I did something recently that made me nervous. I invited several people whom I respect highly to look at my opportunity. “No big deal,” one might say, “who else would you approach?” The answer to that question, though, is exactly what happens in most network marketing invitations.

In the Harold Ramis film Multiplicity (1996), Doug Kinney, the Michael Keaton character, clones himself to make his life more manageable. And it works pretty well, until Doug Kinneys #2 and #3 figure out to clone themselves. Doug Kinney #4 is decidedly, well … not quite right. When Doug’s wife pours out her heart to #4, thinking she’s talking to her husband, and asks him searchingly, “What do you want?” the best he can come up with is, “I want pizza.”

“You know how, when you make a copy of a copy,” explains Doug Kinney #3, “and it’s not as sharp as the original?” Yes, we know. Because we’ve seen it happen too often in network marketing, where it’s often termed sponsoring down. Here’s what sponsoring down looks like:

Looking for people who we think will say yes.

Looking for people who don’t make us nervous to approach.

Looking for people we feel confident we can coach.

Looking for people who have a lot of free time on their hands.

Looking for people who “need our product.”

Looking for people who “need the income.”

Looking for people who are sick, are broke, have lost hope, have no other serious prospects for getting their lives in order or digging out of a hole. In other words, looking for people we’re pretty sure will say yes because, hey, what else have they got going on?

It’s so easy to sponsor down because it’s non-threatening. But here’s what happens. Let’s say, on a scale of 1 to 10 of competence and general skill sets, you consider yourself a 7, and you go sponsor 6’s, 5’s and 4’s. They sponsor 5’s, 4’s and 3’s, who sponsor 4’s, 3’s and 2’s. You see where this is going. Soon, you’re asking someone a few levels deep in your organization about their why and hearing, “I want pizza.”

What to do? Sponsor up. Get out your “chicken list.” Go invite people who are skilled, competent, successful, disciplined, motivated, forceful, ambitious, accomplished. Invite people who are so busy they don’t really have the time, but who know how to create the time—and even more importantly, how to productively use that time.

Sponsoring up is like marrying up (also a plan I recommend). It’s a statement of faith in your own future, a gesture of respect for the institution, and a sure path to creating something great.

Raise the bar. Build an organization of caliber.

JOHN DAVID MANN is Consulting Editor of Networking Times.