The Biggest Mistake Your
MLM Company Can Make
Thoughts On Communication

Direct Sales Journal

by Michael L. Sheffield
CEO The Sheffield Group

I know you believe you understand what you think I say, but I am not sure you realize that what you hear is not what I meant.

Have you ever listened to someone who left you thoroughly confused? It has always amazed me how corporate executives can say one thing to field members and these distributors hear something completely different. Lack of effective distributor communication by direct sales and MLM corporate leaders rates at the top of my personal list of reasons independent distributors abandon one company seeking a better career solution.

When sponsoring to build a sales organization, the ability to communicate effectively is critical. I know from personal experience, communication is far more complex than we think. If you want to improve your leadership skills, build distributor loyalty, and enhance the duplication of your company’s success plans, understanding communication basics is a must.

First, let's erase the myth that talking is the most important method of communicating. There are many ways to communicate other than spoken words. Written words, figures, symbols, and pictures dating back thousands of years represent man’s evolution in communication. But, today we extend the art of communication into technology to reach around the world in seconds. The telephone provides nearly instant contact between individuals. Three way calling, national conference calls connecting thousands of your own distributors, e-mail, personal and corporate websites, online web casts etc. are creating ways to communicate and grow our businesses never imagined just a few year ago.

However, communication is a two-way street. It not only involves talking or making signs or motions, it also involves listening. Authorities claim that most of us spend almost seventy percent of our waking hours in some form of communication.

In the field of sponsoring new distributors and selling your company’s products, communication is especially meaningful. For example, the first ten words in any communication are more important than the next 10,000 or the rest of your speech or sales presentation.

There are five steps to the selling process. They are:

1. Attention
2. Interest
3. Conviction
4. Desire
5. Close

There are four basic motivators. They are:

1. Financial gain
2. Romance
3. Self-preservation
4. Recognition

This means that the first ten words of any effective communication must include several of the basic motivators in order to get your prospect's attention. For example, you approach a potential distributor and say, "Joe, how would you like to double your income and earn a car in our car program or take a dream cruise?" If this does not receive "favorable attention,” you may well have lost this prospect.

It is easy to get attention. You can slap a guy in the face and get attention, but you want "favorable attention." Therefore, you must weigh your approach carefully. Practice putting together the right approach. Your batting average will increase greatly.

You must prepare yourself in advance for effective communication. How do you know what motivation a person will respond to? You must have pre-approach information. In other words, when communicating with your distributor, find out all you can about that individual before approaching him. I've always said pre-approach is half the sale.

Some additional rules to follow:

  • You only get one chance to make a good, first impression
  • What the other person says is 100 times more important than what you say. This means you should listen. Unfortunately, many company leaders just enjoy hearing themselves talk. They then wonder why their distributors feel disconnected from the company executives.

In sales or negotiations, the listener usually wins. Most distributors, sales managers, teachers, and preachers know where they are mentally, but very few know where the listener is mentally. You could be on page six of your big story, and mentally your prospect could be trying to figure out how to unload you.

How can you find out where your distributor’s mind is? Simple, but few do it.
Take your distributor's temperature. Ask leading questions; check for vibes. Look for buying signals; watch for a change of expression. Encourage your distributor to ask questions.

  • Many people are audio learners. They find that the majority of what they learn comes to them by the pathway of the ear. Audio recordings, voice mail, conference calls, etc. are valuable to these folks.
  • Fifty percent of what you say is never heard. Some experts say you must listen to a tape recording sixteen times to basically absorb all the information it contains.
  • Twenty-five percent of what is said is forgotten.
  • About fifteen percent of what you say is not understood in the first place. Ever notice a person talking as if he was reading from a scientific textbook?
  • You retain about ten percent.

Does this tell you something? If you are going to be a good company leader, conceptualize what you are going to say, and then DID —"Dumb It Down."

