Who needs a specialist?

In yesterday’s post, I wrote that I when want something done (or seek advice) I’d choose a specialist to help me over a generalist. The more important it is and the less I know about it, the more I want a specialist.

I define a specialist as an experienced and knowledgeable person.Of course there are degrees there.

So if I had a heart issue, I’d choose a cardiologist over a GP. For my grass, I’d seek out an ecologically-with-it gardener, not just someone who mows the lawn. And please – give me that excited and knowledgeable cell phone person in Circuit City versus someone who was called over from the copier department.

I feel the same about someone showing me a business I might go into. Or a product line they market that I would be putting my name behind too.

Give me a specialist, someone who knows their stuff. Someone who inspires my confidence.

Then I asked: Are you perceived as a specialist to your prospective customer?

This brought out some different points of view:

Do we really need a specialist to sell NM products? Doesn’t that scare away new people? And shouldn’t the products be so simple they need no explanation, anyway?

Isn’t the idea from the upline to keep things “super simple”?

How much should a networker know about doing the NM business before approaching approach someone else?

Can you see the conflict between the consumer above and the recruiter?

The recruiter is looking to bring in as many distributors as possible (or sell as many bottles as possible) and the prospective customer is seeking the best solution to her problem. (The ‘customer’ can be someone looking for more income, or a product customer.)

The conflict:

Recruiters (and their companies) want to attract as many people into NM as possible. So they play to the lowest common denominator: It’s easy, anyone can do this, everyone wants this product, it’s scientifically proven just show them the science behind it online, or Just tell them how great it is, and bring them to the meeting, we’ll get them in…

These are the NM recruiter’s calling cards.

But are these the qualities a thinking consumer wants in a sales person? When you are looking for a solution to a problem, do you want to be helped by someone who basically tells you how great their thing is, how it’s “proven” and if you want more info, go online here to this website or listen in on a sales conference call next week?

Not me. But there are exceptions. For example, when I don’t have to ponder my decision…

1. Lila offers you a $5 energy drink to try, or a free sample of something. No big decision required, right? You just do it. However…

2. Then Lila asks you to sign up for a $75 monthly auto-ship. Do you say yes just as easily? Or…

3. Say you have a health issue you’re working on. Someone offers you a supplement they say helps with that. They don’t know much about it, they say, but “it works great and it’s $125 for a month supply”.

Do you just buy it?

Moral: The more pondering you do before you make the decision to buy or act, the more useful a specialist (a knowledgeable person) is. And many folks talk to others or check online for second opinions or options.

I like knowledgeable people who sell stuff. You?

But NM recruiters and companies have long been afraid to ask for anything but the initial order from their new recruits. They fear they won’t bring in as many people.

Most NM companies and recruiters play to the lowest common denominator, as if the rep position were paying minimum wage – no knowledge required.

If you market products that require no second thought, your buyers won’t need you to discuss it with them. They won’t need you, either. They can go right online or to their local GNC. And countless students in my classes have reported just that. Their customer prospects went to buy online to buy after they talked to the rep. After all, what’s the difference? Cheaper, too. And no hounding about the business, either.

Yes, sometimes if you give out samples, and someone loves it, there’s always a chance they’ll buy more. But for how many people has the free sample been a success? Most students tell me their ‘sample recipients’ suddenly disappear after they’ve received their freebies.

Here’s my take:

1. If you’re going to be in business for yourself to market a product or a business, shouldn’t you know as much about it as you possibly can? And

2. Shouldn’t you know as much as possible about the habits and preferences of people who would want your product, or who might do the business?

It’s fun to get really good and be knowledgeable about something, think?

Next: What’s a specialist? (No, not someone who spouts of scientific facts. Technobabble doesn’t sell.)

About the author

Kim Klaver


  • Dear Kim,

    Very well put.

    I am watching, with interest, a phenomenon in my state with a new MLM. It comes as close to a recruiting program with a token product as anything I have ever seen. Quack, quack; to those who know what I mean. In fact, I am puzzled as to how it expects to stand up to FTC and SEC scrutiny.

    The reps are being taught all of the old school recruiting techniques of the 80’s and the income is almost exclusively from sign on bonuses. The reps pay heavy upfront for little more than the ‘privlege’, no product. They don’t need to know anything about the product because the product isn’t really anything but a smoke screen to validate the business model.

    If my gut is right, a lot of these reps will be eating Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner by themselves this year.

    If someone wants to spend all their time selling a dream of financial freedom to some desparate people; they ought to at least be required to have first achieved it themselves, before being allowed to promote it to others. To me this is far more honest. Potential doen’t pay any of my bills.

