Start Your MLM Right

Building a Foundation for Your Downline

Too many new distributors mistakenly believe that once the signature dries on the application, the bonus checks will sprout wings and fly into their mailbox. Maybe that's why some distributors foolishly purchase a stack of applications and send them to anyone who can fog a mirror. This is a business where you must create a relationship with your potential enrollees. Remember, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds, so expect to invest time in your own prospecting.

Start by building your library with the most highly recommended books, tapes and current information to help direct your efforts. Know when and where local distributors meet in your area and the time and phone number of the next company conference call. Never miss a meeting, and certainly never go alone. Make the company recruiting conference call a tool that becomes part of your system to get prospects to company meetings. New distributors carry fresh enthusiasm and will continually renew your own energy level.

Quality network marketing programs offer their customers money-back guarantees on their products and buy-back rules for distributor inventory if interest wanes. Getting started usually requires an investment in product inventory as well as your time. You'll need enough inventory and sales support materials to last a couple of weeks. Even if the company direct-ships to your downline or customers, offering immediate delivery of product for the initial order takes advantage of their immediate excitement or product samples may hold their interest until they receive their first order. The necessary capital might be $50 to $500, depending on how serious you are at this point. Realize that you are not spending money--you're investing it! And there isn't really too much risk involved. As I mentioned before, most companies offer a buy-back policy with a small restocking fee (usually 10 percent) if you feel overstocked or decide to get out of the business.

Now you must determine whether to "lead with the product" or "lead with the opportunity." This means you need to get into your prospects' head, determine what their "hot button" is and focus your approach on providing solutions to their problems, needs or desires.

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Most new distributors want to rush out the door with their product or service and sell everyone they know. While this "direct sales" approach works with direct selling companies, network marketing is usually a bit softer approach sometimes called "sharing." Selling is premeditated, and sharing is spontan-eous. You'll do better to find your prospects' need and desire for your product or program before you mention that you have it!

Of course, eventually finding a few serious distributors to personally sponsor is critical to getting started. Your upline should be willing to help you talk to prospects in person or on a three-way call. However, only the most naive think everyone they sponsor will be as committed as they are. It is not uncommon to sponsor 10 or 20 people before you find your first serious distributor. That's OK--percentages will improve as time goes on. But for now, concentrate on duplicating yourself at least two times per month and teaching them to do the same until you're at least four levels in depth. Eventually, you'll be able to sponsor, train and mentor more than two, but for your first six months, concentrate on quality, not quantity.

You can safely assume that most people don't believe they can "sell" and probably wouldn't even want to try. Most trainers say you should get a customer and simultaneously try to recruit them by asking if they'd like to earn more money. But the customer has probably heard this approach before. Before you utter another word, they suspect that you want them to go out and" sell" to their friends. While selling is an important part of any successful network marketing experience, you might be more successful if the process took on a softer focus. Think about your experiences to date. Could this be why you have trouble sponsoring? Perception is reality to your prospect. Preconceived notions can build mental roadblocks that are difficult to overcome. If the prospect seems cold to the opportunity offer, many companies have a Preferred Customer program that is in between becoming a retail customer and a distributor. This may be a good place to start, and you can then two-step them into a business opportunity offer later once they bond to your products.

Getting off on the right foot is based on understanding proper direction, making a serious commitment to a specified goal, following a proven plan of success, and then giving it 90 days or more of serious effort.

Michael L. Sheffield is the CEO of Sheffield Resource Network, a full-service direct sales and network marketing consulting firm. He is also the co-founder and chairman of the Multi Level Marketing International Association (MLMIA). He can be contacted through

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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