This is one of those questions that can cause a new person to shiver in their boots! In fact, even people I know who have been around the profession for a bit don't know how to respond to that question.
Before I share with you how I respond to this question, think about and understand why someone might ask this question.
Generally speaking, a person who asks this question either doesn't have a clue what network marketing is and couldn't explain to you the difference between a legitimate network marketing company and a pyramid scam, OR they simply have some pre-conceived notion as to what it might be based on what they heard from someone in the past.
Most of the time, people simply want to know that what they are getting into is
a) legitimate and real,
b) something that works, and
c) something that they themselves could do.
Instead of defending yourself and trying to come up with a lengthy (and often times argumentative) discussion about how everything is a pyramid, including IBM and every other company, simply diffuse the question.
Way back in the day, I used to respond by trying to explain to someone what the differences were. Oftentimes it would take me five to ten minutes of explaining only to find out that my prospect was more confused than before we started.
After discovering that this approach did not get me any favorable results, I began experimenting with different responses to that question.
Here's what I say now:
Prospect: Is this a pyramid?
Me: Absolutely not. Why? Is that what you are looking for? Because...if it is, I can't help you.
My response is direct and diffusing with no argumentative discussion taking place at all. The prospect automatically relaxes and is now more in the position to listen to what you have to say with a clear and open mind.
Try this next time you get this question, and you will see how easy it is!
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