Ray Higdon is a network marketing leader and generic trainer who loves to teach home-based business owners—in his company and beyond—how to create a never-ending supply of leads.

Based in Fort Myers, Florida, Ray became very successful as a real estate investor during the latest housing boom, but lost everything in 2008 when the market crashed.

Looking to create more passive income, Ray had experimented with several network marketing companies since 2006. In 2009, after twelve months of financial and emotional depression, he joined his current company and decided to give the business his full focus.

In his ascent to success, he became known as an expert Internet marketer, even though, he says, he uses online marketing only to generate inbound leads, emphasizing that he builds his business over the phone.

Today Ray is his company's top earner and master trainer. He is also known as a video marketer because online video is his format of choice for communicating his sponsoring techniques and other business-building tips to his growing audience of worldwide followers.

Preparing the Road

In 2006, Ray was doing well as a real estate investor, buying rental properties and flipping houses, when his real estate partner introduced him to a health and wellness company. Ray loved the idea of residual income, which is what had attracted him to real estate after a short career in corporate America. He had just read Robert Kiyosaki's Cashflow Quadrant and saw network marketing as a way to achieve the kind of passive income he had never been able to build in real estate.

With Jessica Higdon speaking at national convention.
Enjoying dinner aboard a company cruise.
Preparing to snorkel in St. Thomas on a company trip.
Ray and Jess at a team beach party.
The Higdon family visiting Vail.
Hanging with team aboard Royal Caribbean cruise.
With teammates enjoying dinner on Celebrity Solstice.

Ray didn't stay long in his first company because nutritional products were not his passion, but he remembers it as a tremendous learning experience.

"I was used to my own way of doing things in real estate and thought I had marketing all figured out," he says. "I was running TV commercials and newspaper ads, something I would never suggest to anybody today, because I didn't understand that building a network marketing business is not about what works, but about what duplicates.

"I also learned from what I didn't like, for instance, the elitist type of leadership where you have no access to those you want to learn from because the leaders stay behind a velvet rope. I wanted to create a leadership based on collaboration, where people who want to make things happen have access to the leaders."

After working hard for about a year, Ray quit the business due to some personality clashes with his upline. He took six months off, came back, and did it for awhile longer. In the meantime, he got involved in several other companies, figuring he would become what he saw as the Swiss Army knife of network marketing.

"If you didn't like this, I had that," he says. "Between 2006 and 2009 I was in eleven different companies. I didn't understand network marketing. I saw it as a sales model. I eventually got that it's a personal growth model. I knew how to sell, but I didn't have the ability to duplicate and build something that lasts."

In 2008, when the real estate market crashed, Ray lost his home and all his investments, and all his houses went into foreclosure.

"I wondered what was wrong with me and entered a debilitating mental and financial coma," he says. "From fall 2008 to end 2009, I barely made any money. Eventually, necessity and humbleness forced me to do some soul searching."

Ray started attending some personal growth seminars, one of which he was invited to by a Facebook contact he didn't know. During that seminar, he realized he had some incompletes in his life that he had to take care of, one of which was his relationship with his father.

"My parents divorced when I was a child," he says. "I hadn't talked to my father in fourteen years. The second day of the seminar, I picked up the phone, called my dad, told him I was coming to visit him, and apologized for not being the greatest son.

"A couple of weeks later, I was introduced to the company in which I'm now the number one income earner. I believe it all stems from my going to this seminar, which is why I am such an advocate of personal development. I fully believe there are mechanisms in our minds that have to be triggered for great things to happen.

"Before reconciling with my dad, I didn't have a high acceptance of success. Whenever I reached it, I would quickly lose it. After healing that relationship, I was able to clearly see my goals, and ever since that day in 2009 I've not jumped to another company. I've had my head down, pedal to the floor, and have been solely focused on what I want to create."

Daily Activities

One of the things Ray learned from the seminar was how his mind was programmed.

"I was in a constant battle to prove myself to others," he says. "The problem was that I was constantly striving, and whenever someone doubted me, it made me work even harder. Once I had proved that I was good at something, I got bored and stopped working.

"I'm not sure if this kind of programming ever goes away, but by knowing the machinery that was running my mind, I could choose a different button and path. This allowed me to quiet that voice and keep moving forward."

The biggest change in Ray's approach to the business was in how he spent his time.

"I read Go for No by Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz, and designed a rigorous daily routine. Every day, I had to get twenty nos. I did it through different mechanisms, online and offline.

"I didn't do what I see many people do online, which is to spend hours either studying or doing passive marketing—any action you take where you hope an unknown individual responds, for example, through a blog post or status update.

"Instead, I did active prospecting, meaning that I connected with specific individuals. For instance, I would comment to Joe in Connecticut, 'Joe, I see you have a Maltese. Cute dog.'"

