Book Excerpt: How to Master the Art of Selling

After failing during the first six months of his career in sales, Tom Hopkins discovered and applied the very best sales techniques, then earned more than one million dollars in just three years. What turned Tom Hopkins around? The answers are revealed in How to Master the Art of Selling. Read chapter one.

Book Excerpt:
How To Master The Art Of Selling
by Tom Hopkins
ISBN: 0446692743

I learned a long time ago that selling is the highest-paid hard work—and the lowest-paid easy work—that I could find. And I also found out another exciting thing about selling—the choice was mine, all mine. By myself, I could make it the highest-paid hard work, or I could let it be the lowest-paid easy work. I discovered that what I’d achieve in my selling career was entirely up to me, and that what anyone else wanted wasn’t going to make much difference. What anyone else would or wouldn’t give me wasn’t going to make much difference, either. The only thing that really mattered was what I did for myself, and what I gave to myself.

Will you agree with me on that? I hope so, because the whole point of this book is that the skills, knowledge, and drive within you are what will make you great, and that these qualities can be expanded and intensified—if you’re willing to invest time, effort, and money in yourself. Is there any better investment than in yourself? Most of us know there isn’t, but many of us don’t act often enough, or decisively enough, on that belief.

You are your greatest asset. Put your time, effort, and money into training, grooming, and encouraging your greatest asset.

Let’s talk about some of the advantages of selling.

The first advantage and the reason I love selling is its freedom of expression. Sales is one of the few professions left in which you can be yourself and can, in essence, do what you want to do. This freedom you’ve won for yourself by successfully competing where resourcefulness and perseverance are demanded and highly valued. No activity is more vital to the economy’s health than selling; no activity is more dependent on individual initiative than selling.

The second advantage of selling is that you have the freedom to become as successful as you’d like to be. In this profession, no one limits your income but you. There are no income ceilings.

You may question this statement. You may think the limit is the highest income anyone has yet made selling for your company. Does that mean it’s not possible to earn more? Of course not. But it does mean that all the salespeople in your company who aren’t earning the highest income aren’t applying all the strategies and techniques of the Champion.

The third advantage of selling is that it’s a daily challenge. You can go into almost any business and have no challenge. That’s never the case in selling, where every day you’re confronted with new challenges. Let that fact refresh you, not weary you. Glory in it. Our overregulated and highly organized society provides few lucrative work activities where the end of each day isn’t known before that day dawns. You are privileged to be involved in one of those precious few activities where freedom and challenge aren’t rarities, they’re constant companions. In sales, you never know what opportunities the day will open up, what prizes you can win—what catastrophes may befall you.

To the salesperson, every day is an adventure. Working at this profession, we can go from the heights of exhilaration to the depths of discouragement within forty-eight hours—and climb back to the heights again the next day. Isn’t that exciting?

Say yes.

Every morning, tell yourself that challenge is exciting, it’s fun, and you look forward to it. Tell yourself that—and mean it. Psych yourself up to enjoy challenge. Then go on the prowl for it, find it, and overcome it. If you want to be better than average, do that. If you aspire to greatness, you won’t hesitate. The shortest route to high earnings goes straight through the challenges you’ll encounter.

The fourth advantage of selling is that it offers high potential returns from a low capital investment. What does it cost to gain entry into this profession that has no income ceiling? Compare whatever you think that cost is to the investment required for one of the fast-food franchises that have been so successful. Typically, owners of a new location invest three hundred thousand dollars or more, work long hours, and pay themselves a small salary. All of this is done in the hope of a sixty-thousand-dollar return on invested capital the second year.

You can launch yourself into a sales career for a tiny fraction of the franchiser’s investment and, by applying the systems in this book, have greater earning power sooner. This enormous leverage on the small investment that getting into selling requires has always fascinated me. What an exciting prospect!

The fifth advantage of selling is that it’s fun. Do you know how many people aren’t having fun with what they’re doing for income? My philosophy is that if it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing. Life was meant to be fun, and there’s no reason not to have some of it while you’re earning a nice income for your family.

