Building Your MLM Business Without Using Your Upline’s System

Today, I want to write a post about building your MLM Business without using your upline’s system.  While I am a big fan of systems, I will be the first to admit that one system will not work for everyone on a team.

You see, everyone is different.  We all have different personalities, strengths, skills and talents. Telling everyone they have to build the business the same way is dumb and foolish as I see it.

Asking someone who is scared to speak in groups to do home parties is just plain old dumb. Asking distributors who are naturally shy to utilize the three foot rule is foolish.  Asking someone who is good at online marketing to build their business the old school way is stupid.

I could go on and on here, but I hope you are starting to see my point.

What you really want to do as a MLM Sponsor is help EACH team member determine a plan of attack that works for them, based upon their strengths, talents, personality and skills.  You teach each new person the basics about prospecting, inviting, doing presentations and following up and let them decide HOW they will do it.

Does that make sense to you?

Using a cookie cutter approach for anyone and everyone is a waste of time and resources. Forcing people to use your system is poor leadership.  Contrary to what people think, network marketing is NOT franchising.

Here’s my system for building the business.  I teach my team MANY different ways to build a business (about 10) and I have each person choose the strategy that is best for them.  The only thing I standardize how and when I do training, not HOW they build their business.

Yes, I see the benefits of having a system that people can follow.  Having a system is important. Any system is better than no system.   But forcing everyone to use one system is a foolish move.


Because many team members won’t feel comfortable using that method, and therefore, they won’t build a business.

For example, if you have a team of 100 people and you tell everyone they need to make a name list, work their warm market, do home events and prospect strangers, that might work for 20 to 40 of those hundred people.  But what would you do with the other 60 to 80 people?

In addition, if you tell everyone on your team to build their business with Facebook, not everyone is going to want to do that.  If you had a team of 100 people, maybe 20 to 40 of those 100 people would feel comfortable using that strategy.  But what would you do with the other 60 to 80 people?

Are you seeing my point?  Does this make sense?

These numbers apply to any business building strategy.  No strategy is going to be a good fit for everyone on your team.

So, what does all of this mean to you?

Well, if you are serious about your network marketing business, you need to learn a few different ways to build a business, so you can give your team members different ideas to choose from.

You also need to figure out what your own system will be, based upon your personality, strengths, talents, and skills.

Personally, I hate SELLING.  There, I said it.  Yes, I am a people person and enjoy chatting with people, but I don’t like to sell.  So, I do all of my selling, recruiting and sponsoring by WRITING. That’s right, I build my business by blogging every day.  It works for me.  I am happy.  And I get good results.

In the past, I’ve used other methods offered by my upline, but it just never felt comfortable for me.  I wasn’t happy.  Something didn’t feel right.  I didn’t like the idea that the only reason I was talking to someone was to get them on my team or to sell them something.

It wasn’t until I became a student of the industry and a student of marketing that everything started to come together.

To succeed, you will want to do the same thing in your business!  You need to find something that WORKS FOR YOU.  Until you do that you won’t get the results that you could and you will be ultra FRUSTRATED.

It will be like revving a car up to 8,000 RPMs, only to be stuck in neutral.

So, here is what I recommend you do right now.

# 1 Make a list of things you are naturally good at.  Brainstorm different ways you could grow your network marketing business by using your own strengths and talents.  Take out a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to your mind.  For example, my strengths are writing and online marketing, so I chose to build my business online by blogging.  Come up with a list of at least five to ten things and then rank them in order of significance.

# 2 Learn everything you can about the method you choose.  Become an expert in that specific method.  You will do that by staying in the trenches and working on that method day in and day out.  You should also read books and listen to audio training on the subject and learn everything you can about it.  It wouldn’t hurt to find a mentor who is an expert in that method.

# 3 Learn a few additional methods so you can teach your team how to do them.  If you are building a large team, you should know at least a few different good ways to build a network marketing business, so you can give your team members several options to choose from. And you should teach this process to them.

# 4 Implement and take massive action using your method. You still need to do the work. Don’t spend so much time trying to learn about the method that you forget to implement it. This is without a doubt the most important step in the process.  Without this step nothing will work. Take massive action and don’t look back for a couple of years.

# 5 Learn, grow and tweak things as you go. You won’t be an expert overnight.  It will more than likely take you a couple years to really build up your expertise and become an expert in your chosen marketing method.  You will keep making small improvements and changes as you learn.  Incremental growth is a powerful thing.

# 6 Never stop learning and fine tuning what you do.  Become a master of your craft.  Keep fine tuning your process and before you know you will be very streamlined and efficient at what you do.  I make small tweaks and adjustments to my strategy every day.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that there are MANY different ways to build a successful MLM Business. Ultimately, you have to pick a method or approach that works for you, based upon your own talents, strengths and skills.  You don’t have to follow your upline’s system to be successful. Only you can determine which method will be best for you. Follow the six steps mentioned above and you will be well on your way.

