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What I Learned From Multi-Level Marketing

I love that the Lord can use something as seemingly superficial as selling beauty products to teach me more about Himself.

I couldn’t believe what I’d just agreed to. I don’t know if was a side-effect of the peppermint mocha I was drinking or the giddiness of spending a day with my sisters or a combination of both. But in a moment of solidarity, I had agreed to join my sisters in a business venture: selling our favorite skin care and beauty products.

I was home for Thanksgiving break when we began discussing our dreams and goals for the future. And before I knew it, we were making a plan to make a splash in the beauty biz.

A few days later, I sat in front of my computer, composing an e-mail to inform my friends of my newfound passion for cosmetics. I willed away the images of ladies driving pink cars (even though that wasn’t the company I was representing), as I wrote and rewrote my “happy” news.

Honestly, I felt like I was writing a confession:

Dear (former) friends. I am writing to inform you that I have joined a network marketing company. I realize that this decision may cause you to terminate our friendship. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Of course, that’s not what I wrote. But it was with trepidation that I sent out the announcement. I felt awkward. After all, sales, network marketing and the beauty product industry had up until this point been foreign territory for me. As much as I loved the products I was representing, I had my own negative stereotypes of this kind of company and I felt certain many of my friends felt the same way.

Beauty Products and Evangelism

As I began to understand the tenets of the company I was serving, a surprising thing happened. I made this realization: Evangelism is essentially network marketing.

Consider the similarities:

  • You have a “product” you believe in.
  • You are seeking to share the results of your “product” in a way that entices others to try it.
  • You are seeking to duplicate yourself in other “believers” in order to get the word out more effectively.

As I considered the factors that made this particular company successful (with 100 percent growth per year for the past five years), I realized that they relied heavily on the principles of evangelism outlined in Scripture. In fact, I could not ignore the parallels.

No matter how much you believe in the product, you must overcome fear to “sell” it to your friends. Whether your product is face wash that has saved your skin or the gospel that has saved your soul, telling others about something that comes with a price tag can be uncomfortable. (You may be saying, “Salvation is a free gift!” This is true. But most people perceive you are trying to take something from them because they will have to alter their me-centered lifestyle.)

A fear of rejection is the driving force behind this discomfort. And I believe this fear is based more in pride than a lack of confidence in the product. For example, I don’t want to appear to be “one of those _________” (judgmental Christians, pushy salespeople, makeover-obsessed divas, etc.). Paul says: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16).

In the business, my sponsor, Jessica, is the perfect example of a bold “evangelist.” Because of the results she and her team have experienced from using these products, she is utterly convinced of their worth and therefore unapologetic in her presentation. I would like to have this same boldness when I share the gospel.

To sell the product, you must be the success story. The first thing my company tells you to do is “become a product of the product” by using the various items, and thus experiencing the results for yourself. The other morning I snapped awake to the brilliance of this statement as it relates to evangelism. As a Christian, to “become a product of the Product” is to become more like Christ. The Bible indicates this will elicit questions from curious observers (1 Peter 3:15).

When I began my business, I was surprised when a woman I have known for eight years immediately asked to purchase a large amount of products. She confessed, “I didn’t want to say anything, but I noticed how beautiful your skin looked at the Christmas party.” She had seen the change and was eager to try the product.

Similarly, when I live a life filled to overflowing by my relationship with Christ, I will naturally attract those looking for what I have. People will be more likely to give Christianity a try if they see that my words and my lifestyle match.

Christianity is designed to operate like network marketing. As I was discussing this truth with my friends the other night, we laughed at the thought of hosting “Jesus Parties.” But listen to what Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”

Right now I’m a newbie to the whole beauty product thing. Jessica’s really good at it. As she hands over all her tools and insights, I am gaining what I need to become a successful consultant. Duplicating yourself is a core value of network marketing. In fact, you reap more benefits as you produce and invest in team members who are “qualified to teach others.”

The motivation for effective evangelism is a big “why.” When you become a consultant, my company asks you to come up with your “why” for doing the business. For example, my sponsor Jessica’s “why” is a woman in Rwanda whose husband was killed during the genocide. That woman — and many other widows and orphans — are helped by Jessica’s substantial monthly donations.

As part of your preparation, you must discover your “why,” whether it’s putting your kids through college or building an orphanage in a third-world country. If you don’t know your “why,” enthusiasm for selling lip gloss and shampoo will eventually wane. There has to be an objective bigger than the immediate that keeps you going when times get rough or sales seem slow.

As a Christian, my “whys” for evangelism are evident: Christ’s love and God’s mercy.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. (2 Corinthians 5:14)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)

These two things should cause my heart to burn for those who do not have what I have — eternal life and a love relationship with Jesus Christ. My “why” helps me overcome my pride of not wanting to appear to be “one of those Christians” and allows me to rise above my fear of rejection.

Not everyone will respond, no matter how valuable the prize. But some will. The company I represent encourages its consultants to measure success by activity, not results. Statistically speaking, if you tell a certain number of people about the products you will discover a corresponding number of people who are interested.

My confidence was bolstered when a friend of mine — a young mom — responded to my e-mail. “Thank you for telling me about this!” she wrote. “I am having a crisis with my skin and this is just what I’m looking for.” As much as I was hesitant to get the word out, this one person who needed what I was offering made the discomfort worth it.

I need to remember this when I’m telling people about Christ. I can become discouraged when people respond to the message negatively — and even judge me personally for being a Christian. But if I cease to tell people that Christ died for their sins and rose again, how will those desperately in need of a relationship with Him hear?

I recently heard of a barista who, seeing the stricken expression on a customer’s face, asked if she was OK. Initially, the woman said she was fine, but by the time she came to pick up her drink she confided to the young woman that her life was falling apart. The barista clocked out for her break and sat with the woman. Several minutes later, the barista had led the woman to Christ. We will never know who is ready to respond to the gospel unless we offer it.

I love that the Lord can use something as seemingly superficial as selling beauty products to teach me more about Himself. Perhaps that will turn out to be my “why.” I don’t know how long I’ll be in the beauty biz, but I hope the renewed passion I feel for sharing the gospel continues to grow long after I put the lip gloss away.

Copyright 2009 Suzanne Gosselin. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Suzanne Gosselin
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She graduated from Multnomah University with a degree in journalism and biblical theology. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, and her four young children: Josiah, Sadie, Amelia and Jackson. When she’s not hanging out with her kids, Suzanne loves a good cup of coffee, conversation with friends, musical theater and a trip to the beautiful California coast.

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