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

Is It About Selling Products or Getting Recruits?

Written by SuzyQ

Sales directors are continually taught that their job is to bring in new recruits. New recruits mean new inventory purchases and more production means a higher monthly commission check.

For those of you who are laboring under the assumption that directors are taught to be concerned with your customer sales and numbers of classes you are having, it simply isn’t true. They are concerned with your customer list because within that list, potential new unit members can be found. This is why they push you to bring models and guests to the weekly meetings and other events.

Directors are concerned about the quality of women you bring to these success events, and they are not looking for women who do not have any resources (credit cards, cosigners). Women who cannot place initial inventory orders do them no good. The bigger the order, the greater the commission check. This is also why directors admonish you not to discuss inventory options with your new or potential recruit. That is the sales director’s job. They are not inclined to “turn their paycheck over” to you.

At company events sales directors are continually taught that unit size is everything. They sometimes are assigned classes based on our unit size. Those with bigger units are taught retention ploys, those with smaller units are taught recruiting ploys. Star Consultants equal unit club – 20 star consultants in a seminar year equal $200,000 Unit Club. 50 Stars equal $500,000 Unit Club etc etc.

You may have noted that the inventory options worksheet does not include the $225 wholesale order. A $225 order does the sales director little good. You may have also noticed that it is almost impossible for your score anything less than $1,200 inventory on that inventory options sheet! There’s a reason!

“New blood” equals new money. New consultants are the most excited and the most likely to purchase a profit level inventory. “Seasoned Consultants” and their orders are referred to as base production. Directors count on 1/3 of the unit ordering each month. This is base. Directors’ personal orders are also included in the base production amount. Sales directors nearly always order at least $600 wholesale – not because they need that much, but instead to earn a 13% commission on their personal team members’ orders. They count more heavily on new recruits to bring the numbers up and increase the unit production.

Mary Kay sales directors need to replace at least 1/3 of the unit to make forward progress, at least a 20% growth, or they will go backwards. Mary Kay told us that we need to keep the front door open to replace those who are going out the back door. There has also been an analogy to trying to fill a bathtub with the drain open. The attrition rate is breathtaking.

The directors focus on getting you into a red jacket as soon as possible in your career in case you lose interest and decide to quit. We call this recruiting behind you. If you leave, so what. The director still has your recruits. (And their recruits, and their recruits, and their recruits.)

You are offered Pearls of Sharing to inspire your efforts to get the names of those in your immediate circle of friends and family, as they are the most likely people to “help” you. Your director will very often call your models, guests and sometimes, your hostesses, to insure they will attend an event or a class so we can “offer this opportunity” to them. Meetings are designed for recruiting, training and motivation.

So tell me… Is it about selling the products or getting the recruits?


  1. Mountaineer95

    Posts like this really make me want to troll a recruiter with that form. Like intentionally write in N/A on each line to where it adds up to zero and observe the frustration and confusion, and I’ll answer with “I only want to buy for personal use”.

    I’d also love to troll a recruitment event and ask all of the basic questions that they want to completely ignore, like “how many reps are already in this area? What’s their average annual sales?” etc.

    We do have a Pink Caddy director I’ve seen around town several times with the vanity tag of “YES U CAN”…wait, if 99.9% actually CAN’T, is that a kind of income claim? Lol. Maybe I can ask about her next event.

      1. Mountaineer95

        OMG you and I have to pair up and make this happen. Even if we are a thousand miles apart, since MK has NO TERRITORIES YAY, we could team up via Zoom or a similar platform.

      2. Helena Bourgeois

        I joined MK in January 2004 after getting a severance package from my job as a Cosmetics Manager in one of Canada’s largest drug store chain. As my recruiter lived in another province, another director met with me. when we first met, I noticed this beautiful ting on her finger. I made a comment (still not knowing what the company was about- all I knew was selling cosmetics: which I had been doing for almost 25 years). When she said « oh, I earned it with Mary Kay! I remember thinking, mmmm, I’ve been working at this business for almost 24=years and I almost had to beg to receive a watch! So I joined. I remember looking through the phone book to try to remember finding some of my old job’s customers. My director said to book my debut. I ordered $1800. I did and invited about 40 people. 15 showed up and I had sales of over $700 and 2 classes. The week before my debut, one of my ex-job customer’s wanted a lipgloss. So on one Sunday morning, my husband and I drove to M’s apartment. I brought a lot of stuff with me because I remembered what she used to buy from my old job. I remember my husband : you’re going to drive 30 minutes each way for a lipgloss? I said yes. He dropped me off and when he picked me up again, I showed him her sales slip- over $300!
        So in March, I went to Career Conference. When they were showing the Court’s jewelry, I had noticed this beautiful Diamond ring. My director leaned towards me and said: «  you know, you still have 3 months to go and you’re already halfway there »!? My eyes grew large and I made a decision that I was going to earn that ring. I worked hard. I made lots of calls and follow ups. I was not really interested in recruiting. I was a seller. At classes, I was getting great sales. Very rarely would I leave with less than $300 and 2 bookings.And, yes, I walked on stage to get my ring.
        That September, I recruited 1 person. Then another and another. Red Jacket by October so in November I went to my National’s retreat in Vegas. Then I decided I wanted to be a Director. Things were going fairly well. My decision was director June 2005. I did it. Of course, like many of you, I « bought » my directorship and my car. The first year was not too bad. The second was tougher. I started working another part-time job to help with finances. My husband was still supportive. Then I started hiding my credit cards bills. Then « earned” my second car. I chose the $$. I ended up having lots of debts. In April 2009, I gave up my directorship. And in May that year I declared bankruptcy. I had about $4000 in inventory. Over $50,000 in credit card debts. I was still selling but was not a good money manager. Of course, my husband was flabbergasted. I had so much guilt to this day of having lied to him. In October 2012, I started working again in another store of the same chain as before. Our marriage was not doing so well. In June 2016, my husband and I separated. When he started doubting me, I should have listened to him. I didn’t. I was still selling regularly and still am to this day. For me now, it’s a mean to an ends. I still have customers who have been with me from day 1. I should have just stayed a consultant. I would still be with my husband. We would still be in our home. We are now divorced. So of course, after we separated, I was struggling financially being by myself. Went to see an agency dealing with bankruptcy again!! I was making a higher salary then before so my payments would have been sky high. So we did a proposal. I just paid my last payment to them. I now have a great partner – 4 years now. He is very supportive and as he’s retired, he makes some of my deliveries I still sell. I have little promotions a few times a year. I do not have much inventory, about $1000. Doing Mary Kay now is a tax break. I still enjoy visiting with my customers. I have about a hundred faithful customers. I never really wanted to be a director. I should have stayed a consultant . Looking back, I am not proud of some of the choices I made. I will keep on doing what I am doing with Mary Kay till I retire.
        Sorry about the long post. I have been meaning to write for a while now.
        Thank you.

