Finding a Way to Duplicate His Success
By Uma Outka
As a Tennessee University chemistry teacher, Leo Corley found his work tiring and only intermittently rewarding. Typical activities ranged from the intellectually stimulating to the dull and redundant. Worse, as he worked toward completion of his Ph.D., he had amassed nearly $100,000 in loans and credit card debt. He knew he'd never pay it off with his salary alone; when he heard about network marketing in 1996, it seemed like the answer.
"I started my business not to get out of teaching chemistry, but simply to make an extra $1000 a month," Leo says. "I came home from that first presentation excited: I thought I'd found a way for us to finally pay off the debts and get us afloat financially."
At first, Leo's wife, Danielle, did not share his enthusiasm: she looked him straight in the eyes and said, "Leo, you are not going to do this. I do not want to be married to a network marketer."
"Those were her exact words," recalls Leo. "I had to pawn a television and a gun to get my business started--but I knew I could do it."
After Leo and Danielle attended a company event together, her perspective changed and she got excited too. And after the first month, the checks started coming in.
Within six months, he was earning more part-time through networking than he was full-time in his teaching job. In 1997, he left the university position and the family moved back to their home state of Texas. Leo has been a networker, with the same company, ever since.
"We now make a significant six-figure income," he says, "but that took some time. I had to grow considerably as a person and change my approach to the business in order to get to where I am today."
Duplication, Learned the Long Way
When Leo went full-time, he quickly recognized that he had certain advantages and disadvantages as a networker. From his extensive teaching background, he was already comfortable talking to large groups. He soon became one of the best public speakers in his area, leading nearly all the local presentations; he also excelled at personal sponsoring. On the other hand, he found himself ill-prepared for the free time and lack of outside authority to impose structure and deadlines on his work.
"I am an inherently lazy person," Leo states in his characteristically matter-of-fact way. "I love nothing more than to be able to sleep until noon every day. My motto in my early days of network marketing was that I wouldn't get up until I see at least four digits on the clock. I figured as long as I was making as much as I was teaching chemistry, that was great. I thought, if I only had to work two hours a day to earn that, fantastic. I could be found shooting pool in the middle of the day instead of working."
His results, however, were not quite so fantastic. His lack of discipline began to get him into trouble.
"I failed to treat it like a business; not surprisingly, I didn't have a tremendous amount of success. In those days, let's just say, my organization did not have a great leader."
Before long, he adopted a more serious and ambitious attitude about his business and spent the next several years working extremely hard. He held an incredible number of presentations and meetings--and his income grew proportionately. He had one major complaint, however, and it bothered him a great deal: While his income rose, his downline's earnings remained stubbornly and stagnantly low.
Leo is candid about his frustration.
"In September of 2002, I took an honest look at my organization--and I found that I was the only one who was making anywhere near a six-figure income. Most of the people on my team who were putting in a solid effort were making less with me than they would be if they were working a part-time job at a fast food franchise. It drove me nuts to look in their eyes, week after week, seeing how much they wanted this, seeing the time with their families they were sacrificing, trying to make it happen--when it just wasn't working for them."
Determined to change this somehow, Leo began to closely examine his own leadership and the business approach that he and his company had been teaching. It was what he now calls "classic old school network marketing." He was holding meetings on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, a lunch presentation on Fridays, a training from nine till noon and a presentation at one on Saturdays. The group would then spend Sunday night making invitation calls for Monday, and the cycle would repeat. Only problem: his people kept being stood up by the folks they were inviting.
"We called them carpet-kickers, they'd sit there and pace the floor waiting for their guests to show up; week after week, they'd show the business to nobody. If they were lucky, they'd show the plan to four people a month. It saddened me to see this happen over and over."
Not only were the people in his organization earning pennies, Leo himself was also beginning to burn out. He was a great recruiter working with a compensation plan that heavily rewards recruiting, but the effort was becoming just too taxing.
"I could put in enough people on my own each month to make a great money, but once they got in, I couldn't help them. I was willing to get dressed up in a suit in the 100-degree Houston heat and go literally store to store in the mall, getting to know the business owners, pretending to be shopping for something. Whatever it took to go meet people, that's what I did. We actually had one person in our company teaching people to run into any restaurant and yell out, 'Hey, whoever wants to make money, here's a brochure!' Obviously, most people don't want to be that person, and people couldn't or wouldn't do what I was doing. Bottom line, it wasn't working for anyone but me."
The Internet Brings Respite--and Growth
At the advice of a networker Leo highly respects, he decided to try working with Internet leads. He'd been skeptical in the past, but he now sorely hoped that his friend had the solution for him. Somewhat impulsively, Leo decided to make a radical change in strategy.
"I made a commitment to build exclusively from home," Leo says. "I didn't want to be driving back and forth across Houston every night anymore. I didn't want to have to talk to my waiter whenever I went out to eat and be on all the time. That's how I'd lived my life for six years--I had no down time. I decided to start eating every meal with my family and not talk to anybody but Internet leads."
In support of his Internet strategy, Leo set a firm and disciplined schedule: 6:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. is family time. At 1:00 on the dot, he heads into his home office and works on his business until 4:00. From 4:00 to 5:00 he's at the gym, then has dinner till 6:00, then returns to his home office to work until about 10:00.
"During my work hours, I'm not shuffling papers around on my desk: I'm talking to as many prospects as I can and helping my team learn how to do the same."
Here's the gist of Leo's Internet strategy: Each month he buys a list of 1000 people who have requested information about working from home. He sends those people an invitation to view an online business presentation. They click on a link; if they like what they see, they fill out a survey. Leo talks only to these people; the rest of the leads shift into an automated follow-up program. In his live phone conversations, he refers interested parties to a pre-recorded message that answers the most common questions. After that, if they want to get involved, it's person-to-person on the phone.
In his first month on the new plan, he signed up one person; his income tanked. This didn't change his mind, however; a self-proclaimed go-down-with-the-ship kind of guy, once Leo's made a commitment, there's no going back.
In the second month, he sponsored seven new reps. In the third month, eight; the fourth month, 12; and the fifth month, 18.
"Since I started," Leo reports, "I have personally sponsored 84 people out of 11,000 Internet leads. More importantly, I've been able to teach a sizeable number of those people to replicate what I am doing." Out of each month's 1000 leads, he currently receives about 50 completed surveys; of those 50, he sponsors roughly 25 percent--about 12 people. What's more, his Internet-plus-conference calls system has made his entire organization much more successful as well, with some even earning six-figure incomes in their first year.
Leo rejects the common detraction that online networking is impersonal.
"People who don't understand online networking think you're just emailing back and forth all the time, but if you're doing it right, that's just how you make the connection; after that, you're live on the phone."
In fact, Leo feels he's a better leader now: not only is he able to model a business that others actually want, he is also able to bring greater talent to his team more often by inviting a different company veteran onto his conference calls each week.
He emphasizes that he doesn't want to take the "networking" out of network marketing, and despite his enthusiasm for Internet leads, he still values the warm market above all. In fact, says Leo, there is greater potential in the warm market if a new networker can offer evidence of success in the cold market.
"If you can teach people to be successful in the cold market, they will absolutely be willing and able to talk to their warm market with confidence," he insists. "There's a greater risk that you'll take their warm market out in the first week or two, if you send them out with what seems like a pie-in-the-sky proposal."
His results in the last year have convinced Leo that his new strategy was the right one for him--moreover, that it's the next step for the profession as a whole.
"Building through the Internet has allowed me to do what network marketing has always taught us: Show the plan. The person who shows the plan the most wins. Even more importantly, the person who can teach and empower his team to show the plan most is the one really wins. In the end, what I'm really teaching people is how to be better parents, better husbands and wives, and better contributors to society. I'm making over four times as much today as I was a year ago."
He adds with a smile, "Today, my wife is extremely happy to be married to a network marketer."