Host: Tim Martin
Guest: Tom Hopkins
Episode 031: Mastering the Sale of Voluntary Benefits
February 14, 2018
Welcome to Success is Voluntary, a podcast devoted to helping you become the salesperson you were always meant to be, where it’s all about helping you learn the techniques and tools that will enable you to win in the increasingly competitive world of voluntary benefits. Welcome your host, a guy who has hired and trained over 2,000 voluntary benefit salespeople in his career, Tim Martin. Success is Voluntary, selling voluntary benefits.
Tim Martin: Yes, my name is Tim Martin, and you are listening to episode number 031 of Success is Voluntary. I am so thrilled to have you with me today. Back in 2014, Tom Hopkins agreed to come on the podcast. Up until that point, he was the biggest name we had, and still is. When I relaunched this podcast in January of 2018, I received an email from Tom asking me if I would like him to come back on the podcast.
I told him, “Of course… Well, maybe.” No! Of course, I said, “Yes.” His mentorship, his leadership, and his writing have been incredibly impactful not just on my life but on millions of people around the world, so without further ado, let’s welcome Tom. Hey, Tom! Thanks for jumping on.
Tom Hopkins: Well, hi! Gosh! It’s good to be back visiting with you, Tim. I hope things are unbelievably great for you.
Tim: They are. I’ve been saying they’re fantastic, but they’ll get better. You’re an unbelievable guy, I know, but I can’t steal everything from you. I’ve stolen a lot of your stuff over the years, but I can’t steal everything. You were on about four years ago, and that was a big moment for me. I couldn’t believe when you guys reached out to me a few weeks ago and offered to come back on. That meant a lot to me. I really appreciate your time today, Tom.
Tom: Well, super. Let’s have fun.
Tim: I have a list of questions here, and we can certainly add anything you want, and I’ll have some follow-up questions, of course, but oftentimes people see the result of the hard work. They don’t see what has happened; they see what the outcome is. I want to kind of hearken back to early on in your career. What were some of the biggest adversities you had in your career getting started and those kinds of things and did you have call reluctance at all?
Tom: Well, sure. In fact, I think the biggest challenge I had was back many years ago. There was hardly anyone who ever went into real estate as a teenager. It was a middle-aged man’s business back then. Of course, today women have taken over the residential real estate market pretty much, but just to go into real estate at 19 was unheard of, and of course, I failed my real estate exam three times, so that was a negative.
Finally, I got my license. Then, of course, no brokers wanted to hire me. I was 19, but I did look young, maybe about 17, and I didn’t have a car, so I was riding a motorcycle, and of course, a lot of brokers would go, “How are you going to sell homes on a motorcycle?” I would say I had some challenges and some things going against me, but fortunately I met some mentors, some people who helped me and who taught me, and I went on to sell a lot of properties over my eight years in real estate.
Tim: Yeah, you sure did. I’ve passed the real estate exam, and it is no joke. I’ll tell you that. Between the insurance exam and the real estate exam I’d take the insurance exam 10 times before having to take that real estate exam again. That is no joke. Did you have call reluctance at all? Were you afraid to market or were you just so young you didn’t even know better?
Tom: Well, you know it’s funny that you’d ask that question because I was about three and a half weeks or maybe a month into the real estate business in this office, and one day the manager comes up to me and says, “Tom, let’s go for a ride.” He had a new car. I thought, “I’d love to.” We got into his car and drove about three miles up into a residential neighborhood, and he just pulled the car over and said, “Tom, you get out.”
I said, “What do you mean get out?” He said, “You’ve been sitting in the office, and that’s not how you’re going to make a living in sales. You must talk to more people, and they don’t come to the office.” He said, “We’re approximately three miles from the office, so I think if you just knock doors on the way back…” Then, he made a promise. He said, “I promise you for every 100 doors you knock on you’ll get one person who is a good future prospective client.”
Of course, I cursed him and slammed the door and started knocking on doors. I had no idea what to say, Tim. I didn’t even know what to say, but I got a little better and a little better. Sure enough, I was counting the doors and I hit the sixty-fourth door. The man answered. I said, “Hi, I’m Tom Hopkins. I was wondering if you had thought of selling your home. I’m a realtor.”
