Cheryl Gonzalez Cheryl Gonzalez is a great network marketer--but if she were like the average person who joins a network marketing company, she would never have found that out. Her saving grace was her ability to see the "big picture" of this business.

"I failed miserably for three years--because I was being told to do things that didn't fit who I was," she says. "I was told to set appointments with all my friends and family; show the plan; and show the money. It didn't work. Everyone laughed at me--they saw me as successful and couldn't understand why I was involved in network marketing. My friends got upset with me."

The typical person quits under those circumstances, but Cheryl kept the attitude that even if it took her five or ten years to become successful, that was still better than "trading time for money" for the rest of her life. Her initial excitement about the possibility of leverage hadn't diminished, despite those early difficulties and continuing to work full-time in her counseling business.

Re-Examining Basic Premises

She had started out with a warm-market list of 3000, but her results using the prescribed presentation style were poor. In frustration, she turned to the cold market and had a better rate of success.

"I had a lot more success with the cold market because those people didn't know me--and that really bothered me. I had hoped to get my friends in and retire with them, but they didn't see it at all. I realized what the problem was: I was not coming from my own personality. We're always told to do what our upline says until we make it. Well, I wasn't like my upline."

Cheryl finally decided she had to do this her own way and come up with her own plan. She started with the premise that her approach to the business had to be aligned with her passions and values, and the recognition that network marketing just isn't for everyone.

"To assume that everybody you know wants to make a change in life is stupid," she says now, "because people don't necessarily want to make changes. You have to get to know someone to find out if that person even wants something new in life. Nobody told me that. I realized I needed to be finding out about the other person first--that's what was missing all those years."

Leveraging with Technology

From there, she turned her attention to how she could leverage the Internet. She saw the Internet as "a networker's dream," a way to connect to a "community of millions" who have organized themselves by common interest. Today, her business is 100 percent online, yet her approach to prospecting is simple and personal--she connects with people who share her own interests and begins a dialogue with people she'd like to get to know.

"I might be on a Web site where entrepreneurs are sharing information," she explains. "That gives me a chance to see who the 'regulars' are, who participates, who has good ideas, who I want to network with and meet."

The keys, says Cheryl, are to observe the participants, to be selective about whom to engage in conversation, and to focus on making friends and helping others, not on presenting the business.

"You have to understand that this profession is built on word-of-mouth advertising. So ask yourself, who will listen to word-of-mouth advertising? People who know that you care about them. How do they know that? Because you've shown your interest by asking questions. Fortunately, I have a bone in my body called 'naturally curious.'"

When Cheryl talks to people now, she doesn't talk about a business. She asks questions and "explores where they're coming from" first. In fact, she may never discuss network marketing at all--that all depends on the individual and what she learns in the conversation. That doesn't bother her at all.

"I believe that every person has value and every person can be a resource. Whether they get into my business or not, I don't really care."

This perspective has served her well--becoming comfortable with how she builds the business did wonders for her progress up the pay plan. If it took a few years to find the right approach for her, Cheryl's status as a top leader proves the wait was worth it.

"I've been able to help a lot of people succeed in my business," she says, "and that's what gives me the charge. I love this business because it's not a hand out--it's a hand up."

The Value of Your Network

I believe this business is about networking, not marketing. If you're only marketing, no matter how many people you meet, only certain people will see your message and want to check it out. But when you're networking, you're connecting from a personal standpoint and developing a network, including the people who won't be in your business. Some people should continue doing what they're doing, and that doesn't mean they're not part of your network.

Your network is the real value in this profession, and whoever has the largest network wins. I have people I call "ambassadors," people I've built relationships with who like me, stay in touch with me, know other people, and are willing to help me. I want to help them, too. I always want to come from a place of contribution: Who is your ideal client? How can I help you? You can build an incredible network this way, and not have to worry about prospecting and talking about an "opportunity." -- C.G.