Won’s TEAM/LIFE Prospecting Story
A new comment on Bewildered’s TEAM/LIFE prospecting story tells the tale of a reader called Won, who gave me permission to repost his or her original comments below:
I thought I’d chime in on this subject, being I’ve experienced near-constant annoyance from this MLM called “LIFE” since last August.
It began when an acquaintance I’d nearly forgotten about showed up to my home, for no apparent reason, other than to tell me she was starting a new business and wanted me to review her plan.
As a bit of back story, many of my friends, and some who call me their friend, often come to me for assistance regarding marketing new ideas for their businesses, reviving a storefront during an extended lull, or even launching some new idea – often bizarre and unrealistic.
With that being said, I expected to do for her what I do for each of these friends: look over the paperwork, nod a few times, and send them on their way with advice I know they’ll probably not utilize anyway.
She said she would return shortly with the paperwork, and I agreed to meet with her for one hour to discuss the matter.
Within about a quarter of an hour, she returned with a car full of strangers. How peculiar is it to return with unannounced strangers to someone’s house? I did not let them in, and we sat around an outdoor table in the lovely 90 degree weather. That’s just my way of saying “Welcome!”
Expecting to review an idea, or several, I was instead promptly given a very scripted sales pitch on some “business” called “LIFE” by her mentor and his cohorts who were starting her off on this scheme. They could tell I was highly annoyed and about to dismiss them instantly. I found it highly ironic and simply strange that this motley crew of poorly dressed “business professionals” was lecturing me on how to make money, especially being the way I was supposed to make money was from them! I was dumbfounded! I cut them off after about five minutes of berating me with nonsensical leadership attributes and strategies. Five minutes of longwinded talk about absolutely nothing!
A bit more background: I began my career as a salesman. I’m now a regional for one of the largest retailers in the nation. I know the language of sales better than I do English. The language they spoke was a primitive version of what would be expected from a 20 something salesman just starting out, and following the corporate sales guide word for word, selling low-end electronics. The rhetorical questions, the saccharin-like compliments, the indirect slide toward profitability, and the ever-present lack of any true detail aside from heaping piles of nervous hype! Blah!
Anyway, as I cut them off and told them how straightly bewildered I am as to why they are trying this on me, and what I do for a living, the mentor responded, bewildering me just as badly, by saying, “Well, wouldn’t you like to quit your job and have all the free time you could ever imagine? What would you do with a lifetime of weekends?” What a serious face palm!
I found a bit of humor in the situation and dismissed them from my property. Before they left, the mentor in the group handed me a small box of CD’s and pamphlets. This, of course, as any good salesman knows, ties the salesman to the client by artificially creating a future chain of communication. I shouldn’t have taken it, but I like to have a good laugh. It’s not everyday someone has the nerve to try something like this on me.
I’ll finish the account later on. It gets interesting, lol.
and the follow-up comment a short time later:
I’ll finish a few more thoughts.
Later on that week, I decided I’d throw one of the CD’s in my car and have a listen while I drove to work (it was going to be a terribly boring 45 minute drive that morning.) After 30 minutes of listening straight then skipping around the disc, here’s what I found:
-An initial relatable story about debt, poverty, and “just getting by” to prompt the listener to feel as if the speaker is talking directly to them.
-Offering a swift reaction (MLM business proposition) to solve financial dilemma.
-Announcing victim of said financial ruin is actually founder of LIFE.
-Utilization of the “Bandwagon Effect,” like those sleazy infomercials on property flipping, to keep the audience captive.
-Reassuring the likely MLM-weary audience that LIFE is just the opposite.
-And next CD please!
All of this while not exactly explaining what LIFE really even is.
So, what we have is basically this:
“Hello, I understand the financial pain you are in. That’s why you have this CD. I also understand you are probably listening it on your drive in to work this morning, which means you’ll be captive for an average of 20 minutes.
On the subject of work, what a lousy life, right? Bills are piling up, you have to work for the man, and don’t get any time off. I had the same experience, only I used my woes to better my family and start this wonderful business.