The sixth advantage of the selling profession is that it’s satisfying. You feel good when your client owns your product. It’s a thrill to know you’ve helped people when you go home at night and can say, “I got another family happily involved in what my company provides.”

When an executive or official approves your purchase order, it’s exciting and satisfying to know you’ve helped that organization carry out its purposes, save money, make more money, or provide its employees with better benefits. The people you serve benefit in direct proportion to your ability and skills. The better you are at sales, the more you benefit others—your clients, your family, and the nation’s economy.

No one limits your growth but you. If you want to earn more, learn more. That means you’ll work harder for a while; it means you’ll work longer for a while. But you’ll be paid for your extra effort with enhanced earnings down the road.

Most people in this world have jobs and professions—existences—that can’t fulfill their potential. The scope of their labor is confined to narrow limits; their toil hinders rather than fosters their growth; they dislike everything about their employment except the sense of security its familiarity has bred in them. So instead of venturing into what they don’t know and might love, they allow themselves to be trapped by what they do know and don’t like.

Professional salespeople recognize no limits to their growth except those limits that are self-imposed. They know that they can always reach out for more. They know they will grow in direct proportion to their competence. And they have little fear of the unknown in change because overcoming the unknown is their daily work. That’s the seventh advantage of being a professional salesperson: It stimulates your personal growth.

To earn more, develop more competence. Study this book’s sales skills. Study your product or service. Study your customers and your territory. Keep up with technology—at least those aspects of it that help make you more productive. Practice growing your skills at every opportunity. Do what you know you should do. Follow that program, and you can’t fail to push your earnings to a much higher level.

That’s my purpose in life—to help you make more money. Please don’t let me down—develop more competence, earn more money, get your share of life’s good things. Developing competence is the only way. I know many salespeople making several hundred thousand dollars a year, and some making more than a million dollars a year, and I’m always intrigued by the variety of their backgrounds, the diversity of their personalities, and the range of their interests. Yet they have many things in common, foremost of which is this quality: They are competent. They know exactly what they are doing. This book, like my seminars, is aimed at helping you learn how to become competent.

Please notice that I said learn.

There’s an obstacle to learning how to become competent that we meet with here.


So many of us believe in this that we’ve come to look on it as an old friend. It’s a tempting devil. It lets us avoid taking full responsibility for our own performance. This common fallacy is a destructive idea that I’d like to eliminate from your mind right now.

Having trained more than three million salespeople on five continents, I’ve met a lot of strong individuals who are on the fast track. I’ve met with large numbers who haven’t put their foot on the lowest rung of their potential yet. And sadly, many of these people never will climb very high on their potential’s ladder because they are firm believers in the myth of the natural-born sales wonder.

The myth cuts two ways.

A few believe they’re naturals. That’s great for confidence, but it’s often the source of raging overconfidence. When this overconfidence persuades people that they don’t have to bother learning to be competent like ordinary mortals, they trap themselves far below their potential.

Many more people believe they’re not naturals, think it’s hopeless to work at becoming competent—and trap themselves far below their potential.

“I’m just not a salesperson by nature. Wasn’t born with the golden touch like Joe Whizzbeau over there. If I’d been born with his wit, charisma, and bear-hug personality, I could tear ’em up, too. But I wasn’t, so I’m never going to make it big in sales.”

Don’t be too quick to say you’re free of this myth. I hear it far too often from my seminar audiences to take it lightly. In fact, I’m convinced that most salespeople who operate far below their potential suffer from it. Let’s attack this dangerous idea now and get rid of it.

There never has been a great salesperson who was born great. Imagine a woman in the delivery room. Her newly born infant is saying, “Make yourselves comfortable, folks, and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.” Pretty silly, isn’it it? The little feller has a long way to go before he can even start learning how to walk, talk, and operate without diapers. He’s got a lot to learn, and if he’s going to be a great salesman, he’s got it all to learn. Psychologists still argue whether it’s instinct or learning that causes us to jump at a sudden loud noise, but they agree that everything about selling is learned.

