Friends and Direct Selling Plans

Many years ago, I had a friend who got involved in a multi-level marketing, direct selling organization. I won’t say the name of it but it began with an “A” – yes, that one.

Before my friend became involved in this organization, we each owned different businesses and met each other through a networking group. We hit it off and decided to have our own “morning power meetings” to encourage and support each other in what often felt like a lonely path with very little support .

Through these meetings, we got to know each other on a more personal level and started socializing outside of those morning meetings. Eventually, I met her partner and her children. Then, when I was invited to family barbecues, I saw this as a nice friendship. I truly believed it was a nice friendship – at least, until “A” showed up.

Her family were all involved in “A” and her partner was consumed by “A”, lived and breathed it. I think at some point after meeting me, for some reason, her partner told my friend that I was a good candidate for “A” or maybe that she just had to boost her recruiting numbers if she wanted to make her desired level in the organization.

Then, it happened. At one of the family get-togethers, she suddenly launched into the “plan” with her family joining in. I felt like I was being swarmed at by vultures.

With the projector already set-up, it was easy to show me the earning scheme that came with joining “A”. She said I should think about it as she thought I would be “great in the organization”. I said I already knew about “A” and fully supported her endeavor with it. But, it was not something I had any interest in doing for myself. I naively thought and hoped that my declaration of non-interest would be enough to put an end to any further efforts to recruit me.

It should have been a clear red flag to me when she announced that she was ending her other business and decided to do “A” full-time. But, then, she started doing this thing where she would call me up and say “Hey, my partner is out of town, let’s go out for dinner.” The arrangement was that I would drive to her house and then she would drive to the restaurant.

But, when I arrived at her house, something would happen. The kids would have some kind of problem or something. There was always some reason why she had to stay home and we would either order a pizza to be delivered or she would cook something. And, either while she was cooking or we were waiting for the pizza, there was a motivational video to watch which, in her words, was a “must see”. Then, suddenly, the “plan” would appear again on the wall or television screen and the discussion would move towards the same old theme it had spiralled down into before. “Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!” she would say. “You really would be so great in the organization. You should think about it.”

Even when she invited me to what sounded like a normal, social dinner party, but turned out to be an “A” event, I still stayed as polite as could, but seething underneath.

Then, came what was the last straw that ended our friendship for good. I had moved to another part of the state and, as our friendship had been losing its charm and appeal for me, we started to lose touch anyway. Out of the blue, I got a call from my friend that she was in the area. She was there because of an “A” conference. Surprisingly, she made it clear that she wanted to get together with me outside of the conference venue. Not having a car, she asked if I could pick her up.

So, I drove to the hotel where she was staying, which cost a fortune to park and which was the conference venue. But, I chalked it up to the sake of friendship. I went to her room and her partner answered the door. He was not very welcoming. He whispered something to her and then, she came over and gave me a hug, saying how nice it was to see me again. At that moment, it was nice to see her again as I was remembering the friend with whom I used to have “morning power meetings” and with whom I had so much fun prior to “A” getting in the middle and ruining everything. Maybe we would find that friendship again.

Then, just like those dinners out that ended up being dinners in, where plans changed at the last minute and turned into a teleseminar or something else focused all around “A”. She said, “You won’t want to miss this dynamic speaker. He's one of the best in the organization. I got a pass for you.”

“I thought we were going out?” I responded, certainly with a look of shock and dismay on my face that seemed to go completely unnoticed.

“We’ll go out afterwards. We always do. I want to introduce you to everybody” she said. “They are a really nice group of people,” she added.

At that point, I said I needed to go to the ladies room. Instead, I went to my car and left, did not even tell her that I was leaving. Thankfully, she never called again.

While driving home from the hotel, I made a decision. I was not ever going to let anything like that happen again. The next time a friend tried to get me involved, even at the first mention of a home-based business with a small investment, multi-level marketing, party plan or direct selling, I would not quietly and politely go along with the presentation, but would run the other way immediately.

So, after this experience and this decision, I have come up with guidelines for anyone involved in a party plan, direct selling type of organization how to be successful within your organization yet keep your friends.

The first is,...don’t make your friendships contingent on your friends signing up with you.

By all means, let your friends know about the product and opportunity if you love it and think they might also enjoy it too. But, it is important to remember that some people just will not like the idea or the product and your friends may be among those who do not. Don’t make them feel that this product is suddenly worth more to you than your friendship.

Remember that businesses come and go but friendships are irreplaceable.

Once you have presented the product and opportunity to them and they have stated they are not interested, it is important to respect their point of view. Don’t bring it up again, unless they ask.

Maybe it is not so wise to mix social occasions between friends and with colleagues involved in the organization.

Or if you do mix these groups, do so with caution. If you want to have social occasions which bring together your friends who are part of the organization and your friends who are not, just make sure you explain to your friends who are in the organization that your other friends are not interested in joining and not to pressure them with the product or with joining.

It is true that some direct selling and party plan organizations can feel like joining a cult where their world becomes all about their products.

Finally, if your conviction in the product or business is only valid if your friends join, it probably is not genuine.

If you have friends who say they are not interested in your business venture, do not make it a topic of conversation every time you socialize. Don't make them sit through presentations and charts showing them the plan. Don't bombard them with literature and products.

If the organization and product they sell brings value to your life, that's great! But, if you need your friends to join in order to validate your own worthiness in the organization. I have only four words to say to you:

Run the other way!

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