Few writers/trainers have had a greater, deeper or longer-running impact on how network marketers do business than the man behind the legendary “Big Al” books, newsletters and seminars. (The first book, Big Al Tells All: Sponsoring Magic, came out in 1985 and is still selling briskly today.) One reason for Big Al’s consistently huge following is that Tom Schreiter (no, his name is not really “Al”) knows the business cold, inside and out, hands down. He is a marketing genius and is meticulously methodical in his testing of every strategy he teaches. Networkers know that if Tom tells them something works, it’s because he’s done it, taught it, modeled it—and it works. But there’s another reason for his following: in a profession all too often larded with generously proportioned egos, Tom is one of the humblest, most self-effacing and just plain genuinely nicest people we’ve ever met. Hilarious, too. Read carefully: it’s not always easy to tell when he’s pulling your leg. — J.D.M.

Tom, what keeps you going after all these years? Why are you still doing this? Still can’t quite make the rent?

Yeah, still can’t pay that rent.

You’re on the road, what, something like 200 days out of the year?

Well, the kids are all grown, so I’ve got a big, empty house. I could watch TV and wait to die. Or, I could go around the world, do some workshops and get to visit all my friends. Let me think…which sounds better?

That is a tough one. How big is the house?

(laughs) I enjoy it, because I enjoy traveling.

What does this business look like in Russia, Eastern Europe, all the places you go? What’s it like teaching network marketing on the steppes of Asia?

It’s really about the same everywhere. People just want to build a business. They’re very, very nice, very hospitable. And it’s just a little bit colder there than it is in Texas.

You’ve been in this business for a third of a century; how did you first get here?

Well, that’s a really complicated, high-tech story: I answered an ad.

People say, “Advertising doesn’t work.” I say, “Okay, fair enough.” What can I say? Still, I answered an ad thirty-five years ago, and I’m still here.

So how does it feel, being a statistical fluke?

I actually did a survey once on one of our cruises. Out of fifty leaders at our leadership workshop, forty-two had gotten into the business because of somebody they knew. Two came from an Internet company, one from mail order, one from an ad (that was me), and I forget where the other four came from.

The great majority of leaders I’ve ever known in this business came in through someone they knew—but not someone they knew all that well.

That’s interesting. I guess that’s the question I need to ask next time: how well did you know the person who brought you in?

In all the years I’ve known your work, I’ve never heard anyone talk about you in the context of your being with a particular company. Are you being discreet, or just forgetful?

Discreet, I guess. I don’t remember. Anyway, all my friends are in different companies, so what am I going to say? I don’t have favorite companies. I like them all.

Besides, it’s not a particular company that will make you rich. In every company, there are people who make money and people who are broke. So it doesn’t look like the company’s the determining factor.

What is the determining factor, then?

Well, it’s not the economy, because there are peo-ple who are successful and people who are broke in the middle of the same economy, too. And if you’re in the same company, then you have the same products and the same comp plan. Gosh, I guess it kind of boils down to you. The variable is you.

People don’t like hearing that, because personal responsibility isn’t really high on most people’s list of fun things. It’s kind of embarrassing when we point that out, and I don’t like to embarrass people, so I let them stay delusional.

You’re very kind. You said people are pretty much the same everywhere, but do you see any distinct differences in people’s attitude about that—about personal responsibility—in other parts of the world?

In some places where they haven’t had opportunity, some third world countries, they’re pretty excited about having an opportunity. And in some places that are more developed, people come to have more of a social welfare mentality. It’s kind of sad, but it happens.

I heard about a seminar you gave recently in Russia or the Ukraine, where people traveled for hours in the cold…?

That was in Kazakhstan. We had about 3,500 people come to hear me talk for three days. In fact, some had traveled three or four days across the country to get there. This was in the middle of winter, so it was something like thirteen below zero. And when they arrived, the event was held in an outdoor hockey rink. It had a roof, but the wind just whistled right through, all three days. The conditions were pretty miserable.

I rank that right up there with my top “been there, done that, probably won’t do that one again” experiences.

