Discovering the Profession
Geoff was introduced to network marketing in 1989 by his friend Paulo who owned an Italian restaurant.
“One day Paulo showed me a water filter,” says Geoff. “I could immediately see the business potential because bottled water was expensive then. The timing was right for me. I had run a dance school for the past ten years, an American franchise of which I had four schools in the U.K. I’d just sold that business and was looking for something new.”
Thirty-five at the time, Geoff decided to get involved, so Paulo introduced him to his sponsor, Shay O’Brian, who recruited Geoff.
Used to running his own business, Geoff became quickly successful, moving through the ranks of National Marketing Director, Executive President and Advisory Council Member, and eventually became one of the top distributors in Europe.
“It was a great learning experience,” he says. “Pyramid selling was a big problem at the time, and many people couldn’t tell the difference between a money game and a legitimate networking business. The only two other companies I knew of were selling weight loss products and cosmetics, and attracting mostly women. I presented my business more as a wholesale network offering a cutting-edge product.”
Initially Geoff focused on selling water filters, until one day Shay O’Brian said, “Since you’re used to teaching people how to dance, why don’t you look at this as teaching people how to build their own business?”
Geoff began signing up business partners and treating them like dance students: he showed them what to do, had patience with them, gave them recognition, stretched them, gave them goals, gave them homework and recommended books to read.
Geoff’s prior experience served him well in his ability to coach people, and also provided him with an extensive warm market. He stayed with his first company for six years, and without any advertising, he turned over about 150 million dollars of business.
In 1995, as he was travelling around Europe, he met his future wife Helen, sold his business and semi-retired to southern France. In 1996 the couple got married and moved back to the U.K. Since they were planning to start a family, Geoff began looking for another business. He dabbled in a couple of different network marketing start-ups, but none of them delivered on their promises.
In January, 1998, he came across a telecommunications company whose founder had come from the U.S. with some innovative ideas.
“Just as with my first company, the timing was right,” says Geoff. “No one in the U.K. was offering free local calls at the time. I saw how anybody could go out and sign up twenty or thirty customers just by asking his mum, dad, brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles to try the service, and by showing them how to save money on a utility they were already using every day.”
Geoff joined the company and soon realized he had found his home.
Geoff liked the idea of selling services, yet what attracted him to this company, and became an important element for his success, was a principle he believes can be applied to any network marketing product:
“To build a long-term residual income, you need a good product or service that’s cheaper for people to purchase through the network than it would be if they bought it online or through a retail outlet.”
Geoff’s company has always been focused more on acquiring and retaining customers than on building the distributor network. The average business consultant has nearly forty customers, and company trainings mainly teach people how to market the products.
“This makes our company a hybrid of 50 percent direct sales and 50 percent network marketing,” says Geoff, “which I think is a healthy balance, because I’ve seen many companies come and go that focus primarily on recruitment and don’t have a solid product.”
Reflecting on more personal reasons for his success, Geoff looks back at where he came from.
“Growing up in a poor but happy family, with five children in a two-bedroom house, I left school at age 15. I basically educated myself by reading books and listening to audios. My personal library includes all of Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy, Nido Qubein, Zig Ziglar, Anthony Robbins, basically all the great business and personal growth teachers of the past two decades.”
Geoff learned the principles for success from books, but he learned how to communicate with people from his dance business.
“One hour I might teach an airline hostess to dance as exercise in the afternoon after she finishes a flight. The next hour I might be teaching an 80-year-old lady who wants to do it for grace and poise. The next hour I could be teaching the CEO of a big company who has a formal function to attend.”
While Geoff taught thousands of people from all walks of life, he never lost the freshness of his enthusiasm for each individual student’s progress.
“Teaching somebody a basic waltz is something I’ve done a thousand times, but when that person does it and finally gets it right, it’s a fantastic feeling. For me, in a way it’s quite boring, since I’ve seen it so many times, but I always keep my enthusiasm for that new person’s first time. The same is true in networking: when my people get their first customer or distributor, I’m happy for them, because I can remember how much it meant to me twenty years ago.”
