The A-B-C Technique

By Len Clements © 1994

Would you ever try to pour hot coffee into a thermos with the lid still on? Could you put a video cassette into your VCR if it already had a cartridge in it? Of course not. Unfortunately, the way that most people prospect for MLM partners makes about as much sense.

For many years, we’ve all been taught to call up our friends and try to get them to come to an opportunity meeting, or at least read some information or watch a video about our MLM opportunity. To do anything different would be going against the number one commandment of our industry – duplicate what works. In other words, “Thou shalt not try to reinvent the wheel”. I’m certainly not about to suggest otherwise. However, I do believe there are very effective ways of making the wheel roll a little smoother and a little faster.

First and foremost, we must remember that when you propose your opportunity, you are offering a business opportunity. A chance at being a true entrepreneur. Secondly, you are proposing your prospect get involved with multi-level marketing. In other words, you have at least one, and probably two, major challenges here. Challenges you must overcome before you can even think about proposing your specific opportunity. Challenges that, nine times out of ten, are the main reason why your prospect won’t even look at your opportunity.

Surveys indicate that about 85% of all working Americans would like to own their own businesses, if they could. In other words, if all obstacles were removed, they would prefer to be their own boss rather than work for someone else. This amounts to approximately 160 million people! These are your MLM prospects. Now, when 160 million people want to do something and don’t do it, there must be a good reason. When they are asked, they usually come up with these four.

It takes too much money. I don’t have thousands of dollars to invest in a business.

It takes too much time. I don’t want to work 80 hours a week to get my business going.

Too risky. Over 80% of all businesses fail in the first two years.

I don’t know how. I’ve never taken any business courses. I don’t know anything about taxes, accounting, marketing, etc.

I can assure you, if your prospect is not currently operating their own business, they have considered the possibility at some time in their lives. They have also determined all the reasons why they can’t (probably all four reasons). Therefore, before you even start to offer your MLM opportunity, you might want to dispel, at least slightly, these beliefs about why they can’t go into business for themselves.

Let’s say you are having lunch with your friend and you casually mention the fact that you are thinking about starting your own business. Then you ask if they have ever considered it. Sure, they have considered it at some time or another. Well, why didn’t you, you ask. They will inevitably respond with one or more of the previous four reasons.

Now comes the fun part. You ask them if they would ever consider going into business for themselves if; the total start up costs were under $500 and the income potential was higher than the earnings of some CEO’s of fortune 500 companies; the total time investment could be as little as 10-20 hours a week; they could continue to work in their present job until the income from their business was sufficient to earn them at least an equal income, so there is little risk; and best of all, there were numerous consultants available to them who are experts at running this business, who would train and advise them personally, for an unlimited number of hours, for the life of their business, absolutely free! Not only that, you say, but there is another company that will take care of all your research and development, shipping, payroll, payroll and sales taxes, legal problems, and so on. And, this company will do this for them every month, for the life of their business, for around $20.00 a year.

Of course, your friend won’t believe any of this. Ask them if they would consider it if all this were true. Most likely they’ll say something like, “Well, sure. But there’s got to be a catch”. Is there? Is this not an exact description of your basic MLM business opportunity? Is any of this even an exaggeration? No. You’ve just completed step “A” of the “ABC” technique.

Now, for the first time during this conversation, you will suggest that this type of business involves “network” or “multi-level” marketing. But don’t get into your specific opportunity yet. There still may be a major hurdle yet to overcome. You still have step “B” to take care of.

There are basically three types of people you are going to come across during your recruiting efforts. First, the cynic or skeptic. They believe MLM’s are all scams, get-rich-quick schemes, illegal pyramids, involve door-to-door and home party sales, and so on. One person I know even referred to them as “cults”. For whatever reason, these people have a low opinion of MLM in general. The second type are those that don’t know anything about MLM. Perhaps only that it’s “something” like a pyramid, or that they’ve at least heard of AMWAY or Mary Kay. The third, unfortunately smallest, group are those that are naturally intrigued by the concept. Usually these are people who were originally in the second group who heard about someone who made a lot of money doing MLM. By the way, if you find someone in this group, skip step “B”. This step is presenting the MLM concept as a viable, honest form of business. This usually involves explaining what MLM is not, not what it is.

“You must open your prospect’s mind
before you can pour anything into it”

Step “B” could be an entire column unto itself. Basically, you may want to mention that there are well over five-million people in the U.S. that are pursuing this form of business. Also, throw out names like Rexall, MCI and US Sprint, which all involve MLM as a means of obtaining new customers. Briefly explain the obvious difference between an illegal pyramid and a legitimate MLM company. When I pursued this business (before I was forced to be “objective”) I would always include favorable articles about the MLM industry in general. You may want to lead in with a generic video or audio cassette, that serves to only legitimize the industry, not promote any particular opportunity. Whatever you can do to give the industry more credibility, do it now.

Once these first two “preparation” steps are completed, you should then hand your prospect the video or literature about your opportunity. Challenge them to find the catch. Tell them you can’t, even though you thought it was too good to be true too. Instead of trying to get them to find out what all the good things there are about your program, encourage them to find all the bad things! Challenge them to debunk it. Let’s face it. Someone would be much more likely to watch a video if it were for the purpose of justifying their negative beliefs, than to contradict them. It’s human nature.

The bottom line is this. The real trick to successful recruiting in any MLM organization is not convincing someone who has looked at your opportunity to get involved with you, it’s getting them to just look at the opportunity. Don’t you agree? Let’s face it, once someone seriously looks at a good MLM opportunity, it’s pretty hard to not be at least a little intrigued. Unfortunately, 9 out of 10 won’t seriously look. Actually, I’d guess 5 of 10 won’t look at all! You’ve got to get them to just look. If you’ve got a good opportunity, the rest will take care of itself.

A good analogy here would be the thermos and the VCR. Like the thermos, you must open your prospects mind before you can pour anything into it. And like the VCR, there may already be something in there that you might have to remove first. To borrow an analogy from Anthony Robbins (Robbins Research), it’s as if your beliefs have legs like a chair. Only these legs are usually solid steel instead of wood. Believe me, people’s beliefs as to why they can’t go into business for themselves, and sometimes what they believe MLM to be, are solid beliefs. If you don’t do something to at least weaken those legs before you come in with your new belief, forget it. It will bounce right off.

I’m certainly not suggesting that this “ABC” technique is going to knock down those legs (although it could). But if you can at least instill some doubt in the mind of your prospect, some spark of interest, or at least pessimistic curiosity, you’ve made a major gain.

I also realize this technique lends itself to certain situations better than others. For example, this technique might be a little more difficult to pull off if you do a lot of long distance sponsoring. But it’s still not impossible. Put it in writing, or better yet do your own audio tape.

For the last 30 or so years, in almost every MLM organization, we’ve all been taught to go straight to step “C”. Contact your prospect and propose your MLM business opportunity. “MLM” and “business” may be scary propositions, and needlessly so. Steps “A” and “B” are designed to reduce or eliminate this stigma, so you can bring more prospects to step “C”. Get them to look!

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.