We typically focus the messages in this monthly column on how to obtain new team members and customers from the outside. But there is also tremendous potential for cultivating endless prospects from right inside your organization.

In this case, we'll focus on keeping some of the "weakest links" in the business long enough so they can become inspired to begin the building process, or at least to refer others you can present to. And we'll learn how to do this from a real-life distributor who sets a wonderful example.

We all know how the famous "Pareto Principle" (the 80-20 rule) comes into play in network marketing: 80 percent of the production will come from 20 percent of the people. This means the majority of people in your business will not be significant producers. There's nothing "wrong" with the 80 percenters; they simply aren't ready or interested in building businesses.

At least, not so far.


The Turning Point

Often, 80 percenters live in your organization as "wholesale consumers": their sole activity is to purchase and use your products. This adds to your volume and provides them with good health (or whatever benefits your product or service provides).

However, there often comes a point in the life of an 80 percenter where she will be motivated to move in one of three directions:

1. She will continue purchasing products and introduce you to a few prospects--at least one of whom may turn out to become a producer or even a leader.

2. She herself may take a greater interest and get involved, becoming a producer or even a leader, providing your organization with lots more people and sales.

3. She may lose interest and quit altogether before ever leading you to anyone.

How you handle this turning point is up to you, and can make all the difference in the outcome.


An Example

Writing to me at my weekly e-zine, "Winning Without Intimidation," Laura Viveiros explains how she handled a significant "turning point" challenge with one of her newer team members, an 80 percenter. Notice how calmly and gently she handles this person, turning a potentially explosive situation into a win/win.

"Today, one of my newer distributors left an irate message on my voicemail, something about how she was charged for an item she didn't buy, her husband was upset, and lots more. I could feel my pulse quicken with anxiety. I knew I hadn't charged her for anything, and it sounded like it might have to do with our company's Training Center. They give new distributors 30 days free, then charge them for a month's use if they don't cancel, and I am guessing she forgot about this.

"My first thought was, 'How would Bob handle this?' "

Note from Bob, in Groucho Marx voice: Actually, I'm kind of interested in finding out how I'd handle it, too...<waggle cigar and look at camera>... and I certainly hope she handles it better than I would.

"I decided that in order to get clear on exactly what happened, I first needed to ask some questions. I called her back and greeted her with sincere happiness at being back in touch, because she had been out of town on other business for over two weeks. So we were off to a good start.

"After asking all about her trip, I broached the hot topic with an open, 'Could you tell me exactly what happened?' approach. She explained that she thought she had used only two of the four free weeks of training materials, and it appeared she'd been charged early; and, that she didn't want to incur the training center expense right now. I listened, saying nothing until she was finished.

"I acknowledged her feelings, told her I would feel the same way if I were her, and asked her to please log on to the site where they could help her and refund any charges that may have occurred. I also assured her I would follow up with them, as well.

"From there we were able to discuss some of the areas in the business where I could help her. We talked about how she might eventually utilize the training system, and how it could help her as she grew more serious about building the business. I explored another aspect of the business I thought would interest her, which she seemed very open to. By the end of the call, she was excited--in a positive way!

"What could have been an angry, defensive exchange was instead loving, supportive and positive! I cannot thank you enough for your on-the-money training and guidance!"


Lessons from Laura

Well, apparently I handled that extremely well. (Just kidding.) Actually, I'm proud of Laura: she handled it beautifully.

First, she responded instead of reacting. When we respond, we are in control of ourselves and the situation; when we react, we are controlled by that which is outside of us.

Second, she asked questions. She realized she needed to see and understand the situation from her distributor's viewpoint.

Third, she greeted her distributor with sincere pleasantness, even though her gut sense at the moment was anxiety. Yes, it's okay if you have to "act" your way into a positive, loving feeling. Action comes before feeling. If you want to be in a good mood, act as if you are already there and the rest of you will soon catch up!

Fourth, she fully and completely listened while her distributor explained the situation, without interjecting or rushing in to offer her own explanations. This allowed the venting of any negative feelings and provided Laura with the information she needed to be part of the solution.

Fifth, she empathized with the woman, letting her know that in a similar situation, she would feel the same way.

Finally, she discussed the appropriate alternatives.

This was a textbook example of how a leader can, through sincere and empathetic caring for those who are not yet producers, manage to keep them around long enough for possible and eventual changes to take place. n



BOB BURG is author of Endless Referrals and The Success Formula.