Network marketers are some of the most aggressive users of cutting-edge web and telecommunications technologies. We’re no dummies; we figure that by rigging up clever Web sites, flashy online presentations, e-mail blasts and auto-responders that we’ve supercharged the networking model. But … have we out-clevered ourselves?

To anyone connected to the Internet, personal computers now serve up instant marketing-and-communication gratification. Because technology allows us to reach large numbers of contacts quickly and cheaply, it’s easy to obscure that delicate line between respectful communication and offensive intrusion.

Fact is, as an industry, we’ve overused all these technologies to the point where even the greatest new invention is just more marketing noise amidst the millions of FREE, SUPER-DUPER, GROUND FLOOR, ACT NOW offers. But wait! … There’s more! We’ve taken the most accessible medium the world has ever known and turned it into one big insomniac’s nightmare: the perpetual infomercial. “Once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities seem so abundant that we may be tempted to believe we’ll live forever.

A Universe of Disrespect

Today, a great product or business presentation must weigh in against a universe of competing presentations. What’s more (or less, depending on how you look at it), people today have little time or patience for solicitors. Life pulls them in so many directions that the average person barely has time to rest. People nowadays are understandably stingy with their “free” time—time that is under constant assault by television advertisers, direct mailers, magazine publishers, Internet marketers, telemarketers … and yes, friends and family.

I’m telling you—these prospects “don’t get no respect”!

So how do you differentiate your offer and stand out? How do you get someone to take the time to look at your presentation? Start by deciding you will give your potential prospects what they want: respect.

Think back to when you first entered the world of network marketing. Did you join because a stranger sent you a 30-paragraph e-mail that was so inspiring that you pulled out all of your credit cards? Or did someone who respected you ask you to take a look a something that she was excited about? Perhaps you answered an advertisement; okay, then: did the person on the other end of the phone sound like a game show host? Or did he treat you like a human being, talk with you, get to know you, build rapport, and listen to what you had to say?

It always goes back to the timeless fundamentals of networking: relationship-building.

Can we agree that the days of super-hype are super-dead? Good. Then let’s discuss how to engage people in time-proven, respectful ways, while still utilizing the best of technology.

Know Thy Prospects

How do you build the old-fashioned way, with human respect—yet still use the hottest technologies available today? Start with considering who your target is.

People are different; each group must be communicated to in a context acceptable to them. That requires developing multiple approaches; using a good contact manager will allow you to easily keep notes on your contacts and sort your records into a variety of contact groups.

Before going any further, I need to articulate an assumption: if you’re in this business, you are already using a contact management system—yes? Whether note-based or computer-based, it is a must. Why? It’s a gesture of respect: it means you take your contacts seriously.

Once your contacts are sorted sensibly, write some respectful letters of introduction, specific to each type of contact. You wouldn’t talk to a “warm-market” person in the same way as you would to a “cold-market” person; compose your letters accordingly. Your letters should give the impression that you took the time to write each contact personally and bear no hint of being mass-marketing pieces.

Communication With Respect

Don’t tell the whole story in your letters; again, this is a matter of respect. Think about it: if a member of your sales team introduced you to a personal friend of hers, would you go into a full-blown presentation right there on the spot? Of course not. What would you do? What would you say? Let your letter represent that. The old axiom holds true: friends first!

The ultimate goal is to get an appointment or a commitment for the prospect to see your presentation, whether live or on the Web. Use your program’s mail-merge feature to personalize each letter automatically by adding in your contact’s name. Send letters by e-mail—or by postal mail, if you don’t have an e-mail address on file. (Oh, and you can always use the good old telephone—perhaps the greatest piece of technology ever invented.)

Your contact manager should also allow you to schedule follow-up phone calls with each important contact. You can’t possibly remember all that was said in your last conversation, so be sure to keep great notes in those contact records. Use any clue to schedule a follow-up call in your task manager. If they spoke of an important event like a birthday, surgery, new baby, or college graduation, then make a note of it and schedule a follow-up.

The depth to which you build personal and business relationships will differentiate you more than anything else. You know you are building strong enough relationships when your customers won’t buy similar products from your competitors without asking your opinion first. You know your relationship is deep enough with your business team when they value your friendship more than another opportunity that sounds exciting at the moment.

When your competitors are scratching their heads, trying to remember to follow-up, writing notes on sticky yellow pads or sending out cold impersonal mass-marketing pieces, you’ll have the relationship advantage.

John Valenty
is founder of Earnware (www.earnware.com), a company
that creates technology solutions for small businesses.