The fine art of turning spammers into prospects.

If you’ve spent much time on MySpace, Facebook, Ryze, DirectMatches, et al., you’ve probably received dozens, if not hundreds, of messages from total strangers telling you about their product or program. In some cases, these are obvious automated spam — no real profile, photo that looks like a model, etc. In other cases, though, it’s pretty obviously a real person actually trying to make a living online… just like you.

deleteduser.gifNow the ones that don’t seem to be real people, I just flag as spam and move on, but the others… well, if you are doing affiliate marketing, network marketing or any other kind of business opportunity, they are your prime audience. Think about it:

  1. You already know that they’re receptive to participating in business opportunities, which makes them more qualified than about 75% of the population.

  2. This is the important one… if they’re cold-calling you on MySpace with a full pitch on the first message, they’re probably not that successful at what they’re doing because it doesn’t work! That means they’re even more receptive to hearing about an approach that actually works.

Even if they’re not a prospect, they will know and meet other people who are prospects for you, and who might be a better fit for your program than theirs. Build a relationship and they may provide referrals. And in the extremely unlikely event that they actually are successful with their current approach, they’re worth getting to know, because you might actually learn a thing or two from them.

And besides, you’re not locked into just one opportunity, right? If you are, reconsider. And every opportunity you hear about, you learned about somewhere. What does it hurt to take a couple of minutes and see what they’re actually selling, if it opens up the door to developing a relationship with them?

I have an approach that I use when I deal with people in this situation. For me, it’s what came naturally — I think that’s an important point. I didn’t dream up this formula and start practicing it — I analyzed what I was doing naturally and found that in almost every case, there was a consistent pattern. And I knew that to share it with others, I needed to be able to break it down into simple actionable steps.

I call it the DCR Technique:

  1. Deflect

  2. Connect
  3. Redirect

The first thing you have to do is deflect their pitch. Even if you might be interested in talking to them about it in more detail at some point, you have to get them out of selling mode and into connecting mode. Don’t just simply say “no” — explain to them why you’re not interested. Here are some examples of actual explanations I have used:

  • “I just don’t do health & wellness products. It’s not that I don’t ever take them — I just know that I’m terrible about taking things consistently. Every time I try to, I end up with a half-full bottle sitting on the counter forever once I fall out of the habit. So it would just be hypocritical of me to push people into taking something on a regular basis when I know I can’t even do it myself.”

  • “I think the network marketing travel business opportunities are pretty intriguing, but I know the founder of one of your company’s competitors (he’s a former client), and if I ever do decide to do that, I’ll sign up through him. For now, though, for the little amount of travel I do, the mainstream websites work just fine for me.”
  • “I’ve looked at that company before, and while I’m sure the products are great, I’ve just made a business decision not to work with any products that aren’t sufficiently distinguished from what I can go buy at GNC or Whole Foods. That’s an uphill battle I just don’t want to wage.”
  • “Actually, that sounds kind of intriguing. I would like to explore it more, but at the moment I’m swamped with various projects — too much on my plate to give it proper attention. Send me a link that I can look at and let’s touch base about it again in a couple of weeks once I’ve had a chance to look it over.”

See, in every case, I’m not just saying “no” or “not now” — I’m giving them some insight into how I make decisions and helping them get to know me a little better. Maybe I’m even giving them a good business lesson without it coming across as preaching to them. In any case, I’ve deflected their pitch, but set up further conversation.

Now that they’re out of selling mode, you can connect with them. Here are three key ways I’ve found to connect with people quickly. I generally do all three of them in my initial reply to them, right after I’ve deflected their pitch.

  1. Read their profile. Find something you have in common and mention that. Share your experience or perspective on it.

  2. Provide them a useful resource. I usually point people to one or more of my articles on internet entrepreneurship or network marketing, such as:

    I’m also now starting to refer network marketers to Ann Sieg’s excellent free e-book, The 7 Great Lies of Network Marketing (you can point people to mine, or for a small fee you can give it out with your own branding). Or write some articles of your own that would be useful in this situation. Or refer them to one or more of those above. (But you probably don’t want to refer them to this post just yet!)

  3. Ask them the magic question (in your own words, of course): “So now that you know that I’m not going to buy from you right now, tell me honestly… how’s this going for you?” You can expand on that with something like, “I ask because at one point I was cold-calling people via private messaging like you are, and it just wasn’t working for me.” 7 out of 10 people you ask this to will admit that it’s not going as well as they hoped. The other three will tell you it’s going great. Two of them are lying. ;-)

What you have done is three of the key elements for building rapport: found a common tie and expanded on it, provided something of value to them (asking nothing in return) and broken down the facade — the “happy face” — that they put on when they were in selling mode with you.

Now it’s time to redirect them. Do NOT at this point tell them about your program(s). Just open the door. Remember, the purpose of every communication is NOT to close the deal — it’s to move the relationship one step further along in the right direction.

Hopefully, you’ve set up with something along the lines of saying how cold-calling didn’t work for you. At this point, what you say is something like this:

If you ever want to know what’s working for me now, I’ll be happy to share it with you.

Guess what… 90% of people want to know. They have now given you permission to tell them about your program and are receptive to hearing about it.

Now personally, I’m involved in a number of different programs, but I have a couple I like to use as feeder programs. The first one I mentioned earlier: The 7 Great Lies of Network Marketing. It’s a great marketing tool for any network marketer, no matter what their business, and it’s a very inexpensive, one-time deal (there’s upsell potential on the back-end, but there’s a lot of value for the initial purchase price). But what’s key about this book is this: everyone who reads it relates to it. Most people who’ve been in network marketing, or even around it, for more than a month or two have experienced four or five of the lies she talks about in the book. And when people relate to the book, they relate to you who gave them the book.

The other one I like to tell people about is MyPowerMall. It’s about the easiest thing in the world to get people to sign up for, because:

  • It’s 100% free, forever – it will never cost them a dime.

  • They will save money on products they already buy from stores they already buy them from, even over and above sale prices, credit card rebates, etc.
  • There’s no minimum participation in order to earn.

Consistently, the only group of people I have found who won’t sign up for it are Quixtar IBO’s, because they have a similar capability within Quixtar (but of course, it’s not free to join). Once they’re in, MyPowerMall has a very family feel to it. That, plus you’re making money together. Again, you’re building the relationship.

Those are the ones I use, but yours could be something else. It just has to be very low cost, or even free, to join, and should have a broad, universal appeal.

So what’s the point of using these feeder programs instead of just pitching them right away on your main opportunity?

Because you are building a relationship, not just selling them. You want to bring them into your sphere of influence — get them reading your blog and/or signing up for your newsletter, not just your downline communiques for one particular program. You want them to recognize your name, so that when they see a message or e-mail from you, they open it.

Now I know there are some people who are going to read this whole thing and think it sounds manipulative. It’s not. This is about building real, authentic relationships and being of true service to people. You’re helping them, aren’t you? If you’re not, you need to rethink the whole thing.

What this approach is doing is helping you maintain focus in your networking activities. Each individual relationship is not a means to an end, but the overall process of networking is not about building relationships just to build relationships, but about accomplishing your goals and helping others achieve theirs.

Scott Allen helps people turn virtual relationships into real business. He is coauthor of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, an A-list blogger as the Entrepreneurs Guide for About.com, and a monthly columnist for FastCompany.com. He runs his latest project, Revenue River, on the BLOG i360 New Media Marketing system.
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