Direct Sales and MLM

Thoughts A Brewin' Newsletter 9: The Direct Sales Protocol

By
Clay Brewer

Recently I have been reading Chris Dixon’s book “Read Write Own: Building the Next Era of the Internet.”  In the book, Dixon begins his discussion on the history of the internet, but the development of what it means to be an open-sourced protocol is what really peaked my interest.

I couldn’t help but think of how direct sales could utilize an open-sourced protocol to reinvent itself. Direct sales needs a rebirth. It’s undeniable. When too many competing interests enter one domain, the results are bound to end in disaster. This ending is exactly where direct sales is situated. There’s a reason the Anti-MLM crowd exists. It’s because they aren’t entirely wrong. The destruction of the MLM industry shouldn’t be the goal because I find direct sales to be one of the primary avenues for empowering individuals within the market economy, but Anti-MLM frustrations are very much warranted. It’s similar to today’s media landscape: they highlight negatives while ignoring all positives, pretending their version of the truth is the only one. We’ve made their jobs easier lately. We can find negatives in all aspects of life, but life becomes what we focus on.

I previously mentioned the idea of decentralization in Thoughts A Brewin’ Newsletter 6 and expressed my adamant belief that zero sum is not the path to success. In that article I wrote,

Network marketing companies aren’t meant to be pure democracies as standards need to be set and rights need to be protected, but they shouldn’t be autocratic dictatorships either. Decentralized centralization should be the goal. Zero-sum is where it’s at. Inhibiting distributor creativity and arbitrarily taking away isn’t a good look. Centralization is where an umbrella of culture, trust, and purpose is fostered. This is important if any corporate executives truly want to see the industry survive. Decentralization is where the field is permitted to operate freely and creatively under this umbrella, provided basic rules are followed. This is critical in an era where everyone seeks to be an influencer. Not to mention the shift in employee-independent contractor categorization that’s ongoing.

The empowerment of the field is the only way forward. The field makes the sales. The field encourages others to join and maintain sales and enthusiasm. This is purely anecdotal, but I’ve seen numerous Anti-MLMers across multiple platforms who have only been with a company for a few months. I’d love to see how many Anti-MLMers were in any ownership position for an extended period.  I’ve often learned that individuals need to stay in something long enough to get lucky.  Ownership is hard, frequently resulting in failure (not just in our industry).    

And the issue goes both ways. Is 6-18 months within any position going to produce significant results? Rarely. But were these individuals promised success and riches, to some extent, within this time period? More times than not, yes.

Dixon writes in his book, “Protocol networks endow users with ownership, which benefits all network participants, including creators, entrepreneurs, developers, and others. Like all networks, protocols have network effects: they get more valuable as more people use them.”

So why are network marketers no longer utilizing network effects? Why is it so zero sum? The dynamic needs to shift from why all my distributors are leaving for other ventures or going to YouTube hell bent on destroying the industry to facilitating personal growth and collective success.

Industry leaders need to come together to discuss what this may look like. Companies operate differently, so there is no one size fits all. But doing nothing is no longer an option. Instead of being reactive and responsive to complaints, the industry needs to charge forward to pave a new path. Network marketing companies need to push forward through example as opposed to being reactionary and seeking to convince those who do not want to be convinced.

Clay Brewer
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