Ending the Hype: is it posible?

    Kevin Thompson is an MLM attorney, proud husband, father of four and a founding member of Thompson Burton PLLC. Named as one of the top 25 most influential people in direct sales, Kevin Thompson has extensive experience to help entrepreneurs launch their businesses on secure legal footing. Recently featured on Bloomberg TV and several national publications, Thompson is a thought-leader in the industry.

    Travis Flaherty uncorked a great debate on his facebook page. Speaking of facebook, fan him up on the Travis Flaherty fan page here. In a facebook note, included below, he challenges people to end crazy hype when representing a network marketing opportunity. After reading his note, I immediately got flashbacks from when I was in the field several years ago. I’m guilty of making the same mistakes referenced by Travis in his article. In fact, I was WAAAAY worse! I never mentioned the company or its products. Instead, “I drove traffic to fortune 500 websites like Disney, Home Depot and Bass Pro Shops whereby they paid us for loyalty.” I left out the part that I only received a sliver of an affiliate kickback from those stores. When asked if selling was required, I said we simply built communities of people and drove revenue to product suppliers that paid us to transfer spend from our grocery budgets and buy products from our own business. I would say, “We’re a buyer’s club and they pay us for loyalty.”  Yep, I’m guilty of breaking the rules mentioned below. With the story I was weaving, you would’ve thought I was building the next Google. Instead, I was building Amway.

    Note: I’m not suggesting how I promoted the Amway business was typical for all Amway distributors. I mention this illustration to make a point: I completely understand Travis’s call to end with hype. However, when there’s a focus on recruitment over product sales, or if the value proposition is out of line with comparables in the marketplace, it’s impossible to avoid hype and hyperbole because it takes a strong emotional pitch to overcome peoples’ gut instincts. When the value proposition is off, the glorified hype is inevitable.

    The first impression when a prospect joins a business is crucial. It sets the framework for their entire experience. It’s the seed that influences their behavior going forward. When you’re in the field, education for the newbie is crucial. It’s important to inform them, at some point, they’re entering a sales and marketing business. Their function as a distributor is to move product volume, hence the word “distributor.” And companies, it’s important to publish and enforce standards designed to lead to proper positioning of your brand in the marketplace so you can properly educate and, if need be, weed out the people misrepresenting the particulars of your business. Yes, there are companies out there that are willfully (and blissfully) ignorant of how their product or service is being positioned in the marketplace. But in the end, when a business fails to deliver on some of the basic elements presented in the leaders’ presentations, it burns down quick.

    Travis’s note is below.

    I thought about abridging it but there’s too many good points. It’s included in full below. What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s realistic to expect hype to end?

    You are entering a no Spin Zone…
    Warning: This article is probably the most controversial article I have written. By continuing to read on, you run the risk of being offended. If this is you, then it is likely you need to hear this information! My intent in writing this is to raise some clarity on what it means to be a TRUE ‘Network Marketing Professional’. It’s important to point out much of what I will be talking about, the examples I will be giving, I HAVE DONE PERSONALLY! As leaders, we are eager to share our victories – but forget there is even more wisdom in sharing our mistakes and past failures. It is my hope that my trial and error can help you to avoid some of the same pitfalls I’ve fallen in over the years.

    There is a serious issue running rampant in Network Marketing. In fact, I believe this issue is so big – it threatens the very livelihood of our industry. Unless we, as leaders, take a stand against this problem our profession will never be taken seriously. The issue I am referring to is “The Spin” that goes on in Network Marketing. Others might describe it as “Hype”. In other words, I am referring to saying or representing something in a manner, in which the intent is to have someone assume something, that otherwise would not be true.

