If you want to determine the level of honesty or network marketing savvy of the person trying to sponsor you, the best question you can ask is the worst question you can ask:

"How much money will I make?"

Why "worst question"? Because it's impossible to answer.

If your prospective sponsor even begins to try to give you a definitive answer to this question (or worse, defines how long it will take you to get there), he is either (a) a naive rookie who honestly doesn't know any better, or (b) making up this garbage and feeding it to you to tell you what he thinks you want to hear.

Yes, this is a question that prospects continually ask. Recently, a prospect told me he wanted to earn $5000 a month - was that was possible within six months? I told him that the question was impossible to answer - knowing full well that my competition was probably answering that same question with an enthusiastic, "Absolutely!"

Do the Math

Why is it impossible to answer? It's like stating the algebraic equation, Y + T + L = 5000, and then asking what Y, T and L each represent. The equation is valid - but it's mathematically impossible to answer what any one of those variables equals without knowing the other two.

Y = You: your ability, your efforts, your personality, your contact base or "center of influence."

T = Them: those you enroll, those they enroll, and their abilities, effort, attitudes, and contacts.

L = Luck: call it serendipity, fate, or divine intervention - call it what you will, but call it something, because it counts.

If you were a talented high school basketball player looking for a college to sign with, would you ask each recruiter how many NCAA championships you'll win? Of course not, because he'd have to predict the Y, the T (in this case it stands for Team), and the L factors.

Even you can't accurately predict what you will do, how well you'll do it, how fast you'll get better at it, how you'll react to failure (or success), and how long you'll keep doing it. How could your sponsor possibly judge this?

An even greater wild card is what others will do. I know someone who has personally sponsored 55 people over three years in the same program: not one of them has done a thing. I know another person who, just two months after joining, enrolled a couple - who built a leg of over 900 people in the next three months.

You Never Know

The third factor, Luck, accounts for everything else. The more regulatory-conscious reader may wince, so let's be clear: I am not talking about lotteries or gambling. I'm talking about that intangible factor that helps us succeed in any situation. Was it skill or effort that put John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the same neighborhood as children? Or that caused a stage hand named Clint Eastwood to catch the eye of a famous director? Obviously, talent was a factor. But how many very talented people never succeed - because they just never got a break?

That happens in networking - and so does the opposite. I know someone who was the number three earner in a very large company, yet openly admitted he had little knowledge of network marketing and sponsored only a handful of people. (Fortunately for him, one of them became the company's number one earner.) Let's say you enroll 100 people in your networking career, knowing that three will develop into superstars and make you wealthy. Which three? They might be the second, third, and fifth person you enroll - or the 94th, 97th, and 99th.

The Unknowable Context

There are also external factors. You might have used the exact same actions, in the exact same company, using the exact same tools, in 1998, the midst of our most recent network marketing slump - and had twice the success had you done them in 1991, our last network marketing boom. (As I show in my audio, "The Coming Network Marketing Boom," we are coming out of that most recent slump and on the verge of our next boom, so this factor happens to look positive for everyone right now.)

I've heard more than one wealthy networker claim, "The harder I work, the luckier I get," in an effort to sarcastically discredit the luck factor. No: the harder they work, the more effectively they enhance the influence of Y and T in the equation. There's still something to be said for knowing the right people, being in the right place, and at the right time.

Then there are the products, company, support system and compensation plan of the specific opportunity you're considering. All of these factors (especially comp plans) tend to perform far differently in practice than they do on paper.

There's one more issue hidden in the question: are we talking $5000 net income - or gross? Do you really want to earn five grand in the next six months - if it costs you six grand per month to do it? Alright, let's say we're talking about $5000 net. But, is that $15,000 gross income and $10,000 in expenses, or $5500 gross with just $500 in expenses? How much can you spend? It's reasonable to assume, as in any business, the greater your budget, the faster you'll reach your profit goal.

I'm often asked, "How much should I budget each month for my networking business?" My answer is always, "The most you can comfortably afford, but not a penny more."

I'm certainly not suggesting you cannot make $5000 in six months of your business. All I'm saying is: don't ask someone else to tell you whether you can or not. You're only begging to be misled!

Leonard Clements (www.marketwaveinc.com) is
author of Inside Network Marketing (Random House)
and the best-selling cassette tapes "Case Closed!",
The Whole Truth About Network Marketing" and "The Coming Network Marketing Boom."