pitch hits a new note: sales recruiting
One company is hawking the phone technology via multilevel
By Beth Potter, Staff Writer
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Bill Bowyer talks with evangelical fervor to five new
recruits about how to sell phone customers on switching to
Internet phone service.
"The VoIP revolution is here. It's happening," Bowyer said,
walking around the cafe tables at Abo's Pizza in Centennial,
holding a training seminar on a recent afternoon. "We're
cutting people's phone bills, and Qwest is history."
Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is a hot technology
that threatens to replace traditional phone service, because
customers get unlimited local and long distance calls for a
flat fee. As many as 28 million customers may switch to
VoIP in the next two years, analysts estimate.
Bowyer and his crew want a piece of the action. The
recruits include a Broomfield retiree, a financial planner
and a security systems salesman.
"From J. Paul Getty to Donald Trump, it's all about timing.
For residential VoIP, the time is now," said Gunther
Mueller, one of Bowyer's recruits and the owner of three
While the technology is relatively new, the sales method --
multilevel marketing -- is not. Amway, Herbalife and Mary
Kay cosmetics have all become big brands through individuals
selling to people they know and recruiting them to become
In recent years, multilevel marketers have gone high-tech,
selling everything from long-distance service to satellite
It's all legal, unless a company promises a service or
product it doesn't deliver, said Kristen Hubbell, a
spokeswoman for the Colorado attorney general's office. She
said the office has not received any complaints about
Lightyear Alliance, the company Bowyer works for.
In general, if a company focuses on recruitment, it may be a
pyramid scheme, which is illegal, said Susan Liehe, vice
president of the Better Business Bureau in Denver. A legal
multilevel marketing company delivers on its product or
service, she said, adding that Lightyear registered with the
bureau about six weeks ago, so it has no BBB rating yet.
Parent company Lightyear Network Solutions, founded 13 years
ago in Louisville, Ky., is a privately-held telephone
reseller, said Josh Henderson, president. It emerged from
bankruptcy in 2002 and decided to focus on marketing VoIP.
The company now has more than 10,000 customers nationwide,
Lightyear in Kentucky has received 67 customer service
complaints in the past three years with the Louisville
Better Business Bureau, said Charlie Mattingly, president.
"We would consider (67) a standard number, for a company
doing the volume of business that it's doing," Mattingly
said of Lightyear's mostly customer-service complaints.
Riding Vonage's coattails
Lightyear and other multilevel marketers of VoIP are riding
the coattails of industry leaders such as Vonage, which
spent close to $48 million in December 2005 alone to boost
customers to 1.5 million.
"Vonage competes against any phone offering in the
marketplace," said Brooke Schulz, a Vonage spokeswoman.
Scores of companies, including Qwest and Comcast, also sell
Internet phone service. Prices vary depending on service
offerings and packages.
Comcast's "Digital Voice" Internet phone service is a
"fundamentally better service," because it travels over
Comcast's proprietary network rather than the regular
Internet, said Cindy Parsons, a Comcast spokeswoman.
VoIP requires a high-speed Internet connection, which
Lightyear doesn't sell. But if you already have it through
Qwest, Comcast or another provider, Bowyer and his recruits
want to sell you phone service.
How it works: Bowyer sells $24.99 unlimited local and long
distance monthly phone service to customers, who also buy a
$49 small, blue box that looks like a computer modem in
order to make Internet calls.
"I sell a phone service to people who say they don't like
Qwest," Bowyer said. "You're going to pay your phone bill
every month, anyway."
Bowyer markets the service to folks he knows and recruits
newcomers through e-mail, seminars and training sessions at
area hotels and computer stores.
If a customer wants to join the sales force, there's a $199
fee, with two marketing videos, Internet-based accounting
help and other training, Henderson said.
Bowyer makes money on direct sales, plus gets a cut every
time any one of his customers signs up a new customer.
Since he started four months ago, Bowyer says he has signed
up more than 100 customers, including eight people in a
single day. Because he made $4,000 from sales last month,
Bowyer said he's not interested in going back to his old job
selling in-home security systems.
Travis Mitchell, who works at the Denver-based VoIP Review,
an online trade publication, said he received an e-mail from
a Lightyear salesman but "tuned out" when he realized it was
a multilevel marketing pitch.
But Richard Wilt, 65, a Parker financial planner who signed
on after he met Bowyer at a Denver networking event, said
he's ready to make a sale.
"I'm not a fan of direct marketing, but we need air, we need
water, we need heat, and everyone over 13 has a phone these
days," said Wilt.
Staff writer Beth Potter
can be reached at 303-820-1503 or