You can be part of it, too! All these people just like you did it!
Since we’ve established a level of trust, and we’re speaking on the same level, let me answer the question you’re thinking. LIFE is not an pyramid scheme, in fact, it’s just the opposite. If you follow the steps (please purchase) after becoming a member (please purchase,) you’re guaranteed to make enough money to quit your job and become financially free!
And what is it that you will be doing? Creating communities and changing lives! And what does that entitle? Please purchase your next box of CD’s and answer the persistent calls of the mentor/friend who sent us your way!”
Pretty much, they throw a relatable problem to a selected audience to increase the closing percentage. Then, they let the audience react to said problem (common financial story.) Finally, the audience finds out the husband and wife from the narrative are the founders of this crazy program called LIFE! A surprising (to some) and emotion-filled solution! After all, this just became a little drama while you drive into a job you’ve been convinced to hate!
Then, the trust that had been slowly built is established via a continuance of the narrative as well as the bandwagon effect. Finally, the audience trusts the speakers enough for them to nullify the elephant in the room objection!
All this, of course, before the mentor even has time to arrange meeting after meeting after meeting.
Hey, maybe your financial situation is bad because you’re stuck going to these meetings all the time, lol!
Here’s what really threw me off. How does Christianity have anything to do, and I mean anything to do, with running an insidious multilevel marketing enterprise? I was sickened to hear God, Jesus, and the Christian Bible brought up into this sales pitch. Nothing I’ve ever read in the Good Book describes Jesus looking favorably toward those who dupe their friends into buying tons and tons of CD’s (or scrolls, lol), and getting other people to do the same, for no apparent reason other than to get more people to buy CD’s. And the CD’s are nothing better than the hyped-up self help dribble you can hear on YouTube, or at your company’s next performance meeting.
Anyway, about a week later, my friend called me back and asked me how I liked the material (surprise, surprise… I thought she would want to see how I was enjoying the sunny weather!)
Here’s my dilemma. I wanted to tell her off on the phone, just how moronic it is to join one of these sugar-coated MLM’s of the future, but, who listens to me, anyway? I don’t have any debt. I don’t drive an old car. My financial situation is golden. How would I even begin to describe an MLM, or the proper sport of salesmanship, to someone who is seemingly oblivious to these concepts?
I did it by example.
To her on the phone, I said “Oh, what lovely information, passionate speakers, yes, yes! When do you want it all back, so I can take another?”
I think I caught her off guard (sorry!) and she stumbled a bit, telling me she will arrange a few meetings with her mentor and I, as well as with a few more people, then she’d invite me to a monthly meeting where I will meet everyone.
Luckily, these people had no issue driving an hour to meet me for lunch a few times before the monthly, which surprised me quite highly. Also, the fact they’d drive all that way and not eat anything was very weird, as well, even as I’d offer to pay each time.
Can you all guess what I was planning to do?
She wouldn’t listen to me if I told her, but maybe she’d listen to me if I showed her how things really were in this company – right in front of her “friends,” mentors, and company idols. So, that’s what I did, lol!
I’ll conclude this later on. I have quite a lot to say on Pyramid Schemes and MLM’s, regarding legality and so forth, as well.
And here’s part three of Won’s story:
Half the country is snowed in, I have some free time, lol.
I’ll talk about the lunch meetings for a bit before I dive into the big monthly meeting.
As I said earlier, my friend scheduled a handful of lunch meetings on my behalf with her mentor and a few other people in his downline, as well as a couple more people who also had downlines that generated enough money for them to allegedly become “financially free.”
Now, that phrase, “financially free,” is something I heard quite often. Never was I given a full explanation as to what it meant, nor did I really care. Buzzwords are just buzzwords.
During these meetings, I had to play the part of someone who was at least semi-interested, or they’d quickly dismiss me, and I wouldn’t be able to attend this glorious meeting they couldn’t stop jabbering about – and that’s what I wanted to do – hopefully shake a few people out of this trance they’re in, maybe even my old friend.
