"I can’t Sell"

This is a stock answer people give when they say NO to network marketing.

For many people, this is not an acceptable answer. The recruiter often responds with things like:

“Oh this isn’t sales! It’s sharing!”


“This is JUST like recommending a restaurant or movie to a friend.”

Or, like dear reader Aletha said in the comments here, When someone says “I can’t sell,” that is really not so. She continues “Anyone ‘can’ do anything, those who say they ‘can’t’ just ‘won’t’.”

I will focus on just the last comment here, that “anyone can, they just won’t.” (I’ve focused on the other two responses ad nauseam, see here, or here.)

OK, back to “Anyone can, they just won’t.”

We’ve all heard this many times from upline. In the can-do hype filled atmosphere at most mlm meetings, recruiters insist that everyone can. They just won’t because they’re not committed and won’t get out of their comfort zone.

I have always thought this is not a good way to win friends or influence others. Here’s why.

In our American can-do uber culture, we all could theoretically do or be anything. But we all choose what we want and say no to the rest. The response, “I can’t…” is just the American way of saying no thanks kindly. And it’s quite OK to say that in almost any social situation.

Picture this: Someone asks you out for coffee or some other date. You say, “I can’t.” How would you react if the other person shot back, “What do you mean you can’t? You mean you won’t, isn’t that right? Why don’t you just say you won’t?”

Would you be taken aback?

People, “I can’t sell” IS their way of saying “No thanks”. Just like we all do to anyone who asks us to do something and we don’t want to do it – no matter why. We say, (sorry) “I can’t.”

Do not let the NM can-do hype and enthusiasm make you insensitive to the preferences and choices others make. We ALL could do much more than we do. But we don’t. Our priorities are what they are. That is what limits us. Not can do or cannot do. “I can’t” is how we say No.

Can we just let go of the “I can’t sell” folks without the judgment or the lecture about how they really “can”?

P.S. You can avoid the whole issue with one single question at the end of any presentation. See here for the no-cost download. FTC safe, too.

About the author

Kim Klaver


  • Hey Kim, just wanna let you know you've been a true blessing. I've been struggling for 5 years in NM, and my sponsor (and worse… close friend) kept telling me how I should just "get over it" and just get some people in my downline, even though I told him I don't want to do that until I can show them how to make some money with clients.

    He says that it doesn't really matter and I just need to sell them the mlm potential, but it just didn't feel right. It's like saying "come, join this great company, you can make lots o money, but hey, don't mind that I didn't.

    I'm with a well known company, and with our team, they just won't let you be a "distributor". You must also front-load and buy 4K$ of products. We all know the real reason for that, and it's not so I'd have some product to sell to my new clients. The proof is that I've done that for 4 (yes, four) times and sold about 200$. Over 5 years!

    Before I read your stuff I was someone who thought he's doing it "wrong" and even someone who "is" wrong. Now, I'm OK with not making 10K/Month – and I'm actually glad my friends didn't join when my sponsor had hit them up. I'm sure I would have felt terrible if they had.

    BTW, my sponsor "fired" me (he said my way of action is crazy, and the company should sou me) and allowed himself to confess last week that he was not making 7K$ a month like prospects hear, and he doesn't know if he can keep this up.

    Thanks again Kim, I feel good about keeping it real.

  • GT – the fake it till you make it mentality has got many NMers by the short ones. It is not sustainable to do front loading, and now, there are legal problems as well with it.

    Glad you rose above that in time. 🙂

  • Most certainly people can say no!

    I was writing from an angle of those already *in* the industry in my post however 🙂

    We in this industry hear "no thanks" frequently hence 'go for no', but from a leadership perspective often we hear "I can't" from people who are try-ing. They want the success, but are not do-ing.

    Those who quit, do, but some hang on and hang on and hang on, the whole time saying they can't do it.

    This is where I put in the can't/won't analogy as those who *really* want success need to shift from can't/won't mode to can/will mode in order to manifest the gangsta money.

    From a recruting perspective,
    I most certainly do *not* want everyone to do the business, I only want people who *want* to do the business.

    It is not my job to convince anyone to join, that is not how I operate! I am up front, honest and lay it all out. It is 100% the prospect's conscious choice to join or not. I educate them, I answer thier questions and the ball is in their court.

    If they become a team member, it is a 100% the team member's conscious choice to *do* or *not do* as well. I'm there to guide them should they choose to move forward, but again back to the can't/won't or can/will mentality!

