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Reaching for the stars


With Tom Hopkins

The smartest people in the room are the ones who can soar like an eagle and sing like a lark. They can see the big picture and the microscopic at the same time, compress the complexities, digest it and then elegantly explain it back to rest of us. They tell us what we know but don’t really realise until they sing to us. Tom Hopkins is one such man.

America’s number one sales trainer, best selling author and legend amongst sales people - when you hear Tom speak, it’s like sitting at the foot of a guru. Everything he says makes sense and what he says is so timely and timeless, you will always remember that day for the rest of your life. For over 35 years, Tom has travelled the globe inspiring sales people all over the world to reach for the stars.

Tom ignores the white noise surrounding us today. He believes that people shouldn’t be blinded by technology or the new economy that we find ourselves in. In his mind, the song of selling remains the same. He says, “The consumer is certainly more educated. But if we look at Bobby Jones who was our greatest golfer of all time back many, many years ago, and look at Tiger Woods today and the movements of the swing in golf, nothing has really changed. What has changed is the technology of better equipment. It’s the same in selling. The fundamentals of selling a product or service to a consumer or a company are basically the same. You have to take advantage of technology but you have to really understand the different ways of communicating.”

He believes that technology can be a tool for liberation but it can also be used to hide. He says, “People are using technology, but also hiding behind it as a crutch to avoid the fear of failure and the possibility of personal rejection. The sad truth is the technology is wonderful if used properly, but if it keeps you sitting and waiting and not going out and making contact, and handling possible rejection, and doing it face-to-face, then you’re not going to do well.”

The sad, timeless fact about sales is that it is all about words and people. No matter what the circumstances, Tom believes that sales grinds down to one fundamental: “If a customer likes and trusts you and believes you’re sincere, and they have a true belief you care more about them than making the sale and money, then they’ll open their hearts and their mind to you so that you can do business with them, not for once in a season, but for a lifetime.”

And that takes a lot of work – it’s not easy. It’s incredibly hard work to create those relationships of trust, to learn what to say to put people at ease. It takes years to perfect. Tom says, “We live in an instant gratification world where young people want to have wealth in three weeks. Or they want to go on a job and in six months be making $100,000 a year. It doesn’t work like that though. I did very well in real estate, but I didn’t do well the first six months. I made $42 a month for the first six months. And I was so close to quitting, but I also realised that, God, if I quit and went back to construction, I would never have the chance to have true abundance.

Wealth only comes to those who take a risk, and who give up the security of a pay cheque and say, “I’m going to get paid what I’m worth based on my skills.” That’s what actors and actresses do, that’s what great singers do, that’s what all the people in the Arts do; they have no guarantees. You’ve got to give up what you’ve got if you’re really going to ever get what you want.”


Wealth only comes to those who take a risk, and who give up the security of a pay cheque.

We are in the word business in sales.

You have to learn to overcome rejection, overcome objections and engage your audience.

Tom’s fundamentals

What you say matters

Words are everything in real estate. They are so powerful. They can start or finish a conversation. We are in the word business in sales. It’s not so much what you say, but how you say it. Some of the words that are used in sales are fear producing. They shut down the sale before you have even started. You must use words that release a feeling of ‘yes’ instead of a feeling of ‘I’m afraid’.

As Tom says, “If you are going to buy something, you’ll hear the word ‘buy’ and you’ll say, ‘I’m going to think it over because we’ve decided not to rush into it’. But when you say the word ‘own’ instead of ‘buy’, you’re creating a feeling like ‘I’m secure with getting it, even though I haven’t bought it yet’.”

Tom believes that rather than saying:

The ‘price’ say the ‘total investment’
‘Cost’ say the ‘investment’
‘Commission’ say ‘fee for service’
‘Buy’ say ‘own’
‘Sell’ say ‘get involved’
‘I don’t want an appointment’ say ‘I’d like to have a chance to visit with you’.

Don’t give up easily

“You’ve never failed until you quit, so if you just keep cranking away, you’ll eventually become very successful and make a lot of money,” says Tom. “So many people want success quickly but sales is tough, you have to learn to overcome rejection, overcome objections and engage your audience.”