He looked at me kind of sheepishly and said, “You really have a real estate license?” I said, “Yeah, I do.” He said, “Stay here!” Then he called his wife to the front door, and the husband said to the wife, “This young man has a real estate license.” She said, “You do?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Please, come in.”
I’m nervous as can be. I have no idea what’s going on. The wife says, “Mr. Hopkins, my husband and I are Christians, and he’s being transferred and leaving me and the three children to sell the house, and we’re scared to death. Last night we got on our knees and prayed God would send us a real estate agent, and here you are!”
Of course, I said, “Hallelujah! I’m here! I’m ready to go. Let’s get you moved.” That’s how I really started in the real estate business, by knocking on doors, and that’s when I realized the whole key is to shrug off call resistance. Don’t take it personally. You’re going to get people who say, “No,” and that’s just part of the darn business of getting yeses and making sales.
Tim: Yeah. I think it’s really interesting the person who took you. He knew the numbers. I think that is so critical in sales, especially where you have to cold call when you’re out and about. I guess in all sales because you have to know how many of whatever you’re doing is going to lead to the desired result. If it’s cold calls, how many appointments you’re going to get, how many appointments does it take to make a sale, and so on.
Tom: That’s right. It is numbers. Yep.
Tim: I think it’s incredibly instructive that you remember to the number it was 64. It wasn’t somewhere around halfway or two-thirds of the way. It was number 64.
Tom: That was my life changer!
Tim: Absolutely! Well, that kind of cues me up for the next question. That was a while ago, and you have been training and teaching on sales for quite some time now, so what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the sales profession since you started?
Tom: Well, first of all, the average consumer has access to so much knowledge today because of the Internet and electronic transactions. People can find out… Many people walk into a real estate office, or into any company, and they’ve done research and have about as much knowledge as the representative who meets them.
I think you have to be sharper today, have much more technical skills, and have more knowledge, because you’re working with consumers who aren’t like they used to be, where they don’t know much about anything and they walk in and there you go. Again, I think the bottom line is you have to be sharper, more attentive with more following up on details than we had to be in the past.
Tim: Yeah. I would agree wholeheartedly. I think in business-to-business insurance sales, which most of my listeners are involved in, you don’t need to know just your product and have the techniques and sales acumen, but you also have to have business acumen. You have to understand what your customer is really looking for and how you can kind of help them see around corners.
Tom: Right on. In financial services, primarily in the insurance industry, you really have people’s lives in your hands in a way, and if they take your advice and structure their program the way it should be done… Gosh! You can have such a positive effect on so many people. Fortunately, I had that happen in my life. I had a young guy who came in. We met. He was in financial services, with his main thrust being insurance, and he helped me understand how to build my financial net worth, and I give him a lot of credit for my position financially today.
So many people aren’t aware that they have to really find expert advisors. Not just sales people but an expert adviser in financial services who will really customize not only the coverage, like the benefit on the life or the term or whatever that program is they’re suggesting…
Tim: Yeah. They can’t just be product pushers. They really have to listen. I know that’s one of the things we talked about last time, and I’d kind of like to revisit it. You said you have noticed a shift toward people being master askers. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Tom: Sure. I’ve had some fun with that, Tim. I try to teach people who come to my seminars that you have to quit talking and start listening, but you can’t do that unless you become what I call a master asker, which means you really work on developing the right questions, because in any conversation whoever is talking is only learning what they already know, and the person asking the questions properly is going to find out what they need to know to lead that person to the decision of making the investment in the product or service the salesperson is offering.
Tim: That’s dramatically different. Again, that’s one of those things that’s dramatically different since you first started, isn’t it?
Tom: Oh, yes. It is so much different. People today are scrutinizing everything you say. They can go to other experts. Again, they have the tremendous Internet opportunity to research, so you really have to know your stuff today if you’re going to be a high-income-producing person.
