Facts, opinions, and the real story behind Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Impossible to Get to NSD

This is a piece submitted by a woman who worked in MLM that was not Mary Kay. But she was selling products to women, and the numbers are really no different than MK. Take a look at how dismal the recruiting prospects are, and how nearly impossible it is to make it to National Sales Director. Of course, it’s POSSIBLE to get to NSD…. but with just over 200 NSD and millions of women who have gone through MK’s doors in the last couple of decades or so, you can see that almost no one does it.

As an award winning top personal recruiter in another multi-level marketing company, this was my experience.

For every SEVEN new customers I added to my customer base: I signed only ONE new recruit. (I know, I know… make-up MLM is an easier sell. You all kicked my butt at recruiting!)

For every TEN qualified consultants I recruited (who placed a first inventory order): FOUR would quit before the end of the year.

For that same TEN consultants I recruited on my team: Only FOUR would duplicate themselves by accidentally, or with my help, recruiting someone else

Those FOUR out of TEN consultants who recruited someone else would end up being glorified personal use consultants who only worked “sometimes” and they would never have more than 2-3 on their team during their career–and never the same 2! So in MK speak… always gunning for Red Jacket!

I had to personally sign about TWENTY new recruits to find that ONE really sharp woman who would be interested in consistently doing the actual work of selling and recruiting it takes to “go to the top” (it’s like panning for gold!) and even they would burn out so very fast!!! But I never knew who would last so I really believed in each and every one! I was always disappointed. *sigh*

SO it actually worked out that for every THIRTY recruits I personally signed up, only ONE would actually became a seasoned enough recruiter to make it through a “Qualification” period to promote within one year of becoming a consultant (Like DIQ)

And sadly, in our MLM, for every TWO bona fide director-types who promoted, ONE would not maintain enough minimum group production or minimum number of active consultants to keep her title beyond that first year and they would wash out. That is a 50% attrition rate for new director-types!!!!

I had always been told of the attrition rate of CONSULTANTS… but when I discovered the truth about the attrition rate of “DIRECTOR-TYPES” at the corporate sponsored “new director-type Training” we had to attend… I really got to thinking what I was up against in order to claw my way to the top of the pyramid!!!

[Note: I walked away from all MLM at about this point after promoting an offspring and working like hell to do it again. I figured out that moving up in an MLM truly WAS as I was told by a NSD-type, “Like running up the down escalator… hard to get ahead, and you will end up back on the ground floor if you stay in one place.” And it is soooo true that you are not compensated for your time and hard work until the very, tippy top. And only 1% ever gets that far. ]

So stay with me now… In order to get to the top of the ladder (like NSD) by having 20-30+ “director-types” (or whatever the MLM calls for) on board at the same time, I figured I would have to:

  • Find 4,200+ new customers in a hurry so that I could
  • Recruit 600+ new consultants in order to “pan for gold” and work real hard to
  • Develop 20+ solid “director-types” before they all got discouraged and quit!

… and then I would have to be sure to replace the 240 consultants who will QUIT within a year (much more would quit in MK!) by making sure my team found 1,680 new customers (that’s a lot of women to say “yes” when stalked at Target)

… and be simultaneously developing at least 10 new director-types (lots of DIQs waiting in the wings!) to replace the 10 director-types who will not maintain their status by this time next year…

And THAT is just barely enough to skate by, qualify, and MAINTAIN a tippy-top director position!
And in reality you know there are NSDs who have WAY MORE than 600 people in their units… it takes THOUSANDS to build a really strong business!!!

So… I would have to be an EXCELLENT motivator to convince as many of my hapless team members as possible go out and sell and recruit to maintain the pyramid… mostly by shifting all of the work to mid-level director-types who will work their tails off to maintain their tiny pyramids within my bigger pyramid…

They say in MK to “do it fast” because attrition is always nipping at your heels… over 70% instead of the 40% I was used to in my MLM… because the bottom of the pyramid is always crumbling away… and it is not possible do all the work all by yourself if you are playing by the rules to grow your teams.


  1. Destiny Angel

    “Find 4,200+ new customers in a hurry ”

    I live in a town of 12,000, 4,200 would be almost all of the women aged 16-60. It’s staggering to imagine that many women buying only one brand of any product at the same time.

    1. Mountaineer95

      And then factor in that not only does everyone in the pyramid need to find new customers, but they also need to find recruits. At any given time while you’re “in” the pyramid, you have to get recruits, but you’re told that you will also have customers who will pay full retail. It’s just ridiculous the sheer numbers needed to succeed, and one thing that we here all know but that the MLM diehards just refuse to even acknowledge is that FOR EVERY PERSON WHO JOINS THE PYRAMID X AMOUNT ARE NEEDED FOR THEM TO MOVE UP AND IF YOU EXTRAPOLATE IT OUT, YOU VERY QUICKLY EXCEED THE POPULATION OF THE EARTH. So basically, when you recruit, you SHOULD be telling your recruits that it is not possible for all of them to achieve the top levels of the pyramid. Because it’s not; we simply don’t have enough breathing humans to support it.

      1. Destiny Angel

        I know friends of friends who are constantly trying to recruit me because I’m an Anglophone in Quebec with strong Ontario ties. I should be ideally placed to grown multiple downlines. And I probably could if I wasn’t so damned lazy.