Ray focused on building relationships with people he didn't know, whether through real-life encounters or social media, but he also talked to his warm market. Typically he would announce, "I just got involved in a gold and silver home-based business. I'm going to grow this thing big time. If you're open to it, I'll send you some information; if not, no big deal."

"These are the same people I had pitched eleven other marketing companies to in the last two years," he says, "which made for some awkward conversations. Some people asked, 'How long are you going to be with this one?' It was uncomfortable, but I did it anyway."

Ray spent the majority of his day connecting with people and prospecting. For the first six months in his new company there were only two or three days where he didn't get twenty nos. In the beginning, he got to his quota by noon. There were days when he would sign up five people in one day, but because he was going for the nos, he would keep going—and often get another sign-up.

Sometimes Ray would start thinking about how he was calling people for an opportunity in his home that was in foreclosure; how his girlfriend, who is now his wife, was working at the makeup counter at Nordstrom's to cover their utility bills; and how he had hardly any money in the bank. But as soon as he sank into negative thinking, he'd pick up the phone.

"When you're in action, you can't think about how bad things are," he says. "Some people don't get anything done because they sit around thinking about how their life sucks. I did this for a year and a half. Anytime I slipped back into that, I picked up the phone.

"This was the number one thing I did that served me, and it's still what I preach today. You simply can't build a business without the phone."

Building Strategies

Ray teaches only methods that he has gotten results with himself and that he believes won't burn people out.

"I'm never attached to the outcome," he says, "especially when prospecting my warm market. All I'm looking for is an opening. Does this person have unmet needs or wants, something they're striving for in life that my business, team, or leadership can help them with? I do not try to convince people. If I was addicted to getting the sign-up, I'd beat myself up after eight or ten calls.

"Someone recently asked me, 'What do you do with people who have a bias against network marketing?' My answer is, 'I disqualify them. They do not earn my time.' I don't want to try and drag a negative person across the finish line. I'm looking for people with desire, who aren't cynical or skeptical, who are positive in nature, whether or not they know anything about the business.

"The number one thing I'm looking for is attitude. I know the right people will want to work with me, and for the others, it might not be the best time. Maybe they'll come around later."

One of the most common questions people ask Ray is where he keeps getting his leads.

"Ninety-five percent of employees are unfulfilled by their jobs," he says. "You have over 700 million people on Facebook. Never in the history of mankind could you possibly have more access to communicate with more people."

Ray also attends many live events and seminars, filling up his pockets with business cards and following up the next day.

"We have a local car wash where people leave their business cards," he says. "I'll grab every single one and call them all. There's a never-ending supply of people, once you start to actually look for them.

"Then, if you're a marketer, you start to define your ideal prospect and your eyes begin to narrow in to find exactly the kind of person you want to target.

"Personally, I like talking to real estate agents. There's a real estate advertisement in every single publication that comes to my house, and there are fifty real estate signs on the way to the gym. Todd Falcone's trainings taught me how to invite and recruit real estate professionals. There's never a lack of prospects; there's only a lack of ambition, a lack of seeing opportunity, and a lack of action, of picking up the phone and just doing it."

His fifth month into the business Ray reached $10,000 in monthly income. At that point he began recognizing the need to spend time with some of his teams. He came up with a simple criterion that helps him decide when to go visit a new leader's city.

"I don't base my decision on promises," he says, "because everyone in your downline will tell you they'll have a hundred people at their meeting. Instead, my rule is very specific: if a leader has twenty-five people in a fifty-mile radius signed up on auto-ship, I'll fly to his or her area to do a meeting."

Right about month six, Ray started traveling to other cities to support different leaders.

"Leadership is about creating leaders, not followers," he says. "To develop a leadership breeding ground, you need to go out and serve your leaders, help them look good in the eyes of their team and help them function better.

"While taking on more responsibilities as a leader, however, I never stopped recruiting. My lowest month in terms of recruiting since I've been with my company was eight people, but most months I still bring in twenty to twenty-five people.

"We have to do the things we want our team to do, rather than sitting in the lifeguard chair telling others to swim. I continue to swim with them every single month."

Training and Marketing

Ray's training programs always start with suggestions for what not to do.

"Our default when we get started in network marketing is to do it all wrong," he says. "Your instincts don't serve you in the beginning. For instance, people shoot out an email blast. That's a terrible approach when you start, because you lose your element of surprise for no results."

The first to-do he teaches is to create a warm market list and learn how to invite those people to a presentation.

"One of my goals has always been to develop a lifestyle I truly enjoy," says Ray. "As I paid attention to the questions coming from my different team members and leaders, I noticed recurrent themes. In order not to repeat myself, I created a library of resources I could constantly point to—mostly MP3s and videos. I prefer video because it impacts multiple senses, which is the easiest way to learn for most people.

