Brian Tracy has described Mitch Axelrod as “one of the foremost authorities in sales and marketing in the United States today.” Alex Mandossian calls him “the Bruce Springsteen of personal development.”

A past board member of the National Speakers Association, Mitch is recipient of the Golden Mike Award (1996) for speaking excellence and industry contribution. He has consulted to such Fortune 500 companies as IBM, AT&T, Citibank, Johnson & Johnson and New York University. Over the last 28 years, he has presented more than 3000 seminars, workshops, lectures and clinics to groups totaling one million participants. Mitch’s training materials are used by tens of thousands of people in 30 countries around the world; his “Max Sales” skills course has earned the distinction of being the only such course approved by the legal departments at insurance giants Prudential and Met Life.

In 1981, Mitch took a detour from his burgeoning business career to try out for semi-pro baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals. He wasn’t signed to a contract, but had fulfilled a lifelong dream. Fortunately for the rest of us, he returned to the world of business—and as always, brought his love of the game with him. Since the early 1990s, Mitch has been talking about something he calls The New Game, and how the world of network marketing will never be the same. — JDM


Where did the idea of “The New Game” come from?

During the 1990s, I started to see that there was a whole new game being played in the world of business. The more I looked into it, the more I began to see a wholeseries of distinctions. And these new-game distinctions were happening everywhere, not just in business—in politics, media, publishing, everywhere. There wasn’t a single area of life where I didn’t see a whole new game happening.

And this was not a gradual thing. It was a seismic shift—a movement away from old thinking, old strategies, old methodologies, old solutions.

So I started teaching and talking about it.

What is the new game? What are the distinctions?

I use a model that starts with the new world, then progresses through new rules, new thinking, new mission, and so forth [see sidebar]. That’s the essential framework of the new game.

How does this apply to network marketing?

When you look at the new game of network marketing, all of these apply. It’s a whole new business from what it was ten years ago.

For example?

First, New World: network marketing used to be local. Home parties, local meetings, local advertising. Now it’s a global business, not limited or daunted by geography. That means the rules are changing.

And what are the new rules?

We all grew up with the phrase, caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware.” That was the old game. The New Rule of the new game is caveat vendidor: let the seller beware! This is the seismic shift in business, and it’s particularly apt in network marketing.

Network marketers tend to be overly enthusiastic. They all say they have the greatest products or services that anyone could possibly want, and they want everyone in the world to try them. I say the New Solution is, “Don’t fall in love with your products and services—fall in love with serving people.”

Serve people how?

Not by giving them your products and services, but by focusing on the people themselves. You put people ahead of products as well as profits.

Which is what you call the New Mission.

Yes, and this is the new economy, too. People still talk about being in the “information age,” but we’ve moved beyond the information economy—we’re on information overload. We’re now in the service economy; that’s where the economic potential is. Turning customer service into a new profit center is one of the core mantras in the new game of any business, especially network marketing.

There is a ton of money in network marketing that we’re leaving on the table, represented by all the people who have stepped onto the field and have since left the game. If we go back and re-engage all those who dropped out, there’s a gold mine of opportunity that most companies and distributorships are not looking at.

And a good part of that lost money is from not making the shift to caveat vendidor?

Yes, because they’re still in the old game paradigm. Here’s an example:

Network marketers talk about duplication. This makes network marketing different from every other business. In other businesses, you have to attract customers, convert them and keep them. In network marketing, you have to attract them, convert them, keep them and duplicate them.

The fundamental thinking on duplication is, you’ve got to have a system. What nobody seems to realize is that for half the population, this fundamentally does not work!

Why not?

Because of something we learn from axiology, which is the study of human values. By measuring human values with the accuracy of a thermometer taking your body temperature, axiology tells us that 50 percent of the population are systemically challenged.

This is a nice way of saying, they don’t like systems, don’t trust systems, and won’t use systems. Try and fit these folks into a system, and the game is over before it starts. They will automatically reject it. Their organizing values do not permit them to follow it.

So what do we do?

There are three basic types of approach. Some people need an approach that engages them on the human level, because they’re better with people. Others need an approach that engages them at the practical level, because they’re very bottom-line, results-oriented people. And for those five out of ten who are systemic, you want an approach that engages them at the process level, which is what the traditional “system” approach does.

