MLM Recruiting and Communication

By Jeffrey A. Babener
©  2003

High Tech v. High Touch

There are at least two schools of thought in MLM recruiting. One approach is the “numbers” game. Networkers are told to get the message, by any means, in front of as many people as possible. The message is a quick one with little regard for the recipient. Unless express interest by the recruit is demonstrated, the recruiters very loud mantra is “Next!!” At the other end of the spectrum is the “relationship” approach. This approach requires a great investment of time and emotion and aims for warm and nurturing communication that will lead to a long-term relationship. Obviously, there are many approaches in between these polar points.

 The foundation of all recruiting is good communication and people-to-people bonding.

In a high tech / high touch world, high-touch wins every time.

The “Next” approach is more dispassionate and clearly less sincere. As a general matter, it is about “show me the money.” In today’s world of technology, it finds a home in boiler room calling and automated telephone devices and unsolicited spam email. From a legal standpoint, networkers who use technology to practice the “Next” approach will run into significant challenges. “Do Not Call” regulations enforced by the FTC and state agencies now impose severe penalties for unauthorized telephone calls, as well as imposing extraordinary financial demands on networkers who wish to obtain and comply with “Do Not Call” registries. In addition, states and the federal government will follow suit with bans on unsolicited email spamming. The risk for an identified networker is much greater than the risk for secretive boiler room-type spammers.

Query, however. Is the legal pressure on the “Next” technologic approach such a bad thing? History and experience suggest that warm communication and relationships may create the best odds for building an MLM business. Perhaps, this explains why party plan companies may build slower, but endure longer than MLM “numbers” businesses in which distributors come and go with much greater frequency. And in the end, the legal model and the business model may be the same, i.e., in the end, the human touch may trump the technology blitz.

Warm Communication Drives Success

At any one time, there are hundreds of network marketing companies. They have been billion dollar companies that are household words, and they have been Mom and Pop businesses you have never heard of. What sustains them all is obviously sales, but what fuels their success is the ability of their distributors to recruit. And, at the foundation of all recruiting is good communication and people-to-people bonding.

Technology is changing the game, but don’t sell short the old fashioned hug or handshake as the best bonding and recruiting machine yet invented.

So, what’s the impact of the high tech tools like the internet on your success in recruiting? Well, experience suggests that we definitely have a step forward in communication, but not necessarily in closing the sale or recruit. There is no substitute for what is often referred to as "pressing the flesh." This is a people business and human contact is the thing that cements the bond.

With the advent of television, a famous media observer, Marshal McLuhan coined an interesting observation. He said, "the medium is the message." Unless you are a university professor, that one may leave you puzzled. But actually, what he was probably saying was that "the way in which you say something may be as important as what you say."

So, when you send your message by spam, when you send your message by an automated telephone device, when your recruits respond to your ads by calling and being greeted by a voicemail or answering machine, when their email is returned like a boomerang by an autoresponder, when they are greeted by an amazing array of technological communications devices, is it any surprise that you lose the recruit, someone who might have been pivotal in helping build your sales organization?

This is not to say that numbers are not important. The rule in the sales world has always been that you have to expect a lot of nos if you are expecting to get a yes. In other words, you have to kiss a lot of frogs if you are going to marry a prince.

Kiss That Frog

One ingenious networker applied the frog kissing principle to network marketing. The message is hands on, and this old MLM fairytale is entitled Network Marketing and Frogs. The tale goes something like this:

  • You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to meet a prince.
  • That’s the job and you’ve got to kiss’em.
  • You can’t mail them a kiss.
  • You can’t stay in the office and wait for them to hop in and kiss you.
  • You can’t let advertising change them into princes.
  • You can’t ask your secretary to kiss them.
  • You can’t kiss the same one 40 times.
  • You can’t spend all of your time in kissin’ school.
  • You’ve got to spend time with frogs and you’ll find them out there in the marshes.
  • Then … when you find one … you’ve got to make contact.
  • Remember, kissing is a contact sport.
  • That is, if you really want to meet a prince.

In other words, in a high tech-high touch world, high touch wins every time. One of the great networking trainers, David Stewart, likes to say that, although the follow up on decisions is often driven by logic, people make decisions based on emotion. Think about it for a second. He’s right.

Eminem doesn’t say play the music, he says lose yourself in the music. In other words, connect your soul. Computers, internets, answering machines, emails can’t do this. People don’t lose themselves in email or autoresponders.

People make the decision to commit based on visceral instincts.

When they say reach out and touch someone, it resonates.

Reach out and send an electronic message does not resonate.

Bonding v. Numbers

All the studies done on why distributors join and stay with network marketing companies point to the top factors as personal and emotional:

  • Bonding with company leadership;
  • Bonding with field leadership;
  • Bonding with company vision;
  • And, bonding with the product itself.

All of these connections are visceral and personal.

Getting Back to Basics

So, within legal requirements, use all those new high tech tools for great communication. But, don’t kid yourself, there is no substitute for the personal connection if you intend to be successful in recruiting and network marketing.

Jeffrey A. Babener
Babener & Associates
121 SW Morrison, Suite 1020
Portland, OR 97204
Jeffrey A. Babener, the principal attorney in the Portland, Oregon law firm of Babener & Associates, represents many of the leading direct selling companies in the United States and abroad.

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