"When people join my team, we immediately plug them into a step-by-step video training that teaches them the dos and don'ts of the business. That way I can spend my time deepening my personal connections with people on the phone, after they've seen the video that covers the standardized aspect of the training."

When Ray joined his company it was in prelaunch and had no marketing or training materials available. He says this is why he had to create his own training programs; however, he does not recommend that others do this.

"You need to be in a constant state of production and manage your time efficiently," he says. "Before deciding to produce your own training materials, reach into your organization and find out if that kind of training is already in place. If it is, plug into it. When you reach a certain rank, there may be things you can add to help your team. My suggestion is, follow the advice of your upline until you're at least at $10,000 in monthly income before you start trying to reinvent the wheel."

Generally Ray teaches his leaders to keep things simple so anyone at any level can follow the system. However, he also believes in developing leadership and pursuing personal growth.

"My suggestion is to constantly work on yourself," he says. "This is not limited to becoming more knowledgeable about your compensation plan or product. It includes becoming more valuable as a marketer and as a person by expanding your mindset and skill sets. I don't want my people to just walk the ant line, I also want them with all my heart to develop into all they can be."

Toward the end of 2009, when Ray had built a solid five-figure monthly income in the business, he decided to take up blogging.

"At first, I'd blog about my opportunity and compensation plan. Needless to say, I didn't have many readers. Then I adopted the concept of attraction marketing, which taught me that the value you bring to the marketplace will affect your traction in any business.

"In order to implement this, I paid close attention to the questions my downline asked me about prospecting, marketing, events, and so on. I realized they were the exact same problems everyone in the business is experiencing. When I started writing blog posts in answer to those questions, my readership grew exponentially."

Between the consummate attraction marketer focused on attracting a following online and someone who focuses solely on building an organization with a network marketing company, Ray sees himself somewhere in the middle.

"Marketing is not selling," he says. "Marketing is solving problems. Many network marketers struggle with credibility, thinking, 'I'm not a top income earner in my company. What gives me the right to blog about the profession?' My answer is: the mere study of marketing makes you 90 percent better than most people, because most don't study, don't attend events, don't read Networking Times. Doing all these things makes you more knowledgeable than the majority of people, and you can serve those people by providing your content."

Envisioning the Future

Apart from building his own network marketing business, Ray's broader mission is to service network marketers and the problems they encounter. His blog focuses on generic training and has a company-specific tab for his team members.

"Ninety percent of my training can be applied to any network marketing company," he says. "My readers especially appreciate my candor. I don't say what many want to hear, which is that you can hide behind your keyboard, press a few buttons, and magic happens.

"I see too many network marketers going broke trying to get rich quick. You can build this business online or offline, but you can't do it and have it last without the phone. And if you're not in this for the long term, you're in the wrong business, because results in network marketing don't happen overnight."

Apart from blogging, Ray regularly creates new audio and video trainings.

"Last night I was in Tampa presenting a live event that was streamed," he says. "We had 200 people in attendance and another few hundred watching online. The video we made shows me on stage using an old-school white board. I make other videos where I'm showing screen captures of my PowerPoint®. I also have a weekly MP3 program. I even have an Android and iPhone app available now. I'm very much into communication through every format I can possibly muster so I can get my message out to as many people as possible."

While Ray uses a variety of formats for his trainings, he prefers video, "because," he says, "you can slice and dice it in the most different ways. I can strip out the audio and make it an MP3. I can have the MP3 transcribed and turn it into an article."

If all he has access to is his audio recorder, that's what he uses.

Here is a suggestion he has for anyone who presents:

"Always record your trainings. You may not use the recording right away, but twenty years from now you might be the most in-demand speaker on earth and people would love to have your trainings from twenty years ago. Make sure you record your material so at least you have it."

Looking into the future, Ray believes network marketing is at a historical juncture because of advancing mobile technologies.

"We're at a time, not only in North America but all across the world, where our model for creating an income and a lifestyle is more desirable than ever before. We have the privilege of being able to easily communicate our message all over the planet. Our business allows anyone anywhere to have success, regardless of the circumstances. It didn't matter that I had terrible credit and didn't finish college."

Ray expects online marketing to grow up and become less hyped, and eventually to be embraced for connecting with people.

"I see tremendous power in the different communication models that no one has had before, including web apps, Twitter, social media, and blogging. As we all become more mature marketers, we're going to see our network marketing explode because of those communication models being used in a proper way. I see training moving away from a one-way communication to becoming more and more interactive, for example, allowing you to raise your hand on a webinar and ask a question, even from your mobile.

"Our business is all about making that human connection. Instead of hiding behind technology or abusing its existence, let's embrace its potential with a servant leader's mindset. When we do that, the sky's the limit."