So stop excusing yourself from the hard work of learning how to be competent in your sales career. It doesn’t matter whether you think you’re a wonder or a nonwonder; you still have to pay the learning price.

And you never stop learning and reviewing. Professionals work on the basics once every year. That’s where we’re going to start.


What so few of us are willing to accept is this fundamental truth: Great salespeople, like great athletes, simply do the basics very well. Some of us would like to believe that there’s a shortcut around the basics; that, if we could only find it, there’s a secret formula out there somewhere for just sitting back and letting the money roll in. The sooner you get rid of that illusion, the sooner you can get on with reaching the heights you want to reach through effective use of the basics.

1. Prospecting. If you’re like most of the people in my seminar audiences, just hearing the word prospecting makes you a little nervous. Don’t think that way. If you don’t like to prospect, it’s because no one has taught you the professional way to do it. I’m going to.

2. Making original contact the professional way. We all meet new people all the time—in social situations, at events for our children, at church, in nonsales business settings. The key to success in selling is to refine your skills during these initial contacts to become memorable to the other folks and to remember as much about them as possible so you can impress them even more on your second meeting—which, hopefully, will be a selling situation.

3. Qualification. Many salespeople spend most of their time talking to the wrong people. If you do that, it doesn’t matter how eloquently you present your service or product. Your earnings are going to be low. I’ll show you how professionals make sure that they invest their time with the right people who can make yes decisions, instead of expending it on the wrong people who can only make no decisions.

4. Presentation. After you qualify and know that this person has a need for your product or service, it’s time to move on to the fourth basic, which is the presentation or demonstration. You must present your product in such a way that your prospects see it’s just what they had in mind all along.

5. Objection handling. The fifth basic method of developing your competence is to learn how to handle objections effectively. Maybe you’ve had prospects who want to wait and think it over; prospects who already have one of whatever it is you’re selling; prospects who’ve been doing business with your competitor for years. Have you ever heard any of these things? If you’ve been in sales longer than a week, you undoubtedly have. Read on. You’ll find material that’ll make you smile the next time you hear these objections. You’ll smile, bore in—and close a delightful number of such sales. But there’s a price to pay for that smile: You’ve got to learn the concept, adapt the idea to your offering, and learn the words that make it work.

6. Closing the sale. Many average-to-good salespeople prospect, make contacts, qualify, present, and handle objections so well that they manage to get by without learning to close competently. And that, of course, is what keeps them from being great. Closing contains elements of both art and science, and those elements can be learned.

7. Referrals. After you’ve satisfied the needs of your client and closed the sale, you have earned the right to your next prospect. By that I mean getting referral business from each and every client. That is the seventh and final basic. If they’re happy, they’ll want someone else to be happy, too. I’ll teach you simple steps to getting solid, qualified referrals every time, if you’re willing to learn.

But many of us have forgotten how to learn, so let’s quickly review the steps to learning that apply not only to everything in this book, but to anything you choose to study.


Money study—I call it that to emphasize how vital it is to learn how to acquire new knowledge quickly and thoroughly. Knowing how to learn fast is the key to rapid personal growth and quick sales success. As adults, it’s easy to fall into the habit of skimming over new knowledge, of avoiding any organized effort to grasp and hold new knowledge. That’s no good at all. That’s how you achieve the status of being average. Superior earning ability grows out of the superior performance that superior learning makes easy. The place to start being superior is to acquire and use a superior learning system. Here it is:

1. Impact. You’ve noticed that the more you’re interested in a subject, the more easily you remember details about it. To learn something with greater thoroughness and speed, first take a few moments to psych yourself up. Dwell on how much the knowledge is going to help you; visualize the benefits you’re going to get from possessing it. Form a clear and vivid picture in your mind as to why you’re learning this material. Then, each time you start to study it, take just a second or two to recall that vivid picture of the benefits you’re seeking. Do that, and you’ll intensify the impact of the material, and make it yours faster.

2. Repetition. Repetition is the mother of learning. Repeat anything often enough and it will start to become you. All the great salespeople I know started with words they knew worked. They tailored those words to their own products and services and molded them to their own personalities. Having done that, they proceeded to repeat and review the statements until they controlled those words. Then they delivered them with conviction—and the results they wanted were there.

In four words, they used repetition effectively. What is effective repetition? It’s far more than bleary-eyed singsong in the middle of the night. Effective repetition means your review is wide-awake and intensive. Effective repetition means you cut the material apart and sew it back together to fit you. Effective repetition means you hear it, write it, read it, and speak it. Effective repetition means you dramatize the material and make it dance in your head. Effective repetition means you pay a good price in an effort to make good material yours.

These first two steps are vital. They’re the foundation and the floor of a powerfully constructed selling career. But don’t stop when you’ve completed them—don’t even slow down—because you can’t live in a house with no walls. Push on immediately to the next step of learning.

I frequently return to cities where I’ve already given my sales seminar, and on these occasions, I always see dozens of Champions who are coming back through the program again. The ones who tell me they’ve doubled or quadrupled their incomes say that this happened because they worked energetically through the next step.

3. Utilization. The basic law of possession is Use it or lose it. This law applies to all learning, and it applies with special force to sales skills. Use them or lose them.

There’s a wonderful truth about skills and knowledge: They don’t wear out with use. Quite the contrary. Knowledge takes on greater depth and meaning through hard use; skills become strong and tough through hard use.

And the hard use of sales skills and knowledge is the only road to high earnings. Learning for the mere sake of learning is sterile. It’s a form of play. For any kind of learning to have meaning, it must not only be capable of utilization, it must be used. Unused learning is fertilizer left in the sack.

Bring out your skills and knowledge; spread them on the fertile soil of your territory. Let them bloom.

Discover the golden hours when your offering sells best. Then get in front of as many people as possible during that time. Put the strategies, words, and phrases to use. If you use them properly, they’ll work. You’ll money while honing your skills for the next presentation.

Get in front of the executives considering corporate jets, computers, or whatever you’re marketing. Meet with the families in need of your appliances. Get into the kitchens of the people now wasting the money they should be ensuring the futures of their loved ones with. Now is the time to use the powerful sales statements you’ve organized for the benefit of others. You’ve turned yourself into a sales machine; now turn that machine on. Produce results.

The moment you get into high gear and start using your material efficiently, you’ll glimpse your bright new destiny. At that moment, you’ll be ready to break out above average and join the ranks of the excellent. You’ll be ready to fly higher and farther because of your newly learned abilities. You’ll be ready to take the fourth step toward learning and toward greatness.

4. Internalization. This occurs when you’ve exploited impact, when you’ve molded the standard material to your needs and made it yours, when you’ve made your new skills strong through hard use. You’ve utilized them so efficiently that your first good results generate the energy to accelerate you into superperformance. All of a sudden, these new concepts stopped churning within you and a new reality was born: You and the concepts are one. They have literally become you. You have become them.

I’ve had Champions bring their spouses to my program to say hello. In a few minutes, the spouse says, “My husband [or wife] sounds just like you.”

But it really isn’t that way. They aren’t hearing their spouses imitate my words and manner of speaking; they’re hearing their spouses express themselves with the language of achievement that’s common to both of us. We have been using the same techniques. Now we voice the similar experiences of success that have grown out of the shared knowledge we’ve both internalized.

Internalization is the next-to-last step to completing any learning. When the day comes that you can truly say you’ve internalized all the concepts of this book, or have internalized all the concepts of any other body of learning you aspire to, then and only then are you capable of greatness with that learning. In the case of the learning we’re primarily concerned with here, you’ll be capable of going on to greatness in sales—and you’ll also be in great danger of sliding back into average performance. That’s where step 5 comes in to play.