One couldn’t imagine people doing anything remotely like that in the States to get to an event.

No, here you have the distributor who can’t come to the training because it’s twenty miles away and, you know, Desperate Housewives is on. Traveling can really put things into perspective.

Here, when people say, “This is hard…” they mean, “None of my friends want to join.” Different definition of “hard.”

Right. “Hey, I barely have enough money for my cigarettes, lottery tickets and cable TV. How can I afford this product?”

Is network marketing a new phenomenon over in Kazakhstan?

No, they’ve had it there for a long time. Illegally, of course, but everything’s illegal over there, so it’s no big deal.

Tom, let me pose the question on this issue’s cover: “I’ve run out of people to talk to…now what?”

I’ve never had anyone ask that question.

I didn’t think you had. But just in case anyone ever does, what would you say? How do you help people get resourceful and go past the limitations they think they’ve run up against?

I’ll give you two examples.

Let’s say you run out of people to talk to, but you only want good prospects. You thought about buying leads, maybe you even bought some leads on the Internet for a dime or a buck or $15, and you discovered that 400 people had already called them earlier. So now you’re saying, “Who do I talk to?”

Let’s make a list of who it is you want.

First, let’s say you want to find people who hate their jobs, not people who love their jobs. Number two, who would you rather talk to, somebody local you can work with, have a cup of coffee with, meet person-to-person, or somebody who’s getting started 3,000 miles away? So let’s make sure they are also local.

Let’s see…what else can we do to make this a really good prospect?

Oh yeah: although they hate their jobs, they do have jobs. They have to have jobs, because if they don’t have jobs they don’t have money for a kit.

What else? Well, we want this lead to be exclusive to us, of course. We don’t want 400 other people to have it.

Here’s an idea: to make this prospect even better, we’re going to find prospects who will even tell us why they hate their jobs.

So, let’s review. They have jobs, so they can pay for a kit. They hate their jobs, so they’ll be interested. They’re local, so we can work with them. They’re going to be exclusive to us and are even going to tell us why they hate their jobs and why they’re motivated.

So, John, how much would you pay for that lead?

Gosh, I’d pay good money for a lead like that.

When I paint this picture for a group, most people think $10 would be too much. I negotiate it down to $5. When I get down to $1, most of them raise their hand. So I offer it to them for 25¢.

At a quarter per lead, a lot of people go all out and say, “I’ll buy three!”

So I tell the group, “Okay, how about a nickel?”

For a nickel each, would you buy three of these leads, John?

Well, I’d have to check my finances first, but probably, yes.

You might risk it. You wouldn’t ask for a refund if the three didn’t work out.

I might even go for four, because hey, that’s only 20¢.

Okay, here’s how we’re going to do this.

The easiest place to find people who have jobs is go to a big office building. Just go desk-to-desk. All those people have jobs. Any downside to that, John?

Security might throw us out.

True, that would hurt. So we have to ask ourselves, “Where else do these people congregate?” Every day at lunch, they come out of their cubicles, run downstairs to the deli, line up and wait five, ten, fifteen minutes for their sandwich, and after they eat their sandwich they go back to work.

So let’s go down to the local deli and say to the deli owner, “Would it be okay if I give away some free lunches?”

He says, “Sure, no problem, as long as you pay for them.”

I say, “Great.”

I put up a fishbowl and attach a little sign for my contest entry: “Enter here to win a free lunch.” When these people walk in to wait in line for their sandwiches, they see this fishbowl and the sign advertising a free lunch.

Who says “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”?

Right! They say, “Hey, I’ve got nothing to lose. I have to wait five or ten minutes for my sandwich anyway. Sure, I’ll enter.”

The entry form is simple. It says, “Just finish the following sentence to enter, and leave your email address so we can notify you if you won.” And the sentence is this:

“I hate my job because…”

At the end of the week, how many people would fill out that form? Let’s say, a hundred. Now, I reach in there, draw out a winner, and … drum roll … John Mann wins the free sandwich!

How much did that free sandwich cost me, John?

Let’s say, five bucks.

