The Art of the MLM Deal

By Len Clements © 1996

Have you ever wondered how so many “heavy hitters” in this industry make such obscene incomes in such a short period of time, while you work your butt off for months only to produce a $250 check? After all, you are duplicating their methods and systems, right? You’re mailing out the cassette tapes, you’re on the training calls, you’re paying for the ad co-ops, you’re doing the three-way calls, you’re attending the meetings, you’re handing out the product samples like candy on Halloween night — so if that’s how they did it, why isn’t it working for you? 

Maybe it’s because — that’s not how they did it. 

Please understand right now that there are “Leaders” in this business (a term I prefer over “heavy hitter”) that do achieve substantial success, starting from scratch, in a relatively short period of time using all the basic techniques described above — because they are exceptionally good at it. Let’s be honest, some folks are just better at network marketing than others. However, one of the greatest aspects of this industry is its way of leveling the playing field. Even those that are not very good at it can still succeed, over a longer period of time, by slowly acquiring the skills necessary with the help of those who preceded them on the road to success ­ or by enrolling someone else who already possesses these skills. I in no way want to diminish the achievement of those who genuinely earned their income with effort and commitment to what they truly feel in their heart is the best MLM opportunity. If they honestly build their downline in a manner that is duplicatable by those in their downline, they are not the subject of this article. If you object to, or are personally offended by, anything that is written here, well, if the shoe fits wear it! Otherwise, throw it away. It’s not yours. 

Except for the rare phenom who, like sports stars Tiger Woods or Wayne Gretsky, achieve monumental success quickly due to sheer, natural talent, the vast majority of those who achieve five- or six-digit incomes in MLM in fewer than six months accomplished this in one of three ways: 

1. They moved a large number of an already existing downline over from another, usually failing, MLM program. Certainly not an immoral or unethical practice, as long as there is full disclosure on the part of the high earner. In other words, as long as he or she informs those they bring in that their high degree of initial success is totally unduplicatable. Of course, this disclosure is rarely provided. 

2. They are in a money game or front load program where thousands of dollars are paid up front. A $1,250 payment for a $5.00 package of material can generate a lot of up front commissions — and a lot of Cease and Desist orders from Attorney Generals. 

3. They made a deal with the company. Either they were offered some extra bonus or overrides, were provided with a large number of already existing distributors, or they are receiving a “base” payment from the company (a set dollar amount over and above the standard commission system). Or, perhaps all three. 

Now, in the case of number 3 above, one might ask, “So what?” Shouldn’t an MLM distributor have the right to market themselves to the highest bidder just like professional athletes or corporate executives? Sure. As long as there is, once again, full disclosure. 

If you make a deal with an MLM company and you subsequently tell prospects that you joined it because you determined it to be “the best” network marketing opportunity — you are lying! 

If you make a deal with an MLM company and you subsequently declare that those you bring into your downline can “duplicate” your success — you are lying! 

If you make a deal with an MLM company and you deny that you did, obviously, you are lying! 

Not only that, but what does this say about the company itself? If they are going to do this for you, how do you know that they are someday not going to do this to you? Think about it. Doesn’t this practice of corporate dealing mean that the company itself is also recruiting? It is very unusual for a wheeler an’ dealer company to place their “bought” leadership more than two or three levels deep beneath the company. Usually these “leaders” go front line. There’s a good reason for that. All the sales volume moved by those first level to a company are totally non-commissionable. There is no upline to the sale to pay commissions to. If a plan pays, let’s say, 10% down six levels (60% total), then even the volume that moves on the company’s second level would only require that they pay 10% of it in commission, thus saving them from paying the other 50%. Companies could easily afford to pay a “leader” two or three times the normal pay out and still end up saving money by placing them directly below the company. So, essentially, you are in competition with your own company for the best talent! How can you ever expect to recruit a heavy hitter if you can’t compete with your company’s deal? 

Also, it would seem to imply that the opportunity is not great enough to attract talent and leadership based on it’s own merits. If it’s a genuinely great opportunity, why would they have to bribe people to join it? 

If you were looking for a good MLM program to join, and a good upline sponsor to join under, wouldn’t you want to get involved with one that honestly felt they were in the best MLM opportunity? Or, would you want to be sponsored by someone who was just looking for the best deal? Sure, I suppose it’s possible that both could be true. But what are the odds that, out of over 1,500 MLM programs in the U.S., the one that they truly felt in their heart was the very best MLM opportunity for themselves and those they enroll just also happened to be the one that offered them a great deal? Petty slim. In fact, of all those out there who are known for deal making, most are pretty weak programs. 

Do only rinky-dink, desperate companies offer deals? No way. There are at least three good MLM companies that I know of personally that really don’t need to make these screwy deals to attract leaders, yet they do anyway. While others make a point, rather proudly, that they don’t do deals. Interestingly, what appears to be three of the hottest, fastest growing companies right now are among those that refuse to make deals! Perhaps it’s because true professional networkers, those who deserve the title of “leaders,” don’t join the company that offers them the best deal, they look for the best MLM company. And the best companies are the ones who get only the best. 

Have I ever proposed a deal to an MLM company? Yes, I have. And they accepted it — and I did not go forward with it. The little angel on my right shoulder wouldn’t shut up, and the little devil on my left shoulder decided to give up. 

Have I ever been offered a deal? Several times. One company paid me a $2,000 monthly base income for what was supposedly my compensation for being their “National Training Director.” After several months of watching the president and VP wander around the country doing training while I sat at home, I finally got it through my thick skull that I was simply bought off. I resigned from that program. Within 30 days I had offers on the table from two well known MLM companies. One offered “double the compensation plan” and the other offered to move their largest distributor leg into my downline. Another declared to me, literally within minutes of arriving at their home office, that they don’t do deals. All they can offer is a great network marketing opportunity. That’s the company I joined. (And, again, there are other good companies that do business the same way). Now, I can claim, with a clear conscience, that what I built was built from scratch using the same techniques that my downline can use, and in an MLM program that I sincerely believe is a great opportunity (there’s no such thing as “the best” since “the best” would be different for each person depending on a myriad of personal factors). 

I’m often asked by prospects if I “made a deal” with the company. That’s a good question. You should also be asking that question to your prospective upline hitter. You should also be concerned if your company is making these deals. You shouldn’t have to compete with them for MLM leaders. 

Besides, if your MLM company is a truly great opportunity, it shouldn’t have to pay people to join it!

About Len Clements

Based in Las Vegas and Founder and CEO of MarketWave, Inc., Len Clements provides consulting, training & expert witness services for the network marketing industry. Since 1989, he has been a top producer, trainer, and consultant for multiple network marketing companies. As a well-respected icon in the MLM industry today, Len conducts Inside Network Marketing seminars throughout the world and is the author of several best-selling books and audio tapes including Inside Network Marketing (Random House), Case Closed, The Whole Truth About Network Marketing and The Coming Network Marketing Boom.