Tim: You bet. The other side of that coin, though, is we shouldn’t be discouraged by that, in my opinion. You see these statistics that by the time the customer contacts the company they’re 80 percent of the way to a decision. I know it’s just joking around, but I’ve seen 110 percent of the way to making a decision.
I think that’s probably true if it’s something they’re reordering. If it’s something they’ve already bought and they’re maybe just getting a new feature or something like that, but when it’s something they haven’t experienced before, isn’t that when we really shine as salespeople?
Tom: Yeah. That’s when you really have to have a high skill level, and again, be a master asker to make sure you’re hitting the right notes. It’s kind of like playing a beautiful work of music when you’re presenting what you’re offering. You have to do it properly so they are feeling the “yes” momentum build and then, of course, want to exchange their money for the benefits your product or service will give to them.
Tim: You bet. So I know in real estate and in a lot of the things you have sold over the years, you talk a lot about getting people emotionally involved in the decision. Again, could you just spend a minute or two talking about that?
Tom: Sure. Well, I have always tried to teach a total belief that no one really spends money or buys logically. They make a final investment decision emotionally, and then, of course, they will rationalize and justify it logically. Anyone who is selling any product or service, you’re really in the emotion business, and the emotions are built in a positive way by asking the right questions, and you eliminate the negative parts by not using what we call sales jargon.
Every industry has words. Say, for example, Tim, if I went out to a party and you were there and we started talking and I said, “Tim, what do you do?” and you said, “Well, I ask people questions that go out over the radio or television. That’s kind of what I do.” I’d say right away, “You’re an interviewer of some type, because what you gave me was the jargon of that industry.”
If I met another person who said, “I help people invest in couches and chairs and washers and dryers,” I’d say, “Well, you’re in the furniture business.” In a way, I think what you have to realize is there are words in selling that you don’t want to say to people, like the words sell or sold.
Some people, when I say, “I would like to sell you one of these,” right away, the word sell smacks them in the face, and they go, “We don’t want you to sell us. If we want it, we’ll say, ‘Yes,’ and we’ll take it.” Again, we’re really in the word business. I think that’s the best way I can say it. The words you say create the feelings and emotions, and the positive emotions lead to the positive actions of, again, saying, “Yes,” putting their approval on the paperwork and giving you the amount of money necessary to take the product.
Tim: Yeah, and the flip side of that, of course, is negative words create negative emotions which usually lead to a “No.” Again, in the insurance industry, even the words insurance policy can be somewhat negative, so I coach people to say, “This program of ours…” and that kind of a thing. You have to be careful. It’s a highly regulated industry, so you can’t say, “This is an investment,” if it’s not truly an investment product, but you can say things like, “You’re working to secure your family’s future,” and things like that.
Tom: Those are the things people want to hear. When I was working with insurance people, I used to say, “Brag about the fact that the husband is doing the right thing if he’s helping the family get into the security of a program that will give them some financial security in their golden years.” This is the way you want to talk to the people.
Tim: You bet. Tom, let’s shift gears here just a little bit. The last time we had you on was four years ago. Can you believe it has been four years?
Tom: I know! I looked at it this morning. I said, “My gosh! It has been fast.”
Tim: You bet! Your book, When Buyers Say No… The subtitle is Essential Strategies for Keeping a Sale Moving Forward. I don’t even think it had actually hit the shelves yet or Amazon. You sent me a copy or a couple of copies. I gave one away to the listeners and kept the other one.
By the time we talked, I was only halfway done, and I’m a fast reader. It just was a quick turnaround, but that book was phenomenal. Of course, I finished it. Tell me a little bit about that book and the reception (I know you got a great reception from it) and specifically what you learned while you were writing it.
Tom: Well, let me tell you, Tim, I can’t tell you how happy I am about the book. It was my eighteenth book, and I really always wanted to take those two letters, N-O, and do my best to teach people in all types of sales that learning how to handle a “No” and turning it into a “Yes” is going to determine how successful you are. It came out in April, and I was so thrilled because we won an award. It was the most popular book by the publishing industry. They flew us to Los Angeles and gave us this big award, so I’m thrilled that it’s being accepted.
