Ramin Mesgarlou has seen success from a number of angles. A very successful businessman by age nineteen, he was also a supremely successful athlete, winning several titles including Canadian and world elite championships as well as Canada’s Athlete of the Year honor. At the age of twenty he joined a network marketing business, and soon became the youngest person ever to reach the second-highest rank of that company’s pay plan. In the years since, he has been a master distributor for three other networking companies, created compensation plans for four direct sales companies, written two extensive practical guides to the business, Forensic Networker and Independent Home Business Owner’s Manual, and today serves as CEO of a network marketing company he founded in 2005. — J.D.M.
You’ve said that your success in traditional business informed your approach to networking. What about your experience as an athlete?
Olympic-style wrestling, which is my sport, is not a team sport. It’s very much one-on-one: you either conquer the other guy or get conquered yourself.
I competed in many tournaments where I lost, and it didn’t feel good. I had all kinds of excuses why I should not go to practice the next day, why I should just quit the sport. The other guys were going to better schools, they had better coaches and better equipment; they had more money, which meant they could go to wrestling camp.
What’s more, the injuries hurt. You come away from a tournament with all kinds of aches and pains. So you’re sitting on your couch at home, in pain, and feeling devastated because two other guys conquered you that day.
But I licked my wounds, got up and went back to it the next day.
I was not the most talented or the strongest or the fastest, but I ended up winning 126 medals, including the Canadian championship and the World Cup.
That’s what wrestling gave me that helped me win in network marketing.
In this business it’s really easy to go through an emotional roller coaster. You pick up the phone and the guy on the other end tells you, “Are you kidding? Go get a job making $8 an hour, because you’ll make more money there than in what you’re doing.”
Well, I’d felt that kind of pain before, and I knew what comes next: get up again, pick up the phone and dial the next number.
How did you first get started?
My family and I had a successful restaurant business. It was 1990, and I was twenty years old.
One day, around noon, I was kind of exhausted —we would end our days at 4:00 in the morning—and I found myself thinking, “Man, if it feels this bad at twenty, it’s going to feel a lot worse at thirty. I don’t want to be doing this for another 10 years!”
You know the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Right then one of my customers walked in, sat down and started telling me about a new business he was doing.
This guy was in the carpet cleaning business, but he had just begun working with a new business on the side. He started drawing circles, and I was fascinated. Nobody had ever approached me about network marketing, and I’d never heard of anything like it. “Wow,” I thought, “this is like a franchise. This is pretty cool.”
I signed up the next day.
Ramin with senior executives Sanaz Hooman, VP, Product Development, Osman Nur, Executive VP and Oliver Koncz, VP, Business Development.
Ramin signing his work-book at Forensic Seminar in Niagara Falls.
And you did really well right off the bat?
Not exactly. Three months after I joined, my sponsor quit. Soon after that, his sponsor quit, and I didn’t even know the guy above him. Now I had no upline support, and was trying to figure this thing out on my own.
Finally I said, “That’s it—I’m going to stick to the restaurant business. I quit!”
Right around then some hotshot was coming in from Alberta to give a meeting, and he asked my upline if I would pick him up at his hotel to bring him to the meeting venue. When I picked him up, he said, “So, I hear you want to quit?”
I said, “Yeah.”
“Why?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied, “it’s just not working.”
“Okay,” he said, “let me ask you something. Is this business holding you back from your current business?” I had to admit, it wasn’t; I was still running my restaurant.
“So do you have a better alternative?” he continued. “Do you have something else as a backup plan?” I didn’t. “If this isn’t holding you back, and you have no other plan, then why quit?”
This made sense to me. I went back to my restaurant and told my family, “I don’t care what I have to do, we’re going to make this happen.”
Three-quarters of success in this business is commitment. This was the moment I decided I was going to do this.
What did you do next?
I asked my new mentor, “What do I need to do to make this thing work?” He told me to make a candidate list.
“Right,” I said, “but what do I do?”
“Make a list, then call them,” he said.
“Yeah, yeah, okay,” I said, “I get that—but really, what’s the secret?”
People in this business are always looking for that secret recipe. But he kept giving me the same answers.
I asked him, “Listen, how long is it going to take me to become successful in this?”
