a very good reason – children – or it could be part of the stategy.)
So the first red flag during the actual call is a discussion about “mindset” before any details. MLMs do this because the details are the problem. If the details are revealed after you’re enthusiastic, then they’re less of a problem.
This particular MLM has an interesting wrinkle. (I’m sorry to say I don’t actually know the name, and that seems to be by design.)
The other MLMs I’ve been pitched try to get you to sign up immediately. They pitch you on the idea of easy, passive money and then they try to get you to agree to something.
But not this one. This one they won’t even tell you what they do at first. And they hint that there will be weeks between this first meeting and your approval. The second meeting is supposed to be in a couple of days so that seems to be hollow but still, the psychology of this is interesting. It’s an exclusive club I may not be able to join.
So there were some interview questions but I must say I didn’t have to say much. They talked more than I did, which is a pretty good sign they are not that experienced at this yet.
Anyway, the next red flag: if the person who’s pitching you mentions that they are not part of a pyramid scheme as part of their pitch, they’re in a pyramid scheme. It was maybe 30 or 40 minutes into the call the first time a pyramid scheme was mentioned.
They asked if I would talk to other people about these decisions. (I never really answered that question, because they liked to talk.)
I do wonder how many people who say “an MLM is not a pyramid scheme” know what pyramid schemes are. Because MLMs are literally pyramid schemes. As are “network marketing” companies.
Though “MLM” came up a few times, they preferred “network marketing.”
They wanted to make sure I had no experience in these types of things, because that would taint me, I suppose.
We actually spent a few minutes bashing MLMs and they explained why theirs was different: it combined coaching and mentorship, “systems” (whatever that is) and network marketing.
And this is where I let myself down.
I’m Too Damn Polite
I have never liked conflict. Specifically I do not like initiating conflict. If conflict comes to me, I’ll deal with it. If I have to bring something up to someone I know they don’t want to hear, I will.
But I don’t like starting conflict if I can avoid it.
And so I let myself down.
Instead of saying “No, I’m not interesting in our pyramid scheme” or MLM or network marketing business, I humoured them.
I wasted an hour of my time humouring them.
Though I did learn something about this more sophisticated version of an MLM pitch, one which is a lot slower and a little more subtle.
I was fairly genuine in my answers to their questions while trying to say anything that would offend them.
Well, until the end.
At the end, instead of telling them I’m not interested – as I had the previous three MLM pitchers – insinuated that I would go to another meeting.
All I had to do was tell then “I’m not interested.” As I did the time before and the time before. And the time before.
But, for some reason – perhaps because the woman who set this up seems genuinely nice – I didn’t do it.
And so instead I lied.
And now I have to make a decision:
Do I send an email to the woman who set this up – because the “mentors” have not given me their contact information – and tell her I’m really not interested? That’s the right thing to do.
Or do I let them go on the next call and wonder where I am? After all, MLMs are predatory and the people who promote them deserve whatever they get. (Not that my minor rudeness amounts to much of anything.)
How Do I Tell People I’m Not Like this?
So no wonder nobody wants to talk with strangers online.
They’re always selling you something.
And, if you’re really unlucky, they’re in an MLM.
So how do I tell people that I’m really, genuinely interested in talking to people and helping out only if I can?
Because what I’m doing so far, well the only people who really want to talk to me seem to be selling me stuff.
It feels like strangers’ enthusiasm to meet me is directly proportional to how likely they are members of MLMs (or selling business services/tools).