You've had it happen: dealing with prospects who are super-critical of network marketing. I hope it will continue to happen to you, too! Why? Because: it keeps you on your toes, sharpens your wit and polishes your verbal skills - and increases your patience threshold!

Distributors often become offended and lash out in defense of the industry. I've heard them say things like, "Why don't you just stay broke?" and personal insults too explicit to print. This sort of offensive defense harken back to the 1960s, as a new industry sought to find its identity - often behaving like an adolescent. Well, it's 2002. Time for network marketing to grow up and become an adult.

When a prospect turns hostile, try to remember that he has a good reason for feeling this way. The low cost of entry into this business has cast a wide net over the years, leading to a host of problems, legal and public-relations difficulties. Has network marketing made serious progress? Of course: this industry has made incredible strides in the last 10 years. But like the used car business, memories of the past still haunt some of your prospects.

Can you really blame them? I don't think so. All they're trying to do is protect themselves. As a potential sponsor, it's your job to listen and understand their concerns in order to help them make a decision. Whether you sponsor the critic or not depends on how quickly you can gain his trust - and on your ability to show him how you, your team, and your company are different. Here are four strategies for turning the passionate critic into an enthusiastic distributor:

1. Agree With Every Objection the Critic Throws at You

Tell your critic that you totally understand his concerns; ask for clarification if you're not exactly sure what the objection really is. Agreeing with the prospect takes the fire out of the objection and disarms the critic.

Remember that he has a right to feel anyway he wants; arguing only exacerbates the situation. Strong critics can become emotionally charged very quickly, and it's extremely difficult to turn this type of situation around. The only way to move the prospect from emotion to logic is to agree with every objection, and to try and understand what led him to these conclusions. Once he is disarmed and thinking more logically, you can begin the next strategy.

2. Ask Lots of Questions

Asking good questions may be the single most overlooked strategy in network marketing. Many people simply want to push their opportunity down the prospect's throat before even bothering to ask some basic questions:

"Have you ever considered going into business for yourself?"

"If you did go into business, what kind of business would you like to have?"

"What do you like about what you do now?"

"What do you think about having a home based business?"

"What type of hours are you most comfortable working?"

"What kind of income are you accustomed to?"

These are just a few of the questions you should consider asking to help your prospect make a quality decision as to whether or not this business is right for him. Asking questions tells the critic you care. People love to answer questions about themselves and what they want out of life. The problem is that no one seems to care enough to ask them. Be different, and many times the critic will respond favorably.

3. Kill the Critic with Kindness

When the critic takes a cheap shot - whether at you, your opportunity, or the industry in general - you have a choice: Respond from a state of spirit or a state of ego.

Spiritual guru Bradley Johnson says that human beings are always in the spirit state or the ego state anytime we are conscious. The ego will have you on the defensive, looking to counterattack and seek revenge on the critic for launching an offensive. The spirit side of you will calmly respond in a loving manner - and diffuse the critic within seconds.

The spirit has no agenda, save truth and goodwill. Tap your spirit and thank the prospect for his candor; reply gently with something along these lines:

"I know a lot of people feel that way; I would, too, If I were in their shoes. What I've discovered is...."

Some people call this "charm"; others, "charisma." I call it, playing to win while keeping the ultimate goal in mind: Sponsor the critic. You can choose to gratify your ego, or to be successful. It's your choice.

4. Exercise World-Class Patience

Networking superstar Carlos Marin says: "Everyone operates from his or her current level of awareness." I couldn't agree more.

Many times, the critics are clearly wrong. They're judging network marketing on information they obtained 20 years ago, when the industry was in its infancy. They believe they're right, because their level of awareness is lower than yours. Be patient. Give them a chance to get educated.

How many times have you lashed out and criticized something, only to discover later that you were wrong? We've all done it, and hopefully people of greater awareness were patient with us. Everyone is doing the best they can to thrive and survive in a world of great change, challenge, and uncertainty. In a time when scams, rip-offs and corporate fraud fill the headline of every news story, cut the critic a little slack and a lot of patience.

Take a deep breath - and keep your ultimate goal in mind. You'll feel better about yourself, and your checkbook will thank you.

Steve Siebold
is co-founder of the Gove-Siebold Group (www.gove-siebold.com),
a training organization that helps
networkers develop world-class
communication skills.