Many times, I had to bite my tongue. As someone who started in sales, appreciates an honest sale, and oversees thousands of such sales nationally, I find talk of “downlines” and “uplines” disgusting. This isn’t sales. This is, “hey, let’s write down ten names of people we love and care about so that maybe one of them will do the same, and I’ll be able to make a commission!”
When I am purchasing new suits, ties, and shirts, I know the creative saleswoman who always coordinates my colors and so on is thrilled to see me – not only because I’m charismatic, lol, but because whenever I come in, she earns enough in commission to eat steak for dinner all month. And I’m ok with that, in fact, I am very happy for her, because she is making an honest sale and actually selling something tangible. She puts in great effort to put together my outfits, takes pride in her design work, and has great skills as a saleswoman.
This is the big difference between direct sales and pyramid selling. A pyramid selling company is not based on selling products, though products may be involved, they are not the primary concern of the company, and function more as a “mask.” A pyramid selling company is interested in limited exponential growth models, where the salesperson, and I use the term loosely, isn’t so much as selling a product as he/she is replacing him/herself with another salesperson who will do the same for them. It’s the difference between selling a product and a scheme.
Although LIFE sells a “product,” it does so indirectly. The idea is that you sell a “membership” that will then purchase CD’s and attend conferences because they have to in order to be a member in good standing. LIFE is not in the business of selling CD’s or any material for that matter. They are in the business of increasing members exponentially who then are required to purchase the CD’s and go to the conferences to maintaing this membership and have a (very slim) chance at making money.
Anyway, as I played interested, all while scarfing down my lunch so as to return in time to finish my daily business, I noticed this pattern playing out in each of these LIFE members’ actions.
I would poke ever so slightly in an attempt to get one of the mentors, or whatever they liked to be called, to explain directly what it is that LIFE was all about (sounds more profound than it is, right?) I’d always receive a textbook-vague answer in return, always ending in a misplaced compliment about my intelligence or accomplishments. Oh gee, I’m flattered, where do I sign, lol.
Seeing that they were getting nowhere with me, but confused as to why I continually gave them “yes man” answers to everything, they tried to pull a classic trick on me during the final lunch meeting before the monthly. Somehow or another, they brought in one of the “heroes” of the company, a 50-something man with poorly-groomed hair and an uncoordinating jean/sport jacket combination. As a rule of thumb, I don’t take business advice from someone who shows up to a meeting not dressed for the occasion. I wanted to ask, so badly, “So, my friend, how long have you been financially free?” Lol!
Anyway, this fellow was luckily a little more slick in his sales presentation, and at least tried to convince me he was answering my questions as he danced around them. Good man, lol! He told me all about his downlines, how much money he was making, how great Mr. Woodward is, and much he loves spending time with Woodward and Co. I really, really wanted to ask him, “How much of your earned money goes toward chasing Mr. Woodward and his lifestyle around, and how much goes toward maintaing your own?” Lol.
When someone can’t make a sale, but they feel as if the customer is a buyer, it’s only a natural reaction to bring someone else in to close the deal. Coffee is for closers! That’s all they did, and I am flattered they brought in one of their best, lol!
Regardless of the fact, he spun around a while, and I continually gave him the dirt beneath his tires to spin around in, until I was ready to get back to work, which wasn’t long after I finished my lunch. I did find it peculiar how much this fellow would sweat when I’d first listen to an entire rant of his about how great an aspect of LIFE was and, second, ask him, simply, “why?” I’ve found that “No” and “Why” are two of the most powerful words to use in any situation. Hardly anyone expects either to be used, even though they are the personifications of the most natural reactions we have to new information.
After a handful of arduous, and seemingly boastful, lunch meetings, I was a couple days shy of the big one. To be honest, I would have expected this group of “financially free” wizards of LIFE to have sussed me out as someone just taking them for a laugh to prove a point to an old friend, but they didn’t. In fact, it only proves their persistence, or desperation. And I am leaning toward the latter, lol.