Getting people to listen to us is the only way they will have the opportunity to understand what is on our mind. What are some of the barriers to good communications?

• Prejudices
• Lack of knowledge
• Environment (distractions)
• Ambiguous terminology
• Status differences
• Background (culture)
• Fear
• Jealousy
• Youth (inexperience)
• Mechanics (poor equipment)
• Lack of trust (credibility)
• Level (I.Q.)
• Absorption (too much information)
• Lack of feedback (response)

Regardless of what is said or how you say it, communication between people falls into one of five categories. Most all dialogue is superficial having little meaning. If you are to develop an organization that has power, you must strive for a deeper relationship with the people you really count on for support.

There are five levels of communication:

1. Love – Two people deeply in love
2. Feeling – What do we need from each other?
3. Ideas – Each person can control their own destiny.
4. Facts – Direct sales and MLM now exceed $100 billion worldwide
5. Small Talk –World Series, the weather

It should be the goal of every corporate executive to develop relationships with their distributor members where they feel free to express the corporate needs and how the company distributors can help. Of equal importance is the distributor’s comfort in communicating their needs for support from you. That is one reason that the most successful companies have distributor advisory groups to assist in communicating the field needs and make recommendations to the company. Do you have one? Do you listen? A company and its distributor population that are in harmony with the common purpose of serving the needs of each can create a powerful organization.

How to Improve Communication:

1. Know what you want to communicate
2. Know your audience
3. Get favorable attention
4. Appeal to the interests of others
5. Anticipate and overcome emotional objections
    a. Talk in "people terms"
    b. Lead from the present to the future
6. Create mutual understanding
    a. Start in areas of agreement
    b. Use simple concrete words
    c. Communicate in small bites
7. Enhance retention
   a. Use repetition
   b. Associate with familiar ideas
8. Stimulate feedback
   a. Learn to listen
   b. Ask questions

Ten Commandments of Good Communication:

    1. Seek to clarify your ideas before communicating.

    2. Examine the true purpose of each communication.

    3. Consider the total physical and human setting whenever
        you communicate.

    4. Consult with others, where appropriate, in planning communications.

    5. Be mindful of the overtones as well as the basic content of
        your message.

    6. Take the opportunity, when it arises, to convey something of help
        or value to the receiver.

    7. Follow up your communications.

    8. Communicate for tomorrow as well as for today.

    9. Be sure your actions support your communication.

    10. Seek not only to be understood, but to understand —
           be a good listener.

If you understand the importance of building strong relationships with your retail customers, distributor leaders, your own staff members and outside suppliers, you already know that improving your communication skills should be at the forefront of your daily self improvement efforts. You can’t leave it to your sales manager or director of marketing. Certainly they must be masters in effective communication for your business to succeed. But, as the leader of your company, you will never succeed long term without continually honing your communication skills.

In the future as in the past, companies will continue to lose their momentum if there is ineffective communication skills of their CEO. During my 30 years in this industry, I have discovered that Direct Selling/MLM companies that fail usually destroyed themselves from the inside–out. Your distributors are your most precious assets. Remember — inspiration and motivation can’t replace effective communication.

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About the Author:

Michael L. Sheffield is the CEO of The Sheffield Group, a full-service direct sales and multi level marketing (MLM) consulting firm. He is a Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Multi Level Marketing International Association and in 2001 he was inducted into the MLMIA Hall of Fame. He and the Sheffield team have assisted in hundreds of national and international MLM corporate start-ups as well as offered a full line of services for established direct sales companies including consultation on MLM Website development. As the most noted expert on compensation plans, he has been a guest lecturer on the subject for the DSA, University of Illinois, University of Texas, Berkeley and Harvard Alumni Association. He has helped launch over 200 new products marketed by direct selling companies around the globe. He can be contacted at 480-968-6199, The Sheffield Group, 2239 N. Hayden Road, Suite 103, Scottsdale, AZ. 85257, website address: www.sheffieldnet.com.

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