Like you were saying, people are loving the fact that here is this darn word no, and here we have an art form, a skill, to turn noes into yeses. I really believe the most successful people in business know how to cope with the “No” itself but then know how to turn it nicely into an agreement or into a “Yes.” We’re thrilled with how well it’s going, and it has outsold in the first six to eight months every other book I’ve written, so it’s exciting!
Tim: You bet! What are you working on now? I think your assistant told me you have a book or two in the works. Is that right?
Tom: Yeah, we’re working on a couple. It’s not as passionate for me as it was back when I started writing books. It’s kind of like you say, “Well, 18 is enough,” but Judy, who is the gal who helps me, says, “We have to get one more or two more.” I said, “All right. You give me the outlines. Let me start dictating it. Then, we’ll transcribe it, and away we go.”
Believe me, Tim, I’ll keep you posted, and when we get the next one ready to go I’ll certainly get you the information because I’m sure, based on the time we’ve spent together having these interviews, the listeners will enjoy the material we come up with.
Tim: Okay. Well, I’ll hold you to that. That’s fantastic.
Tom: You can. Believe me.
Tim: All right. One of the things I’ve found about people who have been successful for a long time and had enduring success is, quite frankly, they’re pretty humble. They’re very sure of themselves and their skill sets and those kinds of things, but I don’t think you have enduring success without some humility. This next question may be a little bit interesting to you, but what do you think your superpower is or your secret sauce is? What has made you have staying power?
Tom: Well, first of all, I’m going to throw out a few of the things I’ve tried to make as the staples in my life. One of them is I work harder on myself than I do on my job to develop a temperament and personality that people really relax and enjoy being with me. I had a total time of eight years in real estate listing and selling homes and in my last couple of years the people I found homes for wanted my wife and I to get together. “Let’s have dinner.” Because we had fun. I think you have to work on yourself to be a person who people like and trust and want to listen to.
So many people have asked me over the years, “Tom, what do you think separated you from the other salespeople in your whole company when you were the top real estate agent in California?” and I said, “I really feel I had an ability to have people relax and an ability to have people feel comfortable.”
If people are not comfortable in your presence, they are not really likely to want to have a long-term relationship or do business with you, so if I were to tell you any secret it wasn’t a secret but the fact that I love people. I have used the abundance of the money and financial resources I’ve been blessed with, but the bottom line is the love of the people is what I think sustains you in the field of selling.
The money comes to those who serve others, and if you’re a great servant to your fellow man with benefits, they’ll not only do business with you once but many, many times, and the nice thing about that when you get a reputation for serving and people really enjoy you as a person, they’ll refer people to you.
My last couple of years I never prospected anymore because I was fortunate to have happy people who liked what I did for them refer others to me. I think when that happens you’re really on your road to building a very successful life.
Tim: Yeah. One of my mentors says it this way. He says, “All growth begins with personal growth,” and that’s what I’m hearing you say dramatically, that you’ve worked on yourself. You’ve worked hard to make sure you’re the kind of person who you’d want to hang out with. You want other people who want to hang out with you.
Tom: Yeah. That’s just so perfect. Again, I think a lot of people don’t work on their skill levels as far as being a great listener or a great questioner, so I think that’s all part of it. Of course, I also feel you have to look at the long term. One of the things I’m finding in today’s world is with the Internet and access to knowledge and all that’s going on, if you don’t keep close to your clients and follow up like I used to do…
Not only would I do Thanksgiving cards thanking them for being valued clients, but I still send my thank you notes, which even though that’s a little passé today, it still works. The average person is getting emails like crazy. Many of them they never even really read because they’re getting so many, so I found by still doing the handwritten little thank you note it really did help me continue to build my business.
Tim: I want to tag on to what you just said about the thank you notes. I know that I know that I know that I have won business by just a simple little thank you card. I could tell you all sorts of stories, and I won’t, but I have literally walked into businesses and seen my thank you card still sitting on the decision maker’s desk or pinned up to their bulletin board because they get so few. They get so few! Nobody does it, and I think it’s so important.