        But you are right, eventually we run out of people. “But Destiny”, I hear the huns call. “There are so many people turning 18 every day. They are our future.”

        The amount of available knowledge that the average 18 yo can access regarding Mk and other MLMs mean that a lot of them are unwilling to join up because they have read the various sub-reddits, found the John Oliver youtube, peaked into Elle Beau’s Younique blog and probably stumbled onto the Pink Truth.
        It’s getting a lot harder to bamboozle young impressionable minds, I hope.

    1. Kristen

      I would bet that the average person gets dizzy with the math. It’s far easier to look at Jamie and say, “Yeah, but she did it! So what if it’s hard. It must be possible. I’ll just do what she did.”

      What does it really take to make it to NSD? How many women do you have to scam in order to get there? I would be curious as to how many women’s lives Jamie has “touched” (i.e. disrupted/ruined) in order to get where she is. I wonder if that sobering fact would wake her up.

    2. Mountaineer95

      Escalators scare the bejesus out of me. Such as the sheer cliffs they have in the Atlanta transit system. Anyone who has the stomach for it can look up the “Colorado Rockies Escalator Accident”. It made an episode of “I Survived”. Sorry for the OT, when I hear “escalator” I hear “shredded to death”.

  2. Data Junkie

    These numbers are sobering. Wow!

    Speaking of “the bottom of the pyramid is always crumbling away”, what is the mathematical constraint for the average number of down-line reps per rep in any MLM? Less than one! This means that for every rep in the downline with 3 reps below them, 3 others must have zero. This constraint cannot be avoided.

    This is why the bottom must continue to crumble, and why high rep churn is not only desirable but is actually necessary to keep cash flowing upward in any MLM. Downline stability is the enemy of the up-line. The folks at the bottom simply can’t personally afford to be repeat customers at the level required to “feed the beast”. Once exploited, these reps need to be replaced regularly with fresh recruits willing and able to purchase that lucrative “starter kit” (and at the highest level possible).

    Even qualifying minimums can only keep cash flowing for a spell, being only somewhat sustainable for that elusive rep with some other stream of money they can afford to direct into their MLM “business” (until they get bored and move on, that is).

    (For those interested in the underlying math, sorry for the repeat, but it fits here):

  3. NayMKWay

    These are indeed sobering numbers, particularly in light of the financial hardship they represent. Those many, many drop-outs were real people with real needs who took real losses. But they might as well be discarded peanut shells to the MLM corporate machinery.


  4. Shay

    Time to look for a real job for anyone in a MLM. And don’t fall for them “training” videos of former NSD’s who didn’t make it but think they can teach you.

    Michelle Cunningham

    “P.S. you know who you are, I just talked about her. I’m ready. 😂

  5. TRACY

    Remember how Jamie tried to finish NSD? Twice she did a weekend lockdown with her directors where they all recruited and coerced orders from new and old consultants to try to get the production and directors needed to qualify for NSD. The first time didn’t work. The second time did. (But of course was done with people putting orders they didn’t need on credit cards: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/rx1z8grhNcE)

    1. Mountaineer95

      Speaking of Jamie’s incredible success in achieving NSD, is there any update on this supposed “office job” that Princess Chelsea Claytor Adkins has taken on? Why on Earth would a super busy, super successful Cadillac Director who can buy $250 shots of Tequila and who can afford an assistant need or want to take on a Journey Of the Broke? It can only take her time away from her successful Cadillac Unit.

      *drooling at the mouth awaiting the scathing front page expose about this*

  6. Juliet

    DataJunkie: This is why the bottom must continue to crumble, and why high rep churn is not only desirable but is actually necessary to keep cash flowing upward in any MLM. Downline stability is the enemy of the up-line.

    WOW. These sentences honestly made me go “hmm!” and stop and re-read it. That makes SO MUCH SENSE but is so horrible when that’s such the opposite of the brainwashing scripts. That could be some convincing information for someone.

    Thank you, Data, for all the information you do provide. I am a data junkie myself but more at absorbing rather than producing! I so appreciate ALL the information everyone presents!

    1. Data Junkie

      Thanks for the kind words. I am very happy to share what I’ve gleaned about MLMs over the years. In the context of this post, in Mary Kay there is a term for reps that have stayed beyond their usefulness to the up-line: “Stale Consultants”.

      Consultants such as these need to be ignored and/or replaced, as they are a drain on the sales director and provide no value to the up-line.

      “Churn baby churn”…the only way to make it big in any MLM. It would be interesting to see the total number of consultants who have purchased inventory kits (and then left MK) in the downline of each of the NSDs to see the true “human cost” of their rank.

      Now that would be sobering.

  7. BestDecision

    Directors, remember “1/3, 1/3, 1/3”? We did a lot of chasing, convincing, bribing, manipulating, and faking to get people in and then to stay, didn’t we? The same people are still in the company doing the same thing, and they’ve no retirement or benefits to show for it.

    And my car? Paid for. No worries about payments for a quarter if I don’t have a good month. No threat of $900 being taken out every month for hitting way over half the maintenance for Cadillac. And no need to “dress for success” everywhere I go because with might be recognized.

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