Teaching the Business
When Geoff brings new recruits into the business, the first thing he teaches them is how to “employ themselves.”
“The vast majority of people who come into networking have always been told what time to start, when they can go for lunch, when they can have their holidays, what they have to do. All of a sudden, they come into this fantastic business were they can do whatever they want, because they don’t have a boss.
“As part of my training, I first ask them to buy a day planner for business use only. While we could use computers and PDA’s, I still prefer an old-fashioned day planner, so I can sit down with them and schedule appointments. At the end of the week or month, I say, ‘Let’s see what you’ve done for your business,’ and they show me all the phone calls they’ve made, the one-on-one meetings they’ve held, the presentations they’ve attended—everything is there for both of us to see.”
In addition to teaching people how to keep track of daily activities and stay organized, Geoff also asks them to write down their goals.
“I want to know what every new person wants from the business, including how many hours a week they want to work and the milestones they want to reach. That way, when they go through the winters, I can say, ‘Look, I’m not going to give up on you. Remember that goal we wrote down? Whatever it was that we said we were going to get together, we will get it. Let’s get through this, it will make you stronger.’”
The next objective Geoff has for each new business partner is to begin reading personal development books. For starters, he gives them a copy of Rhinoceros Success by Scott Alexander.
“Most people who come into networking, whether they come from the service industry, manufacturing or even traditional business, are not used to hearing no. When they start approaching people about their new business, they get a lot more no’s than yeses. Rhinoceros Success is a short book that will toughen them up and make them realize they’ve got to become like a rhino.”
Geoff also gives new people Don Failla’s The 45-Second Presentation, another simple read that explains the psychology of the business, before recommending in-depth books on personal growth and success.
“I typically wait before I give someone Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, because the person may not have been to school or read a book or learned something new for ten, twenty or thirty years.”
Geoff also lends out audio programs from his library, and when the lender returns one set, he or she gets to take home the next one. Eventually Geoff encourages people to start building their own library.
Since he consistently applies and teaches this training approach, it duplicates throughout his organization as well.
At first, Geoff’s team was local to the U.K., but now most of his leaders are in Belgium, where he spends about twelve days a month. He keeps an apartment and a car in Antwerp, where he flies two to three times a month to give trainings and hold meetings with his group.
“I don’t recruit as I did in the first three years,” he says, “but I think it’s still important for my team to see me bring in new people. It would be ineffective to stand at the front of the room and talk about what I did ten years ago. Instead, I prefer being able to say, ‘This is Max, I just signed him up, and yes, there are still people saying no to me today.’ It’s the basics of the business and it’s probably the hardest thing to do, but people respect you if they see that you’re out there in the trenches still getting the no’s.”
Over 80 percent of Geoff’s income today is residual, meaning commissions on phone calls customers are making. Consequently, starting a new person and building a new line does not make much of a difference in his income. Yet he forces himself to go out and recruit a few people each year to inspire others on his team. This is a big change from when he started, where daily prospecting was a way of life.
“It’s harder when you are more successful to go out and get the no’s,” he says. “In my first company, I would go and talk to anybody because I didn’t care about rejection. I had opened up offices and ran my business like a conventional business. I had overhead, I had invested in desks and computers, so I had to make it work. When I sold my first business in ’95, I took time off, got married and bought a house, and we had a little boy. I was hungry because the money was running out and I had my back against the wall. When you are in that position, it doesn’t matter how many hours you work and how many people say no to you.”
Geoff has had thousands of people say no to him over the years. During periods of intensive building, he mainly followed the three-foot rule, which he learned from Jeff Roberti.
Jeff said he used to put ten pennies in one pocket, and every time he spoke to somebody about his opportunity, he moved a penny from one pocket to the other. He made sure he moved all ten pennies every day—and that’s how he built his business.
When Geoff started in his current company, he practiced Jeff’s advice for about three years. He didn’t actually speak to ten people a day, but spoke to seven on average, which comes to about 200 people a month, for a total of more than 7,000 people in three years.
Prospecting and Recruiting
In order to continually expand his contact list, Geoff says he spoke to everyone he met—at the petrol station, at the shop or in a restaurant.
