When I first started in network marketing, we did not have three-way calling, conference calling or Internet capabilities. (Yes, Smarty-pants, we did have cars and airplanes.) Because of the lack of technology, building a business was much slower and more localized. We had a lot of "face time" with our distributors (though we didn't call it that) at opportunity meetings, trainings and leadership meetings, because everyone lived within 50 miles of each other.

Most of the people we contacted were people we knew--our "warm market"--or direct referrals from them. The "cold market" consisted of strangers you might meet simply by paying attention as you went about your daily activities. You could also find cold market by running ads or sending direct mail--something that was strongly discouraged by my first network marketing company and just as strongly encouraged by my second.

Inviting warm market to see the business was the tricky part. Scripts were essential; training on objections was paramount. Sweating profusely and feeling sick to one's stomach was an expected part of the process. Nevertheless, warm-market recruiting was the mainstay of the business; cold-market recruiting was a specialty technique practiced by comparatively few.

The Untimely Demise of Warm-Market Recruiting

Today, that has all changed. I constantly hear trainers tell-ing people to avoid approaching their family and friends. Recruiting from the warm market has gotten a bad rap.

The popularity of warm-market recruiting first began to decline as a result of the deceptive inviting practices taught by some. In order to avoid rejection, distributors would invite contacts to

dinner or a get-together only to have someone whip out a white board and do an unannounced opportunity presentation. This type of invitation often infuriated the guests, and in time, it also damaged the image of network marketing.

The second blow to warm- market recruiting came when sponsors began asking for copies of their new distributors' address lists, then proceeded to call the people on those lists directly, all too often doing damage to the relationship. (When I was asked for my contacts, I remember thinking, "Who am I going to sacrifice today?")

The third blow came when upline leaders began suggesting to their new recruits that they do some unscheduled three-way calls and catch the recruits' personal contacts "by surprise." It always felt to me like an ambush; I still receive calls like this even today, and it still feels the same way!

Over time, the simplicity and purity of warm-market recruiting became so badly damaged that for many, it started to seem like it might be easier simply to get tough--and learn to recruit cold market.

With the advent of Internet-based recruiting and the broad rejection of warm-market techniques, cold-market recruiting has become the dominant force in network marketing. It has become, in fact, virtually the only way to recruit. The pendulum has swung the other way.

Common Sense

A method's predominance doesn't automatically mean it is more effective. There is a tendency, when any one method begins to gain dominance, for that method to self-perpetuate. This is only natural: distributors will tend to recruit the way they are recruited. If they come from a newspaper ad, they'll want to run newspaper ads. If they came in through the Internet, they'll want to recruit using the Internet. If they are recruited through personal contact from someone's warm market, they'll want to contact qualified acquaintances of their own.

Which is better? Even for someone who never heard of network marketing, common sense should provide the immediate answer: neither--they both have their strengths and weaknesses.

The best part about utilizing qualified warm-market contacts is that there is no credibility gap or relationship gap. Sometimes (not always), a pre-existing relationship and the credibility that goes with it will increase retention, because the new recruit takes the business more seriously and gives it more time. I have always envied family members or best friends who were in the business together.

This is also a weakness of cold-market recruiting: you have no pre-existing credibility and no relationship with the contact, therefore retention is lower. Training begins to put its emphasis on how to be tough and resilient in order to survive the rejection, on the one hand, and on the other, on how to build new relationships quickly.

To me, warm-market versus cold-market has never been the central issue of recruiting. The central issue is finding people who have the qualifications I am looking for. The temperature of the market they're from is irrelevant!

Towards a Happy Medium

My fear is that the dominance of cold-market recruiting, with its inherent lack of relationship-building, has begun to turn our business into a revolving-door opportunity. Network marketing is relationships; without relationships it becomes a hollow stopover where people come and go with hopes of making a quick dollar. Without strong relationships there is no substance, there is no glue--and in time, there is no company.

Companies come and go so fast today that the industry itself is taking a beating. Banks are more hesitant to lend money and merchant accounts are more difficult to obtain. There are more people today who have tried network marketing and left than ever before. At the same time, it is still the single most remarkable and effective way to build a solid residual income and help others at the same time.

I'd like to see the pendulum swing more towards the middle. I'd like to see warm-market recruiting, based on sound principles and respect for the relationships, make a comeback.

My reason is simple: I love network marketing! It has been very good to me and I want to see it stand the test of time. I want to see it become the dominant force for good in the world that it has always been for me.

PAULA PRITCHARD is a veteran network marketer who has built huge organizations throughout the United States and Europe.