Tom: I think it is even more important today than back when I started doing it because, as you mentioned, no one is doing that little personal touch. Of course, we always try to give more than people expect. For example, some of the folks listening right now, if we’ve caught their attention and maybe they like what we’re saying, I’d love them to come visit tomhopkins.com. Because of listening to this show, we’re going to offer all of our CDs and our products at a 70 percent discount, which is another way of saying, “Let us help be your mentors, and let us help you grow and prosper.”
I hope the folks who are maybe interested in doing that will take advantage of it. Again, they can contact me at tomhopkins.com or call my office in Scottsdale or Chandler, Arizona (Tom Hopkins International), and maybe we can continue to help them and work with them and so forth.
Tim: That’s very generous of you. I will put some directions in the show notes that we put online. We’ll get that all on there linked to your website and that kind of thing. We’ll put your phone numbers on it as well, which kind of brings me to a point I was going to get to a little bit later, but as long as we’re talking about adding value, 21 years ago I just started in sales.
A friend of mine recommended that I come to your sales academy. I didn’t have the money. I mean, in fact, when I put it on the credit card I was sure it was going to get declined, and it didn’t. I think it was here in Phoenix. I know it was here in Phoenix. I think you did it up at the Princess. Does that sound right? Were you doing a bunch up at the Princess there?
Tom: Yes, that’s exactly right. I can’t tell you, Tim, how many times I hear that story from people who say, “I was new. I didn’t have a lot of money. I put it on the card, and I was scared it wouldn’t go.” Of course, three, four, or five years later they’re telling me how they now own their own company and they’re making lots of money, so it’s a great life to teach people to have a better life. I just can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed it all of these years.
Tim: I know you’ve slowed down a little. I know you’ve done quite a bit of speaking internationally, of course, and all of that. Those are brutal, grueling trips. I get that, but I understand you have a session coming up in Los Angeles in early March. Is that right?
Tom: Yes. We’re excited, Tim, about a two-day program. It’s a weekend event on March 2 and 3 at the beautiful new hotel in San Gabriel, which is right outside of Los Angeles, California. Folks can visit our website and see all of the information. I teach it all myself, seven hours each day, and you went to it, so I know you’ll attest to the fact that it’s not just namby-pamby. It’s real how to strategies to take people and help them say, “Yes,” and invest their money in your product.
Tim: You bet. Like I alluded to earlier, it did change my life. I’m not getting paid to say that. Right, Tom? You’re not paying me to say that. I’m not getting a kickback. No, no. It really did. I was fortunate that I could stay with my mom and dad who lived in Phoenix. I was in the Seattle area when that happened, so I paid for your course and a plane ticket, but I can’t recommend that enough. If you even think you want to go, I would highly recommend going.
I just have a couple more questions here. I’ve been really fascinated with this question lately. I’ve been asking every guest this. What book or books have you recommended the most or what are the book or books that have really impacted your life over the course of your career?
Tom: Well, the first one is How to Win Friends and Influence People. You can still get it from Amazon, but that book was the very first book I really got into (How to Win Friends and Influence People). The second one is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. That is also still available.
If you combine the two, one of the books will all be on strategy and technique (How to Win Friends and Influence People) and the other one (Think and Grow Rich) is all on attitude and on emotions. They’re a great combo. I think those two could be a foundation for a person to really build and develop their lives in all areas. Not just in business but in all areas of their life.
Tim: Yeah. My mom made me read the Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People when I was still in high school, and I’ll be forever thankful she did that. That and making me take typing, which when I was in high school I didn’t like. “I’m not going to need to type. I’ll have a secretary for that or something.” Boy! I’m so glad she made me take that. I didn’t start reading things like Think and Grow Rich until much, much later. I was in my mid-30s before I started reading those kinds of things, but those are so critical, aren’t they?
Tom: Oh, they are. I think everybody needs to continue to read more books. Now people are so fortunate. We didn’t even have when I started CDs in our cars. We didn’t even have those things. Today, there are so many books that are put on CDs you can listen to while you drive, and that’s what I like to do, do two things at once. You can listen to a CD of a book, and you’re hearing it and internalizing it as you drive. I think that’s something people might want to look into at Amazon as well.