What are your thoughts about building your MLM Business without using your upline’s system? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.  I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes


Chuck Holmes
Network Marketing Professional (since 2002)
Author, Blogger, & Entrepreneur

P.S. Level up your life today! FREE resources to help you improve your health, finances, business, and relationships. I'll even give you FREE leads and a free business plan template. Learn more.

18 thoughts on “Building Your MLM Business Without Using Your Upline’s System”

  1. There is too much of the attitude: you have to do it the way I do it in network marketing. As individuals, we all have certain ways of doing things that work best for us. It goes back to how we were raised, the education we received, our culture and much more. What works for Jim may not work for Sally, and what works for Sally probably won’t work for Sam. While there are basics, we need to allow people to be individuals.

    One thing of prime importance in all this is just to make sure that whatever the person is doing doesn’t break the distributor agreement. As long as that is followed, we need to allow individuality.

    Thanks for posting this. I say share it with all network marketers!

  2. You’ve mentioned in other posts here on the site that a lot of upline distributors kind of abuse their systems. They make more money with their systems – the resources, trainings, and tools they sell – than with the business’s products. They will even refuse to sponsor or employ people who do not feed into their system and follow it to a T (in some cases, not all, of course). But, as you express in your post, what if the system isn’t a good fit for you? What if you’re an online marketing whiz, but because of the system you’re part of, you can only conduct offline, old school MLM? You won’t be successful and you won’t be happy.

    One of my role models, the great Bruce Lee, has a quote I think really suits this situation: “Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” By all means, learn from your upline, take in everything you’re taught. If it meshes with you, absorb it. If it clashes, throw it out. Once you know what suits you, build on it and develop your own unique system.

  3. Excellent advice! Like you mentioned above, Chuck, I think upline’s techniques work well for those starting out but people should feel encouraged to branch out and explore once they get a handle on what works. Additionally, what works for one lead may not be the best approach to another. Learning your skill sets and becoming comfortable with multiple techniques is beneficial.

    1. Definitely. I ask every new team member what they are good at, what they like to do, and how they see themselves building their business. If they have no clue, I have them follow my lead. If they put some thought into it and come up with their own plan, they will do well.

  4. You learn very early on when you are in business with others that everyone is unique. It definitely makes sense to allow each person to use a method that they are most comfortable with because they will be far more successful using that method than one that makes them uneasy. As a good leader it is your responsibility to have additional options available so your team can thrive at what they do.

  5. One of the fastest ways to kill the growth and success of a business is to force someone to fit into a mold that is not right for them. No two businesses are exactly the same, even within the same industry. Being forced to do things a certain way is so counter productive and is a sure recipe for disaster.

    1. However, franchises work quite well and they force everyone to do the same thing. Most people, if you leave their success up to them in a business, will flounder, simply because they don’t know what they are doing. I think a good sponsor will educate their new rep and teach them the importance of following their team’s system. Whether or not the person chooses to do that is up to them. However, if you are brand new to the industry and don’t know much about sales or marketing I would HIGHLY recommend you follow the team’s system.

      1. True- if the mold is right and has been tested then it works. With a franchise, the business owner knows they are stepping into that mold so that is why it works for them.I agree the regulations and framework can be a help for people- but they still need to have a certain degree of freedom over their own business.

  6. Your points are spot on. You cannot have one blanket approach to marketing, selling, or building your business. That won’t work on all of your potential customers, and it will not work for everyone on your team. Having a variety of approaches that you can use makes you stronger. It also means that your people can find what works for them, and what works on different types of customers. Your team members will also feel more empowered to thing outside of the box.

    1. I think it’s a wise idea to use your upline’s system if you don’t know what you are doing. Follow their lead until you develop your own skills. But, don’t feel like the ONLY thing you can do is what they teach you. Leverage your own strengths and skill-set whenever possible to get maximum results. Learn a few different ways to build your MLM Business, so as you start to build a team of your own you will have a few different options that you can teach them.

  7. I genuinely agree with you. This is the biggest mistake that MLM sponsors usually do. They follow and teach one plan of attack to all members within their organization. It truly doesn’t work.

    Discovering different methods is really important if you are serious about your network marketing business and wish to achieve success. The systems and tools of your upline would surely have an influence upon you but you need to really think if these tools are suitable for your team? Would they be able to follow?

    Whether it is MLM or any other business, learning and implementing innovative methods is key to growth.

  8. I really agree with this. There are so many ways to be successful and it seems like people tend to want to force others to do it THEIR way or not at all.

    I do encourage my downline to at least try each of the many different ways to work their business once or twice, because they might find that one way that sounded difficult was actually something they liked!

    For example, I am an introvert and planned to do everything online. Then I tried doing events and found that I really liked them. I like working with my team, and I get a kick out of passing out brochures, because most people are really happy to get one.

    If I had never tried these things I never would have found some things that bring me a lot of happiness.

    1. Great point, Pat. I think the biggest mistake people make is the “my way or the highway method.” If someone told me I had to build MY business their way, I would tell them to pound sad and knock ’em upside the head too! Good sponsors are creative and share ideas with their team, and let them pick the ideas they want to run with.

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