Multi-level Marketing (MLM), network marketing, pyramid marketing, or commonly known in the Philippines as simply “networking” is a marketing strategy in which the involved personnel act as distributors of the product and are in some way forced to consume it. It’s a revolutionary and inexpensive way of selling products of companies which saves them the trouble and cost of advertising their products on TV. The idea is to shift the burden of selling to the consumers and acquire the positive image of the product, while shifting its negative effects to the seller. If you think about it, you’re paying money to work for them, grasping on the chance to earn back the money you used, thinking it’s some sort of “investment”.
The beauty of networking is that it opens the possibility for unlimited income, a desirable feat among aspiring opportunists. If the purpose is only money and not the passion for entrepreneurship, networking is an excellent profession. As a matter of fact, in Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, he recommends that the readers join an MLM company not to earn money but to learn how to sell because their sales training is excellent (after all, it’s the focus of networking). Simplifying the difference between an entrepreneur and a networking salesperson, networking gets rid of the burden of issues other than selling the product such as starting the company, building brand recognition, dealing with legal issues, etc; after all, even an entrepreneur knows that the final step in the cycle of business is selling. Using that framework, it seems that networking wins.
I have nothing against networking in general. The problem occurs when networkers exploit our emotions and bother our daily lives. Back in the days, the usual line was “open-minded ka ba at gustong kumita?” (are you open-minded and willing to earn?). Because that line has been used a little too often, it has degenerated into a joke. The joke that it has become lies underneath a small portion of hatred that people feel with networkers because of how they barge into our lives annoyingly. I find that joke justifiable and not close-mindedness as networking supporters will claim. I agree that it takes open-mindedness to have the courage to venture into networking instead of a secured job, but know as well that the Devil wants you to be open-minded to trick you into committing sin. Networking makes us Filipinos look like desperate money-hungry unethical individuals who lack the skills needed to be actual entrepreneurs, seeking shortcuts in every corner.
Filipinos are emotional beings (people rally on the streets and they think they’re smart), stupid (we work hard to compensate, don’t we?), unprofessional (if you call your boss by his/her name instead of “boss”, they feel offended), easily butthurt (Filipinos like throwing insults but isn’t good at handling the receiving part), and rely on “Pinoy pride” (to get through the shame of their excuse of a failure of a race). As emotional beings, networkers use this vulnerability to trick them into doing what they want. It’s normal for salespersons to target our emotion, but it’s another to blow it off proportion, promising something they themselves know they can’t accomplish, yet our stupid emotional personality let them exploit us, and we buy their products, and now the burden to recover that expense (or investment as they say) is now in our hands. You are now forced to do the same dirty sales talk to your friends, family, and sometimes strangers in the hopes that they are stupid enough to believe you so that the burden is now passed on to them.
I have nothing against the desire to earn money. Even I have plans laid out to accumulate income-generating assets as Robert Kiyosaki’s book has taught me. I’m against the fact that some networkers basically lie. When you as a networker know what you’re saying is not what you mean, and you know what they understood is how you want them to understand it yet it’s not what you really mean, then you are basically lying to their face, and the only thing that keeps you bring being called technically a liar is that you never really told them how they think is not really what you meant, yet you are in the power to stop the confusion but you don’t because you benefit from it. (if you were able to follow that train of thought, then congratulations!) There should be more transparency in the networking system. Enough of the “I would like to propose a ‘business partnership’” when in fact you are under the person calling you. I received a call just the other day telling me “we’re launching a new product” when in fact that product has been selling for some time. It’s also unethical to have some of your friends desperate for money who joined a networking company to give their contacts and have their “mentors” call you in the middle of the night asking “how are you” when in fact they don’t really give a damn, then they proceed with their b*llsh*t sales talk of “business partnership”.
In just ten seconds, I was able to see through the BS of the person who called me one night and immediately identify that it was someone attempting to network with me. As someone who is rarely emotionally convinced with networking, though interested, I asked if he could please skip the sales and talk and proceed to the offers available. Not trained to handle someone like me who isn’t emotionally vulnerable, he didn’t know what to answer and it turned me off immediately. The way networkers try to exploit our emotions and blow the fundamental truth out of proportion is why they get such a bad name, and they deserve it. In an effort to promote transparency and “cut the bullsh*t”, I suggest that MLM companies show their package offers to the people, and let them approach the one who referred them, and make it the only way to join the MLM. It may cut your sales down, but if you really want people to “explore opportunities”, don’t force them to go to your meetings blind only to tell trap them into your sales talk. The most ethical way for a networker to attract potential clients is to rely less on recruiting and more on selling the products. Let your effort and result speak for themselves and stop exploiting people’s emotions. Let’s make the world a better place by promoting transparency, and to promote transparency, the first step is to cut the bullsh*t!
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