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Don’t give me a turd in a box and tell me it’s chocolate…

It happened AGAIN. I was bamboozled for the 7th time and while the scenarios are all slightly different, the approach was the same.

It starts out with a friend or an acquaintance something like this…

“Hey Eddie, I haven’t seen you in a while, how is your business going?”

“It’s going great, it’s really thriving. God has been good to me.”

“Awesome. You want to grab coffee and catch up?”

Me, being the social person I am is always quick to agree to coffee and conversation.

“I’d love that.”

We then setup a time and meet and sometimes we come around to the real reason why they wanted to meet in the first meeting, but sometimes they wait until the second meeting, or even the third.

The first time this happened I was probably 18. The product was Excel Communications phone service. It was like any other direct marketing scheme where you sign up, IT’s A GREAT DEAL! and you sign up all your friends and then they sign up their friends and EVERYONE GETS RICH! You CANNOT Lose. YOU’D BE AN IDIOT not to sign up now!!!

The offers always sound great and you have to get in RIGHT NOW because it is growing like wildfire.

The second scheme I was hoodwinked into was Advocare. It was the same spiel. Lots of money. Products flying off the shelves. Groundbreaking. The adjectives were always superlative, there were always amazing studies to back up their claims and if that’s not enough there is always an article on CNN, Forbes, MSNBC or some other highly accredited news team that is backing up their product. I have since determined that each of these sources somehow is getting a cut of the money and so they’ll basically plug you or put you on the cover of their mag as long as they get a kickback.

The third product was Stream Energy and then of all things, me, a man, I was suckered and lured by the siren song of the pretty gals at Mary Kay. Yes. I said MARY KAY. These women fawned all over me at the first meeting saying things like “You’ll be great” “Wonderful Personality!” “Instant Sales” “Money in the Bank!!!” Flattery is indeed my greatest weakness and I succumbed to their wooing. $1000 dollars down the drain and lots of shame later… I finally walked away from Mary Kay.

In each of the aforementioned scenarios the person who invited me was a trusted friend and often the pretense was, “This will help YOUR business” or “Your business can help me in MY business!” – Which I misunderstood as a need for a new Web Design or DJ services or maybe even both.

Then if all of those schemes weren’t lesson enough, THREE TIMES I was invited to dinner, had my dinner paid for and then was pretty much sold Life Insurance Policies after a few meetings that were touted as “Financial Planning”. Ugh. SUCH LIES!  The truth was these people needed my business and my contacts. Life Insurance is a need and great for many people with families, but as a single man it is a poor investment – especially, and this is something they don’t tell you, your first couple years of paying on those policies the money all goes to PREMIUMS which means if you cancel your policy after two years you get NOTHING. Zilch. I was literally under the impression that my money was going into a savings account that was growing interest at a higher rate and that while canceling my policy would come with a penalty, I had no idea it meant that penalty would mean I would not even get PENNIES from that investment – nor could I transfer that policy to a new and better policy. Basically I was STUCK. After two years of paying $150 a month I canceled my policy and lost $3600.

So yesterday I met with a gal for lunch and while I sensed some warning flags because she was so persistent, I really thought that she was going to be LEGIT – too legit to quit even. But alas, I was BAMBOOZLED AGAIN. Someone shake me, wake me from this bad dream!!

I get to lunch and her “Friend Janet is going to join us!” – I’m still an idiot thinking that she is really just bringing a friend along and it is 3 people getting to know each other for mutual business networking. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Janet literally came equipped with a 118 page Power Point slide. Did you miss that number ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN PAGES. CHRISTMAS ON A CRACKER!!!!!

So I had my entire afternoon disrupted – which when you are self-employed means LOSS OF INCOME – because I literally always have work to do that makes me money – and it was MISERABlE. This lady literally started talking and didn’t stop for an HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES. Inside I was hating life and hating myself for once again getting stuck in this situation. While here Janet thought that she was DOING ME A FAVOR! In reality I’d rather have been WATERBOARDED than to sit through lunch and have someone sell me some direct marketing Travel Business plan where if I “JUST SIGN UP 10 FRIENDS” and then it pretty much takes on a life of it’s own – type of product. The ONLY positive from this meeting was my lunch was delicious even if I didn’t really get to enjoy it, and at the end of the presentation there was a slide that had a little bit of honesty on it and it pretty much said that if you don’t work hard at it, then you won’t make any money.

So my message to all my friends who sell these types of products is this:

  1. People are WEARY/LEARY/SICKANDTIRED of being sucked in by some scheme where they have to sell all their friends in order to make the plan work.
  2. Is it really so hard to be up front with someone and TELL THEM what you are selling?
  3. Don’t invite someone to lunch or coffee to hang out and then BLINDSIDE them with a product – RUDE.
  4. Stop making false promises.

Truth – Direct Marketing works – if you work really hard and pretty much sell out to it. That means possibly losing all your friends and eventually making this job that is supposedly just side income – a 20-40 hour a week job. Any time you work 20-40 hours a week at something and really work it correctly, it is most likely going to succeed – it just takes time. But the same can be said for any business. You don’t start bringing in mad amounts of clients when you first start a business. iPods weren’t flying off the shelf when they were first launched, but over time a business will pick up traction and it will become less of a hassle finding new clients – especially if your product really is great. So why don’t these direct marketers just come out and say that? Do they really just enjoy spending hours signing up people only to have them drop out 6 months down the road?

In all of these scenarios I was asked “Do you have some friends that you can tell about this product or tell their names so I can sign them up?” – and normally this happened BEFORE I had a chance to try out the product. Word of Mouth sales work best when someone has had a GOOD EXPERIENCE and they genuinely boast about the service or product they received, not because they are trying to twist someone’s arm into trying something.

So there’s my rant for the week. My intention isn’t to hurt anyone with this post but to educate. I’ve lost good friends because of their attempts to sell me on something and eventually I felt like they cared more about their own product/service/cash intake than they cared about me and what kind of client relationship is that?

If you are up front with people then I think that goes a long way. If each of these people had straight up asked me “Do you want this?” I probably would have told them I wasn’t interested, but, if they had given me an outline of the facts, the amount of work involved, and the realistic return of the investment for me to review BEFORE I met with them, then I would have felt like I had an opportunity to really think through the product/service and then if I had questions or more interest then I could meet with them for coffee. This is something I could appreciate and respect.

So there it is. Be warned. I don’t want to park you out on front street for being a bad business person… but park you I will if it comes to that.

 

By Evan Stark

Eddie Renz is an avid fan of Egyptology, Wilbur Smith and bacon. Not a fan of humility but often finds himself humbled when he is around people who understand numbers like the Fibonacci sequence and Pi.

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