By Len Clements © 1999
In practically every competitive endeavor, whether it be sports, business, law, politics, or even, one could argue, life, there are two forces that we summon to defeat our opponent. We offer up an offense – and a defense. In most types of sports the delineation between, and the need for each, is obvious. Take away the defensive players from any football team and you will lose every contest, no matter how many touchdowns you score. Baseball, hockey, basketball, and many other sports all involve points for and against. In some sports defense is the key element. Eliminate defense from professional boxing and you’d have, well, very short boxing matches and very few professional boxers. At least, ones that can still feed themselves. In business, advertisers don’t always tell us just why we should buy their brand, they often include reasons we should not buy a competitors brand. In law, defense is paramount since the burden of proof is on the prosecution (the offense) and all the defense has to do is create a slight doubt in the minds of the jury. In politics I consider offense to be the presentation of all the reasons why a candidate should be elected. Political defense would be, as it is in sports, the attempt to impede the progress of an opponent. Not only is this a key element of any election process, some candidates seem to base their entire campaign on why you shouldn’t vote for the other candidate, rather than why you should vote for themselves.
And, yes, one could make a case that there is an offensive and defensive aspect to practically every decision we make in our daily lives. Every decision, no matter how small, is designed to either avoid pain and/or gain pleasure. We naturally tend to move towards what we desire and away from what we detest. The proverbial “Carrot and the stick.” In this case both the offense and the defense is within us. You offer them both (a la the devil and angel sitting on each shoulder) and base your decision on who wins the debate.
Let’s try an experiment, right now. I’m going to describe the occupation of an individual and I want you to visualize that person in an action pose. Don’t think about it, just take note of the first image that pops in your mind. Ready?
Football player. Basketball player. Boxer. Soldier in combat. You, looking at a big slice of your favorite flavor of cake.
Now, think back. Were the images offensive or defensive? Did you picture a quarterback ready to throw a pass, or a fullback running with the ball? The vast majority do (I’ve performed this test many times before). Was the basketball player taking a shot (almost always), or blocking the shot (almost never)? Was the boxer throwing a punch? I’ve never, ever, had someone tell me they visualized a guy cowering in the corner with his gloves covering his face. Was the soldier in attack mode, or was he crouched in a fox hole? Did you see yourself looking at the cake wide eyed and drooling, or head turned away with arms outstretched, shunning the temptation? Come on, be honest.
In spite of the fact that defense is such a vital part of practically every aspect of our lives, we are certainly an offensive focused society. We want to score points, not prevent them. And we want to score a lot of them.
So, what is MLM defense? Unfortunately, it is, at least currently, a lot like it is in politics. As more and more candidates devote more and more time to mud slinging and self-serving hype, so are network marketers. And, as more and more disillusioned Americans vote “none of the above” at the polls, our MLM prospects are reacting in much the same way.
What MLM defense should be, and what it hardly ever is, or is ever taught to be, is a dignified, professional, factual presentation of the benefits that your MLM program has over a specific competitor, and the debunking of alleged benefits posed by your competition when those benefits are, in fact, exaggerated or illusionary.
Hype is a primary tool in the recruiting process of many, and arguably most, network marketers today. Almost every prospect you contact will be evaluating other opportunities as well as yours. Therefore, you have an opponent in this process – and they may not play fair. They may relate bogus, or even slanderous information to your prospect about your opportunity (more on that later), or positive information about their own program that may involve some degree of hype. If you can defend against this, and at the same time offer a powerful offense (what’s good about your opportunity), then you have twice as powerful a presentation. While you’re scoring points, you’re preventing your opponent from scoring. It’s like a scale. Doesn’t it make sense that you’d have a far better chance of tipping the scale in your favor if you not only added weight to your side, but legitimately removed weight from the other?
When an opponent is hyping your prospect, you have three options. One; ignore them and continue to present a hype-free, realistic depiction of the benefits of your MLM program – and take the risk of losing the prospect to the hype, or two; have a hype contest to see who can out-hype who – and even if you win your prospect will discover the truth eventually and end up just as much not in your downline as if they hadn’t enrolled in the first place (only now they walk away feeling scammed), or three; stick to your honest, realistic presentation about your company and defend yourself against the hype.
I realize there’s sometimes a fine line between what’s honorable MLM defense and what’s gratuitous competition bashing. The best way to audit yourself is to ask yourself this simple question: Can I prove my statement? In other words, are you saying something you can be accountable for? Can you back it up? For example, if a competitor claims their plan “pays infinitely deep,” you should be able to prove both mathematically and logically that this claim is completely false. Don’t go so far as to suggest infinity bonuses are wrong or bad, because they are not. Just explain why they aren’t as good as your competition is claiming. Or, what if your prospect is impressed by huge income claims made by a competing distributor? (There’ll be a whole section in my book on the specifics of how to defend against this, but for now just know that you can and must defend against it). Don’t allow your prospect to be swayed by meaningless information. Force your competition to stick to the genuine merits of their opportunity.
You can also use this same “proof” question as a defensive weapon. For example, if someone tells your prospect that they shouldn’t join your company because “they’re going down,” or “nobody’s making any money,” or “they’re being investigated,” ask your prospect to ask your competitor this question: “Would you please put that in writing and sign your name to it?” Then watch them back peddle! When they refuse (which they always will), ask your prospect why they wouldn’t do this if they were certain of their claim? Demand that they be accountable for their derogatory remarks. Demand that they reveal how they know what they are saying it true. Of course, they rarely can, which greatly diminishes not only the impact of their mud slinging, but can dramatically reduce the credibility of everything else they say.
I could try to give you more examples of statements you could defend against, but I won’t for no other reason than lack of space. Besides, my book is chocked full of them (as is my newsletter). Secondly, I can pretty much summarized practically every MLM pitch ever given: “We have the best products… the best support system… the most lucrative compensation plan… and the company is debt free and about to go into momentum” That’s it. Now, when your competitor says this to your prospect, ask your prospect to ask your competitor, “How do you know all these things are true?” That’s MLM defense.
If you’re going to back up your claims about your company, then you have every right to demand the same from your competition.