“You’ve got to look at selling like life. Life is a huge game we play every day, and the art of selling is the game within the game of life. And in any game, you’ve got odds, you’ve got percentages, you have to live by the fact that you will be told ‘no’ much more than you are told ‘yes’. But you’ve got to realise that all the yes’s in life, the new homes, the new cars, the beautiful new clothes, the new jewellery, the beautiful Rolex watch; all of those are wonderful things called yes’s hiding behind the no’s you have to eat and taste in the field of sales.”

Tom continues, “Most people go into selling and they want to make money, but they’re afraid of putting their ego out on the line. You know, saying, hey, I’m going to make some calls today, I’m going to go up to a stranger, I’m going to meet somebody and give them my card and visit with them, and send them a thankyou note for the visit, and then lead into a presentation, then go to closing a sale.

But many people, I feel, in selling, are now wanting it to be like ‘I’ll wait for them to call me’, and that’s not going to happen. You have to be willing to have a two to three-year period of putting the ego on the line, going out there and facing the fact you could be rejected.”

Rejection is part of success

Tom explains, “What people have to realise when they come into the field is that there is unlimited income potential, but there’s also risk: there’s rejection and there’s failure. But there are counting averages, if you talk, call, contact and present to five people - out of those five – you’ll have four people say ‘no’. If you make $100 for the person that says ‘yes’, and four that say ‘no’, divide the four into the hundred, and now you’ve got a dollar value of $25 on every rejection.

If you talk to someone therefore and, they say ‘no’, you go, ‘Hey, thanks for the $25’. And that game allows you to stay motivated. All the pain and rejection, all the failure: it’s all forgotten when you build a reputation in the community, when you’re making big money and people look at you as a pro. But it’s not forgotten ‘til the pain is over, which is why you’ve gotta go through the pain.”

Listen, listen, listen

“Listening is the whole key,” says Tom. “Sales come to those that have listening, one way or another. I used to sit down with people who’d say, ‘Now, we’re going to talk to three companies before we list our home’. And I would say, ‘Good, that’s great research and I’m happy you’re doing that. And I’d like to let you know that many people I do business with, that I make happy with our service, and have got them happily moved as a family in a short period of time with very few challenges, did exactly as you’re going to do. So that’s wonderful. I’d love to share with you why we’re one of the top companies and why I know I’ll get you happily moved, but not only with the maximum amount of money, but with less challenges than most realtors’. And they would sit there and you could just see; it was like letting the air out of balloons, they’d just relax.”

Not everyone is cut out to sell or manage

As Tom says, “Many great salespeople, the high-income earners - they sometimes do not make great managers and owners. Selling is kind of a short-term relationship, at least in the closing of the sale: you do follow-up and keep in touch, and you keep your client base. But management is a long-term relationship with people. Recruiting, training and motivating a sales force is a whole different animal than one-to-one selling.”

Tom continues, “Many people decide they want their own company, they want the title on the card, they want to say, ‘I am an owner, I am a manager’. Some people are born to sell until they’re ready for management and ownership, and then they go into it and they do great. Most of them don’t. It’s something you really have to get expertise on. If you are going into management, find a great manager as a mentor, even if you have to pay them to have them teach you how to recruit, how to train, how to motivate salespeople.

“I say, ‘Hey, don’t let the ego get involved and think you have to own a company unless you’re really ready’. If you can sell and do well with people, build a client base, make a lot of money, invest in stocks and shares properly, buy some real estate, some income properties, some apartment buildings, get yourself debt-free, and have enough money coming in so you don’t have to make money; then go out and open a business, but try to use other people’s money as far as getting lenders, getting banks to help you make the investment.

“But most people, you know, after about two to three years, their ego gets involved and they want to say, ‘Well, I want to own a company’, and they’re making a big mistake. It’s something you have to really, really spend soul-searching time on because managing people is so much different than the actual one-on-one selling of people.”

Tom explains, “I went into management when I was 25 years of age. I’d been the top real estate agent in California for five years, and I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to go into management only because I know that I’m going to become, someday, an author of writing books and a sales trainer, and I want to be able to relate to managers’. So I did it, and I spent two-and-a-half to three years managing 18 people. And you know what? Luckily, I got some training from a great manager teacher, and I did okay. I had a good office, and it was the top office in California for a while in those days. But I did not like it. I mean, I’d wake up mornings and go, ‘Why the hell did I get out of selling?’.”

You’ve got to realise that it’s not always greener on the other side, especially if you’re making lots of money and having a lot of fun in your life.

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