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!

40 Comments

  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.

  8. Meg Rush

    Wow! There is a lot of animosity on this site. I can understand that, if you thought you were going to make a living from selling Mary Kay. Perhaps it is because I didn’t start with them until I retired from my career that I have a different attitude. I have watched many entrepreneurship businesses and companies that sell through home parties. I never expected to be able to finance my life with MK, maybe that is why I have a different take on this company. I don’t like sales IF you turn into one of those “used car salesman types.” Much of what I’ve had recommended to me at MK as strategies and techniques, I have just laughed at privately. If I wouldn’t have enjoyed having it happen to me, I would never use it on anyone else. Mary Kay is truly your own business as they say. You don’t have to do it their way, you can run your business your own way. I am not willing to compromise my integrity or dignity to sell some lipstick. That being said, whoever thought that anything sells itself (unless it is a healthcare product perhaps) is just kidding themselves. Why are there all the commercials on TV if things sell themselves? Granted, some things seem to do a super job for many people and word of mouth helps out in those situations. But something flying off of the shelves, like the Beverly Hills eye shadow, can be the simple thing of ‘Oh, I’ve got to have that if so and so has that.” It may truly be nothing about the product itself.
    I see Mary Kay as a side business. If you try to make it into a living, what I see happening to those people is not something I want to live. Constant emails, hand holding, notifications, video recordings, “happy face” talk, etc. etc. It’s not what I would want for a life. That is what they hold out there to young moms…that they can have it all, time with their families, time for themselves and a thriving business. You have to have a certain kind of personality for that to happen, because truly it is A LOT MORE WORK than they advertise. I’ve had my disappointments with MK, the packaging…things break or are poorly manufactured… many of my friends are allergic to their products…hold a class and not one person purchases anything. Mostly you have to decide if you believe in what you are selling. If that is not there, then you should not be in the business. Use common sense. If someone suggests techniques that you know are not your “style” then don’t use them. Come up with what fits you. And for pity’s sake, stop being crybabies on blogs/websites about a company that you tried and it didn’t work out for you. That’s life. You can’t believe everything that is used on you to get you to join an enterprise. That is called the gift of persuasion. Some people use it in a manipulative way….learn that now and you will make better decisions in the future.

    1. TRACY

      We are angry about all the lies that are told in order to recruit women into Mary Kay. We don’t want to stand silently by as these things happen. I won’t apologize for that.

      Mary Kay is not a business. Nearly everyone loses money in MLM because it is nothing more than a recruiting pyramid scheme. Did I mention that’s not a business?

    2. BestDecision

      Believe me, lady, I cried more in MK than I have out of it. So please refrain from calling us “crybabies”.

      The very company that stands on the Golden Rule and touts “God first” is the very company sucking money out of every member of the sales force–not just the ones recruiting. Because you say you go to your unit meetings weekly, I’m betting you like the feeling of belonging and social aspect of it. That’s fine if you admit it, but far too many–the majority–don’t.

      From mentioning bad packaging to customer allergies, you mentioned a whole list of why NOT to be a part of the company. Shall I remind you it’s the same company touting it doesn’t test on animals, yet it does. It’s the company founded in the USA but now focuses its attention on its rising market and superstar…Mexico.

      So, frankly, I question YOUR mindset, ethics, and motives for staying semi-loyal to a brand that’s that bad. Your attitude and examples actually portray you as a crybaby, according to every Director and NSD in the company that talks about people like you behind your back. Not recruiting? Oh, you’re NOTHING to them.

      How are those $70 sheet masks selling, by the way??

    3. Char

      “And for pity’s sake, stop being crybabies on blogs/websites about a company that you tried and it didn’t work out for you.”

      You make the assumption that being an advocate means you must have committed the act, and even worse, not gotten away with it.

      Maybe there are just some good, intelligent people out there who want to help prevent harm to others and enlighten them by sharing their years of experience on the matter.

      “I am not willing to compromise my integrity or dignity to sell some lipstick.” – Then why are you part of a pyramid scheme?

