Finding the Perfect Opportunity
How to shop for the right MLM.

Entrepreneur Magazine Online — Ask the MLM Expert

by Michael L. Sheffield
CEO The Sheffield Group


Question: I'm a single dad looking for a way to generate an income so I can be at home with my two sons more often. I'm thinking of signing up with a well-known MLM company. I've never been involved with an MLM before, but I've been in direct sales for the past 15 years. I've also been in investment banking and new construction real estate. Any thoughts that you could lend would be greatly appreciated?

Answer: Your direct sales experience will be very helpful in your new Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) endeavor. Be sure to look at my May column on the differences between direct selling and MLM. My April column on selecting the right company will give you the basis for making an educated decision. You don't have to take the proverbial "leap of faith" into MLM hoping you get lucky.

Since this is your first time in MLM, be sure you select a company that has some longevity, having developed mature training programs and sales aids. Finding a company in the momentum stage is great as well, but don't get blind-sided by what appears to be fast bucks. If you choose the wrong company and have a bad experience, it may sour you on the entire concept. For your first experience, look for an established company that's been in business for at least two years but is in its early momentum stage. Try to determine the strength of the product line, management team and compensation plan.

Selecting a competent MLM sponsor is as important as selecting the right company. Choose your sponsor just as you would choose an employee to hire. Interview them. What can they do for you to assure your future success? You don't have to join an opportunity under the first person who tries to sign you up. Today, savvy opportunity seekers make potential sponsors meet qualifications in the same way they do with the business opportunity itself.

Before you make your final selection, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you want to be part of an MLM company?
  • What type of personal interests do you have that would be satisfied by a compatible business opportunity?
  • What's your knowledge level in MLM?
  • Does the company offer the type of support that will serve your personal needs at your current knowledge and skill level?
  • How much money do you need to earn and how quickly?
  • Have you talked to others who've experienced some success with this company?
  • Do you have an experienced mentor that has a history of helping build successful distributorships?
  • Do you have realistic expectations of the type of income you could earn during the "honeymoon" stage? This is the stage when you may have more enthusiasm than measurable benefits for the opportunity.

Now I'm going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Most legitimate opportunities are a "get rich slow" business. Beware of those that offer shortcuts to success.

Shopping for a business opportunity is a lot like shopping for a new car. You must like the color, performance, warranty, price, accessories and customer service if you're going to avoid buyer's remorse in the future. However, unlike making a mistake buying a car, making a mistake in choosing an MLM company may sour you on a wonderful industry that can offer you a tremendous amount of personal joy and financial freedom.

Here's my best advice: Find a mentor. While your mentor may be your direct sponsor or part of your upline, he or she may also be an independent advisor who's in no way connected with your MLM company. Some, such as a consultant, may charge you a small fee and help you evaluate various business opportunities in order to select the right one for your special talents. Others may mentor you for free and possibly guide you to opportunities they feel good about. It's part of their job to earn your confidence and respect. You may choose to be sponsored by them in one of their favorite companies, but don't feel obligated. Don't forget to check their references and dig into their credentials.

You must select a mentor you respect who has a history of success. If you were an employer hiring a new employee, would you be skeptical of someone who was a job hopper? Make sure your mentor is not an MLM junkie. Look for someone who believes in career MLM opportunities. To consistently earn the type of income you dream about, you must find a solid company, build a loyal distributorship and customer organization, and resist the impulse to jump on every hot new deal. Too many hot deals that fail will simply waste your time and money and leave you cold.

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About the Author:

Michael L. Sheffield is the CEO of The Sheffield Group, a full-service direct sales and multi level marketing (MLM) consulting firm. He is a Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Multi Level Marketing International Association and in 2001 he was inducted into the MLMIA Hall of Fame. He and the Sheffield team have assisted in hundreds of national and international MLM corporate start-ups as well as offered a full line of services for established direct sales companies including consultation on MLM Website development. As the most noted expert on compensation plans, he has been a guest lecturer on the subject for the DSA, University of Illinois, University of Texas, Berkeley and Harvard Alumni Association. He has helped launch over 200 new products marketed by direct selling companies around the globe. He can be contacted at 480-968-6199, The Sheffield Group, 2239 N. Hayden Road, Suite 103, Scottsdale, AZ. 85257, website address: www.sheffieldnet.com.

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