    If someone joins then wants out, that is AOK. It took me more than a handful of companies to find the one where I am now. I call those companies my stepping stones, and if in some way I was helpful on someone else's path along the road to success, that pleases me no matter if they stay with my company, choose another, or leave the industry completely.

    We achieve success by helping others achieve success 🙂

  • Maybe I'm missing something but 'I can't', or "I won't", or "I will" but then does not…are kind of all the same at the end of the day. I've found it easier to let 'no' be 'no', to let 'can't be no, and when someone says 'yes' I watch their feet, not their mouth.

    If you think about it, there are stats that are facts and no one is going to change them and neither is any product or plan. Thus, if we really understand the numbers going into it, eyes wide open kind of thing', it should not surprise us that most say 'can't, won't, or 'yes' then don't. It's a SMALL % who say yes and actually go build something. Why most don't?? As Jim Rohn says: I wouldn't sign up for that class".

  • Cathy – right. Many networkers are so steeped in "yes you can" that they forget some folks do not want to and try and change the "I can't" to something else.

    Then you get the upline browbeaters who belittle those who don't, as "lazy, uncommitted, can't see the vision" and that creates a "you are not really a good person because you say you can't and you don't" do this thing which we think will make you a better person and get more out of life than you are now.

    When we insist our values are better than someone else's by this kind of treatment, well it's the beginning of friendships that go sour, you know? And it creates frustrated networkers who can't understand why everyone "can't" when in the meetings, they sold her on "everyone can."

    She doesn't know to seek out the right ones. Quits before that realization hits her.


  • Kim, Ya. I should have prefaced my post by saying this I've learned only after years and years in MLM. I, too, was once in convince mode.
    (any can and everybody should) I think all people go through that early on. Tis a process.

    For me, after knocking my head against the wall too many times, I finally 'got it'. Took me awhile tho. Sure makes it MUCH less stressful and more fun after ya get it.

  • Hey Cathy – you write: "(any can and everybody should) I think all people go through that early on. Tis a process."

    I agree people go through that process. But it lasts a lot longer in people who are told constantly by their upline that everyone can and should.

    This is bad on two counts: 1) it's totally self-serving, because the insister makes money when someone agrees they "can" and buys, and 2) It creates an "I'm better than you" dichotomy which results in the persecution of those who choose not to.

    I have seen a quote used by some that says, "If you knew what I knew about network marketing you'd be doing it with me."

    This is the height of arrogance, IMHO. It's not what one knows about anything, but how they view it. Isn't that the battle of religions?

    Whatever happened to freedom of choice?

    And these days, many people with bad experiences will tell you the opposite – "I you knew what I knew about NM, you wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole."

    The cause? Insistence that everyone can do it. And using the "can do" hype to browbeat people who don't want to. And of course, NOT telling that you make a good percent on the order the person makes, until AFTER the fact.

    That's a topic for another post…

    Gotcha, tho.

  • Getting back to the original objection, "I can't sell," I usually thank them for telling me that, and I ask them to explain to me in detail why they think so.

    You'd be amazed at some of the many different reasons I've heard, most most of them centering around them having a lack of belief in themselves and their own abilities ("I'm shy," or "I can't speak in front of people," etc).

    When they're done, I tell them, "You know, I believe you. You've just sold me on the idea that you can't sell!"

    And then I just shut up and smile!

    You can almost hear an audible "click" when they finally take in what I've just told them, and quite often they'll smile back at me and admit maybe they can sell after all!

    Selling is simply a matter of communicating with people persuasively. It has gotten a bad reputation because of some people using exploitation and manipulation in the process (as the "front-loading" example above").

    Mind you, it's just a "baby step" – they undoubtedly still have much to overcome. But the journey of a thousand miles has begun with the very first step. As long as they're willing to take the next one, I'll be there for them.

    I've had my share of bullying upline, and I finally decided to fire them! There's more than one way to skin a cat, and as you've discovered, Kim, there's more than one way to build an MLM/NM business. Thanks to the internet, the world is your "warm market" if you choose to make it so!

  • Kim, I always appreciate your posts. They are incredibly enlightening…helpful, as well. Don King's post was great…excellent way of dealing with the "I can't sell" statement. Thank you, Don, and Kim, for the honoring ways of dealing with people who are all struggling to find their ways on this earth journey. Including myself in this group, I really like to get insights that will help me to help others, if they want to be helped. And that is always the key, isn't it? If they WANT to be helped. Sorting, not convincing.
    Blessings, Annie

  • I just want to say that Digital Don posted a fantastic nugget of information on how to deal with people who say tht they can't sell!! Fantastic!!

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