    4. Soldier4life

      Meg Rush, I am happy to see a comment not bashing MK. I sell it and all of the comments have enlightened me but yours did the most. Unethical acts are made by people everywhere. I’ve been in the business world almost 30 yrs and if we put every company up for discussion we’d find bad or crooked managers in fast food chains, clothing stores, banks, etc. There’s also marketing depts. that come up with the best way to sell a product which MK does for the consultants. Every suggestion is just that, a suggestion. We are in control and I’m glad you pointed out that if you couldn’t see yourself enjoying being on the receiving end then you didn’t do it. That helped me. I wanted to replace my income with it, but like you said, is it something i want to do all of my life? I don’t know. I don’t think so but that’s something for me to decide. I want to help women with a product i found helpful in my own life and that worked for my sisters as well. That’s why I began selling it. That and MKs book that shared a piece of the woman behind Mary Kay. I related to her. If a consultant or director is ever being unethical, we can call corporate and they’ll investigate. Hopefully the truth comes out but if not, God can still intervene. I stand behind the values this company was created upon but don’t expect everyone to nor do i expect everyone to love the products. If I like something, I buy it, if not, I don’t. Thanks again for your comment.

      1. PurpleH

        Here’s a sampling of unethical practices that I have seen in the local NSD’s area and/or were done to me. I was never a big player, but my SD is a first-line from a NSD, so I had a front-row seat to these shenanigans.
        *NSD’s daughter was in charge of distributing names from an event where 6 of us worked – we used our own samples and paid for parking and lunch to do 2 sessions of large- group facials. Every name I received was under-age, out-of-town, or incomplete contact information. Same thing happened when we worked a trade show display- hundreds of names, and we always got the useless names. Paid her for them, too.
        * a “Sister Director” of my SD recruited my customer and her best friend even though they told her they had a consultant, told her my name and we knew each other well. She said they told her I had never given them the career information so they were fair game. Never called me to confirm or suggest that they were interested, just signed them up!
        *the next closest NSD in the next city is well-known for stacking her area with so-calls girlfriend clubs. That means she signs up every hostess and all the guests pitch in for the starter kit to guarantee they can shop at half-price for x-many orders. Even if there were real customers out there, she has flooded the area with consultant/ half price shoppers so no one would ever pay full price.
        What results do you think we’d get from reporting these activities to MK Corporate?

        1. Soldier4life

          I’m going to call and find out. If there’s currently no way to stop this from happening because no rules are broken, something needs to be put in place to discourage and/or prevent it.

          1. BestDecision

            The legal department will do nothing because no one is an employee. You can’t fire independent contractors. While there’s never been a “rule” about stealing customers and recruits, it was under the “Golden Rule” philosophy, but greed and ego have made monsters out of the entire sales force.

            Trust me. There are Directors and NSDs with many reports against them, but it’s impossible to get them out. I’ve tried.

            1. Soldier4life

              At last year’s career conference one of the NSD’s urged us to stop letting our sister consultants in our stock. If their customer needs something, they should have to buy it just like we have to. To me, that showed that they want us to follow the rules. I’ve seen that rule bent myself many times and knowing others are getting away with much worse makes my stomach curl.

              1. Still Breaking The Basic

                ” To me, that showed that they want us to follow the rules.”

                Not so. What they want is for consultants to continually place large orders. MKC treats consultants as customers who are the end-users. MKC only tracks sales to consultants. They, as well as directors, could care less if product gets sold or not. If you sell it, good for you. If not, it’s your fault because you didn’t work your business.

                Or your abundance mentality and deserve levels are too low.

                It’s always the consultants fault, not MKC,

      2. Lazy Gardens

        “That and MKs book that shared a piece of the woman behind Mary Kay.”

        The “woman behind Mary Kay” was a liar. She lied about the number of husbands she had, she lied about her childhood circumstances, she lied about being a striving single mother …

        http://lazygardens.blogspot.com/2015/04/mary-kay-ash-and-missing-marriages.html

        She was the origin of many of the bad practices that still flourish, such as the fake “I’m in a contest” way of getting sympathy. She deliberately designed the multiple levels and different uniforms to keep the consultants striving and buying.

