A few months ago, a girl I went to middle school with added me as a friend on Facebook and sent me a private message wanting to know what I’d been up to. I was secretly thrilled because back in seventh grade, this girl was the coolest, and I’d always wanted to hang out with her.
A mom from my daughter’s preschool who always seemed witty and charming, not to mention exceedingly well-put together, texted and asked if I’d like to come over to her house, put makeup on, and take pictures of ourselves. It sounded like the ultimate grown-up playdate and I was psyched.
Then a group of women from my church (that I’d been dying to get to know better) without warning up and asked me to a brunch one of them was having at her house. A mimosa bar was promised.
One of the most glamorous and beautiful women I’ve ever met gave me some face cream next. I felt like I’d been handed a gift from a living goddess. If this stuff would make me half as beautiful as she is, I’d gladly eat it if I had to. Could someone like her really like someone like me?
At a friend’s barbecue, I seemed to really hit it off with another woman. We were laughing and commiserating about how our kids were such picky eaters, and I thought I was getting to know a new awesome person.
But I wasn’t.
It may sound as though the world suddenly wanted to befriend me, as if I’d finally found the secret formula for attracting the social life I’d always dreamed of but, sadly, this was not the case.
All of these women had one thing in common and it was not how much they loved me. They were trying to sell me stuff.
That girl from middle school? Very expensive essential oils. That mom from the barbecue was slyly hawking gummy vitamins. The face cream wasn’t a gift, and the makeup session wasn’t a night of girly fun. Worst of all were the church ladies. True story, they wanted me to buy sex toys. I still haven’t recovered from that one, although the mimosa bar was pretty good.
I’m a very literal person, I take things at face value. When someone reaches out to me, invites me somewhere, or gives me a gift, I assume it’s because they want to be my friend and I get excited. I want more friends! When it becomes apparent that all I am is a potential sale or an “exciting new business opportunity,” my feelings get a little hurt and I am absolutely not going to buy something from someone who made me sad. Likewise, when you PM me about your shakes, supplements, and whatever is supposed to guarantee me a bikini-ready bod, I assume you’re calling me fat, and I don’t want to give my money to someone who insults me.
There is nothing wrong with trying to make a little extra money selling cute leggings, candle warmers, or even exotic juices from the South Pacific that have miraculous healing properties apparently ignored by the mainstream medical community. The high-end face creams everyone’s selling really do work as does that stuff that’s supposed to give you longer lashes. Those oils smell fantastic. I can’t speak for the sex toys, but I’m sure they too are fabulous. The problem here isn’t with the companies or the products, it’s with the sneaky sales tricks.
Preying upon someone’s need for connection and friendship is a crappy way to try to make a buck. Don’t act like you’re trying to befriend someone when you’re not. Opt for a straightforward pitch instead. Let your potential customers feel like they’re making their own decisions and I guarantee your honesty and openness will sell a lot more than deception. Better yet, how about cultivating genuine friendships without an ulterior motive?
I promise you, even though I don’t have a huge budget right now, if I were going to purchase something, I’d be thrilled to support my friends. If I suddenly came into a windfall of cash, I’d immediately call up everyone I know and buy up all the pocket dresses, protein shakes, oil diffusers, and eyelash medicines I could get my hands on, just to help out the people I truly care about.
It’s great to be enthusiastic about your home-based business, but please stop treating every social interaction like a scene from Glengarry, Glen Ross. You do not need to “always be closing.” In fact, your sales pitch may actually be turning people away and, even worse, you could be hurting someone’s feelings in the process. When you only see others as a means to your month-end sales bonus, you’re missing out on real friendships and a lot of fun.
And just in case you need another reason to question these types of companies that rely on your family and friends to distribute their product, John Oliver has a great segment that identifies these “Multi-level Marketing Companies” as Ponzi schemes: