Mert Yildiz and Elcin Yildiz are a highly educated brother-and-sister team who took over their parents’ network marketing business in 2009. Raised and residing in Istanbul, they quickly became the top earners for their company in Turkey.
Mert and Elcin got acquainted with network marketing at an early age, sitting in the back of conference rooms and watching their parents give seminars or hold meetings. When the time came to choose a career path, both siblings decided network marketing would give them the best chance at creating a lifestyle of freedom and contribution.
Secure in the knowledge that the business model worked, they adopted and taught a variety of prospecting methods, including Internet advertisement, exhibition booths in crowded malls or parks, distributing leaflets in public places, and door-to-door sales.
Even though Mert and Elcin’s company is active in more than sixty countries, they still focus on building Turkey because its culture and demographics make it a wide-open and promising market.
“Our business is perfect for young people to apply what they learned at universities,” says Elcin. “We must show this to them. I use my education in management to lead our teams, and my education in anthropology to figure out consumer behaviors.”
Mert adds, “Network marketing provides Turkish women, most of whom have never worked outside the home, with a real chance at financial independence. I see it as a career with an idealistic aspect and even as a social responsibility project.”
Sharing social media tips from the stage at a national conference.
Leadership training in Antalya, Turkey 2012.
Company gala at the Carousel du Louvre, Paris 2011.
Relaxing at leadership conference in Rio, Brazil 2012.
With parents Simber and Deha Yildiz.
Leadership trip in Bali, Indonesia 2011.
Theme party with leaders in Antalya, Turkey 2010.
With Sinan Yildiz (cousin) and Arzu Yildiz (aunt) at company convention in Stockholm, 2012.
With leaders’ children who are planning to take over the business from their parents, Stockholm, 2012.
A New Career
Mert and Elcin were eleven and nine years old, respectively, when their mother, Simber Yildiz, joined one of the first network marketing companies to open in Turkey in 1992. Elcin says she used to show skincare and cosmetics catalogs to her girlfriends, but both Mert and she remember being so busy with school that they were not much help in the business.
“Our father was a banker,” says Elcin, “and our mother held managerial positions at various companies. Raised in a comfortable, upper-middle-class environment, we received a good education from reputable schools, and we both had high career aspirations.”
Mert always wanted to have a career in finance, perhaps because nearly everyone in his family had worked in the financial sector. His grandfather was a renowned banker. “Both my father and uncle used to be bank managers,” says Mert, “and my mother had a short banking career, too.”
Mert did his undergraduate degree in economics, then went to the U.K. for a master’s degree in economics and business. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in International Economics.
After returning from the U.K., Mert started working as a corporate banker at one of Turkey’s leading financial institutions. At first he enjoyed it, but over time, working in the office often until 10 p.m. or later, and sometimes as late as midnight, started to make him question his career choice.
“The Turkish economy has a volatile character,” says Mert. “Economic parameters can change dramatically overnight, and that brought an additional stress factor to my job. In mid-2009 I began to look at other career options, and both Elcin and I started playing with the idea that we could take over our parents’ business.”
Elcin’s undergraduate degree is in business administration, and she has a master’s in social anthropology. Before network marketing, she used to work for the import-export department of a large company.
“Three years ago my brother and I decided to take a new career path in network marketing,” says Elcin. “My parents were ready to retire, and since they had set up their business as a limited liability company, they simply transferred the shares to us.”
The Yildiz family held a small celebration with the existing team members to welcome the new owners, who communicated their vision of how they wanted to lead and grow the business.
“Turkey is a large country with a population of 75 million,” says Mert. “We planned to take our business nationwide. At first, we made a list of what kind of equipment we would need. We bought new laptops, projectors, and a portable projector screen. Next, we hired an assistant and a beautician to work with us and set up an Internet conference room for delivering online trainings.”
Mert and Elcin also made a short-term plan to reach two targets. The first was to meet in person with already existing leaders and assess their current situation. The second was to search for new team members and expand the business further.
“As we went about achieving our goals,” says Elcin, “we did not need anyone to give us extra motivation, because we had clearly seen with our parents that if you put in enough effort and do the right things, network marketing is likely to pay off.”
Partnering in Business
When Mert and Elcin got started, they were just twenty-eight and twenty-six years old. Many of the leaders on their team were older and more experienced.
“We focused on getting to know them more closely and conveying to them our working style, our vision, and the new plans we wanted to implement,” says Mert.
“We took a road trip across Turkey to see every leader in person. Most of them were not computer literate, so one of our priorities was to teach them how to send emails, place orders online, use Excel spreadsheets, prepare PowerPoint slides, and utilize Internet conference rooms. Then we analyzed their strengths and weaknesses to see how we could help them. Most importantly, we spent time with them to strengthen their trust in us, because we were their new upline.”