But if you focus exclusively on the systemic level, you’re missing at least half the people right at the door.

Another example of “caveat vendidor.”

In a sense, yes. In the new game, you don’t try to fit people to a system, you mold and adapt the approach or system to fit the people. You can develop ways for all of these three core-value systems to operate.

What would it look like to have a training focused on “practical” and “people” as well as “process”?

Let’s say you are a “people” oriented person: you want to focus on interacting and engaging with people. The old game is to do your pitch, to have people sit down and listen to you. “Hey, I’m all excited about this new business venture, I want to tell you about it.”

But a large percentage of people in anyone’s sphere of influence are not suitable, appropriate or interested in joining your business. Out of 100 people you talk to, 90 say, “I’m not interested,” five say, “I may be interested,” and five say “I am interested.”

That’s great, for the ten who say “Yes” or “Maybe.” But what about the 90 who say “No”? They’re left with a bad taste in their mouths, because we approached them saying, “Would you be interested in joining my business?” What a waste!

Here’s the new game: When you approach your 100 people, you don’t pitch them, show them your video or give them your CD. Instead, you tell them three things:

1) What I do: “I help people create a guaranteed residual income for life in seven years or less,” or “I help people replace their current income in three years,” or however you define what you do.

2) Why I do it: the answer to that is your personal why.

3) And here’s who I’m looking for. And this is the most important one, because regardless of what business you’re in or what products you sell, you can tell everybody on the planet who you’re looking for and nobody will reject you.

You say, “Here’s who I’m looking for; who do you know who might fit the description?” The person starts thinking through the people he knows, and might even say, “Hey, you know what? Me! I might fit that description.”

Instead of burning your bridges to his network by forcing him into the awkward position of having to say, “No,” you’ve given him a way to say “Yes” comfortably—and you’ve also given him a way to say “I’m not interested” comfortably.

This simple distinction has made my corporate clients hundreds of millions of dollars. Imagine if the network marketing world were to teach this! It would not only affect retention, it would also give people a confidence level they’d never dreamed possible.

What do you do for people with what you call a “practical” focus?

When I train a network marketer who is very results-driven and looking for the most practical, common-sense approach, I say, “Go find yourself a market of people you believe are the best candidates, and then as quickly as possible find out where they each are in the buying cycle.”

You can do that with one simple question: “If you found what you were looking for, when would you get started?” That’s as practical as it gets. Why waste hours (or even 20 minutes) presenting to people who aren’t interested? Why not get right to the practical core of it?

How do you know which type of person you’re dealing with?

One way is simply to ask. “How do you prefer to work? Do you prefer people to people, practical, or process?”

Most people will tell you. “Oh, I want a system to follow, tell me, what’s step one, what’s step two and what’s step three.” With this person, bring out your great system. With your practical people, you bring out a different model, and with your people people, still another model.

When we make that shift, the stigma will disappear, retention rates will skyrocket, and the true value of the network marketing model will emerge.

Sounds like the essence of the new game is a shift from people being here to serve the business, to the business being here to serve the people.

Beautifully said. The old game was about the individual serving the company.

The new game is about the company serving the individual. What’s ironic is that there is no model out there better suited to serving the individual than network marketing. I don’t know why the profession got away from it, or maybe they never fully embraced it in the first place.

It’s so much more valuable if you treat me as a unique individual. Start by seeing what I bring to the game and then help me to make the business work for me as an individual, rather than force-feeding me a system because some Golden Deluxe Triple Diamond made it work for him.

And it might actually work for only five out of ten.

Yes, and even among that 50 percent, you’ve still got a 98 percent failure rate. So it’s not just the matter of the system.

The first thing I teach people is the buying cycle, because you treat ready people differently than you treat getting-ready people, someday-ready people and never-ready people.

Not one in 1000 companies operates out of the customer’s buying cycle. Virtually every sales-training program out there is seller-centric, about how to speed up your selling cycle.

Forget your selling cycle. Align with their buying cycle and you’ll transform every relationship. If you’re not aware of a person’s buying cycle, you’re shooting in the dark.

When networkers teach about asking questions and listening, about F-O-R-M, about finding out the person’s why, isn’t that going in the direction you’re talking about?

