There's a huge number of network marketing companies out there and a huge number of people involved in at least one of them; from Herbalife, Body By Vi, Beachbody and Forever Living to Utility Warehouse, Amway and Kleeneze. It's rare that I go to a business networking event and not bump into at least one representative from these companies. I have to stress that I have nothing against network marketing; I have had experience with one company myself and whilst I choose not to actively promote it, I can see why people are attracted to the model. The problem I have is how people go about recruiting new people for their 'team'.
One such person sent me a connection request on LinkedIn just a few days ago. LinkedIn is a fabulous tool if you're out there networking and want to keep in touch with people and find out a little bit more about them. By following someone on LinkedIn, you can view their profile, find out what their interests are and find any common ground for when you next meet or speak.
So here's what happened
After receiving the connection request, I first viewed the person's profile to see how I might know them or whether we could be useful contacts for each other. Although I didn't know this person (I know, I know, LinkedIn says you should only connect with people you know, but I disagree. That would be like going to a networking event and only speaking to people you've already met before), we had many mutual connections (people I knew, liked and trusted) and she was relatively local (so there would be an opportunity for us to meet at some point in the future).
Within hours of me accepting the connection request, I was sent 'the prospecting email'. For reasons I'll explain in a second, I don't have the exact wording to hand, but it was along the lines of 'Hi Heather, Thanks for connecting. I was wondering if you'd be interested in earning an extra income as a side project if it didn't interfere with what you were already doing? Can I send you some information?'
I could see from this woman's profile that she was involved with the same network marketing company I was, so it was simply a case of politely replying with 'No, thank you, [insert name]. I'm already familiar with [insert network marketing company]'.
I didn't expect a reply, although an acknowledgement that I had responded would have been nice. I also didn't expect that she would instantly disconnect from me, but she did! (That's why I don't have a record of the email she sent).
Wow. How NOT to make friends and influence people!
Consider these scenarios
I like to relate the goings on of LinkedIn to a real life networking event, so here's a few scenarios that happen on LinkedIn, but wouldn't happen at an actual networking event (I hope!).
Scenario one: Viewing other people's profiles on LinkedIn as an anonymous user
Real life example: Turning up to a networking event with a bag over your head, refusing to tell anyone your name.
Scenario two: Joining a new group on LinkedIn and being very forward at announcing you've joined and what you do (sorry, but no one cares)
Real life version: You turn up at a new networking event you've never been to before. You stand in the centre of the room and shout about what you do, flinging business cards into the faces of everyone whether they are interested or not.
Scenario three: Someone posts a discussion on LinkedIn asking for recommendations for an IT company, for example, and you, the IT expert, jump straight in and recommend yourself
Real life example: You're at a networking event and overhear two people deep in conversation with one asking the other what the name of their IT guy is as he sounds really reliable. You march on over there, interrupt their conversation to present yourself as the best IT person and thrust a business card into the person's hand.
Scenario four: You send someone you've never met a prospecting email via LinkedIn to join your network marketing company without finding out one thing about them, then deleting the connection when they say they're not interested
Real life example: You turn up at a networking event to spot someone you've not met before. Rather than walk over and introduce yourself and ask what the other person does, you open the conversation with your sales pitch. The other person listens and politely says, 'no, thank you'. At this point you snatch your business card out of their hand, turn and walk out of the room without saying another word.
So how could you do it better?
If you're going to use LinkedIn for prospecting, remember you are connecting with human beings. You may use your keyboard to write those emails, but a real person is receiving them. Think about how you approach someone in real life. Have you ever done business with someone who opens the first conversation with their sales pitch?
Try to find out a little about the person you are connecting to. Your opening email should make them want to connect with you and stay connected to you.
If they don't show an interest in what you do, don't just disconnect from them. Their circumstances may change next week and they may come back to you in the near future if they have had a good first impression of you.
Personally, I blame the networking marketing companies themselves. 'It's all about the numbers' they tell people. The more people you contact, the more people will sign up and join your team and the more money you will make. Trouble is, no one likes to be just another number. Especially another number that's going to make someone else a lot of money. Network marketing would be much more successful and appealing to others if it were about putting people first.
Have you experienced bad behaviour on LinkedIn? If so, leave your comments below!