Jeff Altgilbers has been a network marketing professional for almost four decades. Based in Tennessee, he runs a global team in 56 countries that collectively does $200 million of business a year.
One secret to Jeff’s success is his ability to adapt and change. He launched his business running magazine ads. Today he uses Facebook advertisement to create targeted leads. At one point, Jeff even moved to the island of Guam for five years to better support his Asian team.
Jeff is also a musician and a songwriter. He met his soulmate and life partner at a piano bar in Seoul. When they got married, he adopted her five-year-old son, and they have another son together.
“Network marketing is not all about the money and achieving success,” says Jeff. “It’s about creating relationships that change lives.”—J.G.
Tell us a little about your background.
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, I moved to Tennessee when I was 13. I still live there, in the Knoxville area out in the country right by the Great Smoky Mountains national park.
I started network marketing in 1978. My first company is still around and doing well today. I was introduced by a relative who asked me to buy a case of Aloe Vera juice. Keep in mind, this was pre-internet, pre-cellphones, pre-FedEx, pre-UPS, pre-computers.
We were like the Domino’s pizza guy: we went and delivered product, and we collected the money. We didn’t have a concept of team building, and surely the idea of building an international organization seemed impossible. With the internet and advancing technology, MLM evolved into network marketing, which is now turning into social selling. Being 61 years old, I have to work hard to keep abreast.
Leaders ask me, “Do you have this app, or this feature?” I say, “No... what is it?” Then I learn to use whatever it is. Even just Facebook today is evolving so fast. When people say network marketing is hard, I laugh. Go back to 1978, that was hard. Today it’s a walk in the park.
Everything’s free. Back in the day, we were used to phone bills of $1,000 a month. Now I can do international video calls free of charge. No one would have believed that was possible 20 years ago. It’s an amazing time right now in network marketing, for all of us and for the next generations.
How did you launch your first business?
I had a “corporate” approach to network marketing. We didn’t do home meetings. We wanted to be sophisticated like Wall Street. I rented an office in the historic downtown of Alabama, where I was living at the time. I would run ads to attract people. I was never a warm-market person. I treated network marketing as a business: you reach out and find people, create the relationships, and build a team.
I would do three group presentations a day—at 10 am, at 2 pm, and at 7 pm. When people answered my ads, I would say, “I don’t explain it over the phone, but here are three choices for when you can meet me. Which would work for you?” They would tell me, and I’d schedule them in. As soon as I had some leaders, I’d tell them, “This many people are coming. I need your help, because I can’t talk to everybody.”
In 1993 I moved to another company that had a blockbuster weight loss product. My sponsor was the #1 income earner, Ken Pontius. To this day, I’d say of all my mentors he taught me the most about network marketing. It’s not so much about timing than it is about developing the skillsets. No matter where you go, you can build—if you have the right skills.
By 1998 I had gone through some companies that did not work out, so I became disillusioned. I’d bring in a good team, and the company would ruin it. I had bought an old Greek revival house that was built in 1860, and I was restoring it. I remember being out there painting as a form of therapy. I needed the therapy as much as the house needed the paint.
I was thinking, “I hate network marketing. All these people are dogs. They lie...” while getting voicemails about the next new opportunity. I didn’t even return them–until I got a call from some hippy kid who wasn’t a networker. He was calling me about a product, so I agreed to listen.
“Do you want to do this?” he asked.
“I don’t know... What is it?” I replied.
He said, “I don’t know what it is either. I just signed up yesterday.”
I laughed, and he gave me a hotline number to call. The product had a weird name. After listening to a doctor explaining it, I said, “This is it. This is what I’m looking for.”
The hippy kid’s partner, a top income earner in the company today, kept calling me. He’d say, “Are you ready to sign up?”
I’d say, “Later I may be ready. I’m painting the house right now.”
He would tell my friend, “I don’t think he’s going to do anything. He’s not responding.” My friend said, “Just give him time.”
Finally, he called me late in December and asked, “Are you going to do this?” I said, “The day after New Year’s Day is my start date. Send me the application.”
I remember the day I put my paintbrush down. I said, “Oh God, I must be out of my freaking mind to do this again... Okay, let’s give it 90 days and go bust.”
I got out my prospect list and cranked up my ads. I bought the inside cover of Network Marketing Lifestyles. Starting from the bottom, we enrolled 800 people in 90 days. If I used that method today, it would never work. But I chose the only way that you could do it back then.
What are some other success strategies you applied?
I didn’t go after friends, family, or neighbors—and still never do. One day I was at a restaurant with my sponsor. When the waitress came up, he said, “Okay, hit your on button. Let me see you get her.” I laughed and said, “No way, I choose who I sponsor. I choose when to engage, and that’s the only time I do it.”
I don’t believe in the three-foot rule, where you go after anybody who comes within three feet. Come on. That’s why people think we’re crazy! It may be fine for some people, it just isn’t me.
We kept it simple. We exposed people to a toll-free recorded call, and my leaders would follow up within 24 hours. We’d put people in either as a customer or as a builder. If they hadn’t listened to the hotline, then we did a three-way call and listened to it with them.
“How do you see yourself: using the product, or can you use extra money?” would be our next question. Don’t ask them what they think. Just ask them to choose one or the other. Most would say, “I can use extra money.” We’d fill out the application and fax it in to the company.
After 90 days we would hone in on those people who were really going to work the business, because by that time I had identified them. This is basic skill and a neglected art today. When people ask me, “What should I do first?” I say, “Read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People so you understand what it is we do.”
Our business is all about relationships. It’s not about impressing somebody by showing the compensation plan on a whiteboard or your fancy PowerPoint. You can be an idiot in those areas, and they will adore you, if you have great people skills. They’ll follow you to the ends of the earth.
It’s also how you keep a team together—otherwise you’re going to be losing people constantly. Who wants to go through that? One of the most important ingredients of success is the ability to get people to like you. I did that by showing a sincere, authentic interest in them, and making them feel that.
As Dale Carnegie teaches, it’s not about manipulation. You can’t be something you’re not—but you can change. I was always willing to change and get better. I understood that if you help people get what they want, you can have anything. I wanted a lot. Of course, the things I wanted back then are no longer important to me today.
I believe we go through a process of three S’s. The first S is sustenance—we get in this business to pay the bills, to keep the wolves at bay. Then we evolve and grow into the next S—success. That’s where we can have the five-star vacations, the house we’ve always wanted, the BMW in the driveway, the lifestyle we want for our kids, and so on. The next S is more difficult to acquire—significance. You realize that what’s important is finding purpose in life. What is your life really about? You go through a process to figure it out.
That’s when your business becomes a vehicle for helping people and supporting causes. You’re on a mission and live a life of contribution, rather than “what’s in it for me” or “what can I get out of this?” If you give, your hand is open, and God can fill it. If it’s closed, He can’t.
What are some typical challenges young people on your team face today?
Most of their problems are disempowering beliefs they’ve adopted. We’re programmed by our parents, our teachers, our peers, and the media. I try to help people understand what’s going on. I talk about the book The Secret, which teaches that whatever you believe, you attract. If you believe you’re sick, you’re going to attract more sickness. If you believe you’re broke, you’re going to keep yourself broke.
When I found my first homerun company in 1993, I was completely broke. I thought, “How am I going to get started? I’m broke... I’m broke... I’m broke...” Then I heard this voice, “Will you shut up? We know you’re broke. Now let’s DO something about it.” The word do is what really stuck out.
I looked out in the driveway and saw the only thing I had left—a junk truck. I said, “That’s it. That’s my ticket. That’s my way out.”
I called the junkyard man and he bought it for $400. I invested $200 in product and that’s how I began my full-time career in network marketing.
Today my business does $200 million a year. When people say, “I don’t have the money,” I say, “You want me to feel sorry for you?”
Then I tell them my story and say, “Sell some junk. Sell your TV. You’re just coming up with excuses. You’re going to sell your life out for an excuse?”
I experienced “the secret” long before the book was even written. I saw opportunity and changed my thinking. From thinking “I’m broke,” I thought, “What are you going to do?” I went into problem-solving mode.
On Sundays, I would go down to Dream Street. That’s where all the rich houses are—beautiful pre-Civil War homes. I would walk around and look at them. I said, “I’m going to have a house just like that. I’m going to have a yard just like that. I’m going to have a rose garden. I’m going to have my own gardener. I’m going to have a BMW, a Mercedes. I’m going to have all that.”
During the week, I’d work. In 18 months I was moving into an 1860 Greek revival house myself. I went from broke to where I knew I could be.
I love to work with people on their mindset. I was on the phone with a young man the other day. He’d been in a bad motorcycle wreck nine years ago. He said, “I can’t do much...”
I said, “Why? Physically?”
“No, I can get out fine. It’s just...”
I said, “Let me tell you something. You’re playing the victim. You’re hurting yourself. Are you familiar with the Law of Attraction?”
“Yeah. I’m familiar with it.”
“Did you read The Secret?”
“No, I didn’t read the book.”
“Get the book, and I want the audiobook on your phone too.”
He said, “All right.”
I said, “I want you to listen to it every day, because you’re letting what happened nine years ago affect your performance.”
What are the most effective tools for network marketers today?
Generation Y is totally different from Baby Boomers in how they communicate and process information. Their value system is not so different. I’m a lot like them, but I had to learn to change my approach. In the past you’d see people at restaurants and they’re all talking. Now everyone’s looking at their phones. It may be messed up, but that’s the way it is.
We have to understand what people connect to—especially young people. If you want to be a successful leader, you must have an online system for your team. You need short presentation videos—10 minutes max. Millennials don’t like long videos. Your tools need to be free. Don’t try to fleece the flock and profit off your downline.
We have a 10-step eBook in our back office. I provide replicated websites, so that the only thing you have to do is add your picture and story, like on Facebook. Then you’re up and running. You don’t have to figure it out.
In the past, we had to know how to draw on the whiteboard or do a napkin presentation. Today, it’s more about inviting than presenting, because the tools are already there. You just share the link and follow up. It’s similar to what we did 20 years ago, when we signed up 800 people in 90 days, except we use different platforms. We still ask the same question, “How do you see yourself: using the product, or can you use extra money?”
Young people today want to know that they can use the tools they’re already using to build the business. It’s also important to connect them to your team page on Facebook, that way you constantly have information going out to them. It helps to keep them focused, which is critical on social media.
I love Facebook Live, because it allows you to engage people. I heard a statistic that after three minutes 90 percent of webinar attendees disengage. They get busy on the phone or they’re doing something else. What’s cool on Facebook Live is you can ask questions and you can acknowledge people.
Recognition is key. People enter this business for money, but they stay for recognition and appreciation. This principle never changes. I did a Facebook Live the other night, and I just started acknowledging people, calling out their names and different countries. It gets them so excited. During the broadcast, I can say, “If you agree, give me a thumbs up.” Again, people engage. Tools like Facebook Live are making it so much easier for us to ignite a team.
Any tips for building internationally?
You need to work through your leaders to find your leaders. That’s probably been another major ingredient in my success. I would always ask, “Who do you know overseas?” One day a leader shared an email address of a doctor in Seoul, Korea. I emailed him, “We’re expanding into Asia, and I would love to work with you.”
He wrote me back when I was at a party in South Carolina. I saw his email and it said, “If you want to do business with me, you need to come to Korea, and you need to come now.”
I read that, and I told everybody at the party, “In the morning I’m leaving for Seoul, Korea.” I wanted success badly, and I was willing to pay the price. That same night I booked a ticket for Seoul, and 24 hours later I was in Korea.
As soon as I met this doctor, we started bonding. Asians are different from Americans. They’re wheelers and dealers. Sometimes they expect things right out the gate. When he came at me, I just smiled and said, “My sponsor’s going to be here in a few days. Let’s wait until he arrives, and then we’ll address this. In the meantime, I want to get to know you as a person—and you want to get to know me. Why don’t we just go out to dinner tonight, and let’s talk about anything but network marketing?”
Now the doctor started loosening up. There were other leaders in my company who wanted him as a leader, but they didn’t have the ability I had developed by studying Dale Carnegie’s book, so he signed up with me.
As a result, I ended up spending time in South Korea, just going out and running with him. I was used to doing conference calls in the US, but in Korea, all we did was physical meetings.
He took me to the island of Guam, where he had a team. Guam was a three-hour flight from Seoul. One of my childhood fantasies was to live on an island. I even wrote a story about it when I was eight years old.
I told him, “Okay, I’m moving here.” I went back to the US and told my mother and brothers, “I’m moving to Guam. That’s where I’m going to live for now.” They said, “You are crazy.”
I would spend a month in Korea, then go back to the island, spend another month in Korea, and back to the island. Again, I worked through leaders to find my leaders. I’d drive my legs deep. Depth is your security in this business.
At one point, I talked to one of my leaders and I said, “Come on, Linda. You’ve been around. You know people. Who do you know in Asia that’s good?”
She said, “Well, I know so-and-so in Singapore, but I already talked to her. She’s not interested.” I thought, “Because she bought into your weakness. That’s why.” I said, “Give me her name and number.”
