In late 2016, I was contacted by a writer for Redbook Magazine that was looking for some insight on an article about how being in direct selling or network marketing can affect friendships and relationships. I’m grateful to have been interviewed and quoted in the article, “The Business of Friendship“. However,  I would love the opportunity to clarify a few things that did not come across the way I intended or were taken out of context and share more of what I said during my conversations with the writers. I believe this is an important topic for both direct sellers and those who have friends in direct sales. I have a few things to share to help those on both sides of the friendship.

How to be friends with someone in a direct sales or network marketing business - Direct Selling CEO

Friends of people who joined or are involved in direct sales:

Let’s start with the real reasons why your friend might be involved in a direct sales (DS) or network marketing company.  

People join DS for a variety of reasons, it could be the opportunity to make an extra income on a flexible schedule, it could be for the support, friendships, recognition, it could be for the personal development and growth, but most likely it is because they found a product that they personally love and believe in the value of and want to share with others.

Your friend did not start this business just to ask you (or anyone else) for money.  They most likely joined because they have a need in their lives (financial, personal, whatever solution the product provides) and through the opportunity the business offers them they are able to not only help themselves but also help others.

A career in direct sales offers anyone a chance to succeed, to be supported, to gain confidence, to build friendships, to learn people skills, to work on a flexible schedule, to make a difference in the lives of others.  I have interacted with thousands & thousands of direct sellers over the past 11 years and can confidently say that I have met very few direct sellers who are in it only or even mainly for the money.

Yes, I understand that a lot of direct sellers do things that give the industry a negative reputation & you may not like or understand how your friend is sharing about their business on social media.

Some direct sellers do post too frequently about sales, mass message people, some add people to email lists without permission or to FB groups without permission and some don’t give the best customer service / follow up like they should.  I understand how those things can frustrate people who are not in direct sales, they very much frustrate me! Those people most likely were never taught the right way to market their business or were perhaps (wrongly) taught that was how they should promote their business.

Spamming people by sending mass messages and adding to email lists or FB groups without permission is probably 1 of the biggest complaints I hear from people and I get it, I really do. I often speak out / train on NOT to do those things.  I don’t like being added to groups either but I just remove myself, it takes 2 clicks. There’s no need for me to get angry over it. I’m going to assume the best that the person didn’t realize what they were doing wasn’t polite. I often will send a message and encourage them to not do that anymore and share a few better methods.

If however, your friend is posting pictures and updates on what’s going on in their business (like “I’m excited about my party tonight” or “Had a great team meeting” or “I’m loving this new product, want to learn more?”, “I just earned a free trip!”, “working on creating some gift sets for my customers”) those are not meant to come across as sales/spammy/pushy posts.  They are simply sharing what is going on in their lives.

Being in a DS business becomes a big part of your life because you are working different hours and doing a lot of new, fun things & enjoying it. When someone is excited about something, they understandably want to share that excitement. They don’t mean to overwhelm you.  They don’t mean to make you feel like you have purchase every time they post about their business. They don’t mean to make you feel like that is all they care about.  They are just excited about what is going on in their lives and businesses.

If your friend invites you to a party or to join their team, they are NOT doing this just because they want your money. They are doing this because they see value in their product or opportunity and want to share that with you. If you can host a party, buy the product or want to join their team, great. If not, then  you can say no but still do it in a supportive way.

How can you remain friends with and support your friends that are in direct sales?

You can shop, you can host, you can join, but what you friends really want and need the most is emotional support, not financial support. Be supportive of them by encouraging them to go for their dreams, to be their best, to keep trying. Cheer them on when they earn prizes and promotions and are recognized for their efforts. Refer other people to them that might be interested.

Realize that this is not just some hobby or silly side hustle for your friend, it is a business. Respect this career choice just like you would anything else they decided to do, any other job they had, any other promotion, gift or prize they received from anywhere else.

A true friend is happy for their friends when they find something that makes them happy, when they have new experiences that help them grow, when they reach goals and are successful.  Why should you be less supportive of their efforts in a direct sales business than you would be of any other job, career or endeavor?

If you do not like the company, product, opportunity, direct sales model at all then just let your friend know that you are happy for them but you aren’t interested in the products or purchasing or hosting right now, but you will be glad to refer anyone else who might be to them.

If you feel like they post too much on their personal social media about their business, you can reach out in a kind way and let them know you are excited they have found something they love so much but you miss seeing more about their family and connecting on other topics.  You can also just unfollow them in your feed and visit their profile from time to time to keep up or just message them if you want to only talk about /connect on certain topics not related to their business.

Be a supportive friend, encourage them, celebrate them, be happy for them, really that’s what your friends in direct sales want from you, not just your money.  You can still be friends and not agree on topics or share the same interests.

Now, for my direct sellers, I have a good bit of insight and advice for you as well on this topic.

I know you love your business, product and all the amazing benefits of being in a direct sales business. It really is a wonderful opportunity that most people don’t understand (and that’s okay because it’s not for everyone). You need to be sure you are treating your business, your friends, your potential customers the right way so others don’t feel like you are just trying to make a sale and you don’t come across as 1 of those spammy marketers.

Be passionate about providing solutions, serving and helping others.

Don’t be spammy. Don’t do things that come across as rude. Don’t add people to FB groups, don’t mass message people, don’t post sales fliers every single day.

