Tiger Woods. Meryl Streep. Itzhak Perleman. Steven Spielberg. They all have one thing in common: they don’t merely excel in their field, they help define it. In the field of sales, the name that goes on that list is indisputably that of sales legend Tom Hopkins. A real estate wunderkind in the 1960s, Tom had become a millionaire by age 27 and the nation’s leading real-estate trainer at 30. In 1976 he established Tom Hopkins International, through which he has since personally trained over three million students on five continents.

The dozen books Tom has authored include Selling for Dummies® and How to Master the Art of Selling, which has sold over 1.4 million copies in ten languages and is considered the classic text on sales. Today, Tom tells us, network marketers represent over 50 percent of his audience and clientele, and he is passionate about bringing to networkers what he feels is the single biggest missing piece in our profession: solid training on the art of presentation. — JDM


Tom, it seems that most successful people hit a brick wall of failure early on that then becomes the great learning experience. How did this happen for you?

At the age of 16 I started college, and quit after 90 days. When I came home at mid-term and announced I wasn’t going back, my father was so disappointed he said, “I’ll always love you, son—even though now I know you’ll never amount to anything.” That scarred me. It also ignited within me a passion to prove that I could become somebody—that I wasn’t nobody.

I think that’s an innate desire; everybody wants to be somebody. This is the reason so many people are depressed about their jobs: they feel like dead ends. Most people don’t feel their jobs are leading them to the place of truly being somebody, of having a unique distinction and making a singular difference.


What did you do next?

At the age of 19 I went into real estate. In the early ’60s this was kind of unheard of, but I found my niche there. I define a “niche” as finding something that you have such a passion for, that not only do you love to put in long hours and make a total business commitment to it, but you also do well financially. It’s not “work,” it’s having a love affair with a business.

That’s why I think the top people in network marketing do so well. They have an overwhelming, burning passion for what they do, and because of their belief and convictions, other people will say yes and readily consider going into business with them.

After eight years in real estate I had set a record for the number of homes ever sold in the United States. After that, people would pay to hear me speak. Over the past 30 years I’ve gone from training people in real estate to training in practically every field there is. The fundamentals of selling are basically the same, regardless of the product or service, and I’ve tailored those to many different industries and professions, including thousands of network marketers.


The “anatomy of the sale.”

Exactly. I’ve tried to make it a science.

People often look at selling as having to do with having a “sales personality”—that it’s something you can do if you’re witty, sharp, have a winning smile and pat ’em on the back. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You really have to know what you’re doing and what you’re saying.

The biggest failing in the profession is that people get recruited and sponsored, and they’re supposed to be able to go out there and light the world on fire—but no one teaches them how to ask the right questions! How do you help people say yes to your product and your opportunity?


There seems to be a sense among many network marketers, “Don’t give me sales training, I don’t want to learn techniques, because I don’t want to feel artificial.”

But that’s such a fallacy. The highest paid people in this business know exactly what to say and do with the people they communicate with. They never wing it.

Take any number of top network marketers and tape record what they say in opportunity meetings or one-on-one telephone calls, and you’ll find they say pretty much the same things every time.

Why? Because it works. They’ve internalized it. They’ve done what I teach people to do: they have learned their scripts through repetition until it becomes natural. No one would know they’ve said it a thousand times.


What exactly is a “presentation”?

A presentation is nothing but the necessary preparation for getting the final agreement. That’s the purpose of the presentation. Your presentation has to be so good that at the end of it, the person says, “I want to be a part of this—let’s get started, what do we do next?!”


We talk in this business about looking for people who are looking. How do I direct my presentation towards a specific outcome if I don’t know who this person is yet and what they want?

A presentation happens in a series of steps. The first step is to forget about everything but establishing rapport with that person.

I want to start off by talking about something we have in common, or by giving you a sincere compliment. I might walk into your home, if it’s truly nice, and say, “I spend a lot of time in other people’s homes as part of my business—and I have to say, you guys have done a great job on this property, it’s beautiful.” Right away, we’re building rapport.

Step two has the goal of having this person come to like and trust me. I do this not by telling, but by learning how to ask the right questions.

Step three is what I call a qualifying sequence. This means finding out their past, present and future desires and goals and discovering how your network marketing business can help them achieve that.