Elcin and Mert’s next goal was to search for new people with sales experience to join their team.
“Interestingly, that approach didn’t work out,” says Mert. “Their performance fell short of our expectations, and focusing on salespeople proved to be our first failure.”
Changing their strategy, they decided to work with amateurs who had never had any kind of multilevel marketing experience—and that yielded fantastic results.
“Thanks to this new approach,” says Mert, “in 2011 our team accomplished the third-highest growth rate among all our company’s consultants globally.”
In one year, Mert and Elcin climbed to their company’s global top 100 list, then to the top 50, then to the top 25.
They say being brother and sister proved to be a big advantage in the business.
“Elcin and I have always gotten along very well, even from childhood,” says Mert. “Our communication has been excellent, and Elcin’s strengths compensate for my weaknesses and vice versa. To give an example, due to cultural factors, I sometimes don’t attend home meetings in conservative parts of the country, where only ladies gather.
“It is also an advantage to be young, because our job requires physical stamina and a lot of travelling. I can hold a meeting in one city while Elcin holds another meeting in a different one, so we cover two areas at the same time.”
“We both are very hardworking and disciplined,” Elcin adds. “We are courageous in investing our time and resources into the business. If we believe one of our leaders has promise, we are ready to pour tremendous energy into supporting and training him or her.
“We are very curious and constantly seek out new and creative methods to enhance our business. We were among the first to utilize web conferences in Turkey for building our home business.”
Prospecting and Recruiting
In the beginning, Mert and Elcin spent a lot of time educating themselves and preparing action plans. Today their entre routine is centered on training and recruiting.
“We wake up early in the morning and divide our day into three parts,” says Mert. “From morning to noon, we take care of emails, phone or Skype our team members, resolve customer service issues, analyze data from our e-commerce portals, send reminders, verify webinar registrations, and so on. During the day, we carry out one-to-one opportunity meetings with new candidates, home meetings, and other offline prospecting activities. During the evening, we hold webinars from 9 p.m. till 10 p.m.”
Elcin says their best recruitment results come from working with contact lists produced in home meetings.
“Turkish housewives are very social neighbors,” she explains. “They typically gather one afternoon a week on a specific day at one of their neighbors’ homes for coffee and socializing. This is perfect for holding home parties to sell products or market the system. Names lists created during such home meetings lead to other prospects. This has proven to be one of the most successful prospecting methods in Turkey.”
Mert points out that Turkey has the youngest population in Western Europe by median age. It currently has more than 3.5 million university students, and the unemployment rate for young people is around 16 percent.
“Every year, we attend universities’ career fairs and give presentations,” he says. “We receive surprisingly high attendance to our sessions. At one occasion, one of the well-known multinationals was holding a career event next to our meeting, and it was exciting to see that our room attracted a bigger crowd than theirs. At the end of our session, we had more than 200 university students on our list who were interested in joining our business!”
Network marketing has been around for only twenty years in Turkey, and penetration is still very low compared to other industrialized countries.
“Turks are generally open, friendly, and very social,” says Elcin. “Relatives, neighbors, and friends often visit each other. It’s natural and easy to start a conversation and talk about your business opportunity. In addition, in our culture rejecting someone is rude. Generally everyone will give you a chance to present your opportunity, whether they like it or not.”
Hospitality is also an integral part of Turkish culture, she says.
“If you do door-to-door prospecting, it is highly likely that whoever opens the door will invite you in for a cup of tea, if the house owner is interested in the topic. This obviously makes our job easier.”
“Turks also have a strong entrepreneurial spirit,” says Mert.
He quotes a recent survey in which 53 percent of Turks agreed with the statement, “I can imagine starting my own business,” ahead of the Swiss (48 percent), the Italians (42 percent), the French (36 percent), and the British (34 percent).
Mert and Elcin believe all these factors combined make Turkey a prime market for their business. For the moment, they see no reason to go international, although they may consider doing so in the future.
Using portable stands is one of the most effective prospecting and recruiting methods we use in Turkey. After obtaining a permit from the local municipal office, our consultants set up their stand at local bazaars, in crowded parks, and in shopping streets. We advise people always to prospect in twos, to dress in business casual, and to wear their name badges.
One consultant holds the questionnaire clipboard while the other holds the product tester, usually a hand cream or a perfume.
Our goal is to collect names and telephone numbers so we can contact prospects later by phone to arrange face-to-face meetings.
It’s best to have no more than five questions on the questionnaire and ask easy, yes-or-no questions for quick answers, for instance:
“Have you heard about our company?”