I agree with the philosophy: stop pitching and start listening. But I have a different perspective on the FORM model. Many of these personal questions have no bearing on the prospect’s outcome. These are questions I want to have the answers to. This is still focused on me, the seller. They key is to ask questions the customer wants to have the answers to.

So when I ask about their family, I’m asking for me, because I’m looking for something to hook onto?

Exactly, and that’s all seller-centric. You’re trying to ask questions that might elicit information you think you can use to find an entry point to a conversation about your business.

What would you do instead?

I can engage in a conversation about my business with anyone, with one question: “Where would you like to go? What’s your point B?”

Your point B?

When people ask me, “Mitch, what business are you in?” I answer with one word: transportation. I help people get from point A to point B. So, what is your point B? What is the outcome or result you’re looking for?

So you skip over F-O-R-M and go right to the result they want.

Yes. Of course, first we’ll exchange pleasantries and have a little conversation; this is getting alignment. But the problem with going into too many questions about the family, occupation and all the rest is that it can feel invasive. A lot of people don’t really want to tell you about their family. So use an approach that engages them in talking about what their outcome is.

If their outcome is to provide for their family, and they want to talk about their family, then let ‘em! But if they say, “I need $250 in 30 days or I’m going to lose my house.” They just told you in one sentence, more than you could possibly know in hours of FORM.

What if they don’t know what their point B is?

Then you can play an even more effective role, because now as a coach, you can say, “Why don’t we look at what your point B could be?”

I had a client, an insurance general manager, earn a half-million-dollar account over lunch using nothing but this approach. He met with an accountant; between courses he pulled out a napkin and drew a little picture of an arc from point A to point B. Then he asked, “Where exactly is your point B?”

At the end of the hour, the accountant said, “Nobody has ever asked me what my result or outcome was. You know more about what I want to accomplish than people I’ve worked with for years. And I’m giving you all my business.”

Mitch, what is at the core of this seismic shift you describe as the New Game?

The underlying shift is the shift of power from the seller to the buyer.

In the past, the seller had the information, the product, the research, the deliverables. There were these layers of structure between manufacturer and consumer. You had to go to somebody to get what you wanted, and depending on what you wanted, there could be many layers of people between you and the ultimate product.

Companies had the power, because they had the product and the information.

And the distribution system. But that whole model has now completely reversed itself. Many of the links in the distribution chain from manufacturer to end user have dropped off; anybody anywhere can buy what they want directly from manufacturer.

And that’s not only because of the Internet, but also 800 numbers, third-party shippers and other shifts in technology.

The entire business of business has been moving in this direction. And we’ve now hit a cosmic convergence of factors that has tipped the scales. But this is more than a tipping point. It didn’t just tip, it turned upside down.

The buyer has the information, the buyer has the power. Your buyer knows more about your products and services and how they relate to the rest of the market than you do! Because she’s doing the research. You’re busy researching how to sell your product better, and she is researching how your product measures up to the competition.

And she’s sitting there with the ultimate hammer: money. And she can spend it with whomever she wants, because she can buy from anyone, anywhere, any time.

As a network marketer, how do I gain access to that power in the marketplace?

Here’s something that’s going to transform network marketing: when we recognize that just because somebody came and left, doesn’t mean they’ve gone forever. You’ve got ten times the number of people who’ve come and left as those who came and stayed. For some companies, maybe fifty times as many people.

Go back to those people! Re-engage them! Bring them a new message; make them a new value proposition. Tell them about your new shift in thinking.

Those people are going through the same buying process over and over; the buying process never ends. If you’re stuck in your selling cycle, you assume that anyone you’ve already talked to is dead wood, simply because you already talked to them once and they weren’t interested then. But there’s a gold mine there!

Embrace that shift, make that change, and the sky’s the limit.


Ten Distinctions of the New Game

  1. New World: The Age of Interdependence changes everything!
  2. New Rule: Caveat Vendidor—Let the
    seller beware.
  3. New Thinking: “No-box” thinking throws the box away.
  4. New Mission: Put people ahead of products and profits.
  5. New Message: You are in the “transportation” business.
  6. New Mantra: Love, serve and love some more!
  7. New Strategy: Win hearts, minds and souls.
  8. New Solutions: Don’t fall in love with your products and services.
  9. New Skills: Master the tools of the game.
  10. New Money: Profit is everybody’s business.