5. Reinforcement. When you achieve the status of superprofessional salesperson, you’ll be tempted to despise the very labors and methods that put you there. When you’re still struggling upward, you’ll find it easy to say, “Oh, no, not me. When I get there, I won’t forget how I did it.” But you will, and some of that is good. You don’t want to dwell on past difficulties except to laugh about them. Still, the toughest task I have as a trainer always is with the superprofessionals who are slipping. They don’t want to believe that the explanation for their troubles is that they’ve stopped doing what made them superprofessional in the first place. Can there be any other reason for them to slip back into average performance? You might say, Maxie Kwotabuster’s sales are down because of his three-martini lunches, because of his three-hour handball games during the golden hours, or because of the manner he’s adopted since becoming successful. But when old Max was fighting his way clear of being average, his lunches were businesslike and left him refreshed for an effective afternoon; he guarded his golden hours jealously and used them effectively; he treated people cordially. And you can be sure that when Max was making his first run at success, he found the time necessary to effectively perform all the basic functions of sales work.

When you entered the profession of selling, you learned your product. You learned some sales techniques, you got out there among your potential clients and put your knowledge to work, and you started to make some money. Then all of a sudden, you got smart. You quit doing what your company asked you to do. And you started to slip.

You might finish reading these words, put this book down, and in six months double your income. Then you’ll stop doing what I’ve asked you to do. You’ll stop doing the things that caused your income to double. Your income will begin to fall, and you’ll wonder why. There’s a way to keep that from happening.

Don’t stop.

Instead, do what professional athletes do. There’s a lot of similarity between the professional athlete and a professional salesperson.

You know that high school teams practice. That doesn’t surprise you—the kids have to learn the game. You know that college teams practice. Okay, they’re still quite young. But before every season starts, the pros are out there sweating it up. The first string is out there. The star quarterback is out there. He’s making a chunk of money but he’s running. He’s perspiring. He’s spending some of his time on new plays, certainly, but most of the time he’s drilling on fundamentals. Reviewing the basics. In fact, what’s interesting is that the more professional and talented an athlete is, the more that athlete—man or woman—practices and trains. This comes back to that neat little thing called discipline. It calls into play that business of making yourself do what you know you should do.

Jump ahead in your calendar. Put a note there to review this book a year from now. When the time comes, I know there’s a good chance you’ll say, “I’m not going through that stuff again. I know it. I’ve milked it for everything it’s worth.”

I hope you won’t say that. I hope you won’t limit the effectiveness of your learning. I hope you won’t put a ceiling on your income-earning potential. I hope you won’t decide to slip back into the quagmire of mediocrity. Reinforce your learning. Do it at least annually. Preserve your hard-won skills. Enhance your knowledge. Add to it.


Keep your greatness.

Instead of letting your greatness wither, fertilize it regularly to make it grow. You’ll find this true of all learning that’s important to you: Every time you review the material in depth, you’ll see things you never saw before and discover concepts you weren’t ready to use before. Whenever you review effective knowledge, you reinforce your previous insights with richer insights.


Let me ask you a question. If the professional golfer uses a club, the tennis player a racquet, and the carpenter a hammer, what do we professional salespeople use?

We use something that’s gotten us in lots of trouble, don’t we? But is there a pro on the golfing circuit who hasn’t used his club to drive the ball into a sand trap? Is there a tennis player who hasn’t used the racquet to feed an opponent a sure winner? Is there a carpenter out there who hasn’t used a hammer to smack her thumb?

Is there a salesperson who’s never used his primary tool to say something that lost an account?

Your primary tool—the opening in your face called a mouth—must be used with confidence. But it can malfunction. The words you speak can destroy sales as well as create them. That’s why you should think of your mouth as a sharp-edged tool that has to be used intelligently if it’s going to do you more good than harm. But set reasonable goals. You can’t reasonably expect to never say the wrong thing to prospects and clients.

Hitting the ball wrong in tennis is much like saying the wrong thing in sales. Every year at Wimbledon, the eventual winners use their racquets to feed a few easy shots to their opponents, and they lose the point every time they do. But far more often, they use their racquets to hit winning shots for themselves.

In both activities, you can learn to avoid making the common mistakes. But in the profession of sales, you’re constantly involved in new and unique situations, which means that you’re faced with a steady stream of opportunities to make new and unique mistakes—usually by saying the wrong thing.

The good news is that if you learn enough right things to say, and if you concentrate on warmly saying them to your prospects and clients, there’ll be very little time left for saying things you’ll regret. And there’ll also be less chance that you’ll lose any vital point if you do happen to let out an unfortunate remark. Work toward having the relaxed, cheerful, and confident manner that comes from dwelling on what you know you’ll say right rather than worrying yourself into a tense, gloomy, and fearful attitude because you’ve occasionally blundered in your choice of words or topics. Accept the fact that what you say will sometimes come out badly. Then cultivate an honest respect for all people, and learn all the right statements to make. Do that and you’ll never cut yourself with the sharp edge of your tongue.

Accentuate the positive through knowledge. That’s my program for developing your primary tool into a reliable instrument for winning success in the profession of sales.

My life is working with people who have the desire but not the skills to earn more. Usually I work from a seminar stage—just now I’m working in a quiet room on this book—but the object is the same: to deliver that needed training. After I’ve done that, it’s up to you. I know that I can do my part because I’ve been fortunate enough to have trained thousands of the top salespeople in this country and abroad. They had the desire but not the training or the income. They came to the seminar. They learned the material. They used it daily. And then, all of a sudden, they not only had the desire and the training, but also had the income they wanted.

The highlight of my life comes when people take my training, go out with it and win whatever amount of success they need, and then tell me about it.

Now let me tell you about some of the Champions who’ve done that. Here’s a Champion whose actions may startle you. Until he was eighteen, Robert Burns worked on his father’s ranch. It was dependable work, but he wanted more from life than he could lift with a pitchfork, so he decided to enter the profession of selling. He took my training. When Robert celebrated his twenty-third birthday, his sales earnings were headed over the half-million mark for the year. I don’t know any better word for it than excitement. It’s exciting to know that if you learn the material and then go out and do what you know you should do, there’s no ceiling on your income. People often tell me that they’re too young for sales. Robert Burns wasn’t too young. Today, he’s a major developer and multimillionaire.

And other people say they’re too old. Let me tell you about Gertrude Nunn. I met her years ago, not too long after her former employer had said that she was getting too old for the job and should retire. She walked out, puttered around for a month, and decided that she wanted to be where the action is. Gertrude had no background in sales, but by happy accident she heard about our training and took it. At seventy-five years young, she was earning more than a hundred thousand dollars a year.

Jimmie Walker is another Champion. He started learning about professionally selling insurance when he was sixteen. He dedicated himself to greatness in the field and succeeded. How many people do you know at any age—let alone their early twenties—who earned enough money to acquire a major professional sports team? Jimmie Walker did.

Our next Champion, David Bernstein, became one of the top four in luxury car leasing at a very young age. For years, I’ve preached the importance of sending thank-you notes, but I’d never seen anyone use this technique more effectively than David Bernstein did. Within a week of meeting him as a prospect, a member of my staff and I received four of these notes from Bernstein, all of them well-written, sincere, personal notes that made a solid impression. David Bernstein, a true Champion.

Aside from being graduates of my training, what do all four of these people have in common?

The twelve characteristics of a Champion are what they all have. In the next chapter, we’ll take a careful look at these marks of the Champion.

Copyright © 2005 by Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

Get started image

Ready to get started?

Get the expert support you need

Related Articles

8 Ways to Improve and Grow Your Business in 2022

by Team ZenBusiness, on May 13, 2024

Oleg Oliynyk story – Notik brand

by Team ZenBusiness, on June 21, 2024

Why You Need A Work Diary + Printables

by Team ZenBusiness, on May 17, 2024

Start Your LLC Today