Do follow up with people, provide excellent customer service, show you care more about helping the person than you do about the money. Do focus on being an authentic marketer, serving your people and building relationships.

Give tons of value to your customers and potential customers. Remember the 80/20 rule, share non promotional content 80% of the time (solutions, tips, ideas, insight…) and only share direct advertisements 20% of the time (sales flier, buy now, book your party now, etc.)

Be yourself! Be authentic, share your unique personality, have fun, create an experience for people that leaves them feeling better. This will set you apart from so many others out there and help shift the negative reaction many have to direct sales.

Remember it is just your job to share about your business and help people who want, need and love what you have to offer. 

Don’t take it personal if a friend or family member (or  a stranger) is not supportive at all. Remember, it’s just your job to share with others and market your products. It’s their job to decide what to do with what you share. It’s most likely not personal if they aren’t interested in what you have to offer.

I encourage everyone to get out of their friends & family zone right away. Think of it like this, you wouldn’t open up a restaurant and only expect your friends & family to come eat there and keep the business going would you? No, you would be advertising and sharing and trying to find new people who loved, wanted and needed that kind of cuisine. Kohl’s sends out specials all the time but they don’t get upset when customers don’t come in and shop or take advantage of what they offered. They just keep marketing and working to find new customers who want, need & love what they have to offer.

How can you strengthen your friendships with your non-direct sales friends?

Be a friend to them. Communicate with them, share why you joined your business and explain how they can support you. Don’t just start blasting a bunch of sales fliers, images and “ads” all over social media.  Let them know you don’t just want their money. Stay in touch with them about non business related stuff too. Don’t take it personal if they aren’t interested in your business. You don’t have to have all the same interests to be friends with someone.

I have many friends who are not involved in direct sales and we have been able to remain close.  Some of them never ever bought a thing from me but they referred me to people, they encouraged me, they celebrated me when I reached new goals. The same way that I do with them even though they have completely different lifestyles and careers than I have.

I do also have a lot of old friends that I am no longer close to, but it’s not because they didn’t buy products from me or ever host parties. It’s mostly because some of them just never could figure out how to bridge the gap and still be friends when our interests changed. I grew, I changed, I had new interests and less things in common with those people as our lives changed and we grew older. That happens sometimes in all stages of life, not just when you start a direct sales business.

Be professional and treat your business like a business, act like you are the CEO of Me that you are! Show your friends and family that this isn’t just some hobby or silly side project, it’s a part time or full time career for you that is deserving of being respected just like any other job or career would be.

If your friends and family can’t get on board with your business, if they are not supportive, if they get ugly with you about any of it, understand that is their own opinion and it doesn’t devalue you, your business or your goals.  (More tips on Getting Your Friends & Family on Board for your New Direct Sales Business can be found here.)  Bless & release and just keep moving forward towards your dreams and being the best you can be.

Join supportive communities of other direct sellers like my Success Programs and continue to work on your own personal development and confidence.

Bottom line is this, we can all still be friends and support each other even if we have different interests, goals, careers and lifestyles as long as we communicate and treat each other with respect and kindness. That’s what friendship is all about.

If you enjoyed this article I would appreciate you leaving a comment and sharing it on social media with your friends! Thank you!

About the Author:

Misty Kearns is a Certified High Performance Coach and Direct Sales Success Coach. As the Founder of CEO of Me®, she equips direct sellers and network marketers with the methods, mindsets, tools & systems to create their own CEO of Me® lifestyle. Learn more here.

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  • Yes Misty, you said this so well. Friendship is still friendship regardless of what business we are in. We would share our successes in the corporate world and friends would celebrate. Why not in direct sales?
    Thank you for this article and for helping adjust the mindset on direct sales for both the seller and our friends!

  • Great article. It’s so ironic to me that a career in direct sales/network marketing seems to have the ability to make friendships awkward. I feel like if I owned a doughnut shop, that awkwardness wouldn’t be there. Probably because everyone needs doughnuts 🙂

    • Thanks Heather! I agree, people are so supportive of other business types but there’s just something about direct sales/network marketing that has a bad rep I suppose…

  • Awesome! Great advice. I could not have come accross this article at another time. I needed to know how to deal with friends and family that dont support me as a business person and you’ve answered some of my main questions. Thank you.

  • I love this article and totally agree! Thanks for your insight! Shared too my fb! 😍 I hope ALL of my facebook “framily” takes a moment to read it. 🤗

  • I love this! It has been tough to see some of my friends go in other directions when I joined my company. But…I joined for me. I will try to focus more on that and not how it sometimes feels very hurtful when my friends and family aren’t supportive (and I’m not talking money!). Thank you for the reminder to stay focused on my WHY.

  • This is an honest and straightforward article and I applaud you for it!
    I’m not a NWM and never have been, but I do think people think that being unjustly rude to a nwm’r is somehow cool or funny and okay. The cyberbullying rules don’t apply to nwm’s it seems- which is not really ok at all.
    Now yes, I get it that some ppl are a total pain in the butt with cold messaging etc, but some regular companies send far too many marketing emails, i’m sick of the funeral plan ads on tv too, and life ins ads. Ads ads ads!
    I guess i’m saying just don’t be so unkind…. to anyone! Its been a crap year has 2020, I doubt anyone is really living their ‘Facebook Life’.
    None of us know the ins and outs of anyone elses life, and words can cut to the quick if someone is already having a hard time.
    Just #BeKind. It’s not that hard to do!

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