    What if I called myself an Olympic Gold Metal Trainer? I had never coached anyone to gold nor had I ever won a gold metal myself. Just the same I recruited a lot of young Olympic Gold hopefuls on the promise that I could get them there. Gotta pay me first, though. So I got the money and none of my trainees even made the team. What would the media likely call me if they got wind of this program? A fake, a scam artist, a con-man, a crook, or worse?

    The whole world is NOT a stage,

    Tom Doiron

  • I agree that you have to qualify people you sample with product(s). Are they really interested in your product(s) and would they be the ideal person to actually buy them on a regular basis? If not, then they may not qualify for your sample. I have found that I get better results from people who are willing to pay for a sample package if they are not ready to buy a full size package.

    I will be interested to see what other people consider to be a specialist. I am glad to stated what you did Kim about it not being a “know-it-all” that just tells every little detail about a product because for the most part that would not get the results a person would be looking for.

    What they really want to know is how they will benefit from using your product. For example, if I pay ___ price, what should I expect from this product? Really that is what they want to know.

    When it comes to business opportunities, there is more to it of course. I always remind people that I never make income claims and that I also never make health or medical claims. Doing either of those will get you in big trouble and you can’t make guarantees in that regard anyway.

    So as far as business goes, you have to let them know how they would benefit from joining YOU on your team. That is what they want to know. Some people don’t have an answer for that question… So if you are reading this and you don’t know how to answer that question, it is worth putting some thought into how you would answer it if someone asks you. If you talk to enough people, you will be asked that question.

  • If you are going to make significant income, you are not just going to fall into it. It takes time, effort and knowledge, just like it would if you had a ‘real’ sales job or traditional business.

    I market a nutritional product. Why? I have a significant interest in health and nutrition, because of what happened to my dad.

    Therefore, I have developed some knowledge and expertise in this particular area. I did so mainly by reading quite a few books about nutrition as well as listening to a few CD’s.

    So how bad do you want it? What knowledge and skills are you willing to develop in order to be successful? How are you separating yourself from all the other pill and powder pushers?

    It ain’t just going to sorta happen.

    Paul Eilers

  • Hi Everyone,

    The “specialist” debate is near to my heart, especially because Kim started with the example of having heart problems and wanting a cardiologist. Frankly, in our healthcare system, one of the problems is that everyone is a “specialist”. Even the GP “specializes” in general medicine. No one has the complete picture. Everyone is holding their own part of the elephant and calling the shots from there.

    I think that the real point is found in the definition of “specialist”. In healthcare, the body is divided into little packets–the heart guy and the ear guy and the bone guy. They often give conflicting advice and no one is seeing what is good for the whole person. I can think of cases where I would have a heart problem and the last person I would want to see is the cardiologist.

    I think a better term for “specialist” is “expert”. But would I want an expert in hearts? No. I want an expert in health.

    We can not be an expert in everything so we have all had to find ways to “carve” out our expertise. I am very knowledgable about natural health–but talk to me about “medical” health (experience with drugs, surgeries, procedures), I know very little. I have always thought that I do not serve people who have strong medical experiences well. That is not my expertise.

    The point I’m trying to make is that it is not enough to find a “specialist” or “expert” but to find one who is an expert in what you need.

    I can think of examples with business building. I know of a woman who is FABULOUS (actually quite unbeleivable) with face to face recruiting. She not only finds people, but she trains them well, quickly, and helps them build. She has more truly successful people under her, more quickly, than anyone in my company before.

    I would love to hitch my wagon to her. But face to face is not my strength. What I really need is an expert in internet marketing.

    Basically, I agree that we need experts and that we must be experts. But just as Seth Godin preaches, we are experts only to the group of people who carry a similar story as us. We must be experts in our own little world.


  • Hi All: Yes, I believe like Kim, you have to know the products or have personal reps that know products that work for them. You always hear get in on ground floor, when a company reps state that, its time to look for another company. I’ve been in 3 hype companies and they are not around today.
    Companies that want to load you up with products, are not here to stay.
    Other comments that people have made here are all true. Don’t buy on excitement, but what you personally think is right for you.

  • Yes, to achieve any level of success, you have to become a specialist of some sort. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you must get a phD in order to speak with authority, however.

    For most of my adult life I gained the reputation of being a professional problem solver. If someone came to me with a problem that I didn’t know the answer to, I would admit right up front that I didn’t have an immediate answer or solution – but that I would investigate and research, and see if I could find the answer. I worked on the behalf of the person with the problem, using my accumulated exerience and expertise to find the solution to their specific situation.