  2. CarolAnne

    Do no Kaybots ever question that nothing you can be “rewarded” with (the car, the promotion) has f all to do with selling product. It’s only about getting warm bodies to sign up for MK.

    I never sold this stuff and I picked up on that immediately.

    1. Misscapulet

      This was one of the things that got me out quickly. I was stupid enough to place an $1800 initial order. My recruiter excitedly showed me my name in the next edition of Applause. I looked at her and said, “But I haven’t done anything yet.”

  3. Data Junkie

    Thought experiment: Remove the product and see how the entire MK incentive system works exactly the same. From buying into the scheme to feeding the scheme through new recruits and meeting incentive thresholds with subsequent contributions…nothing changes. Rank, titles, rewards, recognition, seminar, buying rank (or buying your way to Cadillac)…all of it stays…even with no product at all. This is because selling product to outside customers plays no role in the MK (or any other MLM) corporate business plan.

    Meanwhile, some things actually do change: No more pity purchases by F+F, and no more inventory piling up in the homes of the consultants. Yay!

    But there is this: If you get caught selling such an opportunity without a product, you go to jail.

    1. Lazy Gardens

      In one of Mary Kay’s books, she revealed that the business MODEL came first – they had the recruiting and promoting part all planned out. Then they looked for a product that could be used to prop up the recruiting and commissions.

      1. Data Junkie

        “Then they looked for a product that could be used to prop up the recruiting and commissions.”

        In other words, they were looking for a way to convert a blatantly illegal “naked” pyramid scheme into a barely-legal “product-based” pyramid scheme. This happens to be how most MLMs get created. Many kingpins in a given MLM came from a different MLM, and will move on to yet another.

        This classic write-up from the 1990s shines a light on all of this:

  4. I’m a social media manager and just signed a client who wants to build her Marykay business. I was not familiar with the mlm aspect of MK, and now feel VERY conflicted about working with this client. She’s retiring in July, and wants to make money with MK to supplement her retirement. Any advice on how I could handle this and potentially get her to see this is a really bad idea?

    1. Lazy Gardens

      Tell her that she can’t. Look at the HUGE numbers of social media accounts pushing Mary Kay: no matter how hard she works and how clever and enticing her posts are, the MLM well is not just poisoned but radioactive. She would make more money working a couple of lunch shifts at a burger joint.

      Nothing much has changed since I wrote this:

      It’s still a losing proposition.

  5. Mountaineer95

    Above we see the following stat:

    “Mary Kay sales directors need to replace at least 1/3 of the unit to make forward progress, at least a 20% growth, or they will go backwards.”

    (Now, numbers are not my strong point, so I’m going to look to Char and Data Junkie and others to chime in here): we know the minimum downline required for someone to make Director, and we have a good idea of overall turnover rate per Tracy.

    We can use these figures to very easily IMO prove that, for example, even one current NSD cannot spawn five downline EESDs; also, just three directors in the same national area simply CANNOT all advance to NSD themselves due to the simple LACK OF PEOPLE available to join the endless chain-recruitment (props to Char for that term).

    As I said my math/statistics skills are nonexistent, so we need you guys who are so inclined to take this on: by that, I mean visually breaking down the minimum NSD requirements needed for one NSD (kind of like a family tree I guess) to extrapolate how many “people with faces” are needed to: support the one nsd title including the least requirements (ie, to reach nsd they need X caddy’s, X second line, X third line) ; then, for ONE of this new NSD’s caddy directors to achieve nsd, how many more people are needed in the pyramid to make that happen, THEN take a portion so maybe five of the original NSDs and have each of them acquire enough downline to each keep their caddy and have two car drivers below them, again mapping out in a family tree scenario…I could perform that albeit messily.

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