He said, “Considering your attitude, about twelve months.” When I asked him why, he said, “I’m going to tell you some basic things today that you’re not even going to try for the next six months, starting with making a list. Six months from now, if you haven’t quit, you might come back and ask me why it isn’t working for you yet. Then I’ll say, ‘Where’s your list?’ and you’re not going to have one. Then, you’ll finally make a list and start calling people—and that’s when you’ll start having success, which will take another six months.”
I decided to skip the first six months and go right to the part where I do exactly what he tells me. I became coachable. I made a list and started calling the people on the list.
That was nine months after I’d joined the business; by thirteen months in—just four months later—I had become that company’s youngest National Marketing Director worldwide, a record that stood for the next ten years.
Shareholders annual meeting in Toronto.
Why are people so resistant to something as simple as making a list?
New people get excited about the possibilities, and they say to themselves, “Hey, I know five people right off the bat who will jump at this and make me rich.” They figure they don’t need a list.
So they go home and dial those five numbers. Three are not home, one is busy, and the one person they get on the phone is not interested. And all of a sudden it’s “nobody I know is interested.”
Now, if they had a list of 250, they would have only tapped two percent. But since they just thought of five people, they’ve now crossed off one hundred percent of their candidates. They’ve put all their excitement into those five people, and now they’re crushed.
What do you say to people who say, “I’d rather not talk to anyone I know. Can’t I just work with leads?”
People only think that way because they’re looking at this as “this MLM thing” they’re doing. But this is not your MLM “thing.” This is your business.
If you opened up a spa or restaurant, not only would you tell everyone you know about it, all your friends and family, but you’d be outright ticked off if they went to some other spa to have their hair done.
People aren’t shy about talking about their business. But when it comes to this MLM thing that they’re doing, they’re shy to talk about it.
I tell them, “Listen, you’re right, people don’t want to be MLM’ed—but they love hearing about your new part-time business. So tell everyone.”
What do you say when people tell you, “Once I start making $5,000 a month, then I’ll talk to my family and friends.”
That is a huge mistake. I know this from experience.
I was in the field for fourteen years, twelve years of it full-time. When we sat down with our leaders, people who were making $60,000 a month or more, they would tell me, “Ramin, I can’t sponsor anymore.”
They had no problem sponsoring when they first got started. But once they got to serious incomes, they couldn’t sponsor anymore, and they had no idea why.
I know why. First and foremost: if you’re too slick, you’re going to struggle in this business.
You have to be able to establish “like and trust” with the person you’re prospecting. If they cannot relate to you, they think, “Well, it’s good for him, because he’s got the skills—but I’m not like him.” And all you’ll do is convince them that they can’t do this.
You’ve got to minimize the gap between you and the new person. People love hearing, “Hey, let’s build this together.” They want to see you at their level, or just a little bit higher. But if they see you as already very successful, then maybe you don’t care about their success, because you don’t really need them.
Interview successful leaders and ask them, off the record, “How is your sponsoring now, compared to when you first got started?” and if they’re truthful with you, they’ll almost always say it’s nothing like what it used to be.
Another reason we have a hard time sponsoring once we’re making a lot of money is that, especially for men, our egos grow faster than our paychecks. Now we think people should just believe what we say, because it’s us talking.
I tell my people, “Don’t become an expert!” You get to a point where you know too much. As you accumulate data, your enthusiasm goes down by the same ratio. Newcomers don’t know anything, and they sponsor like crazy.
After nearly ten years with your first company, you leave and go to a new company. What was it like to start all over again?
That’s exactly it: it was starting from scratch, all over again. Yes, I knew about network marketing—but I had very limited knowledge of the new company. You’ve got this fresh new enthusiasm, because you’re in a new program. You’ve got this surge of new energy inside you, and that’s what you transfer to others.
When people come to a tour or presentation, they don’t remember the facts of the compensation plan or the product. All they remember is how this lady had this amazing product testimonial, and how Joe the mechanic now makes $25,000 a month.
People don’t care about the data; they want the energy that can only come from stories. We really are highly paid storytellers.
And the truth is, everyone’s got a story, they just don’t know how to tell it.