    As a result, several beneficial things happened for all concerned:

    1. Usually, a solution was ultimately found for the problem,

    2. My knowledge and experience increased with the acquired knowledge necessary to solve that problem, and

    3. The perception by others of my professionalism increased tremendously as I demonstrated my willingness to assist people and dedicate myself to solving their problems as best I could.

    I never claim to know it all, or be any sort of “expert” or “guru” – when you do that you’re setting expectations which will ultimately never be met. Nobody knows it all, and people don’t really expect you to know it all. But if you’re a professional, people will see that you put forth your very best efforts to help them, and that is really what counts most in the final analysis.

    The most common complaints most people have about NWM is unfulfilled promises – whether they are concerning the product or the business opportunity. By promising only that you’ll deliver the very best you can and then fulfilling that promise I believe you’ll achieve the best and most stable results.

    And if someone doesn’t have a real desire for the benefits of what you’re offering, stop wasting your time and energy on trying to convince them that they do – go find someone else who does. There are plenty to be found, and almost as many ways to find them.

  • My feelings about a specialist with our sales business. (I can’t say NM because I’m not in that model now)

    Most definitely I need to know as much as possible about my product and business. It’s not about the science – just know what’s in my product – how the ingredients work and why they were chosen. Not that I tell people these things but if I’m asked I have the answer. Besides I want to know about what I’m putting in my body, so do many other people.

    I love knowing what my product has done for customers. I don’t advertise these things as the next cure for night sweats or healthy downers for sleep but it’s good to know what others are saying.

    I have needed to know the full steps of how our product is produced, from where it comes from to how long after it’s picked before it’s made into the supplement. Granted, this is above and beyond what most people will need to know, I needed this info because of the venue I was using to promote it. It was rewarding to know these things.

    I’m also a blogger so I have to know about my product but also about healthy eating, foods that heal and general health issues. It’s all tied together so I can learn about my readers and offer daily health – food tips.

    Research doesn’t have to be scientific – I certainly don’t write like that. For me I will keep doing my research on healing foods, safety of vitamins, night sweats, menopause and healthy eating. These seem to be my areas of specialty.

    Why should we be different in our business than any other profession? Learning is good – keeps my brain from getting lazy.


  • Hey Kim,

    Here is something you haven’t mentioned and it is one of the key points in my new book: “Nichework Marketing”.

    Google gives preference to experts.

    WebMD is a great site on health and it has a lot of information.

    However if you search for a specific disease WebMD does not come up in the top listings. In many cases it won’t even be in the top 10.

    I did a search for Autism and WebMD was somewhere on page 3. Even though WebMD is a great health site and has millions of dollars in venture capital, a huge advertising budget, etc. They don’t even rank in the top 20 for the word Autism because they are not considered to be a specialist!

    The trick is helping people find and exploit their niche and helping them “appear” to be an expert.

    – Ben Fitts
    Nichework Marketing

  • Excellent food for thought, as always. I have learned to not be quite so generous with the samples.
    People will pay more attention to something they pay a few dollars for, than to something they get for free.
    I now “make them available” for my cost.
    That is the term I use: make available. There is no profit involved, I am not selling. But I am not just giving them away anymore either.
    If people are not willing to shell out 2 or 3 bucks for a sample, what are the chances they will pay for real products?

    There are exceptions to this rule:
    I will give samples to people who come for Reflexology.

  • My biggest problem is with he amount of auto ship you have to take.To be a Platinum dealer 700 per month or two month.This is really akin to PYRAMID selling.I think the FTC will be a keen participant in some MLM companies.(I wont mention the company.)They live a lot on the auto ship.All of life in marketing is based on MLM principles but I just want to see fairness return to this selling game.When I was working as Sales manager for a large Industrial Chemical Company.We had one guy .Who had the overload principle down to a T.He had the gall to sell a 10 case lot of TOILET Bowl cleaner to a guy with one toilet.Fired him after three month we had so many returns it was unbelievable.I myself followed the path of being fired a month later. We had fired the darling of the President of the company.He brought him back as my replacement showing even guys with marketing degrees are idiots when it comes to family.A year later he was fired leaving the company in ruins.I started my own company and any one who overloaded a customer was instantly fired.I think some of the AUTO SHIP programs are a slippery slope to FTC hell.It is the old overload system in full gear to build and bolster some ones profit intake for a short time.The FTC has long arms and could even now be watching some of these companies to shut them down. This s how I see it please prove me wrong

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