“Would you like to test and comment on our latest product?”
To maintain a high interest level during the conversation, we ask the questions while the prospect is the testing the product.
We make sure to call our names lists within twenty-four hours for the highest conversion into one-on-one meetings and recruitment success.
Challenges and Lessons
Mert says one of the hurdles for multilevel marketing in Turkey is that, since it is still a young business and not very well known, prospects may have reservations about its viability. In addition, Turkish customers sometimes question the quality of products that are not sold in stores.
Another cultural factor that plays a significant role in building the business is that most middle-class women are housewives who have never had a career. As Elcin explains:
“Although Turkey has relatively high employment among upper-class females, the employment rate for women overall is only 26 percent. We usually contact and recruit women from the middle or lower-middle class who have never had jobs and whose husbands are reluctant to let them do any kind of professional activity.”
Although this tradition has loosened up in the last decade with growing urbanization, she adds, a significant number of husbands still oppose the idea of their wives working.
“The result is that the majority of prospects we come across don’t have any career experience. Training a housewife who has never worked outside the home in selling techniques, prospecting, how to lead and motivate her downline, and how to be self-disciplined is not an easy task.”
Despite these challenges, Mert and Elcin’s company has been growing steadily in Turkey for the past three years. According to the company’s sales reports, Turkey has been one of the fastest-growing markets of the sixty countries it operates in.
“People are beginning to be more curious about the multilevel business concept,” says Mert, “because they see a growing number of consultants earning substantial incomes.”
To build their team and provide leadership, Mert and Elcin emphasize the importance of having a strong vision and a clear set of values, and they make sure every team member knows about them.
“We are very open and transparent with our team,” says Mert. “We encourage and support everyone to achieve their personal targets, and we give continuous feedback. As we meet with our leaders on webinars or on Skype, we ask them to share their daily business experiences so the rest of the team can benefit from them.
“We keep hearing about creative or useful methods our team members have tried and benefited from. Our business surely has a lot of room for creativity. One such story was of a consultant who had found a tactful way to approach people at a funeral she was attending. To brighten up the event, she showed catalogs and let people test the products. This had worked out very well for her, proving that it is possible to bring up the business in the most unexpected circumstances.”
Reflecting on their journey so far, Mert says duplication is the most important key to success in network marketing, and standardization is the key to duplication.
“Our working style should be well defined, easy to understand, and easy to duplicate,” he says. “We expect all our team members to use standardized methods for prospecting, holding home meetings, motivating their group, giving feedback, and selling products.
“To help them with this, we give them access to a large collection of how-to documents and presentations that we have prepared over time. We expect them not only to know these materials by heart, but also to teach them to their groups. This is how we achieve duplication. As soon as we discover a new method to raise performance, we instantly share it with our leaders via email groups and webinars.”
True students of the profession, Mert and Elcin are avid readers of personal and professional development. Some of the books they recommend to their team include: Co-Active Coaching, by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kinsey, and Phil Sandahl, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey, and Sixty-Seconds to Yes, by Don Spini.
One of the most important lessons Mert and Elcin have learned is never to prejudge anyone based on their background, age, career experience, level of education, or initial lack of interest.
“Most of our predictions about which team members will succeed have failed,” says Elcin. “You never know who will do well over time. A salesperson with a bright career in another industry may not be successful in our business; however, a middle school graduate housewife with no past career experience and two babies may become a superstar in network marketing.
“Anyone has the potential to succeed. Therefore, we should be presenting our business opportunity literally to everyone around us, regardless of our first impressions of them.”
Looking into the future, Mert and Elcin aim to reach their company’s global top 15 list. Their vision is for their company to become the leading beauty company in global direct selling, and for network marketing to become the most popular profession in the world.
“Our business continues to enrich us on so many levels,” says Mert. “We have traveled to destinations we had never dreamed of. At an early age, we traveled with our parents to the Far East, Africa, all over Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Today we have numerous friends across the globe.
“We just attended our company’s international convention in its birthplace, Stockholm, to celebrate its forty-fifth anniversary. Elcin and I shared our testimonial at the Stockholm Globe Arena in front of 6,000 network marketing leaders from all over the world. We were recognized as one of the million-dollar earners, which made our parents extremely proud.”
Elcin adds, “Network marketing has allowed us to discover our potential in a way we might have never discovered in other career paths. Our business by nature requires nonstop learning. In order to succeed, we always have to challenge ourselves. We develop a large array of capabilities and skills, such as leadership, coaching, presenting, public speaking, problem solving, selfdiscipline, team building, and many more.
“As we grow our business, our business grows us, giving us a never-ending education.”