Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From Product to People - The MLM Paradigm Shift

For those in network marketing who are programmed to “lead with the product” or “lead with the opportunity”, it might be the most difficult thing to do to convince yourself how or why this is not necessarily correct.

When you do this without the focus first being on the people, and the personal relationship, you may end up having to talk to many more people to get to one to sponsor into your business. Think of sewing seeds in unprepared soil and then doing the same in a well cultivated garden. What are your odds of germination and a healthy crop in either case?

And do you think a five minute conversation with someone constitutes a relationship worthy of dumping your product or plan into their lap, unsolicited? Ask yourself, did you have permission to present your opportunity to them? Do you realize how offensive this can be, how unprofessional this appears?

The focus on product and opportunity is so engrained in the old school MLM psyche that it seems logical and natural to lead with the product, and to coin the phrase, “the product sells itself“.

Well, the word to notice in that statement is “sells“.

If you want leaders to join your business and become part of a growing team, then sell is the last thing you should be doing. If you want to just retail the product then of course selling makes more sense. Not to displace the importance of a good product when it comes to success in a network marketing business however, but you are your most important asset. Noone likes to be sold.

The same with an opportunity. Even if you think you have the best one, your praises will fall upon deaf ears with someone you barely know and have not built a trusting relationship.

Its a Relationship Business

The truth is, albeit not completely overlooked in most MLM companies, is that it is a people business. But they never tell you to lead with yourself. When in truth, you are who your prospect is judging first. Not your product. Not your opportunity. People join you.

They call it relationship marketing for a reason. Yet they only pay lip service to the the fact that it is a people business, and give you no training on how to first capture their interest, determine whether they are a valid prospect and right for your business, or how to coach and mentor that person according to their personality. They tell you to support and train your team but never give you the tools or knowledge to do that correctly.

Product brochures and opportunity presentations are not people skill training! Inspriational and motivational books are only a way to spur you on in your misdirected activities, when they would take on an entirely new meaning if you only knew how to lead with yourself, and how to understand, work with, and train your prospects.

I don’t mean to completely dismiss the warm market or the value of the product (it must be a product that stands out from the crowd to drive a successful network marketing business). It’s just that the shift from the exclusive product lead must change when working in the internet marketing arena, where the instant connections and friendships that are made can’t be compared to your true warm market. Therefore the lead in the case of online marketing must be you. Think about your warm market. You are already leading with yourself. People still join you because of who you are.

Lead capture can be done from the product angle as well; leading with the product shouldn’t be entirely overlooked when addressing your product’s specific target market. But if you are not working with your existing warm market (who already like and trust you), then you have to lead with yourself first, and then your product.

Provide Value First

You will want to have something to offer that other people need, and to be able to provide that, you’ll want a lead capture and auto-response system. But you may be struggling with the thought that you don’t have anything of value to offer, either as a funded proposal or even free. Hello! As a person you certainly have much to offer!

Think of all of the acconplishments you’ve had, no matter how insignificant you may think, and the struggles you have made it through. Think of all the people you have supported and helped over the years. You are valued, worthwhile and deserve success even if you do not think so or fully believe it. But, still, maybe you say you aren’t as internet savvy as some of the experts out there, so that leading with yourself may seem a bit of a stretch.

But that’s where Mentoring for Free comes in. Most people find this to be a tremendous value, including free one-on-one coaching, extensive training, and daily live interactive conference calls. Anyone can take advantage of the free training provided, but it is also a replicatable system which costs less than a simple email auto-responder. The value for people using this system is that it provides a duplicatable training system that you can offer your entire downline, including the ability to generate leads.

A People Centric Marketing System

Whatever system that you put into place, it must ensure that you are not product centric but people centric. You must provide value that solves a problem for your market. If you are in network marketing, there are lots of problems to solve!

And, although not everyone will be interested in your business, just look at the numbers of MLM companies that fail, or lose their integrity, or fail their distributor base in some way (change the policies and procedures or comp plan, or go public).

Look at the number of people simply failing in network marketing because they have never been taught how to be a professional in this business. Look at the number of people out of work and looking for some way to make ends meet in this day and time. Look at how many of them never knew that leading with a product or opportunity was the reason they most often fail!

Look at the numbers that have never known the right way to use the internet to reach their market, the ones that want to build a business. The way even some of the more modern MLM companies use the internet is still only to provide for product ordering, enrollment and back office functions. Some even provide company replicated web sites, which as newer network marketers realize, cannot be manipulated to achieve SEO. But lead capture? Hardly.

But many who have failed may, after your having maintained a long standing relationship with them, one built of trust and giving, return to you for help in the future, possibly to be in business with you in the long run. And from giving without want, expecting nothing more, you are building relationships which you will have for a lifetime.

Once this product -> to -> people epiphany finally occurs, you are on your way. Until then, you may continue chasing your friends, family and co-workers. But when you begin to get your own qualified, targeted leads online, leading with yourself, and coaching others to do the same, you will be amazed at how quickly things can change.


  1. Hi Vicki

    Your blog was very well written. I would like to respond to this comment:

    "But they never tell you to lead with yourself. When in truth, you are who your prospect is judging first. Not your product. Not your opportunity. People join you."

    From my perspective, people are joining YOU and the company. I may like my friend but if his opportunity is not marketable, I am not joining. That is just based on my personal experience being presented opportunities as well as feed back from other prospects.

    Mark Fuller-BetterNetworker

  2. Hi Mark,

    Yes you are right, but my point was to make people realize that it is not Just about their product or opportunity. As I said, "I don’t mean to completely dismiss the warm market or the value of the product (it must be a product that stands out from the crowd to drive a successful network marketing business)." And that certainly goes for the opportunity - one point I have stressed in other blogs is that you Must evaluate that opportunity very carefully!

    But the problem has been that people fail to realize the importance of relationships. Many people fail to recognize that they should be building relationships first before pitching. This is true in any sales business.

    So I wasn't trying to discount completely that the opportunity and product must ~both~ meet exceedingly high criteria for them to be viable in this business, it is just difficult sometimes to get people to realize they should begin building relationships and ~then~ move on to the 'pitch' once they have permission from their prospect (unless of course that prospect is actively looking for your (or a) opportunity or such product).

    Always your friend,



Your feedback is appreciated!