I called her and said, “Hey, you don’t know me, and I don’t know you, and that’s okay, but we have this friend in common. I’m going to be in Singapore next week. I thought maybe we could have lunch together. After I tell you what we’re doing, if you’re still not interested, we can just be friends.”
She agreed to meet. I flew out there, and she challenged me. It was like saddling a bull. I listened to her objections, and I just kept coming back with a smile. Within two days I had her signed up and ready to go. Now, that lady does over $2 million a month in my organization. Again, I was working through my leaders to find my leaders.
Has language ever been a barrier?
I obviously don’t speak all the languages of the 56 different countries we operate in, but it’s not hard to find a translator.
A few years ago I asked one of my leaders in Hawaii who spoke Japanese, “Who do you know that’s good in Japan?” She said, “I know a great leader, but he won’t be interested.” I said, “Why?” “Because he’s already successful.” I said, “But I like to talk to successful people.” She said, “Do you know Japanese?” “No.” “Well, he doesn’t know English, so I don’t think you’ll be able to talk to him.”
I said, “But I have you, and we have this stuff called three-way calls, and you can translate, right?” She said, “Yeah.” I said, “Let’s just do it.” She called him up. Long story short, he was totally open to looking at what I had, and within a few days he was in. He brought a major team with him. All because I worked through my leaders.
When I was living in Guam, one of my strong leaders in South Carolina called me up one day, “Will you go to the Philippines? We’ve been shipping product over there, and there’s a team ready to go. They want you to come do a meeting.” It’s only three hours from Guam, so I hopped on a plane. That night we had 50 people in the room. Today, their team is doing about $1 million a month.
When we talk about international work, sometimes people think, “I don’t want to leave my home. I have children. I have obligations. I can’t just go overseas.” Well, there are people in your upline who build overseas, and hopefully these are people you trust. When I would present for another leader, I’d always ask, “What’s your ID number?” and sign the new person up right under that leader. I was always happy to do that. You utilize your upline that goes overseas to build your business.
How do you keep your team engaged without being physically present?
Again, you utilize your upline—and local events. Hopefully you have a Facebook team page where you stay in touch and promote events. You do Skype and Zoom calls to support your leaders globally. It’s not necessary that you speak their language. When I have a special message I want to get out—whether video or a written message—the office in that country will translate it. When they send it out to the leaders, they add Korean or Chinese subtitles.
You can also use Facebook to target certain regions with ads or posts. It’s easy. Even in the US, sometimes I like to just play with it. It’s like a hobby to me. I’ll select “Tennessee,” “network marketing,” and “people who follow Eric Worre.” Now you’re leveraging off Eric Worre’s success. All you have to do is find people who follow him and connect with them. I’ve been doing that successfully and teach this to my leaders, regardless of where they live.
If you do this, you’ll never run out of leads. Building internationally is easier than ever before, even if you don’t want to travel.
In our business, principles never change, but the tools do. Just apply the principles and learn the new tools, and you will go to the top.
When our company announced we were going to Taiwan. I didn’t know anybody there, and neither did any of my leaders. I thought, “Just pack your bag and go.” I flew over to Taipei and when I got to my hotel, I thought, “What are you going to do now? They all speak Chinese… You’re dead in the water!”
Then I had an idea: I went down to the NuSkin building. I walked in this beautiful, five-star Hilton hotel kind of lobby. As I walked in, all these Chinese leaders started looking at me, thinking, “Our upline Blue Diamond is here from America!”
They came up to me and asked, “Are you our upline Blue Diamond?”
I laughed. I said, “No, I’m just here to look at your beautiful office. I love it… I’m from the US, but this excites me.”
One of the guys started to talk to me, so I said, “Let’s go to lunch.”
Next he agreed to do translation for me.
I asked him questions. “How do you do network marketing in Taiwan?” I don’t like to tell people how to do things. I ask them, then I listen.
In Taiwan, there was one magazine like Network Marketing Lifestyles that went out to all the networkers. When he told me this, I said, “Perfect, take me to their office.”
We met the woman who was in charge, and I said, “I want the front inside cover.” Then I said to him, “Now let’s go find an office.”
We went out, found an office.
I said, “Great, now take me to where I can get some chairs and tables, a whiteboard, and a projector.”
He took me, and we started doing meetings.
The moral of the story is, you have to get your feet on the ground and moving. Quit living in fear, and then just apply the Law of Attraction. Where? How? What? Go—and get it done. Before long, you’re building a country.