    Allow me to provide some specific examples of what I am referring to. (Again, picking on myself for a moment) I was recently traveling internationally with my good friend and mentor, Jef Welch. We were in a cab together on our way to a business briefing. As Networkers, we naturally sparked a conversation with the cab driver by asking the normal questions; “How long have you been driving a cab?” “Do you enjoy what you do?” etc. We had a very pleasant conversation, during the drive. When we were exiting the cab I was prompted to invite the cabby to the event we would be speaking at later that evening. (Here’s where my MLM training kicked in) I started with a quick look at my watch – to suggest I was in a hurry. I complimented the driver, I had already decided on an ‘indirect approach’ since I did not have a great report with the driver. “So let me ask you a question; WHO DO YOU KNOW that might be interested in a potential six figure income opportunity, working from home?” Of course it prompted the real question I was looking for from the driver, “What is it?” he replied. I grinned with confidence knowing that I had just gained posture in the conversation. (I thought to myself, Eric Worre would be so proud!) Then I made the invite, “If I were able to get you ticket, to a very special event on creating wealth, hosted by some very powerful people might I add – would you be able to attend?” And then I continued, “Now I’m not saying I can get you a ticket, as they are sold out. But IF I could get you a ticket, for free, would you be able to make it this evening?” Now, most reading this may not see an issue with my approach. In fact, I thought it was excellent at the time. I was doing exactly what I had been trained to do. My Mentors had always taught me when inviting to build huge audacious value.

    The reality is, if you really break down what I said, I suggested that this was a ticketed event. I suggested there was a fee to attend and I implied not everyone could attend – that in some way this was exclusive. Now, I know you could argue what we were to speak on was of value, that it was exclusive or ‘invite only’ – which could justify the word “ticketed”. Believe me I tried, when I was called out on this. Later that evening, Jef and I had a discussion about leadership and how important it is to have integrity at the top. I agreed. He then surprisingly brought up my approach earlier in the day, as an example of the “Spinning” that goes on in NM.

    At first I was defensive. “I did exactly what I had been taught”, I thought to myself. However, after spending 15 minutes trying to defend my position, I decided to really listen to what he was saying….And he was right! Jef Welch called me out on this and I want to thank him for doing it because it’s helped me raise my game to the next level.

    “Spinning” and “Hype” have been around NM since its origination. The only difference today is it’s highly perpetuated and amplified by Social Media. Another example I often see is when people post things like “500 people just joined my business in the past 7 days”, etc. This often happens in a Binary compensation plan because it allows you to build hype around fear of loss. “Get in now or else you’re missing out!” The problem is the people who want you to THINK they’re making a fortune, aren’t! What they’re not telling you is they are part of a power leg that is growing (largely because of the people above and below them doing the same thing). More often than not, they only have a few people on their inside leg, dictating their actual pay.

    How about this one: “I am looking for my next 3 people to teach how to make six figures this year.” I see this all the time on Facebook and Twitter. The sentence SUGGESTS that you have already done this in the past – when in fact 90% of the people posting things like this have not! When I started in MLM, some of the worst advice I was ever given was “Fake it till you make it”. This is still very prominent in the industry today.

    Now I know many of you reading this are going to say, “Well technically what I am saying is the truth, if you really look at what I am saying”. And I hear you…The question I would ask is not, what are you saying,” technically”; it’s, what are you leading people to believe or assume? Building your business upon “SPIN” and “Hype” is likened to building a foundation on shaky ground. It won’t last! You will continue to attract the bottom feeders in your business, the people who are looking to ‘get rich quick’, or catch the next free ride. My friend Jef was right; you must have INTEGRITY AT THE TOP if you want to build something that lasts. And isn’t that why we all entered into this industry – To create a long term, residual income for our family?

    In closing, if you want to be a part of raising the bar in this industry, if you want to proudly call yourself a Network Marketing Professional – then it’s time to step up and declare a “No Spin Zone!” The only true way to grow an organization is to focus on what you have to offer from a personal standpoint, a systematic standpoint and most importantly – A leadership standpoint! The moment people join your team because of what YOU have to offer, when you no longer have to rely on “Spinning” to recruit, YOU KNOW YOU’VE ARRIVED!

    In the spirit of success,
    Travis A. Flaherty