Sneaky Ways to Sell Mary Kay

One of the first things I was taught after I started Mary Kay was how to “reconnect” with old friends in order to sell the product. They get you to make a list of “everyone with skin” that you know, so you can start begging them to “help me meet a challenge” or “help me start my business” or some other lame guilt trip.

Once you get through your list of current friends and family, you’re encouraged to think of old friends you haven’t talked to in a while. You contact them under the pretense of “reconnecting” (what a great buzz word), but then as soon as they ask what’s new, you launch into your spiel about this great new thing you’re doing (Mary Kay). When I was in MK, you had to find their phone number, so that involved a phone book or some sort of directory. Today it’s connecting with them on Facebook or Instagram.

From there you try to get them to hold a class with their friends and family, and if they’re foolish enough to do that, you start with the recruiting lines and continue on from there.

Sales directors encourage the use of these types of tactics, which I find sneaky and disingenuous. Sure, they may be nice people and you might be happy that you looked them up again. But if you were honest with yourself, you know that you wouldn’t have had any interest in “reconnecting” if you weren’t trying to pimp some overpriced beauty products. In fact, if you had an interest outside of MK, you would have called them BEFORE you joined!

The old school methods involved using tactics like “Secret Pal” or “Secret Santa.” You would get your hands on a list of names and start contacting them with a line about how someone wanted to give them a Secret Pal Pampering Package. Sure, you wanted to be their pal for monetary reasons, so technically it was true. You would get your hands on any sort of directory (church, mom’s club, PTA, etc) that would list names and numbers and start making the calls. I always felt that this method was dishonest. Even though you could technically say you told the truth, in your heart you knew that you created a false situation in order to lure someone into having a party.

The more current methods revolve around posting endless things on social media. There are a couple of different ways to do this. One involves doing promotional types of posts which promote the various products and ask people to buy them and/or host classes. The other kind of social media posts flaunt a lifestyle that you say MLM offers and you casually mention your MLM in every post and make sure everyone knows the MLM is responsible for this wonderfulness.

No discussion of sneaky tactics would be complete without mentioning “warm chatter,” a favorite Mary Kay ruse. Included in this is offering a supposedly sincere compliment to someone in order to start a conversation that will quickly lead to mentioning Mary Kay. It’s the equivalent of stalking people in public to badger them (even if it is ever-so-subtle) about lipstick. Who wants to be approached at Target while they’re shopping? How embarrassing to have to spend loitering at Starbucks trying to meet women coming in for their morning coffee so you can give them a “sincere compliment”?

Now… I get the concept of “networking.” I’ve done it to build my own real business. But I’ve done it in a genuine way, not with these tricky little methods.  I haven’t contacted anyone to pretend to “reconnect.” I’ve told people about my company in the context of a legitimate, genuine conversation… not because I want to recruit them or sell them something. I haven’t stalked women at Target or Starbucks to try to push my services.

These tactics in the context of Mary Kay are so insincere. And if you doubt that… Just remember that one of the key teachings in Mary Kay is “work the numbers.” Have you been told: “Some will, some won’t, who’s next!”??? These things demonstrate how the goal of Mary Kay isn’t sincere interaction with women. It’s about playing a numbers game and moving on to the next person with skin who might be interested.

Share your favorite sneaky Mary Kay selling or recruiting strategy!


  1. megaforte84

    I never knew how scammy this actually was until I started lurking here, but I had my suspicions.

    One of the mothers in my high school band had a deal with the band director that if the band moms and other relatives who used Mary Kay ordered through her, a significant percentage of the price would end up in the band accounts used to offset band expenses. It may have even been a full 50%, which was what set off flags for me. (My mother used some Mary Kay products at the time, and had Opinions to say the least about anyone who took her up on this, which is part of why I noticed and remember it so well.)

    I never knowingly saw her. The band director simply made the announcement at the beginning of the year and made her phone number available for anyone who wanted to take her up on it.

    What this meant was she almost inevitably poached anyone with an established order history with another consultant for whatever years they had kids in band AND got their orders with next to no effort but for no profit to her (now that I know what the margin to her actually was). She did this with no proof she actively pursued anyone, since of course SHE never made the offer herself. And then there were the other moms who got lured in by ‘half your makeup costs to offset band fees’, for whom she merely needed to schedule a consultation without having to use sales techniques on anyone beyond trying to increase the order size.