        1. Soldier4life

          I was referring to Miracles Happen. In that book, she recommends that women get up early, work for themselves as they would for anyone else and believe in themselves. Not everyone is going to like everyone but based on that book, i like her. I don’t need to read anything from anyone divulging her deepest secrets or messups in life. I’ve got enough of my own to worry about. Any mistakes she may have made don’t change what i think of the woman she became.
          As far as the contest marketing thing goes, it’s an idea and every company has them. It’s not a lie because your director gets your results and you are in a contest with yourself. That’s sales! Heller! lol And lastly, a consultant can choose not to purchase any time. I’ve been low on grocery money, then happen to get a couple orders of cologne and I’m good. But I’ve also been low on money because i bought product and didn’t try to sell it. That’s on me. I’m not trapped or misled, I know what I got into. That goes for any small business. When the cost outweighs the profit, I’ve got to check out or decide to be the saleswoman i signed up to be. Either one is fine. We all make a living the way we choose to.

        2. Soldier4life

          I was referring to Miracles Happen. In that book, she recommends that women get up early, work for themselves as they would for anyone else and believe in themselves. Not everyone is going to like everyone but based on that book, i like her. I don’t need to read anything from anyone divulging her deepest secrets or messups in life. I’ve got enough of my own to worry about. Any mistakes she may have made don’t change what i think of the woman she became.
          As far as the contest marketing thing goes, it’s an idea and every company has them. It’s not a lie because your director gets your results and you are in a contest with yourself. That’s sales! Heller! lol And lastly, a consultant can choose not to purchase any time. I’ve been low on grocery money, then happen to get a couple orders of cologne and I’m good. But I’ve also been low on money because i bought product and didn’t try to sell it. That’s on me. I’m not trapped or misled, I know what I got into and I’m definitely not trying to trick anyone.

        1. Soldier4life

          😔 I’m a woman in a management position at my full time job. The mindset that nothing will ever change because of who’s running the ship is something I fight daily. People don’t report because they think nothing will ever change or they’d done it before but nothing changed. Well, there’s one thing for certain, if you don’t report wrong doing, nothing will ever change. If you have to report it more than once, so be it. Or you can sit behind your oh so comfy screen and blow hot air and insults at anyone trying to make a difference.

          1. Char

            “Well, there’s one thing for certain, if you don’t report wrong doing, nothing will ever change.”

            Oh good grief. I see it’s still going over your head. Let me try an analogy:

            Do you think it’s any good calling the Mob Boss to tell them that someone who represents them is a criminal?

            Mary Kay Corporate is an MLM. That is how they exist. Complaining about MLMers doing MLMing to an MLM corporation is futile.

        2. Still Breaking The Basic

          Call corporate to report someone selling obsolete product on Ebay trying to recoup a few dollars to get out of debt, and watch how fast they respond.

          They only enforce the rules when their bottom line is affected.

        1. Soldier4life

          Omg…lol. Go pick up a newspaper or use google. Your friends and family members are likely to work for some too. Every company out there boasts about the golden rule and how much their employees or customers mean to them when you sign up. Once you’re in though, you see who works the system. I’m not going to drag any names thru the mud because it’s unnecessary. Companies are run and represented by people and unfortunately, some of us are crooked.

          1. BestDecision

            No, I mean LITERALLY have bible quotes on the walls of their global headquarters. There’s a mighty difference in abusing scripture/God/religion and claiming to care about employees.

            And just to reiterate: Not one NSD, Director, or Consultant are employees. For so many to be obviously doing so much wrong, it’s marred MK’s credibility because they let it all go, turn their heads, and enjoy the revenue that keeps rolling in with it. I was a Director for many years, so I’ve seen a lot of that.

    5. MyGenderIsCatLady

      ColourPop just came out with a new palette literally hours ago. I bought it instantaneously because I can trust that the quality of it is excellent, and the price point was reasonable. THAT’S how a product sells itself – consistently high quality that is worth the price.

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