The Quintessential Qualifying Question

By Len Clements © 2002

You have a prospect.  Now what?  Should you lead with the opportunity, or the product?  If so, which product?  Do they want to lose weight, look younger, or have more energy?  Or are they looking for more money, and if so, how much?  Great wealth, or maybe it’s time freedom their really after and all they want is to make enough so they can quit their job.  Or, perhaps just enough to make a car payment.  What should you lead with?  What should you focus on?

Why not ask them?

One of the greatest challenges with the proverbial “simple, duplicatable system” is that many are too simplified.  By employing a no-brainer, cookie cutter system of finding, qualifying, and closing prospects we’re essentially shooting at a target with our eyes closed.  Sure, repeating the exact same scripted presentation, sending the exact same info-pack, and providing trite, prefab responses to every objection (or worse, just sending everyone to the exact same web site) is certainly simple, and quite duplicatable – and utterly ineffective.  Yes, opening your eyes and aiming at the target does take a little more work, that’s true.  But it’s not rocket science, and you’ll hit the target ten times more often!

Of course, it is a bit awkward to call a prospect, introduce yourself, then ask, “So, Bob, what would you like me to lead with?”  That probably wouldn’t work very well either.  But there is one, simple, tactful, qualifying question you can kick off any prospecting call with.  A question that will provide you with all the information you’ll ever need in locating the unique bulls eye for each prospect, and they’ll never even know that’s what you’re trying to do.

Just ask them (insert drum roll here…), “Have you ever been involved in network marketing before?”

At this point your prospect must give you one of three possible answers:  No, I’ve never been (or perhaps the equivalent response, “What’s that?”); or, “Yes, I was once, but not anymore;” or, “Yes, I am right now.”  Each has attached to it an obvious follow up question (no script necessary for this system).  If they responded that they have never been involved before, ask what sparked their interest now (we’re assuming for the moment that you’re dealing with folks who have expressed some interest, in some manner, in at least some kind of MLM or home based business).  If they said they were involved in MLM before, but not now, ask them what happened before.  If they claim they are currently involved in an MLM program, you’ll want to know why they are looking for something different (or, are they looking for something in addition to it?).

After your second tier of questioning, just sit back, listen, and take notes.  Your prospect will now reveal exactly what they want you to lead with.

If they said they were involved in the past, but lost their downline when the company went out of business, should you lead with your fantastic new energy drink, or the power of your compensation plan’s matching bonus, or perhaps should you focus on the stability of your company?  What if they said the company they are involved in right now has lousy sales tools and their sponsor is providing no support.  Company stability, great products, lucrative comp plan – or your company’s wonderful sales aids, your upline’s effective training tools, and all the love, encouragement and support you’re going to provide them?  You don’t have to wonder – they just told you.

What if they respond to your first question with “What the heck is network marketing?”  Or with the dreaded “Aren’t those all pyramid schemes?”  You could safely assume here that they’ve probably never been involved in MLM before, and you may want to postpone any discussion pertinent to your specific opportunity, take a giant step backwards, and begin by defining or defending the general concept of multilevel marketing.  By the way, in the vast majority of cases you’ll be defining, not defending.  This is a vital and often skipped step in the process of recruiting MLM-ignorant prospects (less I offend anyone, ignorant means a lack of knowledge, not intelligence).  There’s more detail on exactly how to handle this scenario in the article titled “The ABC Technique” on my web site.

What you’re ultimately going for here is to determine what the prospect is looking for.  Of course, you could just ask “What are you looking for?”  But with this “Have you ever been involved…” approach you’ll not only eventually derive the same information, you’ll also get valuable insights as to what their concerns are.  So not only are you defining specific targets to aim for, you’re mapping out land mines to avoid.

Again, take copious notes of the conversation.  Capture the key sound bites and record them on index cards (literally or virtually).  Not only will it reveal what to lead with during this initial call, but also how you may want to customize the information package you send them, handle their future objections, and focus on in follow up calls.  If you eventually do a 3-way call with your sponsor, he or she should be provided with your intel as well.

This even works well with prospective prospects who have not yet expressed any interest.  If you’re having lunch with a friend, just ask the unassuming question, “Bob, have you ever heard of network marketing?”  In the event Bob responds with only a “Yes” answer, dig an inch deeper with the more specific “Have you every tried it?”

This approach also works well when leaving messages on your prospect’s answering machine, which they always quickly return, right?  Yeah, right.  This is one of the most common lamentations among MLM distributors throughout the history of, well, answering machines.  Prospects rarely return calls.  That’s because, most likely, they are expecting a long, heavy handled sales pitch.  So what if, on your message, you said you wanted to give them some “free information so I don’t have to explain everything over the phone” but before doing so you wanted to “take only about five minutes to ask you a couple quick questions about yourself.”  Not only have you established the fact that you are not going to pitch them on this first, prequalifying call, but you’ve established a precedent as to how the business is done.  You’ve created the impression with your prospect that, should they get involved, they too won’t have to give prospects the hard sell.  What’s more, rather than ask them to call you back to listen to a sales pitch (akin to asking them to volunteer for an unnecessary root canal), you’re instead requesting that they do something us humans inherently love to do – talk about themselves!  Try this approach. You’re call back rate will skyrocket.

Imagine you’re standing in a shooting gallery.  One target is labeled “Time freedom.”  Another says “Lose Weight” while another reads “More Energy.”  The target right in the middle has “Get Rich” painted on it, while yet another says only “Comfortable Living.”  There’s even one that says “Personal Growth.”  And surrounding these targets are dozens and dozens of others.  Hit the right one and your prospect signs up – but which one?  Don’t just assume it’s the easy center shot (in deed, for the vast majority of your prospects, “Get Rich” isn’t it, and if hit too often or too hard may even cause you to lose points).  Don’t guess, or shoot randomly hoping if you take enough shots you’re get lucky.

Just ask.  They’ll love to tell you.

About Len Clements

Based in Las Vegas and Founder and CEO of MarketWave, Inc., Len Clements provides consulting, training & expert witness services for the network marketing industry. Since 1989, he has been a top producer, trainer, and consultant for multiple network marketing companies. As a well-respected icon in the MLM industry today, Len conducts Inside Network Marketing seminars throughout the world and is the author of several best-selling books and audio tapes including Inside Network Marketing (Random House), Case Closed, The Whole Truth About Network Marketing and The Coming Network Marketing Boom.