    Which makes no ‘business’ sense, but makes every kind of sense if what she was after was the completely reliable free-to-her priced-at-wholesale sales that let her meet production goals with no stress and nearly no effort beyond the ordering itself and making sure the money to the band connected to the right student accounts. Mothers whose kids graduated were reliably replaced by the mothers of freshmen, so she only needed to retain any of those customers for a few years at most (and now that I think about it, she would have reliably known the optimum time for recruitment pushes – senior spring of their last child, when they’d be about to leave her customer base anyway and wouldn’t be a financial loss to her if they turned into commission income).

    At least someone using a PTA directory had to make actual cold calls. She had the MLM equivalent of a caged hunt going for a solid decade.

  2. Shay

    If MK products indeed “sold themselves” then wouldn’t be necessary.
    MK products are over priced and not even that good.
    Example: when the Antastasia Beverly Hills second Eyeshadow palette came out.. and sold out fast.. people were offering to pay triple the price.. you would never hear this with MK.

    Seriously? If someone contacted you like this- what would you say to them?

  3. Peaches

    Geez, I was in a HS Band and the band director would not have gone for the “easy” money. He had a philosophy that if the band needed funds the STUDENTS would do the fund raising and would build character along the way.

    But I can see how this would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Just open a directory and start guilt tripping parents.

    NICE. Really nice.

    1. megaforte84

      That’s the thing, though. They never guilt-tripped. They never called down the directory. And they had plenty of other fundraising opportunities that counted which were ‘students earn money’. (I hope never to smell that much citrus in one underventilated place ever again.) It was just one little aside once a year that the hierarchy above her never need officially know about and the consultants and directors in the area never have provable physical evidence of.

      But if you were already getting makeup from Mary Kay or were interested, just think how many boxes of oranges sold that 50% was worth, without doing anything you weren’t already going to do! And the whole thing framed as being out of the goodness of her heart, instead of letting anyone know that amount of regular assured ordering for her was probably keeping her from the ranks of the garage-qualified and might have even kept her in a copay-free car.

  4. Did Pink

    Over the past decade, since social media became the norm, I have had about a dozen or so ‘friends’ reach out to me or friend me then hit me up. One friended me and then tried to get me to sign up for shakology. After I replied no thanks, I was unfriended within days. Some friend!

  5. PinkJedi

    I joined MK and then a few weeks later, I was on vacation for a month in another country(Ok not really vacation, I was visiting my husband stationed overseas and having to work remotely….the fraud just drips from the fingers! lol). When I returned, I discovered my SD and her Senior went through my entire friend list on Facebook and contacted every single person. They said it was to help me out and get me started…. I should have ran then…..

    1. BestDecision

      If the business worked and the products were that good, you’d not need to find “new ways”. They’d sell themselves, people would be calling YOU for bookings, and you’d have your customers begging to be on your team. Take it from someone who was a Director and watched my own offspring chasing their tails: You’re in a losing situation!

    2. Char

      I’ve been trying to think of new ways to rob a bank, but stealing is still stealing no matter how you do it. And, MLMing is still MLMing. It is what it is and you can’t fix it.

  6. TRACY

    New ways, you say? Who knew! I bet we all wish we had thought of that!

    Just kidding. Mary Kay is not a business and it still sucks, no matter how differently you think you’ll do things.

  7. SoldOut

    I have been threatened with a lawsuit for selling a lawsuit on eBay . I own a small inventory that I purchased from someone else . I use my own pictures and descriptions. . I see on eBay chat pages this is common. If I’m not a consultant , what can I do to get these threats to stop? Many people sell name brand things on amazon and eBay. I called eBay and they said as long as I own the products and don’t use the company’s photos or ads I am not doing anything wrong . How do I make sure they don’t get my personal information off
    eBay or PayPal?

    1. TRACY

      eBay is right but MK files these lawsuits because they know it will force the sellers to stop. Who has the money to hire an attorney to fight MK on it? It’s a dirty tactic and they know it, but they keep using it because it works.

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