“If I had a meeting at a hotel, I’d get there early so I could chat with people,” he says. “I’d just smile, say good morning, good afternoon, how are you doing, and then I’d apply a technique I had learned in my early days, which we called F.O.R.M.—Family, Occupation, Recreation, Message.
“I’d start off with ‘Do you live here?’ or ‘Where are you from?’ I always carried photographs of my children and my wife. Next, I went into ‘What do you do?’ and then recreation, ‘Did you see the football game (or the racing, or the movie)?’ Eventually, the other person would ask, ‘What do you do?’
“My answer was, ‘I’m involved in a telecom company that’s going through the roof. I don’t have much time right now, but if you have a card, I’ll send you a one-page overview about it.’
“I actually picked up some business cards in elevators in hotels, going from the first to the third floor. You can do it in five seconds; sometimes it may take two or three minutes. I’d go with my wife to buy groceries just so I could talk to other shoppers.”
Because of his experience teaching dance, Geoff finds it easy to engage strangers. “If you smile at people and say hello,” he says, “ninety-nine percent will smile back and respond.” Of the 7,000 strangers he spoke to over a three-year period, he signed up about seventy to eighty business builders.
“I’d learned about safety in numbers and the law of averages,” he says, “and I simply applied that principle. I wasn’t trying to convince anyone; I was just looking for people for whom the timing was right. I had a system where I had ready-made envelopes (because in the nineties we couldn’t send a video or a link) with a one-page overview, and after I’d collected cards during the day, in the evening I just addressed the envelopes and sent them out.”
Geoff made only two phone calls total to each prospect. The first call was, “Hi, it’s Geoff. We met at the petrol station the other day and you gave me your card. I understand you may not have had time to read it yet, but did you receive the information?”
Nine times out of ten, the person hadn’t read it, so he would ask, ”Do you want to have a read now and I will call you back in ten minutes, or is it better I call tomorrow?”
He would call back a second time, and if the person was interested, they would get together. If he or she had to think about it, Geoff would say, “Look, you’ve got my business card. If you think of someone who would like to make an additional income, give me a call and let me know. I’m more than happy to help.”
The Discipline of Success
Geoff compares prospecting to exercising: it takes some effort and time to get going, but once you get in a groove, it becomes easy and something you look forward to. If you stop doing it, however, it’s hard work to get started again.
One day he was getting behind on the number of people he wanted to talk to, so he took the train from Manchester to London and went back and forth three times in the day. He took the red-eye, which left at 6:15 in the morning, and got home about midnight with seventy-two business cards in his pocket, the most he’d collected in one day.
As a result of his daily discipline, Geoff made close to a million dollars his second year in the business, and his income has continued to grow steadily ever since. He teaches his consultants the exact same principles that made his success, although not everyone is as coachable as he would like them to be.
“Today building a business is easier with the Internet,” he says, “yet in some ways it’s harder. People spend time behind their computers, which can be a great way to find new contacts, but they tend to neglect the importance of face-to-face communication.
“Network marketing is about building relationships and growing people. I can be in a room of a hundred people and one person may be complaining that the products are no good, the company sucks and doesn’t pay them on time. I can turn around and talk to somebody else who tells me the business is the best thing that’s ever happened to them, the products are fantastic, and they just had their first $10,000 month.
“What’s the difference? They’ve got the same marketing plan, the same products and services, the same company. The only difference is the person. If you can develop people and help them grow, even though they might get tempted to join other networks, they’ll stand by you and be loyal to you, because you’ve taught them skills nobody can take away.”
Envisioning the future of network marketing, Geoff would like to see a higher percentage of people succeed, which would naturally improve the image of the profession.
“A lot of networkers bring others into the business and leave them to their own devices. When I start new business partners, I tell them about the winters as well as the summers. I warn them about the objections, the no’s and how many prospects they’ll have to talk to. I tell them about the tough times they’ll have to go through, just as with any other business.
“The problem is, with networking, it’s easy to quit because there is such a low entry level and no interviewing process. So it really is up to the leader to forge those relationships that inspire loyalty, commitment and discipline, and eventually lead to success.”