Nutrition and fitness companies that are based on a multi-level marketing (MLM) model often approach health and wellness professionals, hoping they’ll want to sell MLM products to their client base.
MLM products aren’t available via stores or online—instead, they’re sold through a set of sales reps who not only promote the products and earn revenue on them, but also recruit other reps who work under them and turn over a percentage of their sales.
There are numerous examples of companies with this type of structure in the health and wellness field, including Amway, HerbaLife, Isagenix, Melaleuca, Forever Living, Juice Plus+, Shaklee, Sunrider, and others.
As a nutrition consultant, personal trainer, or other health professional, here are some pros and cons to keep in mind when considering whether to promote these products:
PRO: The sales reps are very knowledgeable, and will give you all of the information needed to sell the products.
Often, the reps who approach you have used many, if not all, of the products that they’re recommending. They can usually answer very detailed questions and provide you with fact sheets, ingredient lists, product improvement news, and other helpful resources. They are also usually open to letting you try out the products yourself for a few weeks for a greatly reduced rate or for free, in the hope that you’ll like them enough to join as a rep yourself or aid in sales to your clients.
CON: You may get the high-pressure pitch.
Some sales reps may be aggressive in trying to recruit you as a sales rep. There is plenty of passion in the MLM world—which is why many company conferences look more like high-energy Zumba sessions than sedate company updates. That enthusiasm can go in a wrong direction, though, if you’re feeling like you want to start avoiding a rep’s phone calls. Be honest at that point about what’s making you uncomfortable.
PRO: There’s flexibility in your scheduling.
Sales for an MLM company can be done from anywhere, on your own hours. That means you can work as much or as little as you want, and ramp up if you feel like that part of your business is gaining traction. That makes it an ideal add-on to your training or counseling business, without getting in the way of client appointments.
CON: Clients could see recommendations in a poor light.
If you’re advising a client to try a certain MLM product because you think it will be helpful, that’s an appropriate approach. But if it sounds like you’re doing a sales pitch yourself—which might be the case if you get a portion or all of the sales revenue—that could leave some clients feeling sour about the situation. After all, they’re paying you for advice, not for a sales presentation. If you’re going to recommend MLM products or represent them, be very transparent about how you’re connected to the company.
PRO: You could have a significant additional revenue stream.
If you find an MLM company that really resonates with you and you decide to become a sales rep or operate at some level that returns revenue back to you, it may add to your overall income. If you’re also good at recruiting reps yourself, you can exponentially grow that income.
CON: Selling supplements may be out of your scope of practice.
Some MLM companies make claims about their products that may not be appropriate for you as a nutrition professional or personal trainer to promote. Be very wary about medical claims in particular, such as supplements that supposedly “cure” illnesses or prevent diseases. Read up on what your scope of practice is as a nutrition professional, and follow local guidelines for offering nutritional advice legally.
Joining an MLM company can be a great opportunity if you love the products and want to grow your income. But before joining, educate yourself about the company’s sales hierarchy, revenue structure, product sourcing, and reputation.