Tim: You bet and/or Audible so they don’t even have to have the hard copy. They can just do it off digital, which is what I do a lot. I read a physical book a week or on my Kindle typically, but I’ve been listening. There is no reason not to improve as you’re out there. You don’t need to listen to talk radio or sports radio. That’s not going to put one more dollar in your pocket.
Tom: You are so right!
Tim: Tom, you’re so excited still. What keeps you motivated? Again, I don’t want to call you old, because you’re certainly not old, but you’ve been doing this a while. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Tom: I would say the fact that I love what I do. In all honesty, Tim, I did work one year out of high school in construction. I was an iron worker carrying steel. Then, I got my real estate license, but the day I went into real estate, since that time I have never really worked, because I define work, and I hope the folks listening will get this, as anything you’re doing when you’d rather do something else. That’s what work is.
I fell so in love with the field of sales, serving people especially my eight years in real estate and now, of course, many, many years living on an airplane almost every week somewhere in the world teaching people how to get along with others better, communicate, be a master asker, and so forth, so it has been a blast, and I just can’t tell you. That’s one reason why you’ll hear the excitement in me, because I love what I do, and if you’re helping people have a better life, what a wonderful vocation or career to be able to enjoy!
Tim: Well, I couldn’t say it any better than that. Again, you taught me all of those years ago that as a salesperson you have the opportunity to make a significant impact on people, and it doesn’t have to be a product. It doesn’t have to be something that is so major, but just one little change in their life could start a chain event. Right?
Tom: Definitely. You hit it right on the head.
Tim: Well, Tom, you gave us your Tom Hopkins International. You’re on LinkedIn as well. I know that. What kind of closing thoughts would you like to give our audience? Again, some inspiration, some coaching…
Tom: Sure. I would say if they will try every single day to learn one more people skill to do a better job serving people… I know, of course, I’m an avid student, as you are as well, but I constantly am looking for new and better ways to say things to people, better ways to communicate, and again, if they will just really thrust themselves into the art of questioning and listening rather than talking and telling, they’ll have a much better life because the people who ask and listen are going to have much more success than those who talk and tell and give information and don’t ask questions.
Tim: That reminds me, Tom, of the proverb that says, “You can tell how clever a man is by his answers but how wise he is by his questions.”
Tom: Oh, that’s really great, and that is so biblically sound.
Tim: All right. Well, Tom, again, I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to have you on four years ago and how humbled I was that you reached out to me and offered to come back on. I think the world of you. Again, you’ve made a significant impact in my life and the life of my family. For that I’m thankful.
Tom: Well, let’s not wait another four years.
Tim: I agree with that.
Tom: You have to have the annual Tom and Tim Show.
Tim: You’re giving me things I can hold you to. You’d better be careful. I’m not a guy who forgets easily.
Tom: No. I expect you to. You let Judy know and let them know way in advance it’s the Tom and Tim Art of Selling program. We’ll go and give it to them. All right?
Tim: Awesome! Again, Tom, thanks so much.
Tom: You bet. All the best, my friend.
Remember, everything is voluntary, including success. Take it in your hands now. Head over to www.successisvoluntary.com, and stay up to date with all the latest tips, news, and techniques in the world of selling voluntary benefits.
Tom: What a class act Tom is! I’m not sure I could have asked for a better interview. After 21 years of studying Tom’s books, tapes, video programs, and even attending his live events I’m still learning. I hope you learned as much from Tom today as I did. To get more information about his upcoming sales academy or his very generous offer of 70 percent off his CDs, please visit the show notes at successisvoluntary.com/31/ as in episode 31.
Well, that’s it for this week. Please do me a favor and forward this podcast to everyone you know. If you’re really feeling generous, please take a second and rate it on iTunes. You want to join me back here next week, I promise. I have a special treat in store for you that you will not want to miss. Until then, make sure you volunteer for success.