For five bucks, I have a hundred leads: people who have jobs, who hate their jobs, who are local, who are exclusive to me, and who have even told me why they hate their jobs. How much does that work out per lead?

I believe that’s a nickel a lead.

So I send you an email, “Dear John, you won a sandwich!” But here’s the good part: I also now have ninety-nine second-place winners. I can no-tify them they didn’t win the sandwich—but they did win a free CD, “How to fire your boss and start your own business.” So I send them all emails say-ing, “If you want the CD, I’ll be happy to mail it to you. Just leave your address and phone number.”

It gets even better.

Then I say, “By the way, you’re automatically entered in next week’s contest.” And next week, second place is a sample of the product.

These are people that have jobs, hate their jobs, they’re local, they’re exclusive to you, and they’ve even told you why they hate their jobs—and you now have permission to contact them every week. How hard would that be?

It sounds pretty easy.

It is. And that’s one example of what you can do when you run out of people to talk to. May I give another?


Years ago, when I was living in Chicago, I got thinking one day, “Man, I need some distributors. I don’t have anybody else to talk to.”

I knew I wanted to find people with jobs, so they could pay for the kit. I also wanted people who were aggressive and wanted to get ahead on their jobs: they would want to improve their performance, improve themselves, get raises, things like that. I wanted them local, and I wanted them to be exclusive to me.

Then I thought, “Would I rather have people who love selling or people who hate selling?” I decided to go for “love.”

Once I’d decided who I wanted, all I had to do was figure out where they were.

I went over to Illinois Institute of Technology and checked out their adult education classes. These are night classes, and nobody goes to night classes except people who have jobs during the day, so I figured people who sign up for those classes already had jobs. I also figured they were going to night school, which meant they probably wanted to improve themselves and get ahead on their jobs. They were local; and these leads would be exclusive to me.

Now, which class should I sign up for? Would I want to sign up for basket weaving?

More like basket selling.

Exactly. I signed up for “How to Be a Salesman.” There was an instructor there teaching the Larry Wilson course on selling, one night a week for six weeks. So once a week for six weeks straight, I’m going to learn how to be a better salesman and be around a whole bunch of people who are great leads for my business.

I got five or six people in my downline to join the class, too. I figured at the very least, we’d all learn something.

There were forty-two people in the class. At the end of the six weeks, thirty-seven of them were in our downline. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Tom, how did you think of these strategies?

I just make a list of the qualities I want and then say, “Okay, where am I going to find these?”

Typically people just say, “I want a list of people who want to join my business.” Or, “people who might want to join my business.” Well, that’s pretty general! If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s a little hard to locate where you’re going to find a lot of it.

It sure sounds like a very logical process.

That’s the advantage of being an engineer. We’re boring, personality-free, and have lots of time for these things.

I went to your web site [www.FortuneNow.com] before this call and couldn’t help noticing that there’s no big button to push that says, “Learn all about me, Tom Schreiter!”

I got thinking one day about how many people really care about my personal life, and it was one. I figured, why put the effort on that one? Besides, then I’d have to write copy for it, and that’s a major inconvenience.

What do you say when people ask you which works better, approaching your warm market or cold market? Which really works better for most people—or more accurately, how do they work differently?

Hmm. If I was your brother-in-law, or if I answered an ad on the Internet, wouldn’t I still be the same person?

You have a point.

The question is, which one is easier to talk to. It could be either. If you just ran over my dog and stole my car, probably better a cold lead than my brother-in-law.

In the beginning, for most people, it’s easier to talk to somebody they know, because they will at least be polite enough to give you an opportunity to do a presentation, while a cold lead might not. Later on, when you have more skill, it wouldn’t matter either way, would it?

Less and less. Talk with a cold lead for sixty seconds, and they’re not cold anymore.

That’s exactly it. What you really have to do is turn your cold market into your warm market, and then you can talk to them. You can always talk to a warm market person.

It’s a big world out there, and there are a lot of great people who could be in your business, have a lot of fun and, yes, even make some money.

So, what do you do when you run out of people to talk to?

Go find more people to talk to.

There are billions of them.