During the Great Depression, the movie business did really well.
Exactly—that’s why they go to the movies. They love stories. If you teach people how to become good storytellers, they’ll make a fortune in this business.
You can make a good story of your financial promise list.
I don’t use the term “goals” in our company training. To me, goals are something that would be nice to achieve. It’s different when you make a promise: people generally see a promise as something you need to keep.
So we have people make a promise list. You can make a great story out of your promise list.
“Here’s my promise list: I want to get this home on the beach. You know why I want that? Because ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to live on the water. I want to wake up to a blue expanse, not to civilization.”
And you know what? People love hearing that.
You’ve said that you see some significant problems with this business.
My early experiences taught me how traditional business really works, which turns out to be an exceptionally valuable asset in network marketing.
I love the network marketing profession; at the same time, there’s a lot that is wrong with it, and especially the training aspect of it.
Most distributors start on a part-time basis. They do all the right stuff, and then they’re told, “When you replace your income, you go full-time.”
Eventually they reach the point where they’re earning enough to quit their job, and they go full-time in the business. But here’s the problem: they bring their part-time business plan to their full-time platform.
Suddenly it’s not working, they’re confused and don’t know what to do. Why? Because instead of actually working the business like a full-time business, they’re just doing their part-time business plan, only trying to do more of it. And the next thing you know, the checks are going down and they’re having a financial crisis.
What do we need to change?
Number one is to elevate the level of our distributor trainings.
According to the most recent figures I’ve seen, there are some 64 million networkers in 140 countries, and 98 percent of them are unskilled and uneducated in the field of network marketing.
This profession has been bruised and battered by deception, embellishment and exaggeration. People don’t lie and exaggerate because they’re bad people, they do it because they are repeating what they heard from their unskilled and uneducated upline.
Think about any other profession—the legal profession, the medical profession, the restaurant business, anything. If 98 percent of the restaurants had cooks or chefs who were unskilled and not trained, would that industry survive?
If 98 percent of lawyers were not trained in the law, would anyone use them?
That’s a pretty grisly thought.
No other profession in the world would survive the abuse that our profession experiences. And yet, even with all the abuse, it’s still growing. That’s how important this business concept is.
But if we don’t elevate the training of our workforce, we’re going to be challenged by the regulators, because there are going to be too many casualties.
So what is your prescription? What do we need to do?
We need to go beyond MLM 101—make a list, call people, tell your story, as legitimate as that all is—and give people a proper business plan.
Here’s what is happening with our business right now: there are too many MLM tools for prospecting and recruiting, and not enough business training.
We teach people how to tell a story, which is vital—but we don’t teach them a DMO—daily method of operation—for how to run a business. You can give them all the state-of-the-art prospecting tools you want, but at the end of the day, if they don’t know how to run a business, they’re going to struggle.
Our business is no different than Xerox or IBM. We all have a product that we’re trying to market and sell. It’s just a different level.
In a traditional business, you have to do some accounting, some banking, some planning, and other basic business functions. If you apply those principles and disciplines in network marketing, along with a proper daily business plan, you’re going to be highly successful.
Enough of this tool stuff, there are millions of tools on the Internet. What we need is to teach people how to run a business—because if we don’t, none of these tools are going to be effective anyway. We’re going to leave behind a lot of casualties, and then we’ll get challenged.
Upline accountability is another crucial area we need to address. We teach a concept in my company we call “no distributor left behind.” When you sponsor somebody in, you don’t then tell them, “By the way, tomorrow I’m going on vacation and I’m not going to be around anymore, so I won’t be answering my phone.”
When you sponsor someone, you are making a promise you have to keep.
Where do you foresee us going in the years ahead?
The business world has no choice but to adopt the concept of multilevel marketing. The traditional way of marketing is not as effective anymore. What works is people talking—the oldest method of marketing, and still the most powerful method today.
Right now, every large corporation already has the network marketing concept on its map. If they’re not already doing this, they soon will be.
Over the next ten years, the Fortune 500 companies will start to headhunt the top-of-the-class network marketers to be senior management and run their sales forces.
This means whoever becomes a true student of this profession is going to be a very hot commodity for large companies ten and fifteen years from now.