Step four is to find out what motivates them. Often network marketers start right out trying to convince the other person to get involved in the program based on the reasons they got involved. “You’re going to make a lot of money…!”—but perhaps the other person isn’t all that concerned with “a lot of money.” Maybe they’re looking for a situation that gives them recognition, self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. Perhaps they’re excited about the tax benefits of having a home-based business.

What is it they want to say “yes” to? You need to find out.


So the outcome is, we want them to say “yes”—but we have to do some research to find out what that “yes” is about.

I might say, “John, we find that the average American is very concerned with creating a greater income for the family. We also find that many people would like the tax advantage of owning their businesses. And we find there are a lot of people who just love to have a business out of their own home with a chance to find financial freedom. Which of these three is most appealing to you?”

Now I am starting to isolate what it is you want, what drives you.


What’s step five?

Step five is getting to the “no.” As you start nearing the end of the presentation, people have to say “No” before they can say “Yes.” They have to give you the reason they don’t want to do it.

They’ll say something like, “Well you know what, I just don’t think I have any time to do this.” Then I’ll say, “Well, do you watch TV at night?” Almost everybody will say yes. “For a couple hours?” Well, yes. “So, maybe 14 hours a week you’re enjoying the television. What if we could show you how to convert even a few of those hours into building your own business, so you’ll have financial independence in your golden years, does that make sense to explore?”


I note that you say, “convert a few of those hours,” not, “quit that stupid TV-watching, you moron!”

It’s in how you say it. You always want to make them feel important.

Here’s another common “no”: “You know, I don’t think I could sell anything.” The average prospect will be turned off at first if he thinks he’s going to have to sell something.

The networker who’s been trained and knows what to say will respond with something like this: “Well that’s exciting—because the people who do best in our business are the non-sales type personalities, people who just enjoy working with other people and helping other people achieve their goals. How do you feel about that?”


That’s fascinating: everyone has to say “No” before they can say “Yes.”

If I go into a men’s store and see a suit I like, there’s an impulse to say, “I want it.” That’s human nature. But then there’s a second impulse: “Hm…that’s a little more than I wanted to spend.”

It’s after that “no” where a true pro goes to work, helping me rationalize spending the money so I can get the suit I deserve for the self-image I feel and want to broadcast to other people.

Which brings us to “handling objections.”

Exactly—but the point is not the objection. The point is that we have to help them find their way to what they really want to do, which is to say “Yes.”


People tend to think of “handling objections” as a matter of knocking down those objections, defeating them, proving they don’t have merit.

Yes, and that’s really not what it is. The word “rationalize” is probably the most important word in the art of persuasion.

Someone calls me on the phone and wants information but doesn’t want to meet with me. I ask the right questions—and soon I’m meeting him. I helped him rationalize meeting with me.

When we meet, he doesn’t want to come to an opportunity meeting. But come Tuesday night, there he is, sitting in the front row. Why? Because I helped him rationalize making the move to come to that meeting.

I’m using the word “rationalize” here in its true sense, not meaning to make an excuse or come up with a false reason, but to make rational—to see the logic, see the reasons why this action has value to me. It means to go past my emotional reactions and think it through logically.


That takes it out of the realm of doing battle with people and into the realm of helping them to achieve their objectives.

In real estate, people would tell me, “We’re in no hurry, we have a month and a half to look for a home, all we’re doing today is taking a look.” And I would say, “Oh, I agree—you shouldn’t be in any hurry. In fact, I don’t like people to rush. This is one of the largest investments you’re going to make, so let’s be patient. In fact, I’d ask you both, even if we find a home you get excited about, let’s remember that we’re going to take our time.”

I’m selling them back what they themselves have sold me, which relaxes them. And four hours later they’re giving me a check. Why? Because I give a great presentation, I find the right property for them, and I help them rationalize doing it today instead of waiting unnecessarily for an extra month—which they were prepared to do for no good reason other than to satisfy that emotional need to say “No” before saying “Yes.”


So we’re now approaching “the close.”

I call this “the final closing sequence,” because it’s a process.

First, you ask a test closing question. You can’t be blatant about it. If I were trying to recruit someone, I would never say, “So whaddya say? Shall we sign you up?”

Instead, I would start off by saying, “How do you feel about all that we’ve talked about so far?” That’s such a nice soft question. How do you feel about this? Well, it sounds pretty good.

Then I’ll say, “Why don’t we go ahead and draft the paperwork, see how it looks to you, and if you’d like to join our team, we’d love to welcome you aboard. How’s that sound?” Nice and soft.

And they say, “Well, I don’t know.” So I say, “Well of course you don’t. And a decision’s only as good as the facts. So I thought we’d just put down the facts and see how it looks.” And just gently keep moving them. It’s a process.


What about the opposite problem—processing and processing and never getting to a conclusion?

Again, that’s something that stems from lack of good training. Network marketers will take their prospects to an opportunity meeting where they hear a great presentation, then take them out, sit them down for coffee, and talk and talk and talk and talk!

Say I brought you to an opportunity meeting; the meeting’s over, you and I are walking out the door. I’ll turn to you and simply say, “John, that was exciting, wasn’t it? What did you like best—the full-time opportunity or part-time?”


And most people would say, “Uh, part-time, I guess.”

Right. Most people will say, “Gosh, I’d have to start part-time.” So I say, “Great! Let’s go ahead and get the paperwork taken care of and welcome to our team.”

It’s a matter of balance. You don’t want to be blatant—but you do want to get to the point.


We do tend to talk until we’re blue in the face. Why do we do that?

Two reasons. One, we’re excited. And two, nobody’s ever taught us to shut up and ask a closing question!


People seem to be afraid of “closing techniques” because the connotation is, we’re manipulating or tricking people.

When I first started out in sales I was turned off by the term “closing,” because I’m very empathetic. I love people and don’t ever want to push them. I went on to close more home sales than anyone ever had—but I never got pushy or obnoxious with people.

I think most people misunderstand the term “closing.” They feel they have to use some sort of trickery. You don’t. You simply need to know what to say.

In our training we give people over 40 different closing scripts, and we teach people to learn them, internalize them and deliver them verbatim, or to read them over and over and make them your own words.

When people say they want to think it over, when they say it’s more than they want to spend, they have a friend in another business, they’ve heard this sort of thing doesn’t work — you’ve got to know what to say to persuade them to say yes to you.


It’s kind of like, when you get to the end of the hymn, if you don’t hear the “Amen” you don’t know it’s time to sit down.

Exactly! I like that. And in the case of your network marketing opportunity, the moment you’ve closed this cycle, another one starts.

As your sponsor, I want you to see exactly what you need to do to build your business—right away. My primary goal is to have you find five to ten people to work with in your organization, so you start earning an income from their productivity right away.

If you recruit someone and don’t have that person out doing some business within 48 hours, it probably won’t get done ever. You’ve got to have a place to go immediately. When I’m done getting you to say “yes” and turn in your paperwork, the immediate next step is, “Who do you know whom we can go see tomorrow night?”

First thing, we’re going to make a list of everyone you know. Who would you like to be in business with? Who do you know who deserves to own everything we’ve talked about? Let’s get 25 people you know on a piece of paper. Then I’m going to show you how to call them and let them know how excited you are about your own business. Then I’m going to show you how to do the presentation—in fact I’ll do the first five for you.


What kind of impact has the Internet had on this kind of personal dynamic you’re talking about?

There will always be a need for the human environment. People want to see a face, a person. I think you actually have an advantage today.

Honestly, I don’t think the Internet is going to affect network marketing much. If anything, it will get more people excited about the idea of having their own business.


Why so?

Because they see other home-based businesses. It adds legitimacy. You see all these ads to join this and do that on the Internet, and it’s opening people’s minds to the idea.

But the key is still the same: learning how to make contact with people and get over the fear of rejection. That’s what keeps most people from achieving their goals. They’re so afraid of the pain of rejection that they won’t talk with enough people.


You say the biggest missing piece is learning the presentation skills.

It’s really people skills. You can have all the attitude, enthusiasm and excitement in the world, but if you don’t know how to lead people through a presentation to the point where they say “Yes,” you’re probably never going to do well. And this is a learned skill—you’re not born this way.

People say, “I don’t like a canned presentation.” Well, if the person across the table thinks it’s canned, then you haven’t really learned it. But once you internalize it, it’s so smooth and natural